Can Alex Collins lead the nation in rushing?

By David Kenyon

The Arkansas football team received disappointing news when head coach Bret Bielema announced senior running back Jonathan Williams will miss the 2015 season due to a broken foot.

While it’s an unfortunate situation for a player who tallied 2,090 yards and 16 touchdowns over the last two years, Arkansas still has an All-American-caliber back in Alex Collins. Their timeshare in the backfield was nothing short of outstanding, but Collins has the potential to dominate college football.

Yes, even in the vaunted SEC, Collins could lead the nation in rushing.

The Razorbacks return four starters—Dan Skipper, Sebastian Tretola, Mitch Smothers and Denver Kirkland—on the offensive line, and although they shuffled positioning a little bit, the unit boasts tremendous power. Neither Williams nor Collins would be able to succeed without the big guys winning in the trenches.

Additionally, Bielema hired Dan Enos as the offensive coordinator, snatching him away from the head coaching ranks at Central Michigan. Enos isn’t a tremendous play-caller overall, but he isn’t scared to rely on a single running back throughout the season.

Collins only handled 15 carries or more in eight of Arkansas’ 13 outings last year. Enos is sure to change that number, considering his bell-cow back, Thomas Rawls, finished games with 40, 40, 32, 31 and 25 attempts. Central Michigan was most successful when the rushing attack dominated, and that’s the Razorbacks’ preferred style, too.

Last season, Collins tallied 1,100 yards during 13 appearances. He logged 204 carries, while Williams toted the rock 211 times. Consequently, Collins will receive a more-than-fair share of those vacated touches, though Kody Walker and Rawleigh Williams III will battle for the rest.

With 13 games of work as the featured back, Collins could eclipse 325 total carries. At a meager 5.5 yards per attempt—Collins’ 2014 average that should only increase thanks to the O-line—he’d tally 1,788 yards. That mark would’ve been good enough for sixth-best nationally, but three of those talented backs (Melvin Gordon, Tevin Coleman and Jay Ajayi) have moved onto the NFL.

Williams’ injury isn’t an ideal circumstance, and Arkansas won’t be better because of it. Nevertheless, the door is open for Collins to not only succeed, but to excel.

Behind an experienced offensive line and a coach willing to pound the football, Collins is talented enough to minimize the impact of losing a 1,000-yard rusher and make a serious run at the No. 1 spot in the nation.