Arkansas’ mighty ground attack suffered a setback this weekend, as the school announced running back Jonathan Williams will miss an extended period of time after a foot injury in a weekend scrimmage.
According to a release from the school, Williams’ left foot injury will require surgery and the timetable for his return is uncertain.
Williams is one of the nation’s top running backs after recording 1,190 yards and 12 scores last season. The senior turned down an opportunity to head to the NFL for one more year with the Razorbacks.
While the timetable for Williams’ return is uncertain, Arkansas’ schedule is manageable in most of September. The Razorbacks host UTEP, Toledo and Texas Tech before the SEC opener against Texas A&M.
The matchup against the Aggies is arguably the first game where Williams would be needed. That’s over a month in terms of a recovery. Optimistically, a return in the Sept. 26 neutral site affair would be the best-case scenario for Williams. On the negative side, Williams could be out even longer.
While Williams is a key piece of Arkansas’ offense, the good news is junior Alex Collins is capable of carrying the rushing attack and is also one of the top running backs in the nation.
Collins rushed for 1,100 yards and 12 scores last season and led the team with 1,026 yards in 2013. The junior has been pushed by coach Bret Bielema this offseason and went into fall camp in better shape.
Collins has been one of the SEC’s top running backs over the last two years and a little extra commitment and improved speed is a dangerous thought for defensive coordinators in the SEC.
After working as co-No. 1’s in Arkansas’ backfield over the last two years, Collins is now the go-to back for the Razorbacks until Williams is back in action.
How much will Arkansas utilize Collins early in September? Without Williams, keeping Collins healthy is now a priority. Expect to see Kody Walker and Rawleigh Williams III filling in for Williams during the non-conference action, which should allow Collins to stay fresh and limit the wear and tear until SEC play on Sept. 26 against Texas A&M.
There’s no doubt Arkansas will miss Jonathan Williams. However, Collins, Walker and Williams III are capable of keeping the ground attack in good shape through the non-conference portion. Additionally, the Razorbacks expect quarterback Brandon Allen to improve in his senior year.
Assuming Williams returns in time for late September or early October, Arkansas shouldn’t miss a beat and will be positioned for improvement in SEC play. If Williams is out longer, his injury becomes a bigger issue for the Razorbacks and a hindrance to the hopes of improving into the top of the SEC West. Even if Williams is out for more than a month, the ground attack is in good shape with an improving (and more dangerous) Collins toting the ball 25-30 times a game.