Rakeem Boyd reshapes his body, leads Arkansas Razorbacks' talented running backs group - Treylon Smith, A'Montae Spivey
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Boyd reshapes his body, leads talented RB group

Rakeem Boyd will lead a talented group of running backs in 2020.
Rakeem Boyd will lead a talented group of running backs in 2020. (Arkansas Athletics)

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FAYETTEVILLE — Going into his senior season, it seems like Rakeem Boyd has finally found the sweet spot as far as his weight is concerned.

The star running back was listed at 200 pounds coming out of JUCO and got banged up through the grind of an SEC schedule two years ago. He bulked up to 213 pounds last season and stayed mostly healthy, but he still drew some criticism for tapping out at times.

Even with a weird offseason because of the coronavirus pandemic, Boyd credits the Razorbacks’ new strength staff for helping him reshape his body as he enters fall camp at 206 pounds.

“Last year I was a little chunky,” Boyd said. “This year, I think I'm seeing a 4-pack, I think I'm seeing a 6-pack, and I've never seen one of those before on my body.”

Despite averaging only 15.3 carries per game and hitting 20 carries just twice in 12 games, Boyd managed to rush for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns last year.

If he can stay on the field and maintain the explosiveness that has him third in school history behind only Felix Jones and Matt Jones in career yards per carry, Boyd could be an All-SEC candidate for the Razorbacks in 2020.

As a senior, he has also added more to his off-the-field role, evolving into one of the team leaders.

“From a leadership standpoint he’s been unbelievable,” offensive coordinator Kendal Briles said. “He’s been really, really good, not just with the running back room or offense - he’s been just a great teammate overall. So I can’t say enough good things about Rakeem and how he’s been.”

Although Boyd will likely see an increase in touches this season, the Razorbacks will still need another running back or two to emerge so they can keep him fresh.

The guy most expect to be the No. 2 running back is Trelon Smith, who sat out last season after transferring in from Arizona State.

He garnered a lot of praise from the previous staff - former head coach Chad Morris referred to him as the “scout team Heisman” - and that has continued with Arkansas’ current coaches. Briles said he’s “done a tremendous job” so far.

It also helps that he and Boyd have a great relationship. They are competing for carries, but pushing each other at the same time.

“That dude right there is a hard worker,” Boyd said about Smith. “I mean, I could look over at him and he could be dead tired and he's gonna say, 'Rakeem let's go. You know what we've got to do.’”

Another candidate is redshirt freshman A’Montae Spivey, who got a handful of reps last season thanks to the relatively new redshirt rule.

His 24 yards on seven carries were marred by a lost fumble against Mississippi State, but Boyd still sees a lot of potential in him.

“Man, A'Monte Spivey has impressed me,” Boyd said. “I think he runs literally just like me. The kid has some of my ways, but he's young so he's still learning. Once he gets it, it's there.”

Briles, who said he was pleased with the entire running backs group, mentioned that fifth-year senior T.J. Hammonds was splitting his time with the receivers. Having shown some explosiveness in limited opportunities throughout his career, he could be a weapon for the Razorbacks in his final season.

It’s unlikely freshman Dominique Johnson burns his redshirt this year, but he is much bigger than the other running backs on the roster. He’s listed at 240 pounds, making him 34 pounds heavier than anyone else at the position. However, Boyd said he still has really good vision.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is 174-pound newcomer Josh Oglesby, whom Boyd and Briles both mentioned as a player who could contribute this season. A redshirt sophomore, he spent the last two seasons as a sprinter on the UA track team.

Oglesby earned first-team All-America honors as the opening leg of the 4x100-meter relay team as a freshman in 2019 and ran the 60-meter dash in a personal-best 6.74 seconds at the 2019 SEC Indoor Championships. That time is tied for 10th in school history.

The man in charge of the unit is Jimmy Smith. Despite being one of the most inexperienced coaches on the staff, Boyd has been really impressed with him so far and said they’re doing a lot of different drills than what he’s done in the past.

“The whole running back group is competing and it's a great job, Jimmy Smith does well with us,” Boyd said. “We've been doing stuff we've never done before like getting our feet right and cutting off that hole or bouncing from hole to hole.”