FAYETTEVILLE — Senior running back Rakeem Boyd returned to the University of Arkansas this season in part to help them get the program turned around.
Boyd could have entered the 2020 NFL Draft, but instead opted to be part of Sam Pittman’s first team at Arkansas. He is one of four captains on this year’s team and is honored to be in that capacity.
“It’s an honor,” Boyd said. “That means a lot to me, my family, just everybody around here in my support system. You know what I mean? I really couldn’t say much to the team at the time. That was a blessing getting the team captain. Getting to be that guy in front of them. Getting to be looked at like that, it was a complete blessing and I appreciate all my teammates.”
While he opted to come back to Arkansas there was speculation for months the season might not happen due to COVID-19. But despite all the doom and gloom predictions many schools have already played games and the SEC begins Saturday.
“Man, I’m going to be honest I can’t sleep,” Boyd said. “I love ball so much I can’t even sleep right now and it’s a blessing that we’re just getting through all of this you know what I mean, and get to showcase what the Razorbacks are really about. I’m ready for y’all to see what we have in the tank. It’s amazing. I’m just blessed that the whole team got through COVID and every other team and everybody has just been handling it well. It’s been tough, but it’s good to see SEC football back this weekend. It should put a lot of smiles back on peoples faces.”
Various players around the country including some in the SEC have opted out of the season. Is that anything Boyd ever considered?
“I would have to do a lot to do that,” Boyd said. “I can’t do that to my team. You know what I mean. I owe so much to my team. I feel like this is my team. I came back to establish something so opting out wasn’t even in the talk. You know what I mean? It’s not even in the talk. We’re just finding ways to get through all this mess.”
Boyd feels that Arkansas will play a special kind of football under Kendal Briles, Arkansas’ new offensive coordinator.
“I think we’re a physical, sound team,” Boyd said. “We have been playing physical ball. I’m in the best shape I could be in. I’m healthy as I could be. All we’ve got to do is trust the guys that are coaching us and just go off of what they tell us. We’re doing what Arkansas does. Like I said, it’s been different. And so we’re just trying to go out there and play physical ball the whole time – first, second, third to fourth. Smash-mouth football, that’s what we’re trying to do. And that’s what we kind of want to be known as. That’s what we want our identity to be is a physical football team that’s going to come and smash you in the mouth.”
Boyd described what smash mouth, up-tempo football is.
“You better have done run eight miles if you’re going to come out there and you think you’re just going to stop tempo,” Boyd said. “Like I said, the quickness of the offense and just the physicalness, it’s awesome. I’ve been seeing, and I’m a pretty physical guy, and I’ve seen some of my teammates going and trying to kill this guy just to make the play. It is going to be amazing to watch. I’m so amped just to see my team play and see myself play and show y’all. That’s really what we want to be known as. That’s what we’re trying to establish. Physical football team and winning ball games.”
As a junior in 2019, Boyd rushed 184 times for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns while catching 19 passes for 160 yards. Despite those stats Boyd has been selected to the second-team preseason All-SEC.
“Lately, if y’all don’t know, I’m on Twitter but if you go and look at my likes I don’t really like anything,” Boyd said. “I’m on there, but I’m not on there. I see it and I take that to the field. All the accolades and the awards and all that, to be honest I have no idea about. I’m up here playing ball. I’m trying to be the best teammate I can be for one of my teammates, somebody up front. The awards and all that, I haven’t been big on them or locked in.”
Last season, Boyd averaged just over 15 carries per game. Is that about the same number expected this season?
“My expectation this year is really to do whatever I’ve got to do so we can win ball games,” Boyd said. “If that takes 20, it takes 20. And I can handle that. If it’s 15 again, it’s 15, but let’s put a ‘dub’ on that at the end of it. It’s a lot to go through, so we should see Saturday.”
Boyd talked about what aspect of his game he’s looking to improve the most this season.
“Like I said it would probably be pass blocking,” Boyd said. “That’s what every back has to improve on you know what I mean. You put a 215 guy up against a 250 guy, it’s going to go either way every time you know what I’m saying? That’s really what I want to work on. Like I said catching, I have no idea where that’s came from but I’m sure… I have been working on it.”
Due to the COVID restrictions, Arkansas will only allow approximately 17,000 fans at Saturday’s game.
“I hope those 17,000 are loud,” Boyd said.
Does only 17,000 fans change anything for the players?
“It don’t change nothing, but I just hope they loud because we’re going to bring the energy,” Boyd said. “It’s going to be something a little different you know what I mean. Not saying… It’s different. It’s a lot different. Everything around here is different. If those 17,000 gonna come to the game those 17,000 better be loud or we’re going to have to find a new 17,000.”
Arkansas and Georgia will kickoff at 3 p.m. on Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.