Arkansas has the best freshman running back in the country in Alex Collins, and he could be the best running back in the illustrious history of Arkansas running backs when his Razorback career comes to an end in three or four years.
Collins was the No. 1 rated running back according to 247Sports last year, and the 5-foot-11, 205-pound back with 4.4 speed is off to a scintillating start with 303 yards through his first two college games. With his performance Saturday, Collins became the first Arkansas running back to have more than 100-yards in his first two games.
He had 131 in his debut vs. Louisiana-Lafayette and set a new career-high with 172 in the win over Samford. What is even more impressive is he is doing this as the No. 2 back on the depth chart behind Jonathan Williams, who has 277 yards in his own right.
The fact Collins is in Fayetteville is a bit of good fortune as Bret Bielema was recruiting him while at Wisconsin. If Bielema doesn’t leave Madison for the challenge of coaching in the SEC, he is either a reserve running back for the Badgers, or he ends up at Miami, which is 30 miles from where he grew up in Fort Lauderdale.
The return of Kiero Small and the shift in philosophy to a pro-style offense, which emphasizes a power running game behind the games’ best center in Travis Swanson, are two factors for their dominance. Williams is very good, but Collins has the potential to be special.
Darren McFadden is the Hogs all-time leading rusher by more than a thousand yards over Ben Cowins with 4,590 yards, and Collins can break his mark by getting his career off to a hot start. McFadden won two Doak Walker awards at Arkansas in his final two seasons when he ran for 3,477 yards, but only ran for 1,113 as a freshman.
Collins likely won’t average 150 yards per game when conference play starts, but he certainly can sustain an average of more than 100 yards for the 12-game schedule. Collins should be ahead of the pace McFadden set as a freshman, but his true test will come in his sophomore and junior years.
If Collins produces 1,300 yards as a freshman, he will need to average 1,645 yards the next two seasons to break McFadden’s record, and I’m assuming he’ll leave for the NFL draft after his junior season as most running backs do. This may be getting a bit optimistic two games into the career of Collins, who would need to stay healthy and avoid serious injury, but it’s hard not to get excited when you see him display his talent on the gridiron.
He is the most exciting player in Arkansas since McFadden, and we could be saying he is the most exciting player in Arkansas history in three years.