INSIDE ARKANSAS FOOTBALL
Freshman Collins off to fast start
Published: Friday, October 4, 2013 at 9:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 4, 2013 at 9:08 p.m.
Freshman running back Alex Collins is thriving in his first season at Arkansas.
Arkansas (3-2, 0-1 SEC) at No. 18 Florida (3-1, 2-0), 7 p.m.
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Collins will return to his home state for the first time in a college uniform when the Razorbacks face Florida tonight at Florida Field. But a bizarre family twist nearly ended his Arkansas career before it began.
A Plantation native, Collins had committed to Miami before re-opening his recruitment and singing with the Razorbacks. But initially, Collins' mother, Andrea McDonald, refused to sign his letter of intent because she wanted her son to play closer to home at Miami.
Eventually, McDonald relented. It worked out for the best. Had Collins signed with the Hurricanes, he likely would have backed up All-ACC running back Duke Johnson. At Arkansas, he's the centerpiece of first-year Arkansas coach Bret Bielema's physical, run-first offense. Collins ranks second in the SEC in rushing at 119.4 yards per game.
“Everything that we learned about him in the recruiting process gave us an indication that he was going to be a very, very good football player and a great person and those things have come true 100 times over,” Bielema said.
“The maturity he has, for him to go through that recruiting process and everything he went through on signing day, gave me every indication he would be a good one, and he's definitely lived up to it.”
Collins was not made available for interviews this week due to a tight class schedule. Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Partridge began recruiting Collins out of Plantation when he was on Bielema's staff at Wisconsin, and continued when he made the move to Fayetteville, Ark.
“I think really just from the beginning Alex felt it was the best fit for him,” Partridge said. “There's so many factors in the recruiting process and part of it is timing and relationships. Myself and our head football coach have built a long-standing relationship with Alex and built some trust. Even though there was a change of where we were, we still built enough trust for Alex to explain why the move was made and he still trusted us after that move.”
Collins will face a big challenge this week facing a Florida team that leads the nation in run defense, allowing just 53.5 yards per game. But Florida coach Will Muschamp is concerned with Collins' speed on the edge and ability to turn the corner.
“He's a very good football player,” Muschamp said.
Bielema described Collins as a player “eager to please” who has been tremendous both on the field and in the community. He thinks Collins will have some extra incentive this week in his homecoming.
During a break in practice, Bielema said he asked Collins how many tickets he had set aside for family and friends. Collins responded that he had 12, but was looking for more.
“We've got quite a few players from Florida and they are all jockeying to try to get extra tickets,” Bielema said. “I know he's going to have good fan support there and he knows a lot of guys on the Florida team playing against him, knows (them) from the recruiting world. I think it's more out of respect than anything. I think it's been a good week for him.”