FAYETTEVILLE — When Rakeem Boyd opted to return for his senior season the Razorbacks landed one of their top recruits.
Boyd returning was a huge happening for Sam Pittman, Jimmy Smith and the Razorbacks. As a junior, Boyd carried 184 times for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns. He was fifth on the team with 19 receptions for 160 yards.
That followed a sophomore season that saw Boyd rush for 734 yards and two touchdowns on 123 attempts. He caught 23 passes for 165 yards as well in 2018.
While Boyd is one of the most proven running backs in the nation, Arkansas has a lot of question marks behind him. It will be important that Arkansas finds a couple of other running backs it can depend on to help take the entire burden off of Boyd. Devwah Whaley has played that role the past two seasons, but he was a senior in 2019.
The candidates are senior T.J. Hammonds, junior transfer Trelon Smith, redshirt freshman Amontae Spivey and then this fall true freshman Dominique Johnson.
In 2019, Hammonds played in five games. He rushed eight times for 65 yards and grabbed four passes for 10 more yards. His best season came in 2017 when he played in 12 games. He had 32 carries for 262 yards and a touchdown. He also caught two passes for 64 yards and a touchdown.
For his career, Hammonds has rushed 65 times for 443 yards and two touchdowns. He has 10 receptions for 158 yards and another pair of touchdowns. Hammonds showed in the Coastal Carolina game in 2017 what he’s capable of doing. He had 60-yard score on his first-career reception. In addition, he scored on an 88-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. That is the sixth-longest touchdown run in school history.
Smith spent two seasons at Arizona State before transferring to Arkansas where he had to sit out in 2019. He saw limited action at Arizona State. His sophomore season he rushed 11 times for 56 yards. His best game in 2018 was against Washington when he carried eight times for 45 yards and added three receptions for 16 yards. Smith impressed practice observers last fall.
Spivey was a talented recruit Arkansas signed in the Class of 2019. He played in two games last fall and thus maintained his redshirt season. He rushed seven times for 24 yards. As a senior at Phenix City (Ala.) Central High School in 2018, Spivey carried 183 times for 1,363 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also hauled in 13 passes for 166 yards. Spivey, like the others, needs to have a huge spring.
Johnson signed with Arkansas in December and is the lone running back in Pittman’s first recruiting class. Johnson has good size, 6-1, 220, and will get a chance to make an impact in 2020.
How successful Arkansas will be in 2020 could depend on if they can find two running backs to assist Boyd. If Hammonds, Smith, Spivey and Johnson can provide quality depth then they could turn running back into a strength instead of question mark entering the season.