FAYETTEVILLE - Part four of Arkansas News Bureau’s complete and thorough preseason roster report continues today with a first look at the offense, specifically the running backs.

FAYETTEVILLE - Part four of Arkansas News Bureau’s complete and thorough preseason roster report continues today with a first look at the offense, specifically the running backs.

Arkansas’ fall camp begins Thursday with 127 players (right now) in Year Four of the Bret Bielema regime. Each season Bielema has been on-campus, the Razorbacks have gotten better, increased their win total year-over-year. Projections for 2016 have Arkansas anywhere between sixth and second in the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division.

A flood of new faces dot the roster, nevermind the little-used reserves from last year stepping into starting roles. Keeping track of the 127 is difficult.

Here’s a helper.

Every day from now until Razorbacks Media Day on August 7, Arkansas News Bureau is going to provide a position-by-position analysis of every player on the roster. The reports will include scouting notices, player dimensions, and, on occasion, coach’s comments. The idea is to arm readers with the most complete and objective information ahead of the 2016 season.

Previous previews include the defensive line, linebackers and secondary.

Note: All quotes from Arkansas running backs coach Reggie Mitchell.

Running backs

1. Devwah Whaley, freshman (5-11, 216)

Last year: N/A

Glance: Whether running back is simply an average part of the Arkansas offense or if it’s a one of the best in the Southeastern Conference largely hinges on Whaley. Fair or not. He’s the highest-rated running back to come to Arkansas in at least a generation and he carries the expectations that come with that. Whaley almost certainly won’t start camp at the top of the depth chart - he’s never even practiced with the Hogs - but if he isn’t the No. 1 running back by the end of the season either Rawleigh Williams III is more than fine after neck surgery last year or things aren’t going go so well.

Quotable: "I think Devwah, he’s got a great combination of good top end speed with good size. About 217 pounds. He’s going to be a guy that not only does he have the size but the thing with him is you hope, you start him off, give him a little plan for him. By third or fourth game, get him in there a little bit more. One-hundred fifty carries, you would like to see that."

2. Rawleigh Williams III, sophomore (5-10, 223)

Last year: 254 yards on 56 carries (5.2 ypc), 1 touchdown; 5 catches for 26 yards

Glance: Now, if Whaley is the key to the corps becoming elite, if he’s only modest as a freshman (which would still be a fine season, probably), Williams is the decider as to whether the unit is solid or subpar. That isn’t to say many people, or anyone, expects the running backs to be below average. But it’s a lot to throw on a unit: a true frosh, a potential No. 1 coming off a nasty broken neck, and a perpetually banged-up third option. If Williams truly is all the way back from his horrific neck injury suffered against Auburn last year and he’s the same player, no worries. If he isn’t, the conversation changes.

Quotable: "I think Rawleigh, the neck thing, I think he’s not worried about that. Even though he had on a green shirt, we had him on a blitz period, he’d step in there and pick up the blitz even though he wasn’t supposed to. I think Rawleigh, he runs with great pad level. Great vision. Great feet. Good ball skills. I think he’s kind of the complete back. The thing you don’t know about Devwah is how he’s going to be in pass protection and those things because he’s so young, not because he’s not trying. That’s what we know with Rawleigh."

3. Kody Walker, senior (6-2, 240)

Last year: 394 yards on 90 carries (4.38 ypc), six touchdowns; 1 catch for 8 yards

Glance: Kody Walker is going to bruise and pound his way to a 500-yard season. Don’t take that Las Vegas or anything, but if I were a betting man, I’d buy that. Caveat: He must stay healthy. A tall ask for someone in his sixth year when the previous five have had at least one injury per season. He missed a chunk of the spring, too, banged up. If he’s around, though, he provides Arkansas with a completely different look in the backfield, down 35 pounds or not, his game will be a beating one.

Quotable: "From a leadership standpoint, he’s jumped right in and tried to mentor the young guys. We get a little time to spend with them in meetings. He sits with Devwah. The thing about Kody, he’s been around. He’s hungry. He’s really excited about this year. I’m looking for big things for Kody. The one thing I think you’re going to see a little bit different from Kody is he’s going to have a little bit more explosion to him because he’s not as big (been up to 270). You take 20 pounds off of him, you’re going to see a huge difference."

4. T.J. Hammonds, freshman (5-10, 197)

Last year: N/A

Glance: A perfect world might see Hammonds redshirt. And while he still might, getting that done will require all three backs ahead of him being in prime condition. Mitchell hinted the odds of that are tiny. If he plays, Hammonds is, again, a completely different back than the W/W/W combination. He’s a burner. And while his body probably isn’t ready to take an every-Saturday pounding, Hammonds won’t have to be the featured back and can be weaned into things. If he can’t redshirt, that’s the next best thing.

Quotable: "I think you have to get him ready to play because you never know what’s going to happen with the guys, Rawleigh and Kody from an injury standpoint. The thing he is, watching him on film, he’s got great ball skills. Really good change of direction, explosion. He’s more of a change of pace guy, coming in and do some things from an athletic standpoint… I haven’t worked with coach B so I don’t know how he is about playing guys just on special teams if they’re not in the rotation."

5. Duwop Mitchell, junior (6-2, 215)

Last year: 29 yards on 4 carries (7.25 ypc); 6 catches for 84 yards; 1 for 1 passing for 11 yards

Glance: Mitchell has gone from quarterback to wide receiver to running back. He is so physically gifted coaches are seeking any way to get him on the field. Just look at his stats from last year: he can do a little of everything. Thing is, he’s not quite as good as those in front of him on the depth chart at any of positions he’s played. Expect a package or two to utilize his skill-set, but don’t figure on statistics much grown from last year unless injuries befall the group ahead.

Quotable: "The big thing with Duwop is he is a big physical guy. He just has to play to his size. He has a skill set the other guys don’t have. He’s an explosive guy. For him, it’s just a matter of just getting comfortable playing running back. If he can figure it out. I think he has a chance to really help us. We’ve just got to bring him a long. He wants to do well at running back. I really think the more reps he gets in practice the better he’ll get. He’s probably only been playing running back a matter of 30 days his whole life."

6. Juan Day, sophomore (6-1, 214)

Last year: 17 yards on 4 carries

Glance: Confidence. That’s all Day has to have to bring his name into the conversation. He will never be Whaley or Williams, but there is no reason to think he can’t be a competent back-up in the SEC. Day just hasn’t shown it yet. Can you blame him? The man has dealt with knee injury after knee injury - three of them - and his hesitance is evident. One play this spring he had a breakout run and showed exactly what he is capable of, but it was just the one. It isn’t a make-or-break year (he’s so well-liked by the staff, teammates and media) or anything, but if he wants to maximize his career at Arkansas, a next step is needed now.

Quotable: "Every now and then you would see some things. For him it’s a matter of confidence, knowing he’s not injured, knowing that knee is OK. I think he’s kind of guarded about the knees and kind of wondering if he can do it at times."

7. Justice Hobbs, freshman (5-10, 220)

Last year: N/A

Glance: Hobbs is a walk-on from next door in Farmington. He was a scary-good player at the 5A school but will have to fight to make the 105 this year.

8. Connor McPherson, junior (5-7, 208)

Last year: DNP

Glance: McPherson is a media favorite during camp because of his tenacity. Sure it’s a stereotype, but he’s fun to watch. He will spend the year on the scout team.


1. Hayden Johnson, freshman (6-3, 248)

Last year: N/A

Glance: Bret Bielema put three fullbacks in the NFL in his time at Wisconsin. Much credit as he gets for tight ends - and rightfully - the fullbacks are arguably more impressive in an era they’re so rare. He hasn’t had a single fullback at Arkansas garner any significant playing time, though. Johnson is the first scholarship, true fullback Bielema has had. This is now Year Four. Don’t confuse: Arkansas won’t be lining up in the I-formation too, too often yet, but if Johnson pans out, expect the Razorbacks offense to look more like that in 2017. Hard to say what to expect from him his freshman season.

Quotable: "He’s a big athletic guy. Smart. Good ball skills. he’s going to have an opportunity to get some reps in camp to see what he can do. We’re hoping we can bring him along, so he can play. We think Hayden with his measureables, 6-2, 250 pounds, we finally have a guy with his stature … we don’t want to put too much on his plate right away. Again, we’ve got to be able to see him on the field."

2. Chris Jones, junior (5-11, 249)

Last year: Six games, no rushing stats (1 tackle)

Glance: Jones is largely a special teams player, providing an option at fullback, but unlikely he logs time there except late in games.

3. Damani Carter, sophomore (6-0, 241)

Last year: One game, no stats

Glance: Carter could be a special-teams player, too. Bielema has spoken highly of him in the past.

Follow Eric on Twitter: @ericwbolin