FAYETTEVILLE – After leading the Razorbacks rushers two years running for 2-10 teams, Rakeem Boyd envisions himself among national rushing leaders on a better Arkansas team with a bigger offensive line.
Boyd knows during Sam Pittman’s Arkansas 2013-2015 offensive line coaching time for Bret Bielema that Pittman coached the nation’s biggest offensive line. And Boyd knows from 2016-2019 that Pittman coached some of the best offensive lines in the country for Coach Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs going 8-5, 13-2, 11-3 and 12-2.
So though certainly proving himself NFL draft worthy netting 1,113 rushing yards for last year’s on the record horrendous Hogs, Boyd opted returning to the Razorbacks with Pittman replacing fired 2-10, 2-10 head coach Chad Morris.
“I mean he was at Georgia,” Boyd said in a recent interview. “So, he knows what winning is like. That’s why I came back. I trusted in him, and I trusted in the guys on the team already. I know what we have on the team. Some outsiders don’t know what we have, but people are going to see that Pittman is the guy.”
Boyd maintains last year’s Hogs sported personnel better than their record. Particularly if their offensive line developed. Boyd said he can see that already happening in summer weight workouts even as the Razorbacks still haven’t had an official Pittman practice.
The coronavirus pandemic cancelled Arkansas’ spring football practices and all collegiate sports in mid March. So the Hogs won’t have a coaches supervised workout with a ball on the field until noncontact walkthroughs scheduled to start July 24 leading into Aug. 7 preseason practices.
But no practice did not mean Arkansas’ linemen couldn’t grow. They have, Boyd said, a bigger line starting July than when they left in mid-March.
“Those are my guys up front,” Boyd said. “This year is the best they’ve ever looked. Look in shape and they’ve communicated. So as a running back when you see something like that you can’t do nothing but smile because you know what is gonna happen during the season. I’m very proud of them.”
As for his own conditioning, fifth-year senior Boyd believes he’s peaking.
“I feel honestly this is probably the best I’ve ever felt,” Boyd said. “This corona time is good for me, because I never really had an offseason where I could really work out and stuff like that. So having the time to work on my body and get myself healthy because this is my last one.”
One he and Pittman believe can make him a higher draft choice in 2021 than had he availed himself for the 2020 draft.
Pittman researched NFL pre-draft talk about Boyd before he opted to return to the Razorbacks and what areas his improvement would most impress the scouts.
“ In our report that we got back and we shared with Rakeem we need to get him more pass protection reps,” Pittman said. “That’ll help him in the league. We need to get him the ball out of the backfield so he can catch more balls out of the backfield. Those are things that are in our offense certainly, and the better he is at those the higher his draft stock is going to be become.”
Boyd said while at his Houston home when the UA closed in mid-March because of the pandemic that he worked out with various wide receivers trying to improve his out of the backfield receiving skills.
And pass protection?
“Pass-blocking I’ve just tried to get stronger, really in the weightroom,” Boyd said. “Just getting bigger in the upper body.”
No doubt about his ability to run the ball. The 6-0, 215-pounder, originally a 2015 redshirted freshman Texas A&M Aggie transferred to starring in 2016 at Independence (Kan.) Junior College before his 2017 sophomore transfer to Morris’ Razorbacks, blends power and speed.
“He obviously is a dynamic runner and is powerful,” Pittman said. “He can see the field. He has outstanding vision.”
He also has the vision inspiring teammates to see better things ahead, Pittman said.
“He has great leadership skills,” Pittman said. “He’s working extremely hard and obviously he knows what this senior season holds for him and for the football team. The better he is the better our football team is going to be as well and the people around him. I’ve been really, really excited for him and I think he’s going to have a heck of a football season. I’m very happy he’s an Arkansas Razorback.”