Devwah Whaley expected to see plenty of early playing time at Arkansas when he signed with the school last year.
The talented sophomore running back didn't want to ascend to a starter's role quite like this, however.
Whaley enters this season as the unquestioned top backfield option for the Razorbacks, coming off a freshman year in which the 5-foot-11, 216-pound speedster rushed for 602 yards in part-time action.
The Texas native played well enough last season to earn a position as a starter, but he was expected to once again serve as a backup to incumbent Rawleigh Williams this season. That is, until Williams' career came to an end after a second neck injury in Arkansas' final scrimmage of the spring.
Now, the Razorbacks' rushing hopes start with the legs of the highly touted Whaley — who chose Arkansas over schools such as Alabama, Georgia and Notre Dame and averaged 5.5 yards per rush last season.
And that's just fine with Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema.
"Last year, as the season wore on, we really thought in certain situations he was a guy that we thought would beat out Rawleigh by the end of the spring and fall," Bielema said. "And he hasn't done anything to disappoint us in that regard ... I think he's got the bag of all tricks."
Whaley originally planned on going to Georgia after rushing for more than 1,700 yards as a senior in high school in Texas, but he backed off that commitment after former Bulldogs coach Mark Richt was fired. He eventually signed with Arkansas, thanks in part to Bielema's history of producing top running backs and the early departures to the NFL of former Razorback running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins.
Despite his hopes of playing right away, Whaley struggled at times last season with his pass blocking while settling into the role as Williams' backup. He showed flashes of his remarkable combination of power and speed throughout the season, most notably on a 75-yard touchdown run against Alcorn State and then rushing for 112 yards on 19 carries late in the year against Mississippi State.