Running Back Round Up

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Everyone in Arkansas knows the struggle the Hogs went through during the 2017 season. One week the running game would show up but then the next week it would be nonexistent. Welcome to Razorback life during the Bret Bielema era. Yes, Bielema did stockpile an assortment of quality talent in his time in Fayetteville. In 2013, Bielema hauled in Alex Collins, a high four star prospect out of Miami, FL and Korliss Marshall, a three star speedster, out of Osceola, AR. Collins went on to have an outstanding three seasons breaking the school record for touchdowns in a season with twenty. Marshall, however, went on to only play a season and half before being kicked off the team for a violation of team rules in 2014. In 2014, Bielema brought in Juan Day. Day, a three star, had plenty of knee injuries dating back to his junior season in high school which still plagued him during his time as a Razorback. He never saw much of the field and transferred after the 2016 season in hope of playing elsewhere. In 2015, promising running back Rawleigh Williams, a high three star, came in and early on in his freshman season everyone in Hog Nation knew they had something special only for it to be taken away during the game against Auburn with a broken neck bone that ultimately made him retire from football after his phenomenal sophomore season. Devwah Whaley came along in 2016 as a four star signee. Whaley played well late in the season, bringing promise for the 2017 season. They also brought in lightning quick four star athlete, T.J. Hammonds, who has been moved around all over the offense until finding a home late last season at running back. Finally, the last collection of running backs under Bielema were high three star running back, Chase Hayden and low three star running back, Maleek Williams. Hayden showed a lot of promise before falling to a broken leg during the Auburn game on a play he had a forty yard scamper. Williams, however, redshirted and will be ready to play his freshman season in 2018.
Morris, has a lot of talent to work with right now in this Arkansas backfield. Let us look at the elder statesman, Whaley, first. At 6′ and 215 pounds, Whaley is a shifty back that is able to cut through his blockers on a dime as we saw in 2016. As he was heavier last season, Whaley, who was expected to put up a ton of yardage behind a immobile offensive line, did not have the success that was expected under Bielema led teams. Let’s look at the highlight video of Whaley in 2016 and what we should expect from him in 2018.

Devwah should be the back set up for greatness under Chad Morris’ spread attack. He could exceed over 1300 all-purpose yards.
The next running back that should have an outstanding season is Chase Hayden. This kid is special! He is shift like Felix Jones and Collins. He has the speed of a running back like Ronnie Wingo. Hayden also has the will of getting yards after contct like Jonathan Williams did. Can Hayden get close to 1,000 yards this season? He was on his way to doing so in 2017 before being sidelined with the broken leg. Hayden should be 100% for fall camp and the 2018 season. I believe with this spread attack that there will be space all over the field for Hayden to juke, run over and speed to the endzone many times this fall.

Now, we are into the most famous third string running back in the country, Hammonds. He came to Arkansas as a four star athlete. Hammonds got into the rotation at running back early on in 2016 behind Williams and Whaley. Although he did not get a lot of playing time that year, he showed promise to get to the edge quickly to pick up a first down. He showed us flashes his freshman season of once he hit the hole he was off like a rocket towards the endzone. In 2017, with the signing of Hayden and Williams, Hammonds was the forgotten man again in the rotation. Offensive cooridnator, Dan Enos thought wisely that Hammonds would be best suited to play at slot receiver. Again, once the season came, Arkansas fans were clamoring again because the former four star athlete was still not seeing the field. Is he in trouble? Is he another player in the Bielema doghouse? Fans moaned for Hammonds to see the field. Finally, after half the season had been met, the Hogs traveled to Oxford to take on Ole Miss. In that game, Hammonds rushed for 84 yards on 11 carries in a huge comeback victory for the Hogs fourth straight win over the Rebels. The very next week Arkansas needed a savior. Down 38-25 headed into the fourth quarter, Bielema wisely put Hammonds out there and he ran all over the Chanticleers. 7 carries for 119 yards and his only touchdown of the season. The rest of the season Hammonds did not see the field again. Hog fans look forward to what Hammonds will bring to the Morris’ offense in 2018. Like Hayden, there will be holes all over the field for Hammonds to find yardage. Will Morris take advantage of his speed? He should. Morris was the man who stated in his introductory press conference, “If you don’t have speed, your chasing speed.” Believe me, there will be many teams chasing Hammonds and Whaley this season.

Not much is known about the dreaded Williams but what we do know is he is a Collins’ type of running back who likes to lay the hammer down to anything in front of him. I look forward to seeing what the redshirt freshman will do in this offense under Morris. Williams does not have the elite speed as Hayden and Hammonds but he has enough to compete and can turn directions in a blink.

Lastly, we have newcomer, Rakeem Boyd, a junior college transfer who originally signed as a four star running back to Texas A&M. He redshirted in 2016 but set the world on fire in late 2017 rushing for over 300 yards in a JUCO game. Rakeem will wear number 5. If he can have half the impact that the most famous Razorback who wore number 5, he will be something. Will Rakeem Boyd break into the rotation this season? If Boyd lives up to his original recruiting evaluation, yes.

Later this week I will release my story for the Wide Receivers. Thanks for reading!

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