FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Razorback running back Raheim ‘Rocket’ Sanders had a historic start to the season and he has solidified the role of feature back for the Hogs.
But, head coach Sam Pittman and crew still have the tough task of determining who to rotate in when Sanders needs a breather.
Sanders leads the SEC and is No. 4 in the country with 508 rushing yards through four games. His 6.1 yards per carry are good for third in the conference.
The Rockledge, Florida, native has also added to the Arkansas passing game with eight catches for 117 yards and one score, which came on a 73-yard dump off from quarterback KJ Jefferson.
Behind Sanders is a strong trio of backs including AJ Green, Dominique Johnson and Rashod Dubinion.
Pittman said Wednesday that the team is still trying to determine which of those three will be the No. 2 back.
“We’re still trying to figure out who ‘back 2’ is,” Pittman said. “Still trying to figure out who ‘back 3’ is. And the only way I know how to do it is give them some carries and figure it out. And when you have four backs, it’s just hard to get a guy a lot of reps.”
Although he missed the first three games of the season, Johnson might have the best shot to be the second running back. In his first game action after recovering from an ACL injury, Johnson ran for 32 yards on five carries against Texas A&M last Saturday.
Johnson recorded 575 rushing yards and a team-high seven touchdowns last season. Pittman advocated for Johnson to get more touches on multiple occasions last year, and he said he liked what he saw from Johnson against the Aggies.
“I thought he had a good game,” Pittman said. “He turned up in there a couple of times where it looked like the old Dominique to me.”
Green only saw 47 rushes for 227 yards last season and he’s up to 23 carries for 99 yards through the first four games this year. He is a speedy back that has shown flashes at times, but he hasn’t separated himself as the No. 2 guys.
Pittman did go out of his way to say Green is much better than he was last season.
Similar to the way he advocated for Johnson last season, Pittman has now said Dubinion needs more touches on multiple occasions.
He said Wednesday that he’d like to see more in-game action from the freshman.
“He certainly had a couple of really nice carries in the A&M game and that’s the one we probably need to learn a little bit more about,” Pittman said. “But I’ve been extremely pleased with him. He can cut on a dime and I think he’s going to be a really good player for us. He is now, but I think he’s going to be a really good running back for us. “
Dubinion has seen just 14 carries for 54 yards and a score this season. He a 14-yard scamper against the Aggies and a 29-yard catch in Week 1 against Cincinnati.
The two carries he had against Texas A&M came in the fourth quarter of a close game that the Hogs eventually lost, 23-21. Pittman said the staff trusts the first-year back out of Ellenwood, Georgia.
“We trust him,” Pittman said. “It certainly does show him a lot of trust there and I was glad that he got those carries in those critical situations because we believe in him.”
It’s a good problem to have four running backs that are all capable of providing the team with quality carries at any given time. That same problem was something the Hogs dealt with last year, when they led all Power Five teams in rushing.
Sanders will get his touches, but the carries when he’s not in the game might just go to whoever has the hot hand at the time or whoever the coaching staff likes in specific situations.
“We just have a lot of backs,” Pittman said.”And it’s kind of hard to figure out because, in my opinion, there’s not… Rocket would be that standard there, and then the other three have something different to offer us, and it’s hard to get them all the carries, to be perfectly honest with you.”
The No. 20 Razorbacks will take on No. 2 Alabama at 2:30 pm CT Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. The game will be televised on CBS.