Rawleigh Williams III Rushing For 2,000 Yards Possible, But Difficult In Bret Bielema’s Offense

    Bret Bielema has a special running back in Rawleigh Williams III, but can Williams reach the 2,000 mark in Bielema’s system?

    March 14, 2017

    Bret Bielema has a special running back in Rawleigh Williams III, but can Williams reach the 2,000 mark in Bielema’s system?


    Since winning three straight Big Ten Championships at Wisconsin and during his current tenure with Arkansas, Bret Bielema’s teams have been successful at lining up and pounding the ball down the field against the defense.

    He has had some great running backs play for him: John Clay, Montee Ball, Alex Collins, to name a few. Currently, it’s Rawleigh Williams III.

    Could Williams, who rushed for 1,360 yards and 12 touchdowns last season as a sophomore, do even more this year and cross the magical 2,000-yard threshold?

    “If we just had a two-back or one-back system he [Williams] could easily do it. But we really believe in a two or three back system, which limits the number of reps, but obviously maximizes the number of opportunities,” Bielema told me in a recent interview.

    Bielema brought up his 2010 Badgers team that saw James White (1,052), Clay (1,012), and Ball (996) all get 156 or more rush attempts and combine for 3,060 yards while leading the team to a 11-2 record and spot in the Rose Bowl. All three backs thrived in Bielema’s system, but none ever eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark during their careers (Ball came closest with 1,923 yards in 2011).

    Williams will have a talented backup in Devwah Whaley – 602 rushing yards and three touchdowns as a freshman – that will give him a chance to catch his breath. So while Whaley will vulture carries from Williams, such is the name of the game for an offensive system that boasts one of the best running back duos in the SEC.

    The offensive line, which at times last year was a big weakness for the Razorbacks, should be better and more experienced this season, with four of the five starters – Brian Wallace, Johnny Gibson, Frank Ragnow, and Hjalte Froholdt – from the closing game of last season returning.

    For Williams’ part, coming close to that 2K mark that only 28 players before him have reached is “going to depend on if he can stay healthy throughout the year,” Bielema said.

    His coach won’t count him out, but knows it will be difficult considering the circumstances.

    “I’m not saying it isn’t gonna happen, but it’s not likely in our system.”

    MORE: Top Returning SEC Running Backs For 2017

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