Every team has their superstars, even the teams that go winless in conference play for the first time in what seems like forever. They're the players that families pack up the car or truck and make the seemingly endless drive to Fayetteville up I-540 on Friday night or early Saturday morning for. They are the faces of the program, and the players head coach Bret Bielema needs to perform well on a weekly basis if he hopes not to turn in another disastrous season.
Those players are Alex Collins, Trey Flowers and, yes, even Darius Philon, the once highly touted prospect who slipped through Alabama's grasp and landed in the welcoming arms of Bielema and his staff. Collins and Flowers will likely be the players who have their shirtseys on hangars in Hog Heaven on gamedays, but all stars need a supporting cast.
The underrated players, the ones who fly under the radar during football's offseason, don't normally have their jerseys for sale in the stadium, but assist in making the team come full circle.
Hog fans know what to expect from a few of the players on the proceeding list, and may even question their place on this list, but a name or two are question marks entering the season as to how big of a splash they may make. But nonetheless, they will be counted on this season and must rise to the occasion and, in one man's opinion, are being overlooked.
Jonathan Williams - RB
Jonathan Williams? Underrated? Absolutely. But what has he done to get the underrated tag? Nothing, really. But simply by following the Razorbacks this offseason, it's easy to see the spotlight has been focused on rising sophomore sensation Alex Collins, while Williams has taken the backseat.
Of the two, who is the dark horse Heisman candidate? Who was named to the preseason All-SEC Media Days team and who wasn't? And yes, it's understandable to be high on Collins after a tremendous freshman season, but Williams should not be forgotten. He's a program-changing talent, as well.
Let's not take Williams' talent for granted while, understandably, fawning over Collins' freshman campaign.
Brandon Lewis - DE
There's a phrase among scouts and fans alike that goes something like "well, he looks the part." That is Brandon Lewis in a nutshell. The sophomore defensive end, according to arkansasrazorbacks.com, stands at a towerous six-foot-five, and weighs in at nearly 260 pounds, but should you stand beside him, you'd realize he's even more massive.
Lewis didn't put up the big numbers you might expect for someone being deemed as underrated, but he walked away from last season with 13 tackles and a fumble recovery. Again, the numbers aren't huge, but remember, he did this in a limited role behind Trey Flowers and now-Jacksonville Jaguar Chris Smith.
The defensive line will be a unit to keep an eye on with all of the young talent surrounding Flowers, and in Robb Smith's new scheme and under the tutelage of Flowers, SEC offensive lines are going to have their hands full with Brandon Lewis.
Kody Walker - FB
With the diminishing role of the fullback in college football, the unglamorous role the human battering ram plays goes widely unnoticed and is rarely appreciated. Most just see the end result: two running backs rushing for over 900 yards, one breaking 1,000 in his first collegiate season.
But someone has to make a sacrifice for the stud running backs Joel Thomas is coaching. Someone has to find the hole and make the key block for the long touchdown run, or make the block in pass protection on the play action pass that goes for six points. A year ago that player was Kiero Small. But he's now in the NFL, and could be the man responsible for Marshawn Lynch having Skittles rained down on him in the coming months (should he end his holdout).
The fullback position is far from the most glorious on the offensive side of the ball. Actually, it's probably the least appealing, but in Arkansas' offense, it's one of the most important jobs. Walker knows what the job demands. He's been lead block for Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis in the past. So don't worry, he'll do just fine leading for some of the league's top backs.
Walker, as of now, is the number one fullback on the roster, edging out Patrick Arinze and a couple others.
Cody Hollister - WR
The only time the public has seen Hollister in action is in scrimmages and the Red-White game in late April. The media have raved about Hollister's soft hands and route running ability, but it's his size and the possibility of him stretching the field vertically that has most people excited.
The sophomore transfer from Arizona Western stands at six-foot-four and over 200 pounds, the perfect size to be a matchup nightmare for opposing secondaries. Heading into fall camp, Arkansas has an idea of who Brandon Allen's two main targets will be: Keon Hatcher and Hunter Henry. And having a third reliable target could be a game changer for Allen and the offense. That third target could very well be Hollister.
Hollister hasn't and won't get the recognition during the preseason because no one has seen him in an actual game setting, but a receiver with his size and skill should never be overlooked.