Razorbacks Push on Without Rakeem Boyd
FAYETTEVILLE – Since senior running back Rakeem Boyd missed Arkansas’ most recent game on Nov. 21 vs LSU among the many Razorbacks held out because of positive covid-19 tests and contact tracing, Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman implied his absence changes nothing for Arkansas’ next game Saturday at Missouri.
Having to postpone last Saturday’s game vs. Missouri because positive covid-19 tests and contact tracing quarantines plus football related injuries put the Razorbacks under the SEC healthy roster protocol, Arkansas, 3-5, and Mizzou, 4-3, kick off at 11 a.m. Saturday on the SEC Network at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo.
The Razorbacks do so without Boyd, Preseason All-SEC for amassing 1,133 rushing yards in 2019 despite former Arkansas Coach Chad Morris’ Hogs wallowing 2-10 overall/0-8 in the SEC, now opting out for the season’s remainder after missing two of Arkansas’ eight games (one for injury and one apparently because of covid) to concentrate on preparing for the 2021 spring NFL draft.
“Well, the tailback situation looks exactly like it did last game against LSU, with adding Dominique Johnson ( the freshman running back withheld last week). Pittman said on Wednesday’s SEC Coaches/Media teleconference. “So, Trelon Smith will be our starting tailback and you have TJ Hammonds and you have Dominque and you have (Donte) Buckner.”
Asked Wednesday his thoughts about Boyd opting out, Pittman replied, “The thoughts on Rakeem, he opted out, so opting out means that you’re concerned about the covid virus and because of those concerns he opted out.”
Smith, the sophomore redshirted at Arkansas in 2019 after transferring as a 2018 freshman letterman at Arizona State, has been Boyd’s backup for six games and started the two that Boyd missed. Though previously considered the backup, Smith leads the 2020 Razorbacks in rushing, 89 carries for 469 yards and two touchdowns, and behind wideouts Treylon Burks and Mike Woods is Arkansas’ third-leading receiver, 20 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown.
Senior Hammonds of Little Rock Joe T. Robinson, opened the season as a spare running back/ receiver now operating full time at running back. He popped a 29-yard run in his lone carry in the 27-24 loss to LSU in Fayetteville.
Johnson, 6-1 240 on scholarship from Crowley, Texas, has logged no 2020 stats.
Nor has Buckner, a freshman walk-on from White Hall.
Though not practicing the Razorbacks beyond walkthroughs last week theorizing “If you don’t have enough to play you probably don’t have enough to practice,” Pittman and his staff did get an extra week of prepping for Missouri.
In contrast the Tigers of first-year Mizzou coach and Alma native Eli Drinkwitz, played their earlier postponed by covid game against the Vanderbilt Commodores. They vanquished Vandy, 41-0 in Columbia.
Barry Odom, Arkansas’ first-year defensive coordinator, was Missouri’s head coach from 2016-2019. He bequeathed Drinkwitz a stout defense which Pittman knows well having coached Georgia’s offensive line from 2015-2019 in the Bulldogs’ annual SEC clash vs. Mizzou, the lone SEC East team that SEC West member Arkansas plays annually.
“You go on the defense, they’ve got some guys now over there on the D-line,” Pittman said. “You know I was at Georgia and had the opportunity to play Missouri every year, and they always give you fits on the defensive line. And of course Nick Bolton, in my opinion, is as good a linebacker as there is in the SEC. So they’re hot right now and they’re very well coached by Coach Drinkwitz and his staff.”
Drinkwitz, whose staff includes former Greenwood state high school champion coach Rick Jones as an analyst, was asked on Wednesday’s SEC teleconference to compare Butkus Award finalists linebackers Bolton of Mizzou and Arkansas’ Grant Morgan, the senior former walk-on from Greenwood leading the nation with 104 tackles.
“ I mean they’re both tremendous linebackers,” Drinkwitz said. “They both make a lot of tackles. And you can tell leaders of the defense on both sides of the ball.”
He discussed both as individuals.
“Nick, I think I’m so impressed with his life off the football field as I am his life on the football field,” Drinkwitz said. “He shows up early, works out all the time and has a 3.4 GPA. Just does everything the right way. Has got great manners. His parents have obviously raised him the right way. I think the same can be said for Grant.”
Drinkwitz has a history with the Morgan family back when he was an Arkansas State assistant coach and Drew Morgan, Grant’s older brother and former Razorbacks prolific receiver, was starring for Jones at Greenwood.
“Obviously knew Grant from my time recruiting his brother Drew when I was at Arkansas State,” Drinkwitz said. “He’s just got great work ethic. You can tell it matters to him. I think the most impressive thing about Grant when he makes a tackle he runs back to get lined up on defense. It’s very rare to see that. Always impressed with his hustle and work ethic. He’s going to be a tough one to go against.”