Arkansas Football: Why Alex Collins Is Razorbacks' MVP for 2013

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Arkansas Football: Why Alex Collins Is Razorbacks' MVP for 2013
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
RB Alex Collins

It has been a pretty forgettable season for the Arkansas Razorbacks in head coach Bret Bielema's first year. Overall, the product on the field just isn't good enough to seriously compete in the SEC. 

The quarterback play has been shoddy, the defense needs some major upgrades in all phases and the offense hasn't been able to move the ball consistently with the poor quarterback play and less-than-stellar wideouts.

You would think that on a team that has been as bad as Arkansas has it would be hard to find a most valuable player for the 2013 season. That couldn't be more wrong. In fact, naming an MVP for the Razorbacks is no-brainer. 

That award belongs to running back Alex Collins, not only the best freshman back in the SEC, but in the entire country.

If you haven't watched this guy yet, you're missing out.

Collins has burst onto the scene in just his first year, running for 946 yards through 10 games on 169 carries. He leads all freshman backs at the FBS level in total rushing yards and is 29th in the country.

If you really want to put into perspective how good he has been, Collins needs just 84 yards in each of the Hogs' last two games to break Darren McFadden's freshman rushing record at Arkansas.

McFadden was pretty good to say the least, so that would be a huge accomplishment for Collins in his first year.

He already did something that not even McFadden or any other SEC freshman back could do by becoming the first back in conference history to rush for over 100 yards in each of his first three games. Though fellow tailback Jonathan Williams has also been very good this season, if Arkansas didn't have Collins, the season could be even worse.

He was a huge reason why the Razorbacks played the Texas A&M Aggies so tough. In that, 45-33, loss, Collins ran for 116 yards and a touchdown, which isn't eye-popping. But, he did that on just 14 attempts, averaging 8.3 yards per carry.

His 69 yards versus South Carolina seems even less impressive, but once again, he did it with only a handful of attempts. Collins gained 6.9 YPC on the Gamecocks and scored, this time with just 10 carries. 

Pure stats-wise, his best game came against Samford. Collins scorched the Bulldogs for 172 yards and a trip to the end zone on 24 rushes, averaging 7.2 yards a pop. He's a lock to be named a Freshman All-American, and if there were an award for the best freshman back in the NCAA, he would undoubtedly take that too.

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

The closest freshman in the country to him in rushing yards is Baylor's Shock Linwood, who is 21 spots below Collins nationally at No. 50 with 812 yards.

It's not just freshmen that he stacks up well against, either. Collins is holding his own against the best in the nation.

In the best conference in all of college football, Collins ranks fifth in total rushing yards. What he's doing is even more impressive when you take into account the fact that opponents are stacking the box, since quarterback Brandon Allen has struggled mightily and hasn't provided any threat through the air. 

Even with eight, nine or even 10 men in the box, Collins is still averaging 5.6 YPC and using his elite skill set to make big plays for Arkansas.

He has superior ball-carrying vision, identifying the holes in the defense and quickly hitting them. He's also very patient and is great at allowing his offensive line to set up blocks and following behind them. His other skill that stands out is his ability to start and stop on a dime.

Collins makes great cuts and can instantly slow down to juke a defender, then quickly accelerate. His shiftiness makes it awfully tough for opponents to get a square hit on him.  

He's just a freshman, but you wouldn't know it by watching him play. It's scary to think that he's only going to get better as his career unfolds. There's a ton of work Bielema has to do to get this program where he wants it to be, but the Razorbacks are set in the backfield for the near future with Collins.

He has been far and away the best player for Arkansas in 2013 and with a lot of football left ahead of him, Collins could be the team's MVP for the next few years.

For more info on the Arkansas Razorbacks, follow Bryan Heater on Twitter @BHeaterRivals. 

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