The fifth in a series profiling newcomers on the 2015 Arkansas Razorbacks football team.
It would be difficult to find many NCAA Division I teams that can match what Arkansas returns at running back this fall.
With senior Jonathan Williams (1,190 yards, 12 touchdowns in 2014) and junior Alex Collins (1,100, 12 TDs) and the emergence of senior Kody Walker in the spring, the Razorbacks have a strong nucleus returning that will make it difficult for any other back to break into the mix in 2015.
At a glance
HEIGHT/WEIGHT 5-10, 205 pounds
POSITION Running back
HIGH SCHOOL Bishop Lynch
NOTEWORTHY Initially orally committed to Mississippi in April 2013 before switching to Arkansas last June. … He was Bishop Lynch’s team captain for his junior and senior seasons. … Rushed for 5,023 yards and 62 touchdowns and caught 52 passes for 9 touchdowns for the Friars. … His father is a detective with Dallas Police Department and his mother is the CEO of a nonprofit interfaith housing coalition that provides housing for homeless families.
Just don't tell that to freshman Rawleigh Williams III.
The running back from Dallas Bishop Lynch is ready to show why he was the lone running back Arkansas signed in its latest recruiting class.
"I am going in there to compete," Williams said. "They're all great running backs. Hopefully I can push those guys harder and make them better players while I'm at it. J-Will is like my big brother, but I am going in there with the mind-set of playing. Doing what I did in high school just allowed me to take another step in my career."
Williams did plenty in high school, particularly during his senior season. Williams, 5-10, 205 pounds, rushed for 2,814 yards and 37 touchdowns on 341 carries in 2014. As a junior he ran for 767 yards and 7 touchdowns even though he missed three games with an ankle injury, and he had 1,191 yards and 14 scores as a sophomore.
" He is one of the top three players in the history of our program," Bishop Lynch Coach Ben Dasch said. "His stats speak for themselves. When we think back of him years from now, we will think fondly of him knowing that he was one of the finest ever in our program."
Williams had two jaw-dropping games during his senior season. He ran for 310 yards on 22 carries and scored all 6 of his team's touchdowns against Celina in September. Four of his six touchdowns in that game came on runs longer than 25 yards, including 76- and 80-yard scores. In October, he rushed for 401 yards against Dallas John Paul ll and had touchdown runs of 69, 49, 50, 78 and 73 yards among his six scores. Williams also had a 68-yard touchdown run in the first half negated by a penalty.
"Those were video game numbers," Williams said. "Just those kinds of games you really don't ever expect to have."
Williams was ranked as the No. 42 running back by Rivals.com and No. 44 by Scout.com when he signed with Arkansas. He initially orally committed to Mississippi in April 2013, but he said his relationship with Arkansas running backs coach Joel Thomas and the Razorbacks' offense under former coordinator Jim Chaney led to his change of heart.
Despite Thomas leaving for the New Orleans Saints and Chaney leaving for the University of Pittsburgh this spring, Williams said there were no doubts about remaining with the Razorbacks.
"I have no regrets coming here or on switching from them [Ole Miss]," said Williams, adding he is enjoying his relationship with new offensive coordinator Dan Enos. "I'm carrying the same approach. I feel that I am a hard worker and that I take pride in everything I do, especially my work ethic."
Dasch, who is entering his 12th season at Bishop Lynch and his third as head coach, said Williams' development between his junior and senior seasons also contributed to Williams' decision to become a Razorback.
"For him, choosing Arkansas never seemed tough," Dasch said. "By spring practice before his senior year we were amazed seeing a difference in him."
Dasch said one play in particular during spring practice was an eye-opener for the team as well as Thomas, who was at the school on a recruiting trip. Dasch recalled a counter play designed for Williams. The running back took the ball, pushed a linebacker to the ground, then shook off a safety and two other backside players on a 70-yard run that had Thomas calling Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema on the spot.
" It was amazing what he did to those four tacklers in a 15-yard stretch," Dasch said. "I just remember Coach Thomas calling Coach Bielema and saying, 'I found us a running back.' "
Dasch said Williams should fit in well at Arkansas.
"There's no doubt he's going to push players around him," Dasch said. "He's always humble and willing to learn from the other players. He's never going let you down.
"He's the only running back in that class they signed. He's going make sure he doesn't let them down with the faith they have put into him."
Sports on 07/03/2015
Print Headline: One pushy freshman/Loaded position won’t deter running back