FAYETTEVILLE – As the running back advanced from backup to starter and as the quarterback and fellow senior co-captain, Trelon Smith and Feleipe Franks appear the Razorbacks most directly affected by Rakeem Boyd’s decision to leave Arkansas’ football team.
Boyd, the Razorbacks Preseason All-SEC running back and senior offensive co-captain, announced Tuesday he’s opting out of playing the remainder of the season to concentrate on preparing for the spring’s NFL draft.
Arkansas has games remaining Saturday at Missouri and presumably December 12 in Fayetteville against Alabama.
Sophomore running back Smith, starting Arkansas’ last game against Nov. 21 against LSU when Boyd was among seven Razorbacks idled after covid-19 testing and also starting earlier against Auburn when Boyd was a idled by an ankle injury, and starting quarterback Franks were asked about the impact of Boyd’s decision after the 3-5 Razorbacks practiced Tuesday for Saturday’s 11 a.m. SEC Network televised SEC game against the Missouri Tigers in Columbia, Mo.
“I think that just being in that situation, that’s kind of his decision,” Franks said of losing his fellow offensive co-captain. “I think we have guys on the team who are leaders as well. Even when it was just four getting voted captains, (senior tackle Jonathan Marshall and senior linebacker Grant Morgan are the defensive captains) that’s not the only leaders that we have on the team by no means. That’s something that has shown throughout the season as well at all position groups.”
Smith, the transfer from Arizona State who had to redshirt last year as a transfer and said how much Boyd helped him adjust, has since adjusted as Arkansas’ leading rusher with 89 carries for 469 yards.
He vowed adjusting leading the running backs room upon hearing Boyd would prepare for the draft.
“You know I felt he made the best decision for himself,” Smith said. “But me personally when I heard it was simple: I just told myself, ‘It’s time to step up to the plate.’ I’ve been preparing for this moment for the longest and I’ll be ready most definitely.”
Smith acknowledged the whole running game obviously wasn’t ready to run, held to 104 rushing yards as a team and just 28 on 11 carries from Smith in the 27-24 loss to LSU when Arkansas last played on Nov. 21.
“Personally if you want to be honest,” Smith said, “we just had a bad game up front and we just had a bad game the whole game really in the run game. We saw some things that we didn’t adjust to, and I feel like coming into this next game we’ll do a better job of adjusting and just out-physicaling these guys. I feel like we weren’t as physical as LSU was and that was a major role in it. We’ve just got to out-physical these guys this coming weekend.”
What must Arkansas’ O-line do Saturday at Mizzou that it didn’t do in Fayetteville against LSU?
“I won’t say it wasn’t nothing they didn’t do,” Smith said. “They’ve just got to strain more and we all gotta strain more. Not just them. Everybody. The receivers blocking on the perimeter. Me blocking protecting the quarterback. Feleipe making his reads. We’ve all got to capitalize. We’re a whole out there. I wouldn’t say it’s just them. But they’re going to have to strain. They’re going to have to fight and they’re going to.”
Franks said Smith will be up to the challenge as the lead running Hog.
“Trelon’s always ready to step in and play that role,” Franks said. “He’s shown it all year. He’s shown he can come in and step up and do what he has to do and not complain. His production backs that up.”
After having barely enough players to play against LSU because of covid-19 positive tests and contact tracing, the Razorbacks had to postpone last Saturday’s game scheduled against Missouri to this Saturday.
During the unexpected week off Arkansas’ numbers have increased to play again, Coach Sam Pittman said Monday and the players reiterated Tuesday.
“ I think we’ve had a chance to get a lot of guys back,” Franks said. “We’re just getting to that stretch, especially the last couple games, where people get banged up. Just having a week, or so, for guys to get their bodies back… it was important. It was good, and we’re all excited to get back out there and compete again. Continue being able to go out there to prove that we can do it and get wins week in and week out. Just another opportunity, we’re excited for it.”
They seem especially excited trying to snap Mizzou’s 4-game winning streak in their annual crossover game of Arkansas representing the SEC West and Mizzou the SEC East.
“From the group as a whole man we’re just ready to play, man,” Smith said. “We’re ready to go out there and have another game. It’s a big one we haven’t beaten them in five years.”