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Arkansas Football 2018 Preview: Running Backs

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How will touches be divided?

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Texas A&M Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Main Returners

  • T.J. Hammonds (Jr, 5’10” 205 lbs.)
  • Chase Hayden (So, 5’10” 197 lbs.)
  • Kendrick Jackson (Sr. 6’0” 259 lbs.)
  • Hayden Johnson (Jr, 6’2” 249 lbs.)
  • Devwah Whaley (Jr, 5’11” 209 lbs.)
  • Maleek Williams (rFr, 5’11”, 223 lbs.)

Newcomers

  • Rakeem Boyd (So, 6’0”, 200 lbs.)

Who Else

  • Kasey Montrois (rFr, 5’10” 192 lbs.)

One Big Question: How Will Touches Be Divided?

In 2017, Arkansas had 462 rushing attempts (38.5 per game) and those were primarily split between four running backs and the quarterbacks. Four running backs had 30+ carries, and two of those had 100+. In terms of attempts, Chad Morris and SMU had pretty similar numbers. They ran the ball 486 times (37.4 per game) and had three running backs with 30+ carries, and two had 100+ carries.

The major difference is what the two sides wanted to accomplish with the run game. Chad Morris wants a much more explosive, big play creating run game. In 2017, SMU had a run of over 30 yards in nine of their 13 games, while Arkansas had one in just five of 12. The Mustangs had a 4.9 yards per carry mark compared to Arkansas’ 4.4. When considering the sample size is over 450 for both teams, that is a significant amount.

So we can infer that one, Arkansas will still run the ball a similar amount as last year and two, those runs will look significantly different. That means running backs with a different skill set will likely be featured. Instead of a lot of between the tackles running from David Williams and Devwah Whaley, expect a bigger focus on getting faster guys like Chase Hayden and TJ Hammonds in open space. There should be some chances for newcomer Rakeem Boyd as well, who showed some explosiveness on Last Chance U.

At SEC Media Days, Chad Morris said that the offense will play to its strengths, and feature plenty of two back sets. That will still give a fair amount of opportunities this year to Devwah Whaley, Maleek Williams, or even the converted fullbacks in short yardage situations. Whaley, Williams, Kendrick Jackson, and Whaley had the three most carries in the spring game. Hardly a promise of what will happen in the regular season, but it is an indication that Morris will use every back in his stable this season.