Run­ning backs Wha­ley, Wil­liams mesh well

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE - NATE ALLEN

FAYET­TEVILLE — Some­times two prime run­ning backs on the same team eye each other like ri­val al­pha dogs.

Far bet­ter, most learn as ma­tu­rity mounts — and pos­si­bly in­juries do, too — to sup­port each other.

On that score, it seems Ra­zor­backs run­ning backs Devwah Wha­ley and David Wil­liams start their pair­ing ahead of the game.

Sopho­more Wha­ley broke in last year rush­ing 602 yards back­ing 1,360-yard rusher Rawleigh Wil­liams and Kody Walker.

Wha­ley closed spring ball in sole ex­pe­ri­enced com­mand. Rawleigh Wil­liams’ ca­reer ended with his sec­ond ma­jor neck in­jury forc­ing his Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville foot­ball re­tire­ment. Noth­ing but rook­ies re­mained for back­ups un­til David Wil­liams ar­rived dur­ing the summer as a grad­u­ate trans­fer, fifthyear, three-year let­ter­man run­ning back from the Univer­sity of South Carolina.

David Wil­liams’ pres­ence likely cuts into Wha­ley’s car­ries. Wha­ley knows that’s a good thing for his dura­bil­ity and qual­ity per play.

Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema and run­ning backs coach Reg­gie Mitchell say David Wil­liams al­ready com­fort­ably fits in as an old hand rather than an out­sider.

“He hasn’t missed a beat,” Bielema said. “And I think our kids are re­ally very, very im­pressed with his over­all de­meanor.

“Es­pe­cially Devwah. Devwah Wha­ley from when I brought him [David Wil­liams] on his re­cruit­ing visit, you see them at meals, you see them walk­ing about the locker room — those two are hip on hip. They’re re­ally good.”

Most im­por­tantly, the coaches say, the two are good in the meet­ing room men­tor­ing young backs who still haven’t played a col­lege game.

“David being a fifth-year grad­u­ate guy, he’s been in col­lege foot­ball and played in the SEC,” Mitchell said. “And Devwah is a guy that’s played. So those two have kind of taken on a lead­er­ship role in the room.”

Mitchell said he’s “not sur­prised at all” by the rap­port be­tween Wha­ley and David Wil­liams. He noted that Bielema meshed cur­rent NFL run­ning backs Jonathan Wil­liams and Alex Collins. Walker then Rawleigh Wil­liams joined the crew in 2015, and a new combo was formed upon Wha­ley’s ar­rival last year after Collins and Jonathan Wil­liams de­parted. “You just go back to the history of Coach B and the run­ning backs,” Mitchell said. “The first four games last year it was Rawleigh and Kody. Then Kody got hurt, and Devwah jumped in. So those guys know it’s go­ing to be a mul­ti­ple-back ro­ta­tion. There’s al­ways been mul­ti­ple backs.” And al­ways at least two ex­pe­ri­enced backs at a sea­son’s out­set.

“That was the thing we saw with David,” Mitchell said. “And that’s what Devwah saw. Those guys know we are go­ing to play mul­ti­ple backs, so there is no jeal­ousy. They help one an­other. We have a great room as far as the chem­istry.”

It es­pe­cially helps that his Arkansas prac­tices prove David Wil­liams isn’t just ex­pe­ri­enced, but adept.

“I don’t know what hap­pened over at his last place, but for us he’s been noth­ing but a pleas­ant sur­prise,” Mitchell said. “He’s a tal­ented guy.”

“Those guys know we are go­ing to play mul­ti­ple backs, so there is no jeal­ousy. They help one an­other. We have a great room as far as the chem­istry.” — Arkansas Ra­zor­backs run­ning backs coach Reg­gie Mitchell

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