Williams: Hogs Will ‘Earn’ Improvement


1. Williams Eager to Earn it: Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams isn’t making any excuses for last season.

But Williams believes the start of preseason camp is more proof Arkansas is determined to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“You’ll see Aug. 30 how bad we want to prove people wrong,” Williams said. “It’s just a bad taste in our mouth. One of our — I want to say morals — is we earn everything. We went 3-9 last year, and we earned the record to go 3-9. We made a lot of mistakes, and we weren’t crisp on a lot of different things.

“But we’re definitely going to earn a better record this year.”

Williams plans to do his part in a talented backfield that includes sophomores Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall. The group is competing for carries this preseason, but Williams said Arkansas needs “all three of us to win games.”

Williams may be the most important piece. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said the junior, who rushed for 900 yards and four touchdowns last season, was the back who improved every week during the 2013 season. That growth continued in the offseason, too, when Williams took the reins of the group.

Williams — who joined Collins as a preseason candidate for the Maxwell and Doak Walker awards — wants to live up to expectations on the field as well. He was determined to “improve in every aspect of the game” in the offseason and worked specifically on being a better leader.

“I feel like I can kind of help people out there that if they’re misaligned or things like that,” Williams said. “I feel like my knowledge of the game is just a lot better.”

Bielema said there’s no question about Williams’ desire, either.

He pointed to his touchdown catch against Texas A&M last year — in which he bounced off two defenders, stayed on his feet and got into the end zone — as proof Williams will do anything possible to lead Arkansas out of the cellar.

“He’s from Texas. He wanted to prove something in that game,” Bielema said Monday. “And I knew it, but to see that happen in front of you, you know what that kid’s made of and how much he wants to have success. I think that’s very exciting.”

2. Sorting out the line: Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman revealed his two-deep depth chart from the first two practices Tuesday.

The five-man, first-team group of left tackle Dan Skipper, left guard Luke Charpentier, center Mitch Smothers, right guard Denver Kirkland and right tackle Brey Cook remains intact from the spring. His second-team group — left tackle Austin Beck, left guard Cameron Jefferson, center Frank Ragnow, right guard Sebastian Tretola and right tackle Grady Ollison — includes three newcomers.

“We haven’t put the pads on yet, but I’m liking several guys out there, so the competition obviously has stepped up,” Pittman said. “Most of the time your kids in the front will step up so they won’t get beat out. We’ll see when the pads come on, but I’ve been real pleased with the older guys and the new guys that have come in.”

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said the linemen are doing a good job, but Arkansas will learn more later this week.

“Until you put pads on them and go play big-boy football it’s hard to evaluate an offensive lineman,” Chaney said. “So I’m reluctant to say anything right now other than I am optimistic that they appear to have the athleticism to be successful.”

3. Hedlund’s Hair: Arkansas’ new kicker got Bielema’s attention Monday.

Freshman Cole Hedlund had his hair cut by teammates before the opening day of camp. The most notorious feature in the fresh cut was the shape of an arrow on the top of his head. A short video of the cut made its way around social media.

“I had a heart attack when I saw him come out and I said ‘We don’t do hazing,’” Bielema said. “Cole’s like ‘Oh no, coach, I wanted to do it.’”

Hedlund, who was a Parade All-American last year, is competing with senior John Henson for the starting job in preseason camp. The Razorbacks are trying to replace record-setting kicker Zach Hocker, who was given an unfortunate haircut by his Washington Redskins teammates as part of his rookie initiation last month.

Bielema believes Hocker — who got his cut after failing to perform a rookie skit — may have inspired Hedlund.

“I love him to death,” Bielema said about his new kicker. “He’s extremely youthful looking and that haircut don’t help him. Should take some of that hair to his chin and let him have a beard for the first time.”

4. Little bit louder: Cheney said he’s been pleased with backup quarterbacks Austin Allen and Rafe Peavey through two practices.

“I know them pretty well and what they know and don’t know,” Chaney said. “I’m pressing them a little bit to see how quickly they can learn and how quickly they can adapt. Both have done a good job. You could see them get better in the spring and that they have had wonderful summers throwing the football.”

Another improvement has nothing to do with reading defenses, completing passes or being fundamentally sound.

Chaney said both quarterbacks are “louder.”

“I can actually hear them call the snap count so I am very happy,” Chaney said.

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau