In this world, there are many things about us that are underappreciated. Maybe it’s your beard that you’ve spent so long grooming and perfecting (the girl at the bar Definitely notices). Maybe it’s the indie-rock band that you started with some co-workers (I’m sure you’ll be charting soon). Maybe it’s your twitter game (that next tweet for sure will get you verified). No matter how underappreciated these are, they pale in comparison to some of the athletes who have played the game they love in front of 70,000+ screaming fans, yet have not been given the recognition they deserved. Here are 10 of those underappreciated football players or the past decade.
Here are the qualifications for this list:
- Player must not hold any all-time records at Arkansas
- Player must not have been drafted any earlier than the 6th round of the NFL Draft
- Obviously, the player must have been on the team in the last 10 years
This goes without saying, but these are purely my opinions and by no means a definite list.
Let’s get it rolling.
Besides from the fact that they are brothers, Grant and Drew Morgan have very similar career paths as both were lightly recruited and started at Arkansas as walk-ons (Air Force was the only school to offer Grant Morgan a scholarship). Set to be a redshirt-senior for the 2020 season, it’s mind-blowing how under-utilized linebacker Grant Morgan has been over the course of his career.
He’s never received consistent playing time despite always being a consistent force on on special teams. Even with injuries to linebackers such as Bumper Pool and Hayden Henry, as well as the midseason retirement of D’vone McClure, Morgan totaled a criminal total of148 total snaps at the linebacker position during the 2019 season.
With Arkansas seemingly set on a 3-2-6 defensive scheme under devensive coordinator Barry Odom, it may be hard for him to find substantial playing time in 2020, once again
Most remembered for his 100-yard pick six against Ole Miss in 2014, undersized Rohan Gaines held his own at the strong safety position but never could quite reach the success he had as a redshirt-freshman. A member of the SEC All-Freshman team in 2012, his 76 tackles were second on the team and first among freshmen in the SEC. Gaines was part of the transition to the Bret Bielema era and somewhat got lost in the shuffle his sophmore year, starting in only 5 games while starting 10 the previous year.
Gaines came into his own as a senior in 2015, starting all 13 games and his 67 tackles were third on the squad and first among defensive backs.
Rohan Gaines signed with the Los Angeles Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2016 but couldn’t make the final roster.
David Williams is only underappreciated because he played one year for the Razorbacks. Arguably, he would be more of a household name among fans if he spent his entire career at Arkansas. As a grad transfer in 2017, the running back led the Hogs in rushing yards, all-purpose yards, and touchdowns.
A part of Bret Bielema’s dreadful 2017 team that didn’t feature much of a passing game, David Williams was one of the lone bright spots in the offense.
Williams was drafted in the 7th round of the 2018 NFL Draft and played in 6 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars and totaled 8 carries for 36 yards. He has not appeared in a game since his rookie year and is currently a free agent.
Ross Rasner played from 2010-2012 and he was a main contributer in each season.. In fact, in his 4 years at Arkansas, he appeared in every game except for in his freshman year. Rasner played at both the safety and linebacker positions for the Hogs, but he thrived most at the safety spot.
Rasner’s best season was his senior year where he racked up 92 tackles and 3 interceptions, leading the team in both categories.
Rasner signed with the Denver Broncos in 2013 as an undrafted free agent but was cut in the preseason. He has not appeared in the NFL since.
AJ Derby’s transition from a quarterback to a NFL tight end is nothing short of impressive. Derby came to Arkansas in 2013 as a quarterback after a stint at Iowa and Coffeyville CC. He appeared in 7 games as the backup quarterback to Brandon Allen and even started at Rutgers due to an Allen shoulder injury. Fans quickly saw that Derby could not get it done at the quarterback position and with Brandon Allen struggling throughout most of the 2013 season, the future looked bleak.
The 2014 season was much more promising and moving AJ Derby to the tight end position for his senior year made head coach Bret Bielema look like a genius. All season he showed tremendous athleticism and speed for his 6’5” 255-pound frame.
Despite backing up star tight end Hunter Henry, Derby finished the 2014 season with 303 receiving yards on 22 catches with 3 touchdowns.
Derby was drafted in the 6th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. His best season was with the Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins in 2017. He put up 244 yards on 21 receptions with 2 touchdowns. After getting placed on injured reserve in late 2018, he has not been seen in the NFL since.
Due to multiple injuries, Kody Walker played for 6 years at Arkansas. He wasn’t a great player at all; in fact his best season at Arkansas was in 2015, putting up 394 yards on 90 carries with 6 touchdowns.
Prior to the 2016 season, Walker was set to be the starting running back after the departure of Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins and he was even named to the Doak Walker Award Watch list. However, Hogs fans quickly saw what they had in Rawleigh Williams III who quickly became the feature back and eventually led the SEC in rushing yards during the regular season.
Walker struggled with a lack of speed and was always considered a bruiser at 240 pounds which is likely a reason that he never turned into a starting running back. He could have transferred to receive more playing time but he decided to finish his time at Arkansas, putting his head down to work and earn consistent playing time in the backfield.
Walker is currently the running backs coach at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, Missouri.
After 3 years of sitting behind his brother Brandon, Fayetteville native Austin Allen finally took over the reins at the quarterback position in 2016. He didn’t disappoint at all despite the Hogs limping to a 7-6 season. He showed great ability to improvise and make throws outside the pocket, which he was often forced to do on account of an abysmal offensive line. Allen ended the season with 3430 passing yards on 245 completions, ranking 1st in the SEC in both categories. He also finished 2nd in passing touchdowns with 25.
2017 was way worse for Austin Allen, not to mention the entire Arkansas football team. Due to injuries Allen only started 8 games and threw for 1427 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Allen signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent in 2018 but waived shortly thereafter. He was a part of the Memphis Express and Salt Lake Stallions of the Alliance American Football (AAF) before the league ceased operations in April 2019.
Simply put, Jerry Franklin was a freak who was recruited as a safety out of high school. Redshirting in 2007, he burst onto the scene as a redshirt-freshman in 2008, leading the Hogs with 81 tackles and 2 picks and being named to the Sporting News Freshman All-American Team.
Franklin went on to lead the Hogs in tackles in the next 3 seasons. In 2010 and 2011 he was named second-team All-SEC. Currently, he rankes 3rd all-time in the SEC with 376 career tackles.
Franklin was an signed by the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He enjoyed 5 years in the NFL with his best season coming in 2013 where he appeared in 10 games for the Chicago Bears.
Tenarius Wright made an impact as soon as he step foot on campus. In his freshman year, he racked up 7 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks while appearing in all 13 games. He followed that up with 6 sacks and 8 tackles for a loss in his sophmore campaign. In his junior year he only played in 8 games due to injury and finished with 25 tackles.
Entering into his senior year in 2012, all eyes were on Tenarius Wright. He was suddenly the face of the defense and he was expected to be a force. Unfortunately, the injury bug struck again. After 6 games, he was ruled out for the rest of season.
Wright was a defensive captain in 2012 and was a leader in a fragile locker room after the Bobby Petrino debacle. On the field, he was a physical presence in the SEC and always a presence in opposing backfields.
Wright was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent in 2013 but he was cut shortly thereafter. After serving as the associate director of strength and conditioning at Michigan in 2018-2019, he was hired as the defensive line coach at Army West Point in 2020.
Rawleigh Williams III
To me, Rawleigh Williams is one of the biggest what-ifs in Arkansas football history. Although he was a back-up to Alex Collins in his freshman year in 2015, he made an immediate impact where he rushed for 254 yards on 56 carries in 7 games. Sadly his freshman year was cut short due to a ruptured disk in his neck, but he was named to the All-SEC Freshman team and fans caught a glimpse of what the future could look like.
In 2016, Rawleigh Williams led the SEC in rushing during the regular season with 1326. In fact, his 1360 rushing yards are the 5th most in school history. It is particularly interesting that Williams filled Alex Collins’s shoes so quickly. He may have not been as good, but he was undoubtedly a solid running back and was seen as the next great running back in Arkansas history.
Unfortunately, Rawleigh suffered a second neck injury in a routine spring practice in 2017. He was forced to hang up the cleats shortly thereafter.
He won’t be known as an all-time great running back like Darren McFadden and Alex Collins, but Rawleigh Williams III has a deep legacy at Arkansas, even if he did play only one full season.
Let me know who I left out in the comments below.
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