Running backs Whaley, Williams mesh well
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