Arkansas counting on improvement from RB Collins
Sep. 17, 2015
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Alex Collins has had his share of memorable moments at Arkansas, including 1,000-yard rushing seasons in each of his first two years.
None, however, were more memorable than the career day of 212 yards the junior had last season against Texas Tech. The desperate Razorbacks could use a repeat of that performance when they host the Red Raiders (2-0) on Saturday.
Arkansas (1-1), known for its power running game in two seasons under coach Bret Bielema, rushed for only 103 yards on 31 carries in a stunning 16-12 loss to Mid-American Conference member Toledo a week ago.
That included a disappointing 54-yard effort on 20 carries for Collins, who has gone from a shared spotlight to the leading role in the Razorbacks backfield following a foot injury to Jonathan Williams.
"You don't get that many opportunities to make big plays happen so when they show up, you have got to take advantage of them," Arkansas running backs coach Jemal Singleton said. "There are a couple of things that he has got to clean up. He is doing some good things, but he's not doing it great all the time."
The rushing woes against the Rockets were in stark contrast to a year ago at Texas Tech, where they combined to rush for 438 yards on 68 carries. That included 27 carries and an 84-yard touchdown run by Collins, who wasn't made available to speak with reporters this week.
Arkansas' yards per carry has dropped from 5.1 a year ago to 4.4 this season, but Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury expects another heavy dose of the running game — Collins, in particular — this week.
"He's one of the best players in the country," Kingsbury said. "I think they'll be just as good as they were last year. It's just we have to improve and be better."
Collins opened the season with 127 yards rushing on 12 carries in a win over UTEP, with 70 yards coming on one run — a draw against a sagging Miners' defense on the final play of the first half.
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound running back has failed to reach double digit carries in a game only once in his Arkansas career, but his touches have never meant more following the likely season-ending injury to Williams.
Bielema has spent much of this week answering questions about the struggling running game, with much of the focus being spent on an offensive line still trying to find the physical identity it was known for a year ago.
"You get what you emphasize," offensive line coach Sam Pittman said. "We've thrown 73 passes, and we haven't (given) up a sack and we can't run the ball. That's coaching. We're trying to get it fixed the best we can. We'll have it fixed."
While the offensive line has been in the spotlight, so has the play of Collins — who teammates have made sure to remind about his breakout performance a year ago against Texas Tech, even if his coaches haven't.
"I don't think I have to use anything from the past to motivate him," Singleton said. "I think he is motivated enough. He is hearing the things that are out there, and I think it's driving him and he's pushing. I expect him to come out and play as good as he can this week."
Associated Press writer Betsy Blaney in Lubbock, Texas, contributed to this report.