Razorbacks running back Collins “one of the greats” - The Mena Star: Sports

Razorbacks running back Collins “one of the greats”

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Posted: Wednesday, January 6, 2016 2:48 pm

Running backs routinely get one-dimensionally categorized: Power back, speed back, blocking back …

A truly great back gets  described in many ways because he does so many things in so many ways that sometimes seem contradictory.

Apparently Alex Collins is truly a great running back. Certainly the Arkansas Razorbacks and, ruefully, the Kansas State Wildcats, think so.

How could they not after Collins, voted both the Liberty Bowl MVP and Arkansas’ Outstanding Offensive Player, led the Razorbacks’45-23 rout of the Wildcats last Saturday at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis?

On 23 carries, the Razorbacks’ junior from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. netted 185 yards and three touchdowns, returned a kickoff 68-yards setting up receiver Jared Cornelius’ end-around touchdown run, and helped pass protect Brandon Allen while the Arkansas senior quarterback closed his career with a banner day completing 20 of 26 for 315 yards and a touchdown after shrugging off throwing an interception three plays into the game.

Collins’ performance drew accolades from all directions to be oxymoronic like powerfully patient or explosively visionary.

Here is a sampling of how K-State Coach Bill Snyder, K-State defensive lineman Travis Britz and cornerback Morgan Burns described Collins variously running away from, running over, running through and dragging behind him various Wildcats.

To Snyder of the Big 12’s Wildcats, Collins, 5-11, 215, stands out in the SEC even with SEC champion and national championship game bound Alabama boasting Heisman Trophy winning running back Derrick Henry and LSU boasting Leonard Fournette, the Heisman Trophy favorite until running into an Alabama defensive wall on a night that Henry excelled to dominate

“You have a plethora of young, exciting running backs in the SEC and he’s at the top of the list,” Snyder said. “He breaks a lot of tackles and makes you miss when he gets on the edge which is what he did today. He is one of those guys that has a lot of talent in terms of changing direction and has a lot of ability  that sometimes goes unnoticed when you are carrying that type of size around. He got a lot of help, too up front. They have some pretty good-sized guys.”

Britz said seeing is believe when you see how Collins can see.

“What I noticed about Alex today is he has great vision,” Britz said. “Especially when he picks a hole. And his offensive linemen did a great job blocking us today.”

Burns was impressed how Collins uses the big-time blocks of  the big blockers on the line, center Mitch Smothers, guards Sebastian Tretola, the senior second-team All-American and Frank Ragnow and tackles Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper.

“You just expect him to hit the hole hard every time,” Burns said.  “But he reads his blocks and had time to cut back and hit the hole hard. I think he had great patience.”

Apparently Collins runs patiently angry.

“The kid is unbelievable,” Tretola said. “He runs angry. He runs mad, the legs never stop and that adds to our mentality.  Even if you miss your block, he might make that guy miss so you had better keep running because you might help him 20 or 30 yards downfield. An unbelievable performance.”

Allen, who posted an MVP type performance in his own right, called Collins “definitely deserving of that MVP.”

“Alex ran hard all day,” Allen said. “You have to give a lot of credit to the guys blocking for him, then what you saw after that was him breaking tackles and never going down. He really carried us in the second half.”

And helped Allen only get twice sacked by K-State defense posting 36 sacks its first 12 games.

“The part of his game this year that has really improved is his overall toughness, his durability,” Bielema said.  “I think the offensive players and B.A. will tell you he has put it on the line for them a couple of times in pass protection that some running backs don’t do.”

Given Collins completes a 1,597 yards season after 1,026 and 1,110 yards seasons in 2013 and 2014 splitting time with Jonathan Williams, the injured senior all 2015 and turning pro, Collins’ performances “crescendo” at Arkansas, Bielema said.

This week Collins and fellow junior pro prospects Hunter Henry, the All-American Mackey Award winning tight end, and Kirkland ponder whether to turn pro declaring for the NFL draft or return to the UA for their 2016 senior year.

“If he (Collins) comes back with us next year you are probably looking at a Heisman candidate,” Bielema said.  “He could be the first player ever to rush for four 1,000 yards seasons that’s never been done in the SEC. If he goes on the NFL he is going to get a very good football player with a lot of growth and a lot of opportunity in front of him and just blessed to have three years with him already.”

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