That is the question.
Alex Collins and Hunter Henry are both eligible for the NFL draft after the season concludes in Memphis. Both are true juniors and were highly coveted recruits that Bret Bielema knew he had to land — and he did. They both helped rebuild this program with Bielema. They both shined on the field every time they donned the cardinal red and white of the Arkansas Razorbacks. And now both have to answer the question, stay or leave?
It’s easy to make the argument for either side. If they stay, they obviously get another year under their belt, another year to improve. Collins and Henry have seen their stats increase each year at Arkansas; one would have to believe that trend would continue into their senior year. They will be able to provide much needed senior leadership, as well as continue to cement themselves as Razorback legends.
I would love to see these two return for another season of Arkansas football, so it pains me to admit this, but I believe that they should go to the league. Let me tell you why: Henry and Collins have nothing else to prove or gain by staying.
Oct 24, 2015; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks running back Alex Collins (3) runs the ball against the Auburn Tigers during the first half at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Collins is one of only three running backs in SEC history to rush for 1,000 yards in their first three seasons. The other two? Darren McFadden and Herschel Walker. That’s incredible company. Sure, he could use another year to mature as a person, and that will probably be one of Bielema’s selling points. As a player, though, he is more than ready for the NFL. He has given his everything to the Arkansas Razorbacks, including his chance to stay at home in Florida. He has put in the work to be bigger, faster, and stronger. Fans were able to see him finally show some break away speed this season, and his vision and agility are top notch.
Collins has 1,392 yards and counting, this year. That’s the third highest single season rushing total in Arkansas history, McFadden has the top two. He has a total of 3,518 yards in his career, good for third best in school history. He has 17 rushing touchdowns this season (McFadden’s most in a single season was 16), putting his career total at 33. Good for fourth most. If he were on a different team in a different conference, he would receive much more recognition.
Yesterday, Hog nation found out that Sam Pittman had defected to Georgia to join his good pal Jim Chaney. You know, that guy who couldn’t develop the Arkansas offense in two seasons. There’s a reason the Hogs O-line is one of the nation’s best: Pittman is an excellent coach and recruiter. Losing Pittman is a blow to the team but also to the chances of keeping Collins. Will he want to rush behind a differently coached line? Plus, who is going to share the carries? Can his body handle another year with a full work load? Big questions.
Then there’s Hunter Henry, who has received deserved recognition, unlike Collins. The tight end is an All-American, an All-SEC first team selection, and the winner of the John Mackey award — given to the nations best tight end. He is arguably the best tight end to ever put on an Arkansas Razorback uniform. He has 1,569 career receiving yards and nine touchdowns. In comparison, DJ Williams had 1,855 and 10 TDs in four years. He has the size for the NFL at 6’5″, 253 pounds. He is a great blocker, runs tight routes and has excellent hands. He hasn’t dropped a pass all season. He has done his home state proud.
The biggest question in his return: who will be throwing to him? No one knows who the Hogs quarterback will be next year. Austin Allen has to believe he has the leg up, but Ty Storey, Ricky Towns, and Rafe Peavey will give him a run for his money. Allen has the most experience, but there is still a lot of uncertainty at the position.
Nov 1, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks tight end Hunter Henry (84) at Davis Wade Stadium. The Bulldogs defeat the Razorbacks 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
It would be great to see them both return. It would put the Arkansas offense in prime position to capitalize on what could be a “down” year for the SEC in 2016. There are new defensive coordinators at Alabama and Auburn, a new head coach at Georgia and South Carolina. Texas A&M can’t figure out their QB situation, while Mississippi St. and the Hogs will have new QBs. Questions about the Arkansas Razorbacks’ defense still swirl, but nearly the entire squad returns next year. Sounds like a team that could the SEC West, right? That’s what we thought before our 2015 season started, too. Should Collins and Henry stay for what could maybe happen? For these two individuals and their careers, it may be best that they leave to make some money, begin life in the NFL and show future recruits that the Arkansas Razorbacks can develop players to get to the next level. For Henry and Collins, the future ahead of them is bright.
Fans will disagree with me, and I can’t blame you. It is not something I am happy about, but just like with Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls, this is their time. I (like most Hog fans) will welcome them with open arms should they choose to stay… or give many thanks for the memories and wish them all the best should they move on.