FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said earlier this spring the transfer rumors swirling around running back Alex Collins were “clueless, baseless and senseless.”
Collins got his opportunity to put the rumors to rest Tuesday as well.
“I love it here,” Collins said after Arkansas’ 13th spring practice. “I came here on my official visit, that was part of what I wanted to see. I fell in love with the campus, the people, the environment. That’s really why I made my decision. I could have stayed home in Florida. I could have went anywhere. And it was just a big deal to find out where I wanted to be. I just had to make sure before I made my decision.”
Collins was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year in 2013 after rushing for 1,026 yards to lead the Arkansas ground game. He was the first player in SEC history to top the 100-yard mark in the first three games of his career.
But rumors of Collins’ unhappiness emerged a few weeks after he was one of several players to serve a one-week suspension during offseason workouts. Collins addressed the suspension after a spring practice two weeks ago.
“I feel like I just have to keep grinding on and off the field and just keep proving myself and that’s what I’ve been doing,” Collins said. “I think I’ve gained that trust back with my teammates and the coaching staff.”
Collins is working in an Arkansas backfield that includes junior Jonathan Williams and sophomore Korliss Marshall. Collins is noticeably thicker this spring after adding 15 pounds as part of his offseason plan with strength coach Ben Herbert.
Collins said he was initially uncertain about adding the weight, but said those concerns have been erased throughout the spring as he prepares for 2014.
“I haven’t lost a step, which is what I was originally worried about,” Collins said. “If it had slowed me down, then I’d have to cut it off. I feel good with it. I’m more powerful. I’m stronger and I’ve still got breakaway speed, so I like the weight.”
Run a lap
The Arkansas offense has had some issues with false start penalties during spring practice. So when tight end Hunter Henry flinched before a snap during Tuesday’s practice, Bielema came up with a new way to punish his team.
Everyone had to run a lap. Both the offense and defense were ordered to run around the field after the pre-snap mistake. Bielema then huddled the Razorbacks after the punishment and spoke with them for a few minutes before practice resumed.
“We have to get rid of those,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. “It’s a mental discipline thing we have to continue to get better. We have to change the snap count every once in awhile. We can’t go on one all the time. Our kids understand that. Nonetheless, when one guy makes a mistake it hurts the entire football organization. Those kids are getting closer to understanding that and doing it but we are not where we need to be yet.”
Arkansas did not have a false start penalty the rest of the day.
“It’s something we’ve got to work on,” Arkansas receiver Keon Hatcher said. “Hunter did make a mistake, but we’re his teammates and we’re behind him. He make a mistake, we take his back. We go back out there and fight for him.”
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen knew who he was getting snaps from when he stepped under center last season. Travis Swanson was a mainstay at the position.
But Allen hasn’t had the same luxury this spring. Arkansas has used three different centers this spring in search of Swanson’s replacement. Luke Charpentier, Cordale Boyd and Mitch Smothers have all earned first-team reps at the position.
Smothers continued to work with the first team during Tuesday’s practice and will likely remain in that role for the Red-White scrimmage on Saturday. Charpentier, meanwhile, has moved over to first-team left guard.
“I like Mitch,” Allen said. “We’ve kind of gotten into the groove now just getting used to him. We’ve moved people around the line from the beginning and we’re kind of getting a mold of what we want. I’m happy with Mitch, he’s doing a great job, and we moved Luke over to guard, and he’s doing a great job, too.
“I think it’s a good fit for both of them, and they’re doing well.”
Arkansas has lightened the scrimmage workload for Williams this spring as he prepares for his third season with the program. But Williams said he has had a productive month even without the regular volume of carries.
“I’ve definitely made a lot of progress,” Williams said. “It’s not only about taking the reps. I’ve taken the reps. The mental aspect. Watching film and seeing things that you can work on and helping out in the passing game and getting the right depth on your free releases when you’re leaking out in the pass game and things like that.
“I’ve definitely still improved.”