Arkansas line, backs bring tougher mindset

Arkansas running back Maleek Williams goes through warmups Saturday, April 8, 2017, during a spring scrimmage at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas Razorbacks Coach Bret Bielema said he wanted Saturday's scrimmage to feel like the better part of a game, with a big emphasis on establishing the run.

The play count, rushing totals and statistics would back him up.


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"I wanted to get somewhere around what you could say might be two-thirds or three quarters of a game," Bielema said.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville ran 135 plays during Saturday's scrimmage, and lead tailbacks Rawleigh Williams and Devwah Whaley got a heavy workload, as did freshman Maleek Williams. Rawleigh Williams led the way with 189 yards, while Maleek Williams added 88 and Whaley 86.

The top five tailbacks, with Juan Day and Connor McPherson added in, plus one carry each for fullback Justice Hobbs and receiver T.J. Hammonds, combined to rush for 480 yards in the scrimmage.

"We wanted to put an emphasis on the run game, and I thought the O-line came out with an attitude, an edge, and I thought they blocked up everyone and the running backs ran hard, broke arm tackles," quarterback Austin Allen said.

"Oh yeah, the coaches have stressed that a lot, especially Coach B," Whaley said of the physical nature of Saturday's scrimmage. "That's what we base practices off of, and that just helps us get better for when we come in for the fall."

The defense did not do any pre-snap movement or stunting, and they couldn't not tackle below the knees, so they were limited. But that does not negate a better brand of blocking from the Arkansas offensive line.

"We're trying to emphasize that as much as we can," left tackle Colton Jackson said. "That's what the Razorbacks are about, running the ball. That's our identity."

"Some of those holes though, I could have broke a 30-yard run out there," Allen said. "But that's just a credit to the offensive line, and whenever those guys get the ball in their hands, they're special. A lot of good things to come for them."

Rawleigh Williams ran on the first three plays of the day, gaining 2 yards at right end and 1 yard at left tackle before rushing for 32 yards around the right edge.

Offensive coordinator Dan Enos said he had some particular plays in mind to give Rawleigh Williams live looks at blocking schemes and the angles of preferred cuts.

"I think there are some cuts that we wanted to improve upon in the fall," Bielema said. "I think there are some specific plays that Dan wanted to run with him in there, and he did a good job."

The junior's 19-carries were highlighted by a 68-yard run through the middle for a touchdown on his final attempt. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry through his first 18 attempts, but the breakaway lifted his average to 9.9.

Rawleigh Williams' workload was on par for heavy days in previous springs under Bielema, such as Kody Walker's 20 carries for 69 yards in a 122-play scrimmage in 2015, and 16 carries for 87 yards by Jonathan Williams in a 101-play scrimmage in 2013.

Whaley, a sophomore, had 14 carries for 86 yards, an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Maleek Williams gained his 88 yards on 18 attempts, running with the second and third units. Both Whaley and Maleek Williams had a top run of 22 yards. Williams broke several tackles on his long gain.

"I mean Maleek Williams, he ran like a beast," Allen said. "I didn't know he could run like that."

Whaley said the running backs had an idea it would be a heavy workload Saturday.

"It wasn't surprising," he said. "All we could do is get our minds ready for it and just doing it.

"Yeah, that's pretty cool. It shows that we were able to split carries and it just shows the depth we have in the backfield with all the running backs. And it shows we can be a good group as a whole."

Whaley gave a nod to the offensive line.

"They did a great job, but like I said, they're always room for improvement," he said. "I'm sure they're going to improve and we're going to improve as well."

Sports on 04/12/2017