For the last few months, TJ Hammonds ranked with Korliss Marshall as one of the biggest “what-if” talents in recent Arkansas football history.
Hammonds, the electric tailback whom Chad Morris announced had left the Razorbacks’ football squad in February, is back.
Apparently, whatever the issue was (e.g. disciplinary action, grades) has been resolved. With Hammonds returning to the team, Rakeem Boyd returning to full strength, “adding Arizona State transfer Trelon Smith (who will sit one season) and adding A’Montae Spivey, their lone running back signee in 2019 who will join the team at the end of the month, the Hogs will have triple the depth they had for spring as they head towards fall camp” according to HawgBeat.com’s Nikki Chavanelle.
If his work two seasons ago is any indication, Hammonds may be primed to do damage in 2019.
TJ Hammonds: Record-Breaking Talent
TJ Hammonds, a four-star product out of Joe T. Robinson High in west Little Rock, showed sporadic flashes of greatness late in the Bielema era. The 5’10”, 205-pound back/receiver had a tremendous two-game stretch in Bielema’s last season that essentially won Arkansas two extra games in what was otherwise a dreadful year.
He scorched Ole Miss for 84 yards on 11 carries. Then, against Coastal Carolina, he tacked on 119 yards in a mere seven carries—and a 60-yard touchdown reception for good measure.
At that point, Hammonds’ per-carry average was 10.4 yards, obscenely good for a high-major Division I player.
For context, below are the top three Razorbacks of all-time in terms of per-carry yard average in a single season:
1. 8.74 Felix Jones (2007) (more than 10 rushes per game)
2. 8.00 Matt Jones (2001) (more than 9 rpg)
3. 7.74 Harry Jones (1965) (more than 8 rpg)
Hammonds wasn’t able to keep up that pace. In 2018, the first season of the Chad Morris era, the junior struggled outside of a long run against Colorado State. An ankle sprain limited Hammonds that fall and he eventually needed knee surgery that ended his season.
In a late February press conference, Chad Morris said Hammonds was no longer on the team. He did not reveal any more details about why, or what Hammonds would do next. “He’s just not on the team,” Morris emphasized. “That’s kind of where we’re at. Is he going to play somewhere else? I just don’t know that.”
So far in his Razorback career Hammonds, a redshirt junior, has averaged 6.6 yards per carry and 24.7 yards per reception, or a combined average of 8.3 yards per touch.
The below is from a post which originally published in February:
The Legacy of Korliss Marshall
Razorback fans will recall Marshall as the fast and explosive running back/ kickoff returner whom Bret Bielema praised as a potential game-changing force. That potential never played out, though, as off-the-field issues eventually caused the Osceola native to transfer off the team after the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Marshall ended up playing a some for Eastern Illinois and then a little for the Edmonton Eskimos. Last summer, he was arrested in Forrest City on drug charges by the St. Francis County Sheriff’s Office (SFCSO).
The SFCSO said Marshall was caught with over a pound of marijuana, packaging materials, digital scales, and cash. He was charged with felony Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Speeding and No Driver’s License.
The Razorbacks are now even more thin at the running back position. As Andrew Hutchinson of HawgBeat.com points out, “with [Hammonds’] departure, Maleek Williams’ transfer to FIU and Rakeem Boyd still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Arkansas was down to two running backs for spring practice. That prompted the Razorbacks to move defensive back Jordon Curtis to the position, which he played in high school. A’Montae Spivey, their lone running back signee in 2019, will join the team this summer.”
Enter Justice Hill
Morris also revealed that Justice Hill, the dynamic multi-sport, dual-threat quarterback out of west Little Rock, will play with the football team in spring practice.
Hill, 5’11” and 175 pounds, was already practicing with the Razorback basketball team. He’s the kind of quicksilver, heady point guard that the program will need to complement Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones in the coming years. (Unlike Jalen Harris, Hill has a good outside shot).
Hill was good enough as a senior at Little Rock Christian to get football scholarship offers from Arkansas and Auburn. He completed 208 of 291 passes (71.5 percent) for 3,084 yards, 37 touchdowns and four interceptions, while also adding 1,000 yards and 21 scores on 112 carries. Although he missed several games due to injury, Justice Hill was still named the Gatorade Player of the Year for Arkansas and won the Landers Award for 2018.
His finest moment came in leading LR Christian to an upset state title game win over Pulaski Academy, which featured Razorback freshmen Hudson Henry and John David White. Check out the below video to see Justice Hill’s elite quickness and playmaking abilities:
Wreaking this kind of damage against SEC competition as a sub 6-feet quarterback, however, will be much more difficult. Just ask current Razorback dual-threat quarterback John Stephen Jones, who has a similar size and skill set to Hill.
Of course, it’s too early to tell what position(s) Hill would play if he sticks with football through the fall. He may be better employed as a scatback/receiver in the mold of TJ Hammonds.
As Chad Morris says: “I’ve met with him, talked with him and it’ll be at the position that he feels and that we both feel he can contribute. I’ve left it up to him. Whether it’s corner, wide receiver, quarterback, running back, whatever it may be, we know he’s an athlete that’s had a lot of success and won a state championship.
“And any time you can have a guy on your team like that we’re excited about. Now the thing is I would anticipate him, it’s going to probably be right before spring break before he gets out.”
Check out Morris’ entire press conference here: