- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Alex Collins never paid quite as much attention in high school to his diet and sleeping habits as he did his performance on the football field.

Thanks to the constant needling of coach Bret Bielema, the Razorbacks’ running back appears to have finally found a balance between his off- and on-the-field preparations - much to the dismay of opposing defenses.

Collins ran his way into the Southeastern Conference spotlight a year ago, rushing for 1,026 yards while earning the league’s Freshman of the Year honors.

As good as the Florida native was, Bielema knew he could be even better if he would eat more regularly, eliminate much of his fast-food intake and stop spending so many late nights awake on Twitter rather than resting.

Collins finally heeded his coach’s advice following last season, and the result has been a far different look for the 5-foot-11 sophomore - who now weighs 218 pounds after playing at 204 last year.

“I now eat breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Collins said. “That’s a big part of it, and that’s basically it. Just doing everything the right way, going to workouts, working hard and eating after that because it would be waste if you’re working out and burning all the energy and not replacing it with a good meal.”

Despite the added weight, Collins has shown no signs of slowing down this season. He has 199 yards rushing through two games to lead the Razorbacks (1-1), who play at Texas Tech (2-0) on Saturday, and he’s shown his usual quick feet and ability to make defenders miss - particularly on a 33-yard touchdown run last week against Nicholls State.

Collins ran through a defender’s arm tackle on the run, which was exactly what he hoped for when he decided to add the extra weight and take better care of his body.

Even Bielema admitted some surprise at how well Collins has maintained his agility with the extra weight, though it’s come as no surprise to the running back.

“I think he understood now, ‘Wait a minute. You mean if I lift the way they want me lift and I eat the way I’m supposed to eat and I sleep the way I’m supposed to sleep, I might get better,’” Bielema said. “And (when) that light bulb goes off, some really good things could happen.”

Arkansas is third in the SEC in rushing offense with an average of 324 yards per game, thanks in large part of a 495-yard outburst in a 73-7 win over the Colonels last week.

Collins had three touchdowns in the win while gaining 131 yards on 13 carries, but it was junior Jonathan Williams who led the Razorbacks with 143 yards rushing on just four carries.

The talented duo combined to rush for 1,926 yards last season, and the Razorbacks ground game is expected the receive another boost on Saturday with the return of sophomore Korliss Marshall, who missed last week due to injury.

The three, along with Arkansas’ physical offensive line, have the full attention of the Red Raiders, who have struggled this season to wins over Central Arkansas and UTEP.

“It’s going to be such a step up from what we’ve seen the first couple (of) weeks,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “We’re going to have to handle it. We’re going to have to play better on both sides of the ball, particularly up front, to hang in there and not let them just hand it off all day.”

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