Four Downs: Arkansas Gets Big Day From Big Backs


1. Big Backs Enjoy Big Day

Coach Bret Bielema wants to build the Arkansas offense around a power run game.

The spring-ending Red-White Game showed Arkansas will at least have its fair share of big running backs to work with next fall.

Jonathan Williams (220 pounds), Kody Walker (244) and Patrick Arinze (254)  combined to rush for 135 yards on 25 carries in front of an announced crowd of 51,088 in Razorback Stadium on Saturday. Arinze and Walker enjoyed the biggest days, bulling their way through the second-team defense for big yards.

Arinze, a walk-on, led all Arkansas rushers with 66 yards on nine carries. It included a game-high 21-yard run in which he broke tackles before being dragged down.

“He's very powerful,” Bielema said. “You can see he's got some ability to run the football. He's pretty solid as a blocker as well. He's like a little Tonka truck, just really built strong and tough and physical, and he's got those big ol' legs churning.”

Walker showed plenty of promise as well, finishing second on the team with 40 yards on seven carries Saturday. It was just his second performance during contact work, too, since suffering a broken leg last September.

Bielema called him the “best pleasant surprises” in his limited contact work.

“You didn’t really see it today,” Bielema said. “It will never pop up, but he’s really got great pass pro which means he’ll be great for us on third down.”

Williams — who has worked with the starting offense all spring and is the projected starter entering next season— turned in another steady performance in his scrimmage time. He rushed 29 yards on 9 carries against the first-team defense.

All three will have opportunities to earn carries next season along with Nate Holmes, who rushed for 43 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Fullback Kiero Small, who has gotten his share of ball-carrying duties during spring practice as well, said getting to block for bigger backs has been enjoyable this spring.

“I get on my man and I hear a pop at the end and you look back and he’s laying on top of the guy that was trying to tackle him,” Small said. “It gets everybody excited. Strong running always ignites your team.”

2. Kicking Success

Arkansas’ defense had to rely on place kickers for points Saturday. There was good news for the group: Zach Hocker and John Henson turned in solid scrimmages.

Hocker went 7-for-8 with a long of 52 yards, while Henson made 4 of 6 with a long of 48 during the Red-White Game. Most of the field goals made by the kickers came during a field goal challenge at the end of the first and third quarters. Each field goal during the challenge went toward the White team’s scoring.

Hocker went 6-for-7 during the challenge with his only miss coming from 60 yards. Henson was 3-for-5. The nine field goals accounted for the White’s 27 points.

“So very excited with the way Hocker hit the ball,” Bielema said. “I don’t know what his final stats were, but I believe he just missed the one at 60 yards. Has really hit the ball all spring since I've been around him.”

3. Quick Exit

Arkansas cornerback Tevin Mitchel started the scrimmage with the first-team defense. But the junior couldn’t stay on the field long.

Mitchel limped to the sideline after suffering an apparent leg injury after the first snap. He was replaced by junior college transfer Caroll Washington the rest of the game. Mitchel watched the scrimmage from the Arkansas bench.

Bielema said afterward Mitchel’s injury wasn’t serious.

“He was bothered by his hammy at the beginning of spring,” Bielema said. “He had a really, really nice last two weeks, but unfortunately tweaked it there on the first play and didn't get him back in there. But we got a lot of reps with those other guys.”

4. Extra Points

LT David Hurd did not participate in the Red-White Game because of a knee injury he suffered during practice. Bielema said Hurd could’ve played if needed, but the Razorbacks took a cautious approach. Austin Beck worked in his place. … DE Chris Smith only played in the first quarter Saturday because of an illness. “I actually told him if he didn't want to,” Bielema said. “But he wanted to go today and play with his No. 1 unit and it was good to see him out there.” … Bielema also said Holmes didn’t play in the first half, serving a suspension. He said the punishment was for academic reasons, but doesn’t believe it will be a long-term issue. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s done a tremendous job,” Bielema said. … The sideline was loaded with former Razorbacks on Saturday. The lengthy list included: Ryan Mallett, Tyler Wilson, Knile Davis, Chris Gragg, Cobi Hamilton Mitch Petrus, Ray Dominguez, Tenarius Wright, Matt Harris, Lucas Miller, Ronnie Wingo, Alonzo Highsmith, Jerry Franklin. The seniors from the 2012 team were recognized at halftime.

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau