Hogs Searching To Replace Williams

FAYETTEVILLE -- And the search continues.At one time, freshman Damian Williams appeared as if he might be the consistent No. 2 wide receiver that Arkansas' coaches had been looking for since the start of spring practices.

But Williams had some difficulties in that role, and his decision Wednesday to transfer has left the No. 12 Razorbacks with junior Marcus Monk and then a bunch of talented but unproven wideouts behind him.

There is senior Cedric Washington, the veteran of the group. There is junior Robert Johnson, who has picked up the position since losing his job as the starting quarterback following the season opener. And then there is underclassmen like sophomore Reggie Fish and freshman London Crawford.

Which one will take over at flanker now that Williams has left for another school?

"One less person means more reps for everybody," said Washington, who has seen his role diminish this season as he has battled a severe concussion and more competition at the position.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said Thursday that Washington, Johnson and Fish are the most likely candidates to compete for Williams' place in the lineup. But Nutt and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn don't need to make a decision anytime soon.

No. 12 Arkansas (10-3) has more than two weeks to prepare to face No. 6 Wisconsin (11-1) in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 1.

Between now and then, Malzahn hopes to find a wide receiver who can complement Monk, whose 949 yards are 714 yards more than the team's next closest receiver. That happened to be Williams.

Washington, who started seven games last season and ranked third on the team with 365 yards and one touchdown, might have the best chance of getting more passes thrown his way now that Williams is gone.

"Cedric is older, he's a senior, he knows what it takes. He was a playmaker for us last year," Nutt said. "So he ought to come up front."

But when it comes to Arkansas' wide receivers, nothing is certain except that Monk is by far the team's go-to guy.

The 6-foot-6 junior has 49 catches, more than all the remaining wide receivers combined. But Johnson seems to be getting more comfortable with the position, and he has the size to play wide receiver at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds.

"I've figured (the position) out," Johnson said. "From the beginning of the season to now, my route-running has gotten a lot better, (as well as) catching the ball and finishing the catch."

But Arkansas' coaches had hoped to have Williams in Orlando for the Capital One Bowl.

The former Springdale High star earned the starting flanker job as a freshman, and he impressed Nutt with his ability to go up and come down with the football. Williams did, however, drop several passes over his final few games.

Before leaving, Williams was tied with fullback Peyton Hillis for second on the team with 19 catches, and the freshman had caught a pair of touchdown passes.

"He's an exceptional player, there is no doubt," Malzahn said of Williams, whom he coached last year at Springdale High. "He's young, and he'll get better and better."

Williams' transfer could open the door for freshman London Crawford to get more of a chance to prove himself as a playmaker, but Crawford isn't too excited about the opportunity.

Crawford and Williams are best friends, and the two former teammates talked Wednesday night after Williams announced his decision to transfer. In fact, Crawford signed with Arkansas because he wanted to play with Williams.

Getting more playing time because his close friend left doesn't sound too appealing to Crawford.

"I'm not going to say it's bittersweet because I don't want no man to leave for me to get playing time," Crawford said. "I'm kind of hurt that he left because he was a big part of me coming here."

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