Arkansas' Kody Walker could wreck the SEC as J-Will complement
They say when you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind.
As it pertains to the University of Arkansas, the loss of former running back Korliss Marshall, the once-thought-of heir apparent to the Hogs’ vaunted rushing attack, is now, simply, an afterthought.
After all, Arkansas has become a bit of a media darling after a hot finish to end last season, a very respectable signing day haul, a dominating performance by the starters in the spring game and the drafting of five of its players by the NFL.
To say the arrow is trending upward would be putting it mildly.
When all the dust settles during the dog days of the offseason, which is pretty much happening right now, the potential weak spots of every team will be magnified as it comes time to figure who’s who.
Offensively speaking (see what I did there?), we know the Hogs return one of the most talented units in the Southeastern Conference. Piloted by fifth-year senior quarterback Brandon Allen, whose ability to assimilate concepts pertaining to the quick game will make or break this unit, we can expect more points to be scored on The Hill.
Thankfully, well, depending on which side of the coin you’re on, he’s backed by two of the most talented tight ends in the business, Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle — who are listed at 6’5″, 250 pounds and 6’6″, 243 pounds, respectively.
Having athletes of this magnitude works out to perfection in a scheme designed around multiple-tight end sets. (Click here to read my initial post-spring game breakdown)
They will anchor the passing attack and assist in the run game where they will work next to, potentially, one of the most ferocious offensive lines in the country (although Georgia has the best line and nobody ever mentions that).
That leads us to the backfield.
The duo of Jonathan Williams (6’0″, 224 lbs) and Alex Collins (5’11”, 224 lbs) has been widely viewed as the premier one-two punch in the country as both add value in the zone- and man-blocking portion of the Hogs’ playbook. The two also have the ability to generate explosive plays as they possess ideal vision and short-area agility.
And that’s glossing over the fact that each add major value in the passing game.
And although Williams is billed as a power back, while Collins is often referred to as the one with the most sizzle, each could very will flip the other’s style.
Meaning they are a lot more similar than people give them credit for.
Which leads us back to Marshall.
His blinding speed was truly a change of pace to what the aforementioned duo brought to the table; providing the defense with a totally different look is what makes a change-of-pace back so valuable to an offensive unit.
With that being said, the Hogs may have just unearthed a back who can provide that change of pace but in a way more conducive to what the scheme calls for.
The Bruiser’s Role In Bielema’s Scheme
I’ve made it my duty to peel back the onion, so to speak, on head coach Bret Bielema’s time spent as the head man at the University of Wisconsin — mostly due to me following his tenure as close as any media type not associated with the Big 10 Conference.
As a former player who prides himself on both the intricacies and physicality of the sport, Bielema immediately caught my eye as the defensive coordinator for Wisconsin’s greatest coach, Barry Alvarez.
But when he took over for the legendary coach, he made it extremely clear to the rest of the country: Wisconsin, or any team he coaches, will attempt to be the most physical team on both sides of the ball.
His original 12-1 team, which actually beat Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl, possessed one of the most physical backs of his tenure in the 5’10”, 220-pound P.J. Hill, who was an authentic one-cut-and-go runner.
He was eventually paired up with a down-hill runner — in every sense of the word — in the 6’1″, 255-pound John Clay. Once Hill went to the NFL, the great Montee Ball comprised an excellent one-two punch with Clay due to his slashing style being a true change of pace.
And then the 2010 season happened.
With Clay and Ball already established as a formidable duo, a lightning-quick freshman by the name of James White helped pilot the Badgers to an 11-1 finish to the regular season — where the trio fell four yards short of having three one-thousand yard rushers!
Yes; you read that right.
Clay, Ball and White contributed yardage totals of 1,012 (14 TDs), 996 (18 TDs) and 1,052 (14 TDs), respectively.
I’m here to tell you: The Razorbacks could more than replicate those totals this season.
But if not, they have a chance to absolutely annihilate defenses by featuring senior RB Kody Walker as the complement to Williams.
I know some of you are thinking I’ve gone completely off the deep end as Collins has rushed for back-to-back one-thousand yard seasons; I get that. But Walker brings the same exact style that Clay brought to the Badgers and could completely dominate games, especially in the fourth quarter.
I don’t want anyone to get it twisted; Williams is a physical back. However, his style is more versatile than physically dominant, similarly to Ball.
Walker is on a whole ‘nother level with the physical part of the game.
You can’t tell me plays like the above sequence aren’t complete tone-setters for a physical squad like Arkansas. Walker took this Lead Draw, searched and destroyed his teammate DeAndre Coley in the annual Red-White scrimmage.
(In fact, he almost sent Coley to the Upper Room…with Jesus.)
Can you visualize a duo that combines the most complete back in the country, Williams, with what looks to be the most physical back in the conference? As a former linebacker/safety, I would want no parts of Walker in a rotation with Williams.
The thought of that would make me want to cheat up closer to the line of scrimmage so I could possibly tackle him before he gets going, which would open up the play-action game something serious.
Nobody in the SEC is going to want to tackle this guy over the span of four quarters.
Big Play Potential
Most fans associate Collins with big plays, and rightfully so, but it’s hard to say he’s any more of a threat to break a big play over Williams. I do know that he often runs like a player looking to hit the home run as he will leave a lot of yards on the field trying to shake and bake while getting to the edges.
Walker is the type of back who will usually fall forward upon contact, further manufacturing a couple of extra yards. He has excellent vision and, just like Collins and Williams, understands how to find the organic cut-back creases.
Case in point, he avoided the breached part of the pocket on this inside-zone run — showing off agility you rarely see in a back listed at 6’2″, 250 pounds.
From there, he proceeded to hit the edges and display very respectable open-field speed. Many will want to see Walker become the clear option as the short-yardage back, however, deploying him in such a manner doesn’t take full advantage of his skill set.
Handing the ball off to a back like this with no clear indicator of a given play could find him running against smaller nickel defenses.
This particular play shows exactly what Walker can bring: short-area agility, intimidation and deceptive long-range speed.
I completely understand that Alex Collins has garnered a huge following since the day he went against his own mother in signing with the ‘Hawgs. He’s certainly a player worthy of splitting reps with the great Williams, but he’s more of a “1b” opposed to being a true change of pace.
While Walker doesn’t bring the same type of short-area agility as Collins, he certainly has enough make-you-miss ability that when combined with his power makes for a dynamic presence in Arkansas’ backfield.
I know most will think I’ve come to this conclusion from his dominance in the spring game against the second-string defense, but I’ve been on this train for the majority of this offseason if you follow me on other mediums.
Let’s get this man 10 carries per tilt…minimum.