HOOVER — Not much has stayed the same for the Arkansas Razorbacks over the last several years.
A new athletic director and a new head coach were hired within two days of each other in late 2017. A senior quarterback played his final game two weeks before that. The team has had a different leading rusher in each of the last three seasons, during which it has gone a combined 13-24 overall and 4-20 in the SEC.
One of the only constants through the trials has been running back Devwah Whaley. The third-ranked running back in the Class of 2016 according to the 247Sports Composite, Whaley has played in 32 of the team’s last 37 games.
“He was highly recruited, and it’s hard to live up to those expectations in this conference,” senior linebacker De’Jon Harris said. “He hasn’t had the career he wanted to have, but I just feel like he handled it better than anyone else would ever handle it in that situation.”
Fans don’t get to see the stability he brings to the locker room, but they know all about his experience in the backfield. He has been its second-leading rusher for the last three years.
In 2018 the only Arkansas player with more than two rushing touchdowns was its backup quarterback. Whaley totaled 10 on his own over the previous two seasons.
“Hard running. I’m not going to back away from contact,” Whaley said of his own running style. “If I have to make you miss I will, but I love contact though.”
A pile-pushing running back with that much SEC experience takes a lot of pressure off of transfer quarterbacks with little to no SEC experience. The Razorbacks have two of those: Nick Starkel from Texas A&M and Ben Hicks from SMU.
No matter who is at the center of the huddle for the Hogs in 2019, he and the rest of the offense will know whom to look to if things don’t go according to plan: the senior running back who has been there through it all.
“I just have to continue guiding those younger guys onto the right path,” Whaley said.
Defensive lineman McTelvin Agim carried around a Chucky doll while he fielded questions from the media on Wednesday. He revealed the words “Long Live John Neal” on the doll’s shoes, honoring his cousin who was killed in a still-unsolved crime.