Andy Hodges

Does Collins want to be great … or legendary?

Bret Bielema will start the final month of the recruiting season with one of his current players.

The choice is all on Alex Collins.

Despite some maddening tardiness at times from the junior running back, Bielema knows how Collins has grown on the field and, hopefully, off the field.

Maybe the biggest recruiting visit he’ll make will be lunch with Collins on Wednesday in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Collin’s hometown.

“If he comes back, he looks like a Heisman candidate,” Bielema said in the Liberty Bowl postgame press conference.

On the field against Kansas State, Collins showed a mixture of power and finesse. His 185 yards rushing and three touchdowns was easily his most powerful performance of the year. That goes a long, long way with the preseason pecking order in the race for the Heisman.

But it also could have been Collins’ showcase to go to the NFL. He won’t be at the Senior Bowl, so there won’t be a chance to show scouts anything there. They will see what he did against Kansas State, though.

To no one’s surprise, he was the runaway choice as the game’s MVP.

“He can handle his own,” Wildcats coach Bill Snyder said later. “There is a plethora of exciting and talented running backs in the SEC and he’s at the top of the list.

“He breaks tackles and makes you miss on the edge. He can make guys miss and sometimes that goes unnoticed when you are carrying that type of size around.”

Pretty strong assessment from one of those coaches that’s seen a few good ones over the years.

Collins, for his part, was all finessee dealing with the issue after the game. He heard the chants from Arkansas fans of “one more year” that rained down near the end of the game.

“I feel honored,” Collins said. “I don’t take credit for anything because without the other 10 guys on the field I am not able to do anything.

“The offensive line did a great job blocking for me and opening up holes to make it a lot easier for me.”

That was nice. But it doesn’t give any insight one way or the other. While there is an argument to be made for letting him enjoy the big performance, Razorback fans will hold out hope to the very end.

Collins’ 185 yards rushing was third best in Liberty Bowl history. He broke Bill Burnett’s Arkansas single-season mark for touchdowns that stood for 46 years as he finished the season with 20 and moved into second all-time on rushing yardage with 3,703 for his career.

And, just in case you were wondering, the only Hog running back ahead of him in yardage is Darren McFadden.

That actually defines one potential objective for Collins that carries a little bonus.

D-Mac left Fayetteville after his junior year. Not one single person was critical of that decision. Two straight second-place finishes for the Heisman and a stellar career had already established everything he needed to nail down.

But it provides Collins a unique opportunity.

When he was recruited out of Ft. Lauderdale, it was easy to wonder what a kid from the beach saw in coming to Fayetteville, Ark. He said at the time he really liked the mountains, trees and rural nature on his visit. Probably because he had never seen that much difference very often.

He probably wasn’t considering his legacy.

Now he has the potential for one of epic proportions.

“He could become the first SEC back to run for over 1,000 in four straight seasons,” Bielema said Saturday. “If he goes to the NFL, he can be a great player.”

Certainly that will be pointed out in their lunch Wednesday. But there may be some more Bielema can add to the mix.

If Collins comes back — and, yes, that’s a BIG if — he can be more than a great player in the annals of Arkansas history. Something less than a dozen in Razorback football history have accomplished.

He can be legendary.

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