The Razorback football team received news during the offseason that senior running back Rakeem Boyd would decide to return to Fayetteville for another season with the Hogs. Behind him is an inexperienced running back room with a high ceiling of talent.
Last season, Boyd tallied 184 rushes for 1133 yards with eight touchdowns. He was the first Hog to reach 1000 yards since Rawleigh Williams III did so in 2016. With new running backs coach Jimmy Smith coming in from Georgia State, a program that ranked top 15 in the nation in rushing last year, Boyd should take a step forward in all facets of the game.
The preseason accolades keep pouring in for Boyd as he was named to the Preseason All-SEC Second Team on Sept. 17. He has also been mentioned on watchlists for some of the most prestigious college football awards, including the Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award and Earl Campbell Award. The former Texas A&M Aggie was also named one of four captains for the Razorbacks in 2020.
“Rakeem is starting to [be vocal] now, but he’s more of ‘I’m going to talk with my pads, talk with my actions,’” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said on ‘Sam Pittman Live’ last Wednesday.
Since the beginning of camp, Boyd has stood out as a leader for the Hogs.
"From a leadership standpoint he’s been unbelievable. He’s been really, really good. Not just with the running back group or offense - he’s been a great teammate overall. So I can’t say enough good things about Rakeem and how he’s been," Pittman said earlier in fall camp.
In 2019, Boyd ranked fourth in the SEC with 94.4 rush yards per game. His best performance came Nov. 9 against Western Kentucky, when he ran for 185 yards and two scores. The only knock on his game has been his pass catching skills.
"Rakeem has done really wonderful in fall camp,” senior wide receiver De’Vion Warren said on a Zoom Sept. 15. “He’s been able to catch the ball out of the backfield which is a big extension of the run game also. Being able to get him a swing pass and us blocking for him is a good way to switch up the tempo."
Coming in behind Boyd, who averaged 15.3 carries per game in 2019, is Arizona State transfer Trelon Smith. Last season, Smith sat out due to transfer rules, but rumors of his talent have been flying around since he arrived.
“Trelon Smith is doing a tremendous job,” offensive coordinator Kendal Briles said on a Zoom Sept. 2. “Ever since I got here in January, all I’ve seen him do is work, all the time.”
During his sophomore stint for the Sun Devils, Smith managed to record 56 yards on 11 carries before sitting the rest of the season to redshirt. The former three-star recruit ran for over 4400 yards and scored 52 total touchdowns during his career at Cypress Ridge High School in Houston.
The addition of Smith gives Arkansas a great one-two punch. When Boyd comes to the sidelines, Smith should give the Hogs quality reps. New Razorback quarterback, Feleipe Franks, can see the passing game open up with consistency from Boyd and Smith.
“As far as me and Rakeem Boyd, I’m ready. I can’t wait to see what we can do,” Smith said in a Zoom Aug. 28. “I came in, and ever since I got here, Rakeem put me under his wing and we started hanging out everyday.”
The group behind Boyd and Smith is currently a toss-up, but it is projected to be redshirt freshman A’Montae Spivey, freshman Dominique Johnson and 2019 first team All-American in the 4 x 100-meter relay, sophomore Josh Oglesby.
The only one with in-game experience for Arkansas is Spivey, who took seven carries last season. Johnson, who was a three-star prospect, ran for 1300 yards and 25 touchdowns for Crowley High School (Texas). The speedy Oglesby will likely look to contribute in the return game.
With Pittman and offensive line coach Brad Davis proving to be valuable assets to the Arkansas offensive line and Franks providing the Hogs with more consistency in the passing game, these running backs should find good production in 2020. The schedule is daunting, but the Razorbacks seem ready.
“I think we have plenty of offense, plenty of defense in. We are trying to fine-tune what we are going to do against the University of Georgia,” Pittman said after the Sept. 18 practice.
Arkansas opens the season at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium against Georgia this Saturday at 3 p.m. on the SEC Network.