Arkansas Football: 5 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2013
Let's be clear. Last week's loss at Rutgers was a disappointment for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Blowing a 17-point lead in the second half wouldn't sit well with any team, but it wasn't a surprise considering how they played.
Sitting at 3-1, things have gone, for the most part, how most predicted they would after four games. Arkansas was the underdog at Rutgers and it lost. They were expected to beat Louisiana, Samford and Southern Miss and won all three games.
However, that isn't to say there haven't been some pleasant individual surprises.
There were a ton of question marks entering the season on the defense, but a number of guys have stepped up in a big way. The same can be said for the offense. With the loss of some key starters, some younger players are quickly making a name for themselves and surprising a lot of people in the process.
But, which players have surprised us the most thus far? Read on.
Jarrett Lake, Linebacker
When you talk about the best linebackers in the SEC, Jarrett Lake wouldn't come up in the conversation.
However, he has been a leader for the Razorbacks defense through Week 4. Arkansas came into 2013 with no starters returning on the linebacker unit. Head coach Bret Bielema knew guys would have to step up and Lake has done just that.
Lake leads the defense with 30 total tackles, including half a sack and tackle for loss and a fumble recovery. He's tied for 24th in the country in tackles per game, averaging 10.0.
The Hogs desperately needed playmaking ability at the linebacker position, and Lake has helped tremendously with that.
Hunter Henry, Tight End
A 4-star prospect for the class of 2013 according to Rivals, freshman tight end Hunter Henry has shown what made him such a highly coveted recruit coming out of high school.
What's surprising about Henry is that he's making such a big impact in the passing game this early. Many freshmen, even if they start from the beginning, must acclimate themselves to the change from high school to college.
However, Henry already looks the part of a seasoned veteran. His 125 yards on eight catches is second on the team, and he is already showing he can be a deep threat with an average of 15.7 yards per catch. One of the things coaches liked about Henry during his recruitment was his soft hands, which have been on display.
Had starting quarterback Brandon Allen not missed last week, his numbers could be even better.
Jonathan Williams, Running Back
One part of the two-headed monster coming out of the backfield is Jonathan Williams. Williams was expected to have a big jump in numbers with an increased role as a sophomore but probably not to the extent he has through four games.
He struggled last week at Rutgers, posting just 25 yards on 12 carries. However, his work on a larger scale has been pretty darn impressive.
Williams has rushed for 418 yards on 63 attempts (6.6 YPC) with three trips to the end zone. Despite his performance against Rutgers, he's averaging 104.5 YPG, good for 31st in the FBS.
His impact on the running game for the Razorbacks is undeniable, and he fits Bielema's ground-and-pound style to a T.
Chris Smith, Defensive End
If there was a prediction on who'd be leading Arkansas in sacks through Week 4, Trey Flowers probably would have been the pick.
That's not the case, though.
Senior Chris Smith has dominated the line of scrimmage and is wreaking havoc on opposing team's quarterbacks. He ranks fourth in the country in sacks per game (1.4) and is tied for first with 5.5 total sacks.
Smith utilizes his 6'3", 250-pound frame well to get past offensive linemen. He also regularly gets a great jump off the snap, which has led to him having high success in 2013.
The Razorbacks need every bit of his physicality on the line with Johnny Manziel coming to town this Saturday, followed by a daunting three-game stretch.
Alex Collins, Running Back
The second piece to the two-headed monster in the Razorbacks' backfield, freshman Alex Collins has been nothing short of spectacular. Like Henry, Collins has tons of potential, but what he's done in just four career games has been one of the biggest surprises in all of college football.
Not only has he already run for 481 yards, he is fifth in the country in total yards rushing and ranks at the top of the SEC in that same category. Along with Williams, Collins also had a rough go at Rutgers, gaining only 63 yards on 16 carries.
That doesn't take away from his whole body of work.
Collins' 115 yards against Southern Miss in Week 3 earned him the honor of becoming the first back in SEC history to eclipse the 100-yard mark in each of his first three games. That's pretty impressive when you think about all the great backs to have played in the SEC.
He and Williams are the main reason why Arkansas' rushing attack is 23rd in the FBS. Collins has the talent and skills to be the next big thing in Fayetteville.