FAYETTEVILLE - The Southeastern Conference and national website 24/7 named Arkansas running back Alex Collins the Freshman of the Week for his 172-yard performance Saturday during the Razorbacks' 31-21 victory over Samford.
RB Alex Collins
A true freshman from South Plantation High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Collins broke a 55-yard run and tallied a 2-yard touchdown to surpass 100 yards rushing for the second consecutive week as did ophomore Jonathan Williams. Williams carried 17 times for 126 yards against Samford with a 2-yard TD and 46-yard long run.
"To have a 1-2 punch the way those two guys are in there," Bielema said. "They are tapping out when they are tired - the chemistry we got with Kiero (Small, the senior fullback) there in front of them and the O-line is very, very special. You add their yardage totals together, there is probably no way they would get that if the played the whole game. The way they can sub in and keep fresh legs together is very, very impressive."
Collins netted 131 yards on 21 carries, and Williams netted 151 on 18 carries two Saturdays ago when Arkansas won its season-opener 34-14 over Louisiana-Lafayette.
The Razorbacks (2-0) return to Fayetteville for Saturday's 11:20 a.m. non-conference game with the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.
Arkansas' final non-conference game, Sept. 21 vs. Rutgers, will kick off at 2:30 p.m. (CDT) in Piscataway, N.J. It will be televised by either ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.
Bielema also praised senior center Travis Swanson and senior left offensive tackle David Hurd, but said Small was the coaches' choice of offensive MVP vs. Samford. "The MVP went to Kiero just for what he's doing in every phase of the game," Bielema said. "Blocking, sealing the game in the fourth quarter with those (four consecutive) runs and what he does on the sidelines and special teams is just off the charts."
Bielema named senior Zach Hocker as his special teams MVP after his career-long 53-yard field goal, four for four on PATs, strong kickoffs and a 39-yard punt.
On defense, Bielema cited senior end Chris Smith, senior safety Eric Bennett, emergency starters junior strong safety Alan Turner of Junction City, junior college transfer linebacker Martrell Spaight of North Little Rock and redshirt freshman defensive end Brandon Lewis. Bielema said senior defensive tackle Robert Thomas was MVP.
DT Robert Thomas
All four of Thomas' tackles were behind the line of scrimmage, including a sack removing Samford from field goal range after Arkansas had fumbled a punt.
"I actually thought he would win the SEC MVP for the week, or at least the defensive lineman," Bielema said. "The numbers he put up are pretty special for a defensive lineman."
Turner, Lewis and Spaight started against Samford because safety Rohan Gaines and defensive end Trey Flowers (the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week two weeks ago) had not recovered from injuries during the victory over Louisiana-Lafayette, while Lake served a one-game disciplinary suspension for the Samford game.
Flowers and Lake practiced Monday with the Hogs shifting full bore from Sunday's light practice and Monday's off day into a hard practice in pads. Bielema said he hopes Gaines practices by midweek.
Knowing the Hogs were in a bind minus Gaines, Thomas recorded six tackles despite the cancer-caused death of Paul Turner, his father, over the weekend.
"Alan Turner for everything he went through last Friday night to Saturday morning and to play the way he did - unbelievable!" Bielema said. Bielema said Turner will be with the team all week including Saturday's game then leave immediately to be with his family through Paul Turner's funeral next Monday.
Senior tight end Austin Tate of Harrison (shoulder surgery during August) and sophomore linebacker Otha Peters (broken arm during the August) may be ready for their 2013 debuts as soon as Saturday, Bielema said Monday.
"Both will get X-rays this afternoon and doctors will make a judgment whether or not they can return," Bielema said. "They were in no-contact (workouts) last week. If they can get a little contact this week, there's a chance both those guys could play."
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