FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas sophomore running back Rawleigh Williams for the second time this season has been named SEC Offensive Player of the Week.
Williams received the honor Monday from the SEC Office in Birmingham, Ala. Last Saturday Williams netted 148 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries plus catching 2 passes for 22 yards leading the Razorbacks to a 31-10 SEC victory over the then 10th-ranked Florida Gators last Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The native of Dallas whose football career was threatened by a broken neck curtailing his 2015 freshman Arkansas season, Williams also was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 17 for netting 180 yards on 27 carries plus catching two passes, one a touchdown, during Arkansas’ 34-30 SEC victory over the Ole Miss Rebels at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
In Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos’ view, Williams’ performance against the Gators’ nationally renowned defense was “by far his best game.”
“He broke tackles, he showed a burst, he ran hard,” Enos said. “He was physical, he most physical I’ve seen him this year. He really, really played a great football game. He had a couple runs in there that we didn’t even block all that great, and he ended up getting 8 yards on one and I think 12 on another.”
Williams carried two Gators with him the final yards of his 6-yard touchdown and “put the nail in the coffin,” Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said, breaking for a 41-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Freshman running back Devwah Whaley augmented Williams by netting 66 yards on 14 carries and 2 catches for 69 with 43 on a screen pass.
Enos said the Hogs, 6-3 overall, 2-3 in the SEC West, definitely need them both running against the solid defense of the nationally No. 19 LSU Tigers, 5-3, 3-2 in the SEC West, in Saturday’s 6 p.m. ESPN televised SEC West game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
“I think having Devwah right there, nipping at his heels and running hard, too, that certainly helps,” Enos said. “Rawleigh is having a great year and he’s got three games to go, and certainly we’re going to need him to play even better this week.”
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said for the first time against a truly monstrous defense that Williams and Whaley together performed like a 2-headed monster.
“I think last Saturday was probably the first time against a quality defense ,” Bielema said - “against some of the upper elite SEC defenses - where both running backs were effective. Both guys got in there and did a lot of really good things in the run game, throw game and pass protection. Our offenses (in Bielema’s Wisconsin days and 2013 and 2014 seasons at Arkansas with now in the NFL running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins and in 2015 Collins and Rawleigh Williams until Rawleigh’s injury) ) have really been based on a two-headed monster. If you rely on one guy it’s never going to get you there. He’s never going to stay fresh, especially in the SEC.”
T.J Hammonds, the freshman running back from Pulaski Robinson, caught a 15-yard pass against Florida and broke a big run recalled by a penalty.
“T.J. Hammonds, we’ve got to continue to get him in there,” Enos said. “It’s hard to get three guys 15 carries in a game obviously, but as we continue to get T.J. going, too, I think he brings a little different element, running style, and can be an explosive play waiting to happen as he had on Saturday.”
The SEC doesn’t award a Most Improved Defense From One Game To The Next but if it did, Arkansas would be getting it.
An Arkansas defense that was trampled for 543 rushing yards in the 56-3 loss at Auburn rebounded to ground the Gators at 12 yards rushing.
“I thought our players did a phenomenal job,” Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith said Monday crediting defensive line coach Rory Segrest, linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves and defensive backfield coach Paul Rhoads. “I thought Rory, Vernon and Paul did a great job getting guys in great spots in great position and just focused on the process and the practice. I thought we prepared really well. When you prepare well and take action the results usually take care of themselves.”