Hogs developing a cornerstone with tag team running game

When I followed wrestling (or rasslin’ as we pronounced it in eastern Arkansas as a kid), I always liked the tag team matches. It was more, which was obviously better in my preadolescent mind.

I mean, why watch two stinky, fat guys smack each other around when you can watch four stinky fat guys smack each other around. And, yes, when I tuned in to watch Saturday-morning wrestling back in the day, it was mostly hairy, flabby rascals, not the ’roided-out, shaved-clean, oiled-up specimens who flail away in the squared-circle today.

So, naturally, the Arkansas Razorbacks’ tandem of Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins has caught my attention in the Hogs’ first two outings. So far, the duo has been a lethal combo, pounding out yardage in a bruising, violent fashion that brought Samford and Louisiana-Lafayette to their knees.

Collins, a freshman from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is leading the Southeastern Conference in rushing with 45 carries for 303 yards for an average of 151.5 yards per game and 6.7 yards per carry. Williams, a sophomore from Allen, Texas, is third in the SEC in rushing with 35 carries for 277 yards for an average of 138.5 ypg. and 7.9 ypc.

That’s toting the mail, folks, even if it is against cupcakes.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema praised the two for working in tandem, and “tapping out” when they are winded. By doing so, the Hogs had two fresh tailbacks in the decisive fourth quarter of the 31-21 Sanford victory, plus the wrecking ball that is fullback Kiero Small.

No, it’s not the precision passing game that captured Hog fans’ hearts under Bobby Petrino’s cold, surgical touch. But, Bielema’s Hogs are practicing their own visceral brand of sweet science, pounding on opponents like Rocky Balboa working out his combinations on hanging sides of beef.

And working out is just what the Hogs are doing in their early games. While Arkansas’ opponents are playing to win, it has been a gift for the Razorbacks to have their schedule front-loaded with non-conference opponents. It’s allowing them to find out what they are good at before being thrown into the snake pit of SEC play.

With a solid running game in place as the cornerstone, the Razorbacks can build layers upon it that should only make them more dangerous in the back third of the season, which will likely decide whether this team goes bowling or not.

Over the next two games — against Southern Miss. at 11:21 am. Saturday at home and at Rutgers at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 21 — the Razorbacks will continue to define their identity before playing host to Texas A&M in Arkansas’ league opener at Razorback Stadium.

Next season, there will be no cushion. The Hogs open at Auburn and must hit the ground running.

SEC Schedule Features Odd Pairs

While it may seem a bit funny to be thinking about basketball with football season just getting underway, you better believe Arkansas head basketball coach Mike Anderson is giving some thought to how the Hogs’ games fall this season.

What jumped out at me while perusing the entire schedule, which Arkansas released Monday, are the odd pairing of games in SEC play. The Razorbacks have three sets of back-to-back road trips and three sets of back-to-back home stands. That’s a full third of the league schedule facing back-to-back road games.

Other SEC squads may face the same type of scheduling, but back-to-back road trips are brutal on athlete’s lives scholastically, socially and to a degree competitively. It generally means two days of missed classes during the week and two or more nights away from campus.

The SEC scheduling committee should really look at the back-to-back game situation. Back-to-back road games can’t be completely avoided when scheduling for 14 teams, but a third of the league schedule seems too much.

Giving Back

One of the aspects of getting older that is at least a bit gratifying is watching young people grow into being responsible and even generous adults.

I was reminded of that Monday when I heard that former Razorback basketball player and current Houston Rocket Ronnie Brewer donated $100,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Fayetteville.

Being the son of Ron Brewer, who had a nine-year journeyman career in the NBA after leading Arkansas basketball into prominence with teammates Marvin Delph and Sidney Moncrief as the Triplets, Ronnie had a conspicuous presence on the basketball courts of Fayetteville throughout his childhood.

Everyone knew who he was because of his dad. But Ronnie’s talent, though guided by his father, was his own, and it became apparent he had the skills to follow in his dad’s NBA footsteps.

From Boys Club ball and the playgrounds to Woodland Junior High and Fayetteville High on to the Razorbacks, it was a treat to watch Ronnie mature as basketball player and a young man.

Now that he is living his dream in the NBA, it’s great to see him make a donation to an institution that invested in his childhood.

Who knows? Fayetteville’s next NBA player might just hone his skills on the new gym floor Brewer’s donation will help provide.