De­spite set­backs, Boyd ready to go in fall

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - Ra­zor­back Re­port By Nate Allen

FAYET­TEVILLE — Not many Ra­zor­backs amazed dur­ing last sea­son’s foot­ball for­lorn 2-10 cam­paign.

But Ra­keem Boyd cer­tainly did. De­spite usu­ally op­er­at­ing ei­ther clue­less or shoul­der in­jury im­paired, last year’s big (6-1, 200) and fast ju­nior­col­lege trans­fer running back brand new to the Univer­sity of Arkansas, led the Ra­zor­backs in rush­ing. He av­er­aged 6.0 yards per carry with 734 yards on 123 car­ries. He added 165 re­ceiv­ing yards on 23 catches.

Let’s ex­plain the clue­less ad­jec­tive. For Boyd’s foot­ball acu­men ac­tu­ally is vast given what he ac­com­plished with scant prepa­ra­tion.

But even all the 2018 in­com­ing Ra­zor­backs fresh­men, re­ported to the UA by June for sum­mer school and “vol­un­tary work­outs,” were more 2018 UA foot­ball pre­pared than Boyd.

A na­tive of Hous­ton, ini­tially signed and red­shirted in 2016 at Texas A&M, Boyd spent the en­tire 2018 sum­mer com­plet­ing his aca­demics at In­de­pen­dence (Kan.) Com­mu­nity Col­lege af­ter star­ring there in 2017, to be­come 2018 UA sopho­more el­i­gi­ble.

“He showed up the day be­fore we started fall camp,” Arkansas of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Joe Crad­dock re­called. “So he didn’t know any­thing the first three or four, five ball­games. What he did know, the quar­ter­back was telling him what to do.”

Ca­sual foot­ball fans fancy running back as an eas­ily ad­justable po­si­tion. Just take the ball and go, they fig­ure.

Running back ac­tu­ally can be­come nearly as com­plex as quar­ter­back.

Its com­plex­i­ties frus­trates fans. They fume when a running back fresh­man flash stars in the sea­son opener against an over­matched lower di­vi­sion team then mostly sits the fol­low­ing con­fer­ence game.

In­evitably coaches ex­plain of bench­ing the bud­ding star: “We didn’t want our quar­ter­back toted off the field in pieces.”

Whether car­ry­ing out fakes, block­ing a bl­itzer or be­com­ing an emer­gency safety valve re­ceiver, the running back is an es­sen­tial part of pass pro­tec­tion.

So be­tween Boyd learn­ing the Ra­zor­backs running back nu­ances on the job and play­ing through a chronic shoul­der in­jury ul­ti­mately re­quir­ing off­sea­son surgery sidelin­ing him all spring ball, Crad­dock and Coach Chad Mor­ris mar­vel at Boyd’s 2018 au­tumn. They rel­ish what he could ac­com­plish in 2019.

Af­ter open­ing with six car­ries for 12 yards against Eastern Illinois and seven car­ries for 67 yards against Colorado State and no car­ries with the shoul­der ail­ing against North Texas, Boyd de­buted on the SEC scene with eight car­ries for 66 yards against Auburn. He shined with 15 for 102 against SEC cham­pion/ na­tional run­ner-up Alabama, seven for 109, in­clud­ing a 69-yard touch­down, against

Ole Miss be­fore re-in­jur­ing the shoul­der, and 19 for 113 against Van­der­bilt af­ter 22 for 99 in the non­con­fer­ence vic­tory over

Tulsa.

Shoul­der prob­lems and stiff de­fenses fin­ished him with 10 for 30 against LSU, 14 for 84 even as Mis­sis­sippi State slaugh­tered the Hogs 52-6, and fi­nally just five for 5 yards against Mis­souri be­fore ex­it­ing rein­jured await­ing the sur­geon’s knife.

“It was a nag­ging in­jury all last year and we feel he had it for some time,” Crad­dock said. “That’s why you’d see him go out of a game and come back in or go out of a game and not come back in. We felt we had to go ahead and get it fixed so he could be healthy come fall.”

Last spring it was pre­sumed Boyd would re­port full-go for the Au­gust pre­sea­son. And the UA’S July word is: “Ra­keem’s shoul­der will be good to go when we open prac­tice. He’s had a good sum­mer in the weight room.”

Ob­vi­ously, Mor­ris and Crad­dock wish Boyd could have prac­ticed last spring. But just him ob­serv­ing first­hand with the play­book at hand helped im­mensely.

“I think his work­load in­creases purely by know­ing what he’s do­ing out there,” Crad­dock said.

Mor­ris also said Boyd learned much by ob­serv­ing but in­deed his tan­gi­ble spring pres­ence was missed.

“I think when you get Ra­keem back it adds an­other di­men­sion,” Mor­ris said.

CRAVEN WHITLOW/NATE Allen Sports Ser­vice

Arkansas ju­nior-col­lege trans­fer running back Ra­keem Boyd, 5, turns a cor­ner in a game last sea­son. Boyd should be ready to go af­ter shoul­der surgery when fall prac­tice be­gins soon.

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