Arkansas running backs should see increased role in passing game

Arkansas football is set to begin its first spring under coach Chad Morris next week. The Razorbacks are scheduled to practice 14 times between March 1 and April 9, though another date could be added, with the NCAA allowing up to 15 practices. The spring game will be played April 7 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Several positions on the roster need a boost in depth and development as spring practices get underway. Running back is not one of those spots. Arkansas has five scholarship running backs on the roster and will add a sixth this summer. As many as four of them could be splitting snaps next season.

There’s still plenty to do at running back this spring, though. So, here are three things Arkansas should look to accomplish at the position during spring practices:

Identify the pass catchers

Morris’ top running back has averaged 21 receptions per season in his eight years as an offensive coordinator and head coach at the FBS level. Arkansas didn’t have a running back catch more than 15 passes in a season during the five years Bret Bielema was coach in Fayetteville.

So, obviously, it would appear the backs are going to be catching some more passes out of the backfield next season. The good news for the Hogs is that they’ve got some great options already on campus.

T.J. Hammonds, a junior, has split time at running back and wide receiver during his time at Arkansas. He’s averaging 8.5 yards per touch in his career and is the perfect fit for Morris’ offense. The same is true for sophomore Chase Hayden, who excelled as a freshman and was recruited by several schools as both a running back and receiver. Redshirt freshman Maleek Barkley has been moved from wide receiver to running back for at least the spring. He played both positions in high school.

Keep them happy

If the Hogs are going to carry six scholarship running backs next season, they are likely aiming to get at least half of them the ball on a regular basis. It’s very possible they have a four-player rotation with Hammonds, Hayden, Rakeem Boyd and Devwah Whaley.

All those players are expecting to making an impact, and are fully capable, so that’s probably what will have to happen to keep everyone pleased. Showing the backs it’s possible to get them all touches this spring will be important. At the same time, it’s important for those players to prove they deserve it.

Learn the system

As with just about every position on the roster, things are going to be quite different for the backs under Morris. Whoever can be the first to learn the playbook and prove they fit into the system will go a long way toward deciding the pecking order next season.

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