Jason Ivester

State of the Hogs: Wha Are Running Back Prospects with Kody Walker Out?

Kody Walker will miss the spring game with a broken foot. Who do the Hogs have left and what are their prospects at running back in the fall?

With Kody Walker out for the spring game with a broken foot, it's time to look at who can carry the ball in next week's spring finale.

The annul Red-White game is set for noon Saturday, April 23 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Walker broke his foot in practice Tuesday. He underwent surgery for the repair on Wednesday. He'll be out from four to eight weeks and should be full speed before fall practice resumes. Walker is a sixth-year senior who has battled through a series of injuries during his UA career, playing running back and fullback.
It's not a dire situation. The Hogs still expect to have all hands on deck for the season, but Walker has been injured before and it's tough to count on him for every game. They are going to need plenty of others.

Walker and Damon "Duwop" Mitchell were splitting the first team snaps in the two scrimmages coach Bret Bielema has conducted this spring. Mitchell was slowed in Tuesday's practice with an ankle injury. Mitchell has appeared to be a good option at running back with two solid scrimmages. He's converted from quarterback and wide receiver, but played running back before moving to quarterback for his final two years of high school. That move to running back appears to be a successful conversion this spring.
I think Mitchell will be able to give the Hogs some carries. With Walker's past of injury issues, it's a good thing. He'll give the Hogs a bit of a security blanket. He's got fine potential. He's carried the ball on wide receiver sweeps. He's got speed and power. At 6-2, 216, he's something to look forward to at running back.

The Hogs have also worked Rawleigh Williams in a green no-contact jersey this spring. Williams is coming back from a surgery to correct a bulging disc in his neck sustained against Auburn. Williams has been cleared for practice, but Bielema has elected to hold him out of scrimmages. He has worked in other areas of practice, full speed. He won't have any contact in the spring game.
There is nothing to suggest Williams can't play next fall. But anytime someone is returning from a neck injury, it creates concern. The Hogs will probably feel better about Williams after he's played in a game or two.

Juan Day has gone through all contact work. The redshirt sophomore has missed the last two seasons with two ACL surgeries, one in high school and the second after his first spring at Arkansas. He's had both knees repaired. Day would be available in the spring game. He has appeared to be full speed without any problems resulting from the knee injuries.
Day needs to step up in the next six practices. He's got his chance with Walker out and will probably get snaps with the first unit. The only thing lacking has been a burst. He's got a bit of a straight up running style and I'm guessing Bielema is working on that in their pounding style of ground game. Bielema said last week, "All we are waiting for on Juan is to see him make that cut and get out of the gate. He hasn't done that yet."

The Hogs also have available Denzell Evans at running back. He's a junior with two letters. He's been used in mop-up duty but done well in scrimmages this spring.

In the fall, the Hogs will add signees Devwah Whaley and T.J. Hammonds. Whaley is a powerful back with speed. Hammonds is more of a scatback who could double as a slot receiver.
Whaley and Hammonds both have what the Hogs need a this position, elite speed. Both are track guys. Whaley is in the 215 range and can has the burst that made him one of the top backs in Texas. Hammonds was coveted because of his open field running. He's got an extra gear and is elusive. Some think he reminds of former Arkansas star Gary Anderson. These two are true blue chippers.
The only doubts about them would be their ability to handle the complex protections required of a running back in a pro scheme. They'll get to meet with coaches over the summer, but not go through drills under their watch. Returning backs can coach them on the field in summer workouts. They will need that to jump start their preparations in the playbook for August camp. It's my guess that both Whaley and Hammonds will play next year.
If you are waiting for the hammer to fall, I'm not sure I have that for you today. I don't see this is a bad situation. I do see some concern. Perhaps this is a position where the Hogs pick up a graduate transfer after spring drills. There is a scholarship open for such a move. That might ease some concern over the summer while Kody Walker hops around in a boot as his foot heals.
The last thought, how much contact do you put running backs through over the next five practices? Do you tackle them at all in the spring game? Some coaches have dumped full contact spring games. I understand why when you see a thin position at running back. That might be something to watch for in the next week.

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