FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas got some great news when Rakeem Boyd elected to return for his senior season.
Boyd now has a new coach at running back with Sam Pittman’s hiring of Jimmy Smith. The new assistant is certainly pleased to have Boyd back.
“One of the things about Rakeem that I like is I have a thing I always say, ‘don’t be good, be great,'” Smith said. “And I think that’s where he’s at right now. He had a good season last year, but I think he came back so he can have a great season. So it’s gonna be my goal and my dream becomes his dreams I want him to be as good as he wants to be.”
Boyd led Arkansas with 184 carries for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns rushing in 2019. He also added 19 receptions for 160 yards.
But it’s behind Boyd that Arkansas has some question marks entering 2020. The leading returning rusher behind Boyd is TJ Hammonds who had eight carries for 65 yards. Chase Hayden rushed 12 times for 39 yards and A’Montae Spivey had seven carries for 24 yards. Hammonds will be a senior, Hayden a junior and Spivey a redshirt freshman. Arkansas signed Dominique Johnson from Crowley, Texas.
“I think we’ve got a good group,” Smith said of the other running backs. “I really do. The biggest thing I will teach them is we’re gonna work as a group, support each other and one person doesn’t have to do bad for another person to do good. We can all do good at the same time. I tell them we can all eat at the same time.”
How much can the other backs learn from Rakeem who opted to return for his senior season instead of heading to the NFL?
“Patience is a virtue,” Smith said. “I think that’s what he understands. I know he wasn’t happy with last season. That wasn’t his best season. He’s patient and understands this season he’s hoping to do better things. It’s also an opportunity for him to do better and show them how good he really is. I think we haven’t seen the best of Rakeem yet. I’m excited about seeing the best of Rakeem and I’m gonna enjoy being a part of that.”
Smith talked about the facilities at Arkansas compared to maybe what he envisioned before he arrived.
“When I moved here everything is unbelievable,” Smith said. “I didn’t have a thought of how it would be, but I never thought it would be this nice. From the facilities to the community to the fans it’s a really special place.”
Smith is considered a very good recruiter. He has certain traits he looks for in a running back he’s trying to sign for the Razorbacks.
“First I want to see if he’s coachable,” Smith said. “Because I coach those kids and I don’t accept being OK, being good, I want them to be great so I’m gonna be on you to pay attention to detail. Then I look at does he have the skill-set to do what I want him to do. Does he have any vision, can he change direction? Balance, can he finish the runs? Finishing the runs is not always outrunning everybody. Sometimes finishing runs is with a move, running through, falling forward. I have to find out if he has the attributes I think it takes to be a good running back.”
Smith was a well-respected coach in the high school ranks in Atlanta before taking a college job prior to the 2019 season. Smith spent 12 years at Cedar Grove in Metro Atlanta, including the last six years as athletic director, head football coach and head track coach. He won Class AAA state championships in 2016 and 2018. Those ties to Atlanta should help him in recruiting.
“I think it can be good,” Smith said. “I think Arkansas Football is gonna grow where my ties is gonna get me in there, but the kids once I get them out here and they see this right here. Once they see Arkansas Football they’re gonna understand what’s going on. SEC West it’s not much you have to sell. I truly believe it’s AFC, NFC and then it’s SEC West.”
Smith feels if they can get prospects on campus they have a legit shot at them.
“The biggest thing is getting them here to see the place,” Smith said. “Once they see the place they can make an informed decision about everything else.”
(Editor’s Note: This is Part 3 of a 10-part series on the assistant coaches at Arkansas)
Click here for Jon Cooper, Part 1
Click here for Sam Carter, Part 2