Battle Going on at Backup Running Back Spot

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Photo Courtesy: University of Arkansas Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — Trelon Smith is Arkansas’ starting running back, but finding a No. 2 involves a battle that is still going on.

Jimmy Smith coaches the running backs and said following Monday’s practice the battle is still going on for that spot.

“Right now, we have three or four guys fighting for it,” Smith said. “All of them bring different things between Rocket (Sanders) and AJ (Green), Josh (Oglesby) is doing a great job, Dominique (Johnson) has a role. All the guys are doing a great job. We’re going to continue through this fall camp, and we’re going to find a 2 and a 3.”

Green and Sanders are true freshmen, Johnson a sophomore and Oglesby a redshirt junior. Sam Pittman talked about the importance of finding a No. 2 running back and why Green was in the back of line in some drills.

“I think when you’re young, you might believe that your place in line is last,” Pittman said. “That’s probably, knowing AJ, a respect thing to the older guys out there. I don’t anticipate him being the last running back we have. He did some nice things. I’m very excited about his knowledge. He’s a smart kid, he learns fast.

“Rocket, it was nice to have him back at full speed. He had that high ankle injury in spring ball, and he toughed through it. I don’t think we really got to see the true him. He’s 225 pounds and I think we’ve got something there. We’ll have to find out, but I think the biggest thing is we’re trying to find a 2, first, a 2 and 3. Then we’ll let them go sick ’em. Trelon Smith, he’ll be a hard guy to beat out and that’s okay because he’s such a hard player.”

Smith elaborated on what he’s looking for in the No. 2 running back.

“Just somebody who can do everything,” Smith said. “Somebody who can catch the ball out of the backfield, protect and run inside and outside. I’ve got role players. We have role players. I want a guy who can do everything.”

Green is from Tulsa (Okla.) Union and Sanders attended high school at Rockledge (Fla.).

“Honestly, they’re two guys that do very well, but they’re totally different,” Smith said. “Rocket is a guy who when he was in high school, they pretty much just gave him the ball and he made plays. He’s great with the ball in his hands, but he needs to understand all the ins and outs of being a running back. He played receiver so much. He’s a sponge. He’s learning. But he has a little more learning to do. AJ, I think he played running back for a long time, so he understands it so it makes a little more sense to him when you give it to him. He’s got a calmness about himself for being a freshman. You’ll find that he’s just always calm. Nothing rattles him. For three days, I haven’t seen him rattled by any situation. He just keeps playing and keeps it going. That’s a big deal.”

TJ Hammonds is actually the running back with the most yards from last season outside of Smith. He carried 14 times for 101 yards and caught three passes for 63 yards. Hammonds has spent time at both running back and wide receiver at Arkansas.

“Little bit of both,” Smith said. “He’s been spending time with both. He’s doing a good job. TJ is going to be a guy that can play both. I think as a running back he learns a lot quicker. It’s a little easier for him. So, we have him doing a little more receiver stuff this week. Trying to save some legs for some of these guys, doing some stuff with other guys. Trying to get a good rotation receiver wise. Running back wise we have a good rotation. He’s helping us out in both spots right now.”

Smith also talked about how he ended up with Oglesby at running back since when the staff arrived at Arkansas Oglesby was strictly a track athlete.

“We had a kid, Xavier Kelly, he came up and his dad knew Josh’s dad,” Smith said. “And he started talking about him. And I said we’d like to get to know him a little better if he’s already on campus and he can run a 10.3.

“And I glanced at his film. And when you say a track guy from the beginning, you’re thinking of a guy who can run fast and I watched his film and he was running into people. He wasn’t scared. He was a tough guy. I couldn’t see his exact size but I knew he was tough. He wasn’t big. But once I saw him and we got him out there I could tell he’d be a good football player.”

Oglesby also talked about the story of how he ended up on the football team.

“It was definitely something that was already in my mind,” Oglesby said. “Football was always my first love, so when I was over on the track team, I already had it in my mind that I wanted to come over to football. 

“My dad knowing Xavier Kelly’s dad helped out. Gave me a little extra edge, you know what I’m saying. So my dad was able to go with him and meet with the coaches and everything and my dad was able to talk to the coaches that way. And the rest is history.”

How difficult is it to be a two-sport athlete?

“It’s not easy, but it’s something I wanted to take on,” Oglesby said. “I knew it was something not a lot of guys can do, and I felt like it would give me an advantage on the football field. So I embraced it. It was something that was hard, but it helped me in the end, and it helped me on the football field.”

Being on the Razorbacks track team where it’s not unusual to win championships is something Oglesby feels helps him even in football.

“Definitely, just as far as the mindset, I’m used to winning here,” Oglesby said. “That’s something we’re bringing back here on the football side. My mentality is, we want to win, and on the track, that’s what we do. We win. So that’s the same thing we want to do on the football field. I’m just bringing that same mentality over.”

Arkansas will return to the practice fields today for the fifth preseason practice. Arkansas will take Wednesday off and then put the pads on Thursday.

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