FAYETTEVILLE — No. 10 Arkansas has had a dominating running game after two weeks.
Sophomore Raheim “Rocket” Sanders has 44 carries for 273 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore AJ Green has added 61 yards on the ground while true freshman Rashod Dubinion has 31. Both Green and Dubinion have reached the end zone once. Quarterback KJ Jefferson is second on the team with 37 carries for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Sam Pittman talked about the running game on Monday and how he feels Kendal Briles has utilized it.
“I think Kendal’s called two really good games,” Pittman said. “I thought he had South Carolina a little bit on edge with some of the things he was doing, some of the plays we were running, the personnel that he was using. I think they’ve had great game plans over there on offense. Malik (Hornsby) carried the ball a couple of times. We have three backs, hopefully we can get Dominique Johnson back this week. Again, that will be up to him. He’s cleared, so it’ll be kind of up to him. But our offensive line is playing well. That includes Trey Knox and Nathan Bax. Our wideouts are blocking well on the outside, but Kendal’s really using the personnel that we have with the short throw game almost as a run, if you will. Really done a nice job, really called good games.”
Johnson is a junior who started six games in 2021. He rushed 97 times for 575 yards and seven touchdowns. He was injured in the Outback Bowl and missed all of the spring drills and much of the preseason. What will be Johnson’s role when he returns?
“I don’t know,” Pittman said. “I guess we’ll kind of have to wait and see when he gets back. It’s a really good question, because you end having a guy like Dominique that might have been the best back we had last year. He might have been two. Regardless, he was one of the top two backs we had last year.
“We have to watch it, because guys are practicing, you’re not. You’ve got to get back in the flow of things. So I don’t know that we would upset the apple cart a whole bunch when he comes back early, the first time he comes back, because it’s not broke right now. At the same time, we’ve got a really fine football player that we’d like to get on the field. Once he becomes confident, I think I’ll be able to answer that question a little bit better.”
Sanders leads the SEC in rushing and Pittman talked about what improvements he has seen in the talented sophomore since last fall.
“I think the line’s playing pretty good, you know,” Pittman said. “And I think that helps him. He’s making decisions faster. A running back, he’s got to find the right hole in there, and he’s finding it faster. He’s attacking the line of scrimmage better than he did last year. Certainly running through arm tackles is something that he’s doing really well.
“I think he’s just playing with a lot of confidence. Good player, big back. But in a nutshell, he’s seeing holes better than we he did a year ago.”
Arkansas (2-0) host Missouri State (2-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 on ESPN+/SECN+.