Bret Bielema's first season as Arkansas' head coach didn't go according to plan, but it wasn't due to lack of effort by the running backs.
Alex Collins rushed for 1,026 yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman in 2013, and Jonathan Williams added 900 rushing yards and four touchdowns in an offense that was painfully one-dimensional.
It's up to quarterback Brandon Allen to add that second dimension through the air, but one thing Bielema did accomplish this spring was solidify a third option at running back.
Korliss Marshall, a 6'0", 203-pound sophomore, broke out in Arkansas' spring game last month, rushing for 99 yards and two touchdowns, including a 59-yarder, according to the box score released by Arkansas. His performance on spring's biggest stage impressed Allen.
“He’s a very fast back. He’s powerful, he’s strong and he can break away like you saw today," Allen said in quotes released by Arkansas. "He just adds to that trio of running backs we have going. They all three have their own special abilities. He’s a very explosive back.”
That trio could be one of the best running back groups in the SEC.
Sure, Alabama has T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyon Drake. Georgia has Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and talented freshmen Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. Texas A&M has Trey Williams, Brandon Williams and Tra Carson.
How does Arkansas' group compare to those?
It's right up there.
Collins' performance as a true freshman last season doesn't get talked about enough. He broke the century mark for a team in a season when the passing game was nonexistent and everybody in every building the Razorbacks played in knew what was coming.
It didn't matter to Collins, and it didn't matter to Bielema.
The same can be said for Williams, who fought the same battles Collins did when he was in the game. The two established players know that competition is good, and that a rising tide lifts all boats.
“It is competition, always," Williams said in quotes released by Arkansas. "It is good. Everyone is going to be working hard. I just feel like we should be running the ball 80 times a game.”
Whoa now, 80 times per game?
Sounds a bit like an exaggeration, but judging from Bielema's track-record, managing a trio of running backs won't be an issue.
In 2010 at Wisconsin, Bielema won a share of the Big Ten with James White (1,052 yards), John Clay (1,012 yards) and Montee Ball (996 yards) all splitting carries. That trio combined for 506 carries, and the Badgers as a team ran the ball 584 times—44.9 times per game.
This group of running backs is going to be solid even if Allen, Bielema and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney don't figure out a way to stretch the field.
If the passing game picks up and keeps opposing defenses honest, this running back corps could be the SEC's best.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.
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