Whaley, Hayden explosive in first scrimmage

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Saturday, March 9, 2019
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas running back, carries in a scrimmage Saturday, March, 9, 2019, during spring practice at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas running back, carries in a scrimmage Saturday, March, 9, 2019, during spring practice at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Two of the most explosive plays in Arkansas' first scrimmage of the spring came courtesy of running backs Devwah Whaley and Chase Hayden.

Behind Rakeem Boyd, who took on the bulk of the first-team work last fall following Whaley's injury at Auburn and led the Razorbacks with 734 rushing yards, the duo combined for 619 yards and three scores in 2018. But with Boyd out as he continues to recover from November shoulder surgery, Whaley and Hayden are assuming a majority of the early reps this spring.

They didn't disappoint in the portion of the team's scrimmage open to the media inside Razorback Stadium on Saturday. The two backs teamed up for a quick score on the first-team offense's opening possession.

After quarterback Ben Hicks hit a short pass on the first play, Whaley took a handoff and picked up 40-plus yards to the defense's 25-yard line. On the next play, Hayden, on a semi-delayed handoff, scampered 25 yards untouched for a touchdown.

"I thought those guys did a good job being patient and hitting it," said Craddock, who joked that even he could have scored running through the holes Whaley and Hayden were provided. "Those guys did a nice job finding the holes and scoring.

"I was really proud of those guys, honestly, and it's not from the standpoint of just running the football."

Craddock credited Hayden with a couple of nice blitz pickups as the backs worked on new protections, which allowed Hicks to get the ball out to skill players. Tight end Cheyenne O'Grady had a 24-yard catch from Hicks during the open portion and freshman Trey Knox scored on a screen play later in the scrimmage, Craddock said.

"I was really proud of that and them seeing what we're trying to do from a protection standpoint," he added in regards to his running backs. "I thought those guys did a nice job today. I can't brag on those guys enough. They did a really good job."

Many times last season, Chad Morris and Craddock spoke to the inefficiency at which Arkansas played on first down, and it's clear they have made that a big emphasis this spring. The goal is four yards on first down, and Whaley and Hayden met their mark often on Saturday, Hicks said.

"They did that early on in the scrimmage," he added. "You saw them get skinny and break them loose. I thought both of them had a great day. Really all the running backs had a great day and I’m really excited about that."

Jordon Curtis, who was struck by a vehicle Nov. 18 while attempting to cross a crosswalk near the Razorbacks’ football center, made a nice move and picked up 11 yards on his lone carry of the open portion, evading linebacker Gio LaFrance's tackle attempt.

Curtis, a former running back at Jenks High School in Tulsa, moved from defensive back to running back this spring to add depth once it was determined Boyd would not take part in spring drills to nurse his shoulder.

Whaley, who said he's slimmed down this spring and dropped body fat, and Hayden drew rave reviews from linebacker Grant Morgan and defensive lineman Jamario Bell, too. Morgan said the two have led the running backs room very well this spring and "brought the juice."

Bell added, "They're very competitive, too. You just see every day the fight in those two. They're always running their feet after plays and finishing through, man. They're really working hard."

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