FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt freshman running back Dominique Johnson will get the start against Mississippi State on Saturday.
Johnson is fourth in rushing on the team. He has carried 39 times for 309 yards and four touchdowns. His 7.9 yards per carry leads all the running backs on the team. Sam Pittman feels he has earned more touches.
“He has and he’s doing fine,” Pittman said. “You know the bottom line is whoever you run out there with the first group, those guys are supposed to be your best players at the time they’re running out there. And certainly think Dominque has earned that right. And Trelon Smith’s doing well. He’ll still play a lot of ball. But we certainly think Dominique has earned that right to be the first guy to run out there.”
Pittman thought Johnson would get more carries than he did against UAPB, but feels that issue has been resolved. He had six carries for 91 yards against UAPB.
“He needs more carries,” Pittman said. “He needs more carries, that’s how it is. If that’s starting him to get more carries then that’s what we’re going to do. He’s got to get more carries. He’s a guy that’s running over people, making people miss, and he needs to get more carries. Whatever that is, he needs a lot more carries. I thought we had that figured out, but we didn’t. I’m positive we’ve got it figured out.”
Pittman said after the 45-3 win over UAPB he was surprised at halftime to find out how little Johnson had been used.
“The thing is, you’ve got to look at the game, obviously in the second half we want to get him more carries,” Pittman said. “I’ve said that before. Obviously he deserves more carries. When we went in at halftime, I was surprised that he only had four carries, because that had been a topic of discussion this morning. But in the second half, I didn’t want to put him out there much. I think he carried it twice in the second half and I told them, I said ‘get him out.’ He has turned into, in my opinion, if not our 1 back, at least our 2 back. He certainly, when we hand the football to him, he makes yards. We’ve got to get him the ball more. I don’t know, today he might have carried it 2-3 more times. I don’t know that he would have gotten 12 or 15, with the way the game was going, more than 10 carries max. I believe he ended up with 6-7, I’m not positive.”
Pittman was asked if there’s a magic number of carries he would like to see Johnson get each game?
“Yeah, you know depending on how things are going … he’s a big back,” Pittman said. “The guy that can wear you down. I think that 15 range is probably about right knowing we have still three other backs. But he’s earned the right to start for us and we anticipate him having another good game even though we know how talented and how good Mississippi State has done against the run. But he’s a big back that’s proven himself. He’s earned it and that’s what we need to do with him. I think that number 15 is probably closer to a minimum than maximum would be a good start for him.”
Arkansas and Mississippi State will kickoff at 3 p.m. on Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.