Healthy Boyd growing in Hogs' offense

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Monday, August 12, 2019
Rakeem Boyd, Arkansas running back, works out Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, during Arkansas football practice in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Rakeem Boyd, Arkansas running back, works out Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, during Arkansas football practice in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Rakeem Boyd was unable to lift his left arm above his head when he arrived at Arkansas for preseason camp last year.

But despite the bum shoulder and playing catch-up with the playbook for a chunk of the schedule, Boyd put together a solid season, one that sparked a great deal of excitement among coaches and fans as he enters his junior year.

He averaged six yards per touch on a team-best 123 carries and ran for at least 99 yards in consecutive games against Alabama, Ole Miss, Tulsa and Vanderbilt last October. He became the first Razorbacks running back to top 100 yards against the Crimson Tide since Darren McFadden in 2007 - with McFadden in attendance.

Boyd also caught 23 passes out of the backfield, serving as a safety valve for Arkansas quarterbacks Ty Storey and Cole Kelley. Now, with one year in Chad Morris' system under his belt, he's grown much more comfortable and proficient within the offense.

"My knowledge (of the playbook) has been really good," Boyd said Monday following the Razorbacks' ninth practice of the preseason. "I've paid attention to detail and really got in the playbook a little bit, and started watching a little film with my linemen.

"I kind of like them to critique me every time I run the ball or make a pass play, or scan the defense. I've got a little bit better at it. Last year I just came in and wasn't ready to focus in. Now I'm just locked in."

Boyd's shoulder issues began during the spring of his freshman year at Texas A&M, his first stop out of Stratford High School in Houston prior to spending one season at Independence Community College in Kansas. He tore his rotator cuff and labrum, he said, but opted to play through the pain.

"I tried to keep it a secret coming in," Boyd added.

But after last season, with encouragement from Arkansas' staff, he underwent the shoulder operation he needed to get back to 100 percent. It forced him to miss the entire spring, but he is now running full speed toward another impressive season.

"I felt a little pop in it (in 2018), but really I was just trying to be physical the whole time," Boyd said. "I'm glad I had (the surgery). It feels like a whole normal shoulder. Now I can lift it all the way up, so it's pretty good."

Much of the success in the running game will depend on the play of the Razorbacks' offensive line, but tailback, on paper, looks to be one of Arkansas' strengths this season with a healthy Boyd returning alongside senior Devwah Whaley, junior Chase Hayden and freshman A'Montae Spivey, a three-star prospect from Phenix City, Ala.

Whaley, for his career, is averaging 4.4 yards per carry against SEC competition, and Hayden has five touchdown runs - four as a freshman - in 18 total games. Boyd likes the potential 1-2 punch he and Whaley can bring.

"Man, we don't even know what we can do yet," Boyd said. "We've just kind of got closer this year and we're trying to work together as a unit to just push forward and, you know, go against teams together."

Boyd was not among the running backs - Whaley, Hayden, Trelon Smith - who found the end zone in Arkansas' first scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday, but he added that each player in the group had his moments.

"We all had a lot of runs. All the backs did good. I can't be mad about that," he said. "We can be pretty good this year. We're still working on the little things, like finishing reps. It was hot out there today.

"We had to finish and push through and not worry about the heat. Just little things like that."

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