Arkansas coach Bret Bielema admitted that there were tears shed Sunday when the news arrived that running back Jonathan Williams would for sure miss the regular season with foot surgery.
"It was a bad day yesterday," Bielema said on Monday afternoon, noting that he'd gotten close to the all-star running back the last three years.
Williams is the senior leader of what has been described as a two-headed monster in the backfield with Alex Collins, both of who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season.
Bielema said the surgery that will require a screw to be put in his foot would happen as soon as Monday afternoon, but the recovery would take longer than the regular season. There is a chance he could return for postseason play and there would be a redshirt possibility for a fifth year, too.
But it could be that Williams has played his last football for the Hogs. He's most likely to go to the NFL next season, a move he contemplated after last fall when he could have gone in the third round. Bielema said, "We'd think he'd go out after this year."
The school had taken out an insurance policy for Williams, but how that kicks in is still open. One part of the policy comes into play if you are injured and can't return. Williams likely will return from this injury. The other part of the policy kicks in if you lose value in the draft because of an injury.
Bielema said the Hogs are capable of absorbing the loss of Williams because of a deep stable of talented running backs. After Collins, the Hogs have junior Kody Walker, true freshman Rawleigh Williams and redshirt freshman Denzell Evans. Juan Day, a redshirt freshman, is out with ACL surgery.
"If there is one team that can take a hit at running back in college football, it's the Arkansas Razorbacks," Bielema said at a media opportunity following a Monday morning practice.
Bielema has been pleased with all of his running backs in camp. Collins has dazzled after returning to camp nine pounds lighter than in the spring. Walker has been in what Bielema calls "beast mode" after bulking up to 260 pounds, with his speed intact. Rawleigh Williams dazzled in Saturday's scrimmage and was already in the mix for playing time.
"Rawleigh has jumped into a huge role," Bielema said, noting he still has visions of Walker at fullback with Collins or Rawleigh Williams in that backfield.
Bielema said he does not see a need to move any players at other positions to running back.
"I want to have three," he said. "We've had two with huge numbers. The one thing I'll say, it's a blessing to have it happen this early in camp."
That blessing would mean Rawleigh Williams will get more practice snaps. Bielema said the challenge for the young Williams is to get him ready in pass protection situations.
The injury also likely means Collins doesn't take many more hits in camp. Bielema had already cut short his contact in Saturday's scrimmage after a 43-yard touchdown run.
The injury to Williams happened when a defensive linemen chasing from behind fell on the back of his leg. Williams actually took more snaps before taking himself out of the scrimmage.
Bielema: Hogs Built to Absorb JWill's Loss
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