With a pair of stiff arms that dropped defenders like they were bad habits, Arkansas junior-to-be running back Kody Walker announced his intention in last Saturday's scrimmage to share the running duties this season.
The 6-2, 246-pound Walker had nine carries and a scrimmage-high 45 yards with two touchdowns while running hard and also breaking out a new weapon on cornerback Tevin Mitchel and safety Davyon McKinney.
"It is just one thing that I am trying to put in my arsenal," Walker said. "I have been working on it and trying to get installed to make it another weapon that I can use. It's definitely stiffer than it has been.
He had been getting most of his work at fullback before Korliss Marshall had to exit practice for about five workouts.
"..."I felt good about Saturday," Walker said. "I am still learning fullback because that is my main concern right now. As far as getting the reps at tailback, I have done that all my life.
"I am still learning getting out on routes, but the main thing is run blocking when you talk about the differences in fullback and tailback," Walker added. "It's tough but I am learning."
The oft-injured Walker has proved he has a nose for the end zone in his career with 12 touchdowns in the three years he has been on campus.
Walker's career began with a flourish, playing in three games as a true freshman while rushing for 68 yards and scoring five touchdowns before an injury ended his season.
The same thing happened two games into the next season while he added another touchdown, but he was healthy enough to appear in 13 games last season while rushing 27 times for 101 yards and six touchdowns.
Arkansas running backs coach Joel Thomas watched Walker transform as the year went along.
"I still look back to a year from now and he was rusty," Thomas said. "He was still knocking off the rust during the season and I don't think he ever got to full speed until about the mid-point of last season."
Walker had four carries for 22 yards as he and Marshall took over stars Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins against Mississippi State late in the year.
"Obviously he got in the game there against Mississippi State and had some nice carries and helped fuel us along," Thomas said. "I think he is about to get to his old self from what I heard about him when he was being recruited out of high school."
The positives from his effort against the Bulldogs have carried over into the spring per Walker.
"That Mississippi State game gave me my confidence back," Walker said. "It just gave me confidence and a positive outlook to look forward to this season and keep working."
Walker feels like things are trending upward for him in his quest to take over the spot of departed fullback Kiero Small (5-10, 245).
"I feel good about it, but I still have things to learn," Walker said. "In this offense, we do a lot of different things with the fullback and it was good to have somebody like Kiero to help you with that stuff. I can call him up, I can watch his film. It is a good thing.
"I think I can," Walker added. "I am a different type of guy because he was short in stature of course, but I am bigger. He is a physical guy. I think I can do a lot in the passing game and the run game."
With his fourth year on campus coming up, Walker realizes he is no longer a newcomer.
"I am a vet now," Walker said. "It is kind of crazy to think like that, but I have been here for awhile now."
Thomas is confident in what he is seeing from Walker.
"Kody has had a nice growing experience so far with the emphasis being on fullback the first part of spring ball," Thomas said, "and then with Korliss going down, he has gotten more carries at tailback. He has had a nice developmental spring."
Thomas believes Walker can help Arkansas at both spots.
"He has done it so much that I don't think it is a big difference for him," Thomas said. "He is an intelligent football player and does a good job of paying attention and his football IQ is very high."
Marshall returned to full practice on Tuesday per Thomas.
"He was able to get back out there today and didn't miss a beat," Thomas said. "He had fresh legs compared to the rest of the guys."
Arkansas has also been giving redshirt freshman quarterback Damon Mitchell some work at both tailback and wide receiver the last couple of weeks.
"We are just trying to find a way to put the ball in his hands because he is a good enough athlete and something that we have got to keep on experimenting with as spring goes on," Thomas said.
Walker Stiff Arms His Way To Success
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