Rakeem Boyd so far this season has not been the game-changer Hog fans expected him to be after he stood out as a bright spot among dark clouds in 2018 and 2019. In fact, in the first few games, he was only an afterthought as backup Trelon Smith took centerstage.
Boyd started this year off badly against Georgia only going for 21 yards on 11 attempts, but he has slightly increased his rushing yards every game he has played in while battling injuries. However, in Saturday’s loss to Texas A&M, Boyd made a huge jump in yards, racking up 100 yards on 18 attempts against a defense that had been allowing 75 rushing yards a game.
“I think Rakeem’s just going to get better and better each week. I do,” Hogs head coach Sam Pittman said Monday. “He’s healthy now, he knows it, he can more make more people miss in open space and I think he’s going to concentrate on some of that and get better. I loved his attitude and how hard he ran, and I think he’ll even get better now that I believe he’s healthy.”
Boyd passed his previous season high of 39 yards with ease, going over that mark before halftime.
“Rakeem did a great job getting back healthy, being able to hit the holes, get in there and get some hard earned rushing yards,” said quarterback Feleipe Franks after the game. “I thought he did a pretty good job today getting in there getting some hard earned running yards, so it was good to have him back healthy with his confidence.”
His first run against the Aggies was his first run of 10 yards all year. Then, he set a new season-long run of 16 yards in the second quarter.
The Razorback offense on Saturday looked more balanced than at any point so far this season, even in the 42-31 losing effort. The offensive line was able to create holes so Arkansas was able to run the ball effectively, and they had their first opening drive touchdown.
Boyd was crucial to the opening drive. That 10-yard run gave Arkansas its first opening drive first down all year. He ran for 27 yards on the drive and helped lead Arkansas to the endzone.
Boyd started the game strong and ended it with an exclamation point when he went for a 14-yard touchdown run to end the game. He let Hog fans know that he was back.
“It seemed like he was running really hard,” Pittman said. “Did a nice job carrying, holding onto the ball, getting extra yards. It was fun to see him have a game like that.”
Besides better health, Boyd ran better for three main reasons: He had holes to run through, the play-calling gave him better opportunities, and his burst speed was a lot better.
In earlier games, Rakeem Boyd had to get past a wall of defenders as soon as he hit the line of scrimmage. On Saturday, he found open lanes in front of him and he made the most out of it. He was able to run downfield without being touched for 8 or 10 yards, instead of trying to break 3 tackles every time he hit the line of scrimmage.
The play-calling also gave him better opportunities and helped to open up some of those holes. A lot of his touches in the first four games were runs straight up the gut. The defenses just had to stack the box and guard that runs up the middle when Boyd was in the game. Saturday, the offense worked on getting him out wide a little bit more where the defense had fewer defenders, and this helped get Boyd into a open lane.
Rakeem Boyd took advantage of these holes and showed off a burst speed fans have not gotten to see this season. He quickly found the hole and burst through which allowed him to get downfield before the defenders could touch him. Getting him out wide helped to create the lanes for him, where he should off his elite speed in a game that portends many good things for the Hogs offense going forward.
Watch his highlights here: