Walker making stronger impact

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, April 19, 2014
Arkansas running back Kody Walker runs drills during practice Saturday, April 5, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas running back Kody Walker runs drills during practice Saturday, April 5, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE - Fullback Kody Walker showed a mean stiff-arm in Arkansas’ second spring scrimmage last week.

First, Walker, 6-2 and 245 pounds, put cornerback Jared Collins on the ground with a stiff-arm on a 14-yard touchdown run. Then Walker stiff-armed cornerback Tevin Mitchel and safety Davyon McKinney on a 3-yard touchdown run.

“He really showed some guys, ‘If you’re going to come to the party, you’ve got to bring a big bottle of punch,’ ” Arkansas defensive backs coach Clay Jennings said. “I was very impressed with him the way he ran the ball.

“I thought he had some tough, physical runs and really finished them off.” Collins said he should have used better technique and tackled Walker, but praised his teammate.

“Kody’s improved a lot,” Collins said. “I think he’s gotten faster, and he already had good size.

“He’s gotten stronger, too.

When we need tough yards, I think Kody is going to be able to get those for us.” Walker smiled when asked about the stiff-arm touchdowns.

“I try to get some curls in every time we lift weights,” he said. “I’m trying to get new stuff in my arsenal as far as weapons I can use.” Running backs coach Joel Thomas said Walker, a redshirt junior, is the leader in the race to replace Kiero Small as No. 1 fullback. Senior Patrick Arinze and redshirt freshman Chris Jones also are getting work at fullback.

Walker has been limited to 13 games in three seasons because of injuries and has career totals of 27 carries for 101 yards. He had fractures in both shins in 2011 and broke his leg in 2012. Last season he played in eight games as a backup and rushed six times for 33 yards.

“I think Kody really knocked the rust off midway through last season from the injures,” Thomas said. “Then he changed his body during the course of the winter.

“I think he’s proven he’s a dependable player, and he’s earned the right to be a contributor for our offense.” Thomas said Walker has “cut some of the extra padding that he had” working in the offseason with strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert.

“When the sun’s out, he has no problem wearing a sleeveless shirt,” Thomas said. “Whereas before he might have covered those arms up a little bit.” In the first scrimmage this spring, Walker had 2 carries for 15 yards and 4 receptions for 27 yards. Last week he had 9 carries for 43 yards and 2 touchdowns.

“You can obviously see he’s been in the weight room.

Coach Herb has got him right,” quarterback Brandon Allen said. “Those stiff-arms are something good he can do, but he’s also a lot faster than he was last year.

“With his physicality and his speed, he’s going to be a big-time back for us.” Walker has one career reception for 5 yards, but Allen said he’s caught the ball well this spring.

“We throw it out in the flat to the fullback a lot,” Allen said. “Kody’s a great athlete and can move his body pretty well to make catches. That just gives us another weapon in our offense.” Walker was the Razorbacks’ short-yardage running back in 2011, rushing for five touchdowns in three games before shin injuries sidelined him.

“Early on in my career, getting the ball in the red zone is what I did,” he said. “I really want to get back into that role and let that be my spot.

“When we get down there, I want it to be mind-set where I’m going to be physical. I take that challenge personally.”Walker said he also wants to handle the running, blocking and receiving duties at fullback the way Small did.

“I’ve still got things to learn,” he said. “I know in this offense we do a lot of different things with the fullback.

“It’s good to have somebody like Kiero to help you out. I can call him up and ask him things and watch film of him playing.” Walker, from Jefferson, Mo., said it was difficult dealing with injuries his first two seasons.

“You can get down on yourself, but I had a great support system with my family and my teammates and coaches,” he said. “They helped me along the way, and I’m eager to keep going.

“I feel like I’m getting back to my old self. I’ve got my legs back underneath me.” Walker’s got his stiff-arm going now, too.

Kody Walker at a glance

COLLEGE Arkansas

POSITION Fullback

CLASS Redshirt junior

HOMETOWN/HIGH SCHOOL Jefferson City, Mo.

HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-2, 245 pounds

AGE 21 (Born July 19, 1992)

NOTEWORTHY Working at first-team fullback in spring practice. … Has played in 13 career games with 27 carries for 101 yards and 6 touchdowns. … Played in 8 games last season with 6 carries for 33 yards. … Limited to a combined five games in 2011 and 2112 because of shin fractures and a broken leg. … Rushed for 2,558 yards and 32 touchdowns his junior and senior seasons at Jefferson City High School. … Chose Arkansas over Missouri.

Sports, Pages 21 on 04/19/2014

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