Bret Bielema’s last season at Wisconsin produced the 13th-ranked rushing attack in the nation and saw Montee Ball break the career record for touchdowns. In order for Arkansas to have similar success on the ground in his first year at the helm, he will need Doak Walker award watch list member Jonathan Williams to take his game to the next level.
Williams served as the third-string running back behind Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis as a freshman in 2012 after he came to Fayetteville as a four-star recruit. He had 435 carries during his final two prep seasons, so his 45 carries last season had to be on him mentally because he had never seen so little playing time.
However, he enters this season as the unquestioned starter, and his performance in spring practice showed signs that a breakout season could be in store for the 6-foot, 205-pound back. His backfield brethren and highly touted freshman Alex Collins will undoubtedly get his fair share of carries, but Bielema’s track record proves that there will be more than enough carries to go around for the two talented backs.
Last year, Wisconsin ran the ball 635 times compared to 367 for Arkansas, and the Hogs finished with the 107th-ranked rushing attack, averaging 118.7 yards per game. A number of variables play into the discrepancy of these numbers, but the point is the belief that Bielema’s teams have in the ground-and-pound philosophy.
I think he will get Williams at least 200 carries and ride him hard as Brandon Allen gets comfortable running the offense at quarterback. Provided Williams gets 200 carries — I think it could be closer to 250 — he will easily have more than 1,000 yards and should have double-digit touchdowns.
The longest run last year by an Arkansas running back was 32 yards by Williams at Texas A&M. By comparison, Wisconsin had four players with a run longer than 50 yards. With the scheme and the return of fullback Kiero Small, the opportunity is screaming out for Williams to put up number similar to Davis when he ran for 1,322 yards in 2010 and reached the end zone 13 times on 204 carries.
Bielema will succeed at Arkansas as he did at Wisconsin, and the biggest beneficiary is Williams, who will quickly become a household name much like Ball did as a sophomore before developing into a Heisman finalist.