Tom Murphy is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. He was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Rocket grounded for Week 2 game vs. Kent State
Arkansas running back Raheim Sanders walks off the field following a 56-13 victory over Western Carolina on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Little Rock.
FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas star tailback Raheim “Rocket” Sanders will miss one or two games with a knee issue, Coach Sam Pittman said Wednesday night.
Speaking on his radio show “Sam Pittman Live,” Pittman clarified remarks to members of the media earlier in the day in which he said Sanders’ knee was still being evaluated and he was questionable for Saturday’s campus opener against Kent State at 3 p.m.
“So Rocket has an injury that it’s going to take a couple of weeks for him to heal,” Pittman told host Chuck Barrett. “But that’s the length of it. Maybe two, maybe three weeks.
“So he won’t be able to play this Saturday and possibly next Saturday. We’re not positive about that. But it’s not going to linger any further than maybe a couple games.”
Sanders, a preseason second-team Associated Press All-American, sustained swelling in his left knee after last Saturday’s 56-13 win over Western Carolina in the season opener, and the Razorbacks’ medical team has been seeking multiple opinions from doctors on a course of action for the past few days.
Pittman said in two media settings Wednesday he doesn’t think the injury is a long-lasting one.
“He’s not going to practice today … so that would limit him at best for the game, regardless of what we find out,” Pittman said. “But I don’t think it’ll be a lengthy injury either way. But you know we wanted some different guys to look at him, so that’s what we’re doing.”
Pittman said doctors looked at Sanders, a 1,443-yard rusher in 2022, on Tuesday and again Wednesday to determine the source of the swelling and the best course of action.
Pittman said he thought the injury happened in the game, but Sanders “didn’t say anything about it until Sunday when the swelling came up.”
Sanders was limited to 42 yards on 15 carries, though he scored on runs of 1 and 3 yards.
“It could have impacted him, but with him not saying anything until Sunday, I would assume it didn’t,” Pittman said.
Backup tailback Rashod Dubinion, who had his shoulder pads off for part of the second half last Saturday due to a back issue, has been practicing this week and was with the first unit in fastball starts Tuesday.
Pittman said running backs coach Jimmy Smith has recruited well at the position and the group is prepared to carry on if Sanders is out for a while.
“I love our depth,” Pittman said, citing Dubinion, AJ Green and Dominique Johnson by nicknames and first names. “I keep going back to two years ago, we had the same guys on the team and [Johnson] was the starter later in the season.
“We kept trying to get him more and more carries. Sometimes we did, sometimes we didn’t. But when we did, he was very successful. So I feel really good. You never want to lose a player for a game or two or whatever it may be, but that room is loaded with really good players. And we like Isaiah [Augustave] as well. He got some carries last week and looked pretty good to me.
“Jimmy’s done a nice job recruiting that room, so we feel very confident in that room if Rocket wasn’t able to play, we’d be fine.”
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