Hogs Have No Shortage of Running Backs

FAYETTEVILLE — The seven running backs lined up, and one by one, they took a handoff, sprinted downfield and then got back in line.

It was apparent from the moment Arkansas opened its first preseason practice Thursday its backfield is significantly more crowded than this time a year ago.

Starting running back Michael Smith had to wait his turn during individual drills, and there will be even less reps to go around when senior Brandon Barnett and freshman Knile Davis join the mix.

"It was a little different (with so many running backs) because you're trying to get them all reps and there's only so many plays," Arkansas running backs coach Tim Horton said. "So it makes every rep you got important, and again that's without Knile being here and without Brandon being healthy.

"(But) it beats the alternative, I know that."

Davis missed Thursday's first practice and isn't expected to return until Saturday because of a death in his family. Barnett, meanwhile, was forced to sit out because his rehabilitation from a broken leg suffered in the spring is taking longer than Arkansas coaches had hoped.

Still, there was no shortage of running backs during the Razorback's two-hour practice.

While Smith took the first snap during team drills, freshman Ronnie Wingo Jr. made his much anticipated debut in an Arkansas uniform. Sophomore Broderick Green was able to run knowing that the NCAA has finally cleared him to play this season.

And fellow sophomores Dennis Johnson, De'Anthony Curtis and Adrian Moore tried to show that they deserve playing time as well.

"You have two sides to (having this many running backs). It's better in terms of you can get a breather, so every play that you are in, you can make sure you're going 100 percent (and) you're going fast," said Smith, who rushed for 1,072 yards and eight touchdowns in his first season as the starter in 2008.

"And then on the flip side of that, you have more competition. So if you don't get in and execute and make something happen when you're in, then the next guy will and you can lose a spot."

Green said going through a practice as just one of many running backs is nothing new.

During his two seasons at Southern California — before he transferred to Arkansas in the spring — the Trojans had more Parade All-American running backs than they knew what to do with. As talented as he is, Green often got lost in the shuffle.

"I got used it," Green said of being part of a crowded backfield at USC. "I mean, it was like that every year. It's all about competition no matter where you are."

Of course, Green had reason to smile Thursday. It was his first practice since he learned last week that the NCAA won't require him to sit out a year because of his transfer to Arkansas.

"It feels good just to have that off my back, and now I can just focus on football and be ready to go," Green said.

Horton said that with so many tailbacks, Arkansas' coaches have scripted which player will go in on a certain play.

"We got to get Michael Smith a certain number of reps because obviously right now he's the starter and he needs to get those reps," Horton said. "But at the same time, you want to get Ronnie Wingo some reps because he's new to the system and the only way he's going to learn it is to do it."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories