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some text Arkansas running back Devwah Whaley hopes for a senior season free of injury so he can help the Razorbacks return to respectability after last year's 2-10 collapse.

Nobody knows what kind of Southeastern Conference football path Devwah Whaley would have traveled had he stuck with his original commitment.

Whaley committed to Georgia on Nov. 26, 2015, four days before Mark Richt was fired after 15 seasons as head coach. The change in regimes resulted in the consensus four-star running back from Beaumont, Texas, opening up his recruitment and signing with Arkansas instead of joining the likes of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in Athens.

"Georgia was awesome and was great all around," Whaley said last week at SEC Media Days. "Coach Richt was a great person, and when he got fired, it kind of changed some things up for me. I had to re-evaluate everything.

"I might have had to wait if I had gone there. I don't know if I would have made much of a difference right away, but sooner or later I would have gotten on the field and taken advantage of every play I got."

ARKANSAS

Last season: 2-10 (0-8 SEC)

2019 opener: Aug. 31 vs. Portland State in Fayetteville (4 p.m.; SEC Network)

Fun fact: Arkansas had never lost 10 games in a season before last year. The Razorbacks had never lost nine games in a season before 2013.

Coming Tuesday: Auburn

Whaley made a sizable splash in Fayetteville, rushing 110 times for 602 yards (5.5 per carry) as a freshman and providing a nice complement that season for sophomore Rawleigh Williams III, who amassed 1,360 yards on 245 rushes for a 5.6-yard clip. The 2016 Razorbacks were 7-4 through 11 games, but they wasted double-digit leads against Missouri in the regular-season finale and against Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl for a disappointing close.

That tailspin carried over into a 4-8 season in 2017, which resulted in the firing of Bret Bielema and the hiring of Chad Morris, and last year's Morris debut yielded a 2-10 debacle that included an 0-8 mark in league play. Whaley's numbers dipped along with the Arkansas win totals, with the 5-foot-11, 209-pounder rushing for 559 yards as a sophomore and 368 yards last year, when he missed five games due to injuries.

"My sophomore and junior seasons had a lot of ups and downs," Whaley said. "I haven't really had a full healthy season since my freshman year, and battling the injuries has been frustrating. The only thing I can do is continue to work hard and to look forward."

Looking forward is what everyone associated with the Razorbacks is choosing to do. The 18 losses the past two seasons are the most Arkansas ever has endured in a two-year stretch, and the Razorbacks lost their last two contests a year ago against Mississippi State and Missouri by a combined score of 90-6.

Their first four games this year are against Portland State, Ole Miss, Colorado State and San Jose State, which are each potential wins that could get the Hogs trending upward to six victories and a bowl appearance.

"I'm not going to put a number on it," Morris said. "Talking to our seniors and our leaders, they want to leave their legacy, and getting this program into the postseason is definitely a goal of ours. It's something that we have talked about, and we started talking about it 235 days ago, but it was going to take a lot.

"I'm asking for our football program and our staff to be consistent and to be the best they can be each and every day."

Whaley is eager to do what he can to help, and he likes what he experienced last season in a Morris-led attack. Though he only had eight receptions for 87 yards in his limited playing time, that represented his busiest season yet catching passes out of the backfield.

He promises Arkansas will be significantly better in his final go-around.

"The attitude of our team is really different," Whaley said. "We're going into this season with a chip on our shoulder. We've been ready since the last game of last season to get back on the field and line up across from somebody else."

Arkansas will enter preseason camp with an intriguing quarterback competition between graduate transfers Ben Hicks and Nick Starkel, redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones and true freshman K.J. Jefferson. Hicks played in 37 games the past three seasons for SMU, while Starkel played in 11 games the past two seasons for Texas A&M.

Morris said last week there is no timetable for naming the starter.

"It takes time, so you have to be patient," Whaley said. "They're all working hard, and they're all great leaders. May the best guy win."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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