Hogs: Williams, Whaley form 2-headed monster; notes
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas sophomore running back Rawleigh Williams has been named SEC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season.
Williams received the honor Monday from the SEC Office in Birmingham, Ala. Williams netted 148 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries Saturday and caught two passes for 22 yards, leading the Razorbacks to a 31-10 SEC victory then 10th-ranked Florida at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The native of Dallas whose football career was threatened by a broken neck in 2015, Williams also was named SEC Offensive Player after netting 180 yards on 27 carries during Arkansas’ 34-30 SEC victory over the Ole Miss.
In Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos’ view, Williams’ performance against the Gators’ renowned defense was “by far his best game.”
“He broke tackles. He showed a burst. He ran hard,” Enos said. “He was physical, the most physical I've seen him this year. He really, really played a great football game. He had a couple runs in there that we didn't even block all that great, and he ended up getting eight yards on one, and I think 12 on another.”
Williams carried two Gators with him the final yards of his 6-yard touchdown and “put the nail in the coffin,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said, breaking for a 41-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
WHALEY HELPS, TOO
Freshman running back Devwah Whaley augmented Williams by netting 66 yards on 14 carries with two catches, one for 43 yards on a screen pass.
Enos said the Hogs (6-3, 2-3 in SEC West) need both running against the solid defense of No. 19 LSU (5-3, 3-2) in Saturday’s 6 p.m. ESPN-televised game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
“I think having Devwah right there, nipping at his heels and running hard, too, that certainly helps,” Enos said. “Rawleigh is having a great year, and he's got three games to go, and we're going to need him to play even better this week.”
Bielema said for the first time against a truly monstrous (Florida) defense that Williams and Whaley performed like a two-headed monster.
“I think last Saturday was probably the first time against a quality defense,” Bielema said, “against some of the upper elite SEC defenses - where both running backs were effective. Both guys did a lot of really good things in the run game, throw game and pass protection. Our offenses (in Bielema’s Wisconsin days and 2013 and 2014 seasons at Arkansas with running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins) have really been based on a two-headed monster. If you rely on one guy, it's never going to get you there. He's never going to stay fresh, especially in the SEC.”
HAMMONDS HAT IN RING
T.J Hammonds, the freshman running back from Joe T. Robinson, caught a 15-yard pass against Florida and broke a big run recalled by a penalty.
“T.J. Hammonds, we’ve got to continue to get him in there,” Enos said. “It's hard to get three guys 15 carries in a game obviously, but as we continue to get T.J. going, too, I think he brings a little different element, running style, and can be an explosive play waiting to happen as he had on Saturday.”
The SEC doesn’t award a Most Improved Defense From One Game To The Next, but if it did, Arkansas would be getting it.
An Arkansas defense that was trampled for 543 rushing yards in the 56-3 loss at Auburn rebounded to ground the Gators at 12 yards rushing.
“I thought our players did a phenomenal job,” Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith said, crediting defensive line coach Rory Segrest, linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves and defensive backfield coach Paul Rhoads. “I thought Rory, Vernon and Paul did a great job getting guys in great spots in great position and just focused on the process and the practice. I thought we prepared really well. When you prepare well and take action, the results usually take care of themselves.”