BEAVERTON, Ore. — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has built quite a reputation for developing standout running backs, and Chase Hayden has taken notice.
Hayden, a rising 3-star running back in the 2017 class from St. George’s Independent School (Collierville, Tenn.), has the Razorbacks among his favorite schools in large part because of how past players have excelled under Bielema at his position.
Bielema has had at least one running back rush for over 1,000 yards in each of his 10 seasons as a head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas. He’s the only FBS coach with that stat on his resume over the last decade.
“I haven’t really watched the Arkansas running backs (Bielema) has had,” Hayden told SEC Country’s Corey Masisak at The Opening on Saturday afternoon.
“But at Wisconsin … James White, Melvin Gordon, Montee Ball, I watched all those guys. I saw what he could do with them.”
White, Gordon and Ball are three of the five running backs to be selected in the NFL Draft after playing under Bielema — along with former Arkansas stars Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams.
Hayden said he’s expecting to set his commitment date soon. He currently lists Arkansas, Michigan and South Carolina as his top schools.
He emphasized a strong relationship with the coaching staff and the chance at early playing time are essential factors to his decision-making process, a good sign for the Razorbacks.
“(Arkansas) is an opportunity to come in and compete early,” Hayden said. “They said they’re going to play two running backs, so you’re obviously going to get carries. They pretty much talk to me every day. Sending mail to my house, (direct messaging) me on Twitter, text messages.
“I have a really good relationship with Coach (Bielema) and running backs coach (Reggie Mitchell). They talked about me coming in and competing early. He talked about his 1,000-yard rushers, he always has one. They also talked about maybe using me on the defensive side of the ball like in a nickel package or something.”
Hayden has visited Arkansas twice already and plans to make an official visit in the fall. He rushed for 2,625 yards and 37 touchdowns as a junior last season.