Arkansas running backs looking to take the next step


It’s no secret that the Arkansas Razorbacks want to play a physical brand of football under head coach Sam Pittman, centered around a dynamic rushing attack. After returning several key pieces from a group that led all Power 5 schools in rushing yards in 2021, the Razorback running back room is looking to take it up another level this fall.

The Razorbacks relied heavily last season on several rushers who lacked experience coming into the year. Raheem Sanders spirit AJ Green earned valuable roles in the offense as true freshmen, and Dominique Johnson accounted for 575 rushing yards and seven touchdowns after not carrying the ball once during his freshman season. Arkansas’ running backs coach Jimmy Smith is already seeing the returning experience within the position group pay dividends.

“The whole group has an understanding of what we want from them,” Smith said. “They’re doing a lot better job. The young guys are doing a lot better. James Jointer has come a long way just from understanding the offense. (Rashod Dubinion) is starting to understand what we want and what you need to do in practice to be good at college football. AJ is seeing things a lot better, and Rocket just continues to improve. Every day I see him do something new. I’m excited about the guys.

“Everybody knows what to do. Film session looks totally different now. Instead of watching film on strips and telling them what to do, we go over details like ‘OK, you need to get your hand on the inside, your eyes are in the wrong place.’ It’s more details. So when the games start, you feel relaxed as a coach. No matter what they throw at you, you’re like ‘OK, we’re going to be alright.’ Last year, I was like ‘I hope they don’t do this, because I don’t know if he knows it that well.’ Now it’s like ‘it doesn’t matter, we’re ready for it, we’re going to be alright.'”

On top of returning three 500-yard rushers in Sanders, Johnson and quarterback KJ Jefferson, Arkansas brings back four starters and plenty of depth on the offensive line. The continuity throughout the offense brings even more confidence to a talented group of Razorback running backs.

“Knowing who’s on that line when we get the ball, it just gives you more confidence,” Green said. “I mean, we’ve already been playing with these guys and had great confidence, but now it’s more than ever because they’re just getting better and better.”

The Arkansas run game will return to action on September 3 when the Hogs take on the Cincinnati Bearcats in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium to open the season. HawgSports.com will continue to provide complete coverage of fall camp and all preseason happenings leading up to the first game.

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