FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas senior running back and offensive co-captain Rakeem Boyd is opting out of the Razorbacks’ remaining games to concentrate on preparing for the spring’s 2021 NFL draft.
Boyd posted his decision Tuesday on Twitter as the Razorbacks prepare for Saturday’s game at Missouri and the regular-season closer against Alabama likely on Dec. 12 in Fayetteville. Arkansas’ leading rusher the past two seasons including 1,133 rushing yards in 2019 netting him 2020 Preseason All-SEC recognition, Boyd this season has missed one game because of a lingering ankle injury and missed Arkansas’ last game Nov. 21 against LSU apparently because of covid-19 testing or contact tracing.
“Through this uncertain pandemic I’ve decided to opt to if the remainder of the 2020 season,” Boyd tweeted. “I will be preparing for the NFL draft. I want to thank the University of Arkansas for taking a chance on me coming out of Independence Junior College.”
Boyd originally a 2016 redshirted freshman at Texas A&M in 2016 transferred in 2017 to Independence (Kan.) Junior College, thanked the coaching staffs of former Coach Chad Morris who recruited him and for whom he played in 2017 and 2018 and Coach Sam Pittman for whom Boyd played in 2019.
And he thanked Razorbacks fans “for making the last three years the best years of my life.”
Although Morris’ Razorbacks consecutively went 2-10 and 2-10 overall and 0-8, 0-8 in the SEC, Boyd starred nonetheless.
Despite not reporting until after preseason practices began while finishing graduation from Independence JC, Boyd led the 2018 Razorbacks in rushing with 123 carries for 734 yards and rushed two touchdowns and caught 23 passes for 165 yards.
In 2019 Boyd excelled with his 1,133 rushing yards and eight touchdowns and caught 19 passes for 160 yards.
Determined to leave Arkansas with the Razorbacks winning SEC games and convinced after talking with Pittman that he could raise his NFL draft stock, Boyd returned to the UA in 2020 after first considering turning pro in the 2020 draft.
First the covid-19 pandemic cancelled spring practice.
Then opening this against what coming off last season was 2020 preseason considered the nation’s best defense, Georgia overmatched Arkansas’ offensive line and limited Boyd to 21 yards on 11 carries while defeating the Hogs, 37-10.
Boyd relished the Razorbacks breaking their SEC losing streak beating Mississippi State, but injured his ankle and had to be replaced after 8 carries for 28 yards.
The ankle injury kept Boyd out of the 30-28 controversial loss at Auburn and he wasn’t 100 percent for the 33-21 victory over Ole Miss though he did net a touchdown among his 14 carries for 49 yards.
Boyd flashed his 2019 from rushing 100 yards with a touchdown on 18 carries in the 42-31 loss at Texas A&M, and logged 19 carries for 65 yards in the 24-13 victory over Tennessee.
Boyd and six Razorbacks defensive linemen missed the 27-24 loss to LSU when the rash of covid-19 related absences left Arkansas barely above the SEC protocol roster limit.
The Razorbacks were under the limit for their Nov. 28 game against Missouri which was postponed until this Saturday in Columbia, Mo.
Monday, with Boyd still on the roster, Pittman was asked about the senior’s so far star-crossed season averaging 3.8 per carry with 82 totes and three touchdowns and 309 yards.
“There’s still three games left, you know,” Pittman said. “So, he can certainly improve his numbers in the next three games if he goes out and plays well and they block well for him. I’m sure it’s not ideal for him. We talk to him and all the other guys quite often. He knows that he can do something about that, as well, himself. We can certainly block better and do some things of that nature. But, sometimes as a back you have to go make your own way. He was getting better at that. Had a pretty good game against A&M. Obviously, he couldn’t play against LSU, but we anticipate he’ll be back healthy and ready to roll.”
The departures of Boyd and earlier in the season redshirt freshman running back A’Montae Spivey transferring puts the running back onus on Trelon Smith, the sophomore transfer currently leading the Razorbacks rushers with 89 carries for 469 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior T.J. Hammonds, who has played both as a reserve running back and receiver, likely goes to full-time running back. Hammonds popped a 29-yard run on his lone carry against LSU.