Smith, Williams Adjust To Smaller Roles

FAYETTEVILLE — Around town, people ask Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams why he isn't getting the football thrown to him as much this year.

Running back Michael Smith, meanwhile, is still trying to get adjusted to his decreased role in the Razorbacks' high-powered offense.

While Arkansas has continued to put up points and Smith is again the team's leading rusher, the senior has had to split carries with several other tailbacks this season. Williams, meanwhile, is being used more as a blocking tight end than as the team's primary target like in 2008.

"I'm not going to lie, it's been a little frustrating because I've been wanting to get the ball more. But that's on me," Smith said. "I've got to produce more, so that (Petrino) wants to give me the ball more."

Smith and Williams accounted for 46.8 percent of Arkansas' offense last season, gaining a combined 2,093 of the team's 4,477 yards last season. But now that Petrino has more offensive weapons to rely on, Smith and Williams have seen their production get cut in half.

Through the first four games of the season, the tandem has accounted for only 22.7 percent of the offense (401 of the Razorbacks' 1,764 yards). Smith is averaging just 45.0 yards rushing per game, compared to 107.2 ypg. during his breakout junior season.

Williams, meanwhile, is averaging just two catches per game, a major decline from when he set a record for most catches by an Arkansas tight end with 61 for 723 yards and three touchdowns in 2008.

"We can take what the defense gives us now instead of just forcing it to two guys (Smith and Williams)," Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said. "And then we're putting more points on the board right now with more weapons than we did with just giving it to two people."

Bobby Petrino said several factors have played into Williams and Smith not getting as many touches this season. Opposing coaches have come up with schemes to limit the tandem. Arkansas' young wide receivers and running backs have shown they can handle more of the load. And quarterback Ryan Mallett is more willing to spread the ball around to his different playmakers than Casey Dick, last year's starter.

"I think you'll see their touches and production go up as the year goes on," Bobby Petrino said of Smith and Williams.

While the tandem hasn't played as much of a role this season — Williams and Smith are combining to average only 100.2 yards of total offense per game — the Razorbacks rank among the nation's best in passing offense (329.2 yards per game) and scoring offense (35.8 points per game).

But the offensive production has come more from wide receivers Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright than Williams and Smith.

Through the first four games of 2008, Williams had 19 catches for 256 yards and two touchdowns. But the junior ranks fifth on the Razorbacks this season with eight catches for 104 yards and one touchdown, putting him on pace to finish the regular season with 24 receptions for 312 yards and three touchdowns.

"Here in the locker room and us as a team, everything's great. It's just when you go outside of what's going on here in the stadium, people are saying, ‘How come your not doing this? Why aren't they throwing you the ball?'" Williams said. "But they're not understanding how good the offense is working.

"If my role is to open somebody else up or spring for a block, then that's going to be my role and I'm going to be happy with it."

Bobby Petrino, meanwhile, hasn't asked Smith to be Arkansas' workhorse like he was last year when he sometimes got 35 carries in a game and finished with 1,072 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.

Smith has only 32 carries for 180 yards and one touchdown through the first four games of this season. That's a dramatic decline from this time a year ago when, despite being suspended for the season opener, he had 54 carries for 295 yards and two touchdowns through the first four games of the season.

He's on pace to finish the regular season with 540 yards rushing.

"I need to run better," Smith said. "If I begin to run better, then the amount of touches won't matter because I'll be gaining more yards with each game."

Not Doing It Themselves

Here's a look at how Arkansas running back Michael Smith and tight end D.J. Williams have had a smaller role in the offense than in 2008:

First four games of 2008

Smith 54 carries, 295 yards, 2 TDs

Williams 19 catches, 256 yards, 2 TDs

First four games of 2009

Smith 32 carries, 180 yards, 1 TD

Williams 8 catches, 104 yards, 1 TD

2008 Stats

Smith 207 carries, 1,072 yards, 8 TDs

Williams 61 catches, 723 yards, 3 TDs

Projected 2009 Stats (Based on first 4 games)

Smith 96 carries, 540 yards, 3 TDs

Williams 24 catches, 312 yards, 3 TDs

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