Whaley top of depth chart
Devwah Whaley has been named as the University of Arkansas’ starting running back for their season opener against Florida A&M on Thursday.
The Bermudian sophomore is the Razorbacks’ leading returning rusher, following the retirement of last year’s starter Rawleigh Williams, who quit college football after suffering a second neck injury that ended his career in the spring.
Whaley, senior David Williams — a transfer from South Carolina — and freshman Chase Hayden will be the Hogs’ leading three tailbacks, with head coach Bret Bielema yet to make a decision on whether to redshirt true freshman Maleek Williams.
“I think we’ll make a decision next week, Tuesday or Wednesday,” Bielema told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette yesterday. “He’s been able to get reps. We’ve been trying to limit David and Devwah.
“Usually you have five or six running backs on scholarship and we just didn’t have that number so we were very cautious during camp to not [overuse] our running backs, to not over-rep them for this season we’ve got in front of us.
“Maleek’s looked really good. Unfortunately he lost his grandpa, so we’re going to have to send him all the way back to Jamaica here in about ten days. So that’s kind of factoring into it as well. Obviously that will be right in the middle of a preparation week as well.”
Arkansas’ running game started off poorly in camp, but has improved over time and Whaley has put it upon himself to be a better student of the game in Rawleigh Williams’s absence from the team.
“I knew after [Rawleigh Williams’s retirement] happened I had to grow in all phases of the game, not just as a player but also as a person,” Whaley said recently. “I just had to become more mature and try to learn the game a lot better and just step up and be a better player and leader.”
Running backs coach Reggie Mitchell was effusive in his praise for Whaley’s work ethic this offseason.
“Now Devwah’s become a student of the game,” Mitchell said. “You know when Rawleigh was here, he knew Rawleigh would get the bulk of it. Towards the end of the year, we tried to split it up a bit, but he knew Rawleigh was the guy.
“Once Rawleigh retired, he kind of took it upon himself to be a leader in the group and start watching more film, and from a football IQ standpoint just try to get better and learn the scheme of the offence where he would be able to play fast and utilise his skills.”
Whaley ran for 602 yards last season, including 283 in the final four games of the regular season.
“Last year, as the season wore on, we really thought in certain situations he was a guy that we thought would beat out Rawleigh, if not by the end of spring, then the fall,” Bielema said of Whaley. “He hasn’t done anything to disappoint us in that regard.”
Arkansas open their season against the Football Championship Subdivison Rattlers on Thursday at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Kick-off is 9pm Bermuda time.
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