FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Jonathan Williams first received word of Bret Bielema's hiring at Arkansas via a tweet from former teammate Chris Gragg.
The reaction of the Razorbacks running back, after he researched Bielema's history online, left little doubt about his hopes for the future of the offense.
"I think I might have shed a tear of joy for a second because I was so excited," Williams said. "I like the style of power running plays that he likes to run, and I feel like it's more my style."
Williams will have the chance to show just how he fits into Bielema's balanced approach this season, leading a stable of young — and unproven — running backs. It's a group short on experience, but one the Razorbacks feel is more than ready to compete with the Southeastern Conference's best.
Arkansas' top two running backs from a year ago, Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson, are now in the NFL — leaving the Razorbacks without the 1,134 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns they provided last season. Williams averaged 5.1 yards per carry in limited action last season, and Bielema said the Texas native is the team's "go-to" back this season.
"Jonathan Williams, to me, is a guy that has got power," Bielema said. "He reminds me a lot of the backs I had at Wisconsin. He has a little bit more juice in the open field than I thought, so I'm very, very excited. ... It's going to be fun to see Jonathan take that role and run with it."
Williams has been pushed in preseason camp by freshman Alex Collins, one of the top recruits in the country. What Williams has shown in durability and power, rushing for 231 yards on 45 carries last season, Collins has matched with a running style that's been nothing short of explosive in the preseason.
Sophomore Nate Holmes showed flashes of his speed last season on special teams, and senior fullback Kiero Small returns this season from a foot injury — with hopes of carrying the ball more than he did under former coach Bobby Petrino.
The 8 Best Natural Gas Stocks. Find Out How to Invest.