Finding A No. 2 Receivers

FAYETTEVILLE -- Gus Malzahn doesn't consciously exclude London Crawford and Damian Williams from Arkansas' passing game.

In fact, the Razorbacks' first-year offensive coordinator would love to get the highly recruited freshman wide receivers more involved.

But he had a simple answer as to why Crawford or Williams hadn't emerged as a consistent No. 2 receiving threat behind junior Marcus Monk.

"Really, it hasn't had to happen yet," Malzahn said. "But I think if it does happen to happen, if we get to a point where either we get behind or we have to score more points, I really feel confident in both of those guys.

"I know our quarterbacks do, too."

As they prepare for Saturday's game at Mississippi State, Crawford and Williams are trying their best to keep that in mind.

Since practice began this season, Crawford and Williams heard a repeated message from Malzahn and Arkansas coach Houston Nutt.

"They never say it enough," Crawford said. "They've been saying since we got here that they were going to need us to make plays."

The Razorbacks just haven't needed them. Not yet, anyway.

With a rushing attack ranked first in the Southeastern Conference and fourth nationally, Arkansas hasn't had to pass all that often this season. And when the Razorbacks have put the ball in the air, Monk has often been the target of choice for Casey Dick and Mitch Mustain.

The 6-foot-6 junior leads Arkansas with 41 catches, 779 yards and eight touchdowns. Meanwhile, the rest of Arkansas' wide receivers have combined for 23 catches, 332 yards and three scores.

That disparity hasn't surprised Williams. He marvels, at times, watching Monk sky over defenders for difficult catches in practices and games.

"Marcus is a big-time receiver," Williams said. "We all understand that Marcus is our premier, and he gets open a lot. So, we understand why he's getting most of the catches."

Still, it's tough for each of them to not get frustrated.

"In high school, you know, me and Damian were used to getting the ball like every down. So, it's been kind of hard to get used to," Crawford said. "But everybody goes through that spell when you're a freshman."

Though first-year players, both have shown glimpses of being able to contribute.

Williams, a 6-foot-1 split end from Springdale High, caught nine of his 15 passes in Arkansas' first three games. Crawford, a 6-foot-3 flanker from Mobile, Ala., has snagged touchdown passes of 15 and 45 yards from Dick.

But lately, they've been forgotten.

In the Razorbacks' past three games -- victories over Louisiana-Monroe, South Carolina and Tennessee -- Monk has hauled in 21 receptions for 380 yards and five touchdowns. Williams has three catches in that span. Crawford has none.

Dick said the duo shouldn't worry about the omission. He said that the talent possessed by Crawford and Williams was undeniable and that they simply must stay patient.

"They're doing a great job in practice day after day," Dick said. "Their time will come when teams figure stuff out on Marcus."

Eventually, Malzahn said, teams would catch on to Monk and running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, forcing Arkansas to look toward Crawford and Williams.

Williams smiled at the prospect of that situation, knowing it would lead to more action for him and Crawford. He'd prefer, though, for things to work in the reverse order.

"It would bust it wide open if we could make some plays," Williams said. "It would make it real tough to stop us then. It's real tough to stop us now.

"But if we were to do that, it'd probably open up our running game and free up Monk a little more."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories