Some might have wondered what the big deal was about when news broke during the middle of the summer that Arkansas running back Kody Walker had been granted a sixth year of eligibility.
Turns out it was "big" in a lot of ways. Walker -- now a junior where the NCAA is concerned -- is just plain big these days. And, he's not just big, he's a big-time back as evidenced by his downhill running in last week's scrimmage. He's a big beast of a running back.
Part of that is the shock of losing Jonathan Williams to foot surgery this past week. But the rest of the story is the way Walker continues to pack on pounds on his 6-2 frame, all the way to 260 pounds.
The big question would be can the Jefferson City, Mo., product play at that weight? Arkansas running backs coach Jamel Singleton knows the big picture is all good.
"He makes the cuts of a 220-pound back," Singleton said this week. "Actually, it looks like he has the lateral movement of a 220 guy. He's good at that weight. I told him to work on his hurdling because defenders are going to be diving at his feet. He has not lost a step at 260. He falls forward."
The next question, can Walker take a big work load. He carried for 2,558 yards his last two seasons at Jefferson City, but has totaled only 58 total carries in four injury-plagued seasons at Arkansas. He had 20 as a freshman when he scored five touchdowns in just three games before being injured. He played just two games before another injury decked him his second season. There were 31 carries in 13 games last season.
Walker thinks his body can handle a pounding. Actually, he thinks it's the defense that's going to take the abuse.
"It's been a long time since I carried it 20 times in a game, but I think I can do that," he said. "I'll just have to spend some time in the ice tub. I am ready for that kind of a work load."
Singleton isn't sure what the total might be for Walker. He's slotted for time at both running back and fullback. Alex Collins is the leader of the running back group with freshman Rawleigh Williams in the mix for carries, too. But Singleton loves what he sees from Walker.
"When I came here before the spring, I'd done research and knew a lot about Alex and Jonathan," Singleton said. "But Kody was not a guy who people spoke a lot about. When I got here, I realized he was a hidden gem. First, it was clear that he was a veteran player. I kid him that he may be close to my age, he's been here so long.
"It's clear that he understood how to work and compete. That's the sign of a veteran."
The first thing that became obvious was that he was just as much a leader in the meeting room as Jonathan Williams.
"Jonathan brought a lot to the table as far as leadership, but so did Kody," Singleton said. "He did everything right. He's been a delight to coach."
Walker enjoyed a productive spring. That was carrying 250 pounds. The media guide lists "projected weights" and Walker's was listed at 256. But when he got to 260, it just seemed right.
"I got to 255 and felt good and just kept adding muscle," he said. "I want to give 260 a try. I've always said, if it doesn't feel good, I'll take it off. It hasn't been a problem."
With Jonathan Williams out, Walker knows there's going to be some carries for someone else.
"I hate that he's not out there," Walker said. "But it's an opportunity. You don't want to get your opportunity like this because it's not good. You don't want it to happen. But when it does, you need to step up."
Head coach Bret Bielema said on Monday that one of the keys to the Jonathan Williams injury was to make sure it did not create pandemonium. There has been nothing like that within the team. It's been business as usual. Certainly, there is no chaos, only good running backs seeing opportunity.
Alex Collins said after practice that he's ready to take more of the weight of the team on his shoulders. And, then there's the back that has added just the weight for such a load.
"We've been clicking," Walker said. "It's just been a case of the next one stepping up."