FOUR DOWNS: Williams Showing Big-Play Ability


1. Big-Play Back

Arkansas freshman Alex Collins may lead the Razorbacks in rushing with 418 yards, but teammate Jonathan Williams has accounted for the majority of the team’s big plays through three games.

The sophomore has a run of 45 yards or more in each of Arkansas’ three games. It included the 45-yard touchdown run last Saturday, which gave the Razorbacks a much-needed spark on offense in the 24-3 win against Southern Miss.

“He’s got this style that … it’s not a flashy. It’s not, ‘I’m going to make a guy miss and I’m on a dead sprint going,’” Arkansas running backs coach Joel Thomas said. “He’ll kind of dead-leg a guy or give him a stiff arm here. Or he’s strong and will run through a tackle and then he’s in the secondary. He does a good job with that.”

Williams’ longest run of the season was a 75-yard touchdown in the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, returning from the shoulder stinger that sidelined him late in the second quarter. He also broke off a 46-yard run — although he didn’t get to the end zone — in the second quarter of Arkansas’ 31-21 win against Samford on Sept. 7

The big plays have helped Williams average a team-high 7.7 yards a carry. Collins is averaging 6.0 yards an attempt, getting the ball 19 more times than Williams.

Of course, Arkansas knows Collins is capable of producing big plays in the run game as well. His 55-yard run in the fourth quarter against Samford was one of the key moments in Arkansas’ come-from-behind win in Little Rock.

Thomas said the big plays — whether they’re coming from Williams or Collins — will continue to be important to Arkansas’ offensive success this season.

“One of the things in spring ball and in two-a-days, we didn’t quite see a lot of explosion out of our offense,” Thomas said. “It’s really nice that it has generated or it has come about with Jonathan and obviously some of Alex’s runs too.”

2. Nova Update

Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova participated in practice on a limited basis Tuesday, according to the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger. But coach Kyle Flood said after practice Nova’s availability for Saturday’s game against Arkansas has not been determined.

“I think it means he has a chance,” Flood said of Nova’s status, according to the Star-Ledger. “I don’t think there’s any certainty at all. These are decisions that I don’t make. The medical staff makes them, So they give me an idea of what they think he can do and I do it. We’ll see how he feels (Tuesday).”

Nova suffered a concussion in the first quarter of Rutgers’ win last week. He was replaced by backup Chas Dodd, who would start if Nova can’t play Saturday.

Nova threw completed 25 of 35 passes for 397 yards with 5 touchdowns in the win at Arkansas last season. He is 42 of 66 for 542 yards with 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions so far this season.

3. Tate Eager For Return

Arkansas will have TE Austin Tate back for Saturday’s game against Rutgers. The senior missed the first three games after suffering a preseason shoulder injury.

“He looked good (Tuesday),” Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney said. “He brings a presence to the position, a sense of maturity that we need. I know he’s very anxious to get back out there this week. When you it’s your senior year and you miss out on those first three games, that’s tough. It’s really been eating at him, so I think he’s really excited to be back out there, and we’re glad to have him.”

Tate said it was difficult watching three games from the sideline. But he’ll be back in a rotation at tight end that includes starter Mitchell Loewen, freshman Hunter Henry, redshirt freshman Jeremy Sprinkle and sophomore Alex Voelzke.

“I felt like I’ve been ready to go for awhile, but obviously the doctors and everybody else they get paid to tell me what to do,” Tate said. “I respect their decisions because they got me to practice (Tuesday) sooner than anticipated.”

4. Indoor Work

Arkansas practiced in the Walker Indoor Pavilion on Tuesday and used it as an opportunity to pipe in crowd noise in preparation for Saturday’s game.

Tate said it was hard to hear during Tuesday’s practice. Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said it tested the Razorbacks’ communication.

“We’ve dabbled with a little bit of it throughout training camp,” Chaney said. “Coach (Bret Bielema) would throw some crowd noise on, so it wasn’t the first time we’ve dealt with it. It really didn’t seem to bother us much. It bothers me when I’m yelling at them and they can’t hear me. That’s probably the worst thing that bothers me.”

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau