Arkansas Razorbacks' Ground Game Could Feature a Surprise Component

By Joshua Cook
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas fullback Patrick Arinze had a great showing in the team’s spring game last month. Arinze was competing with Morgan Linton and Kiero Small for playing time at the position. Arinze, though, may be much more valuable as a running back.

At 5’10 and about 260 pounds, Arinze appears, on paper at least, to be a little too large to play running back. However, in the spring game he led all runners with 67 yards on just nine carries. The junior college transfer also broke the longest run of the day with a 21-yard gash through the middle. These numbers came against a solid rush defense as Arkansas ranked 19th against the run in 2012 and allowed just 3.38 yards-per-rush. While the secondary did struggle immensely against the pass, the front seven were quite stingy and have been improving in the area this spring as the players have become better at tackling.

It is important not to take too much from spring game performances, but Arinze is definitely a player to add to any SEC player-watch list moving into the 2013 season. Coach Bret Bielema is not afraid to use large running backs, which plays a huge factor in the prospect of Arinze’s probability to get plenty of carries this season.

Bielema has always stressed toughness and physicality and how these key attributes play a huge role in his team’s mentality. With that, Bielema loves to use a large running back in order to pound defenses, wearing them out through the course of a game. Arinze would be a perfect match in this role.

Bielema’s most recent running back that carried a major workload was Montee Ball, currently of the Denver Broncos. However, the most physical runner that Bielema used at Wisconsin was John Clay. Clay amassed over 3,400 yards and 41 touchdowns in three seasons as a featured running back in Bielema’s power offense. This also included two seasons with over 1,000 yards and at least 14 touchdowns. Clay, like Arinze, appeared to be a little too large for the position.

At 6’1 and 248 pounds as a senior (down from as much as 255 pounds), Clay had a very similar build to Arinze. With the amount of success Clay brought to the Badgers, Bielema may look to Arinze to play a similar role and provide the same type of success in the Razorback backfield.

Bielema is no stranger to large running backs, and he has proven to be able to have success using them. Clay averaged over five yards-per-carry in each of his three seasons, and Arinze showed throughout spring that he has the same potential.

Joshua Cook is an SEC Football writer for Follow him on Twitter @JoCo217, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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