FAYETTEVILLE — Jimmy Smith has three true freshmen he’s working with at running back with a chance one or two of them could make an immediate impact this fall.
Arkansas AJ Green, 5-11, 200, from Tulsa (Okla.) Union, Raheim (Rocket) Sanders, 6-2, 225, from Rockledge (Fla.) and Javion Hunt, 6-0, 205, from OKlahoma City (Okla.) Carl Albert as freshmen running backs. As a senior, Green rushed for 1,325 yards and 19 touchdowns. Hunt rushed for 771 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2020. Sanders was recruited as an athlete who could play running back, wide receiver or even safety. As a senior, Sanders rushed for 317 yards and four touchdowns while catching 24 passes for 391 yards and four touchdowns.
At this time Green and Sanders are the two with probably the best chance of contributing this fall. Smith talked about both.
“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.”
Trelon Smith was asked Monday which running backs were looking good behind him. He mentioned two freshmen and some others.
All of them” have been working hard,” Trelon said. “Rocket, Javion, J.O. (Oglesby) himself, T.J. Hammonds. They all have been working hard We got a good room. We got a good running back room this year so just taking it day by day. Getting better day by day and just working.”
Trelon then went into detail specifically about the trio of freshmen.
“I’ll start with Rocket,” Trelon said. “Quick learner. I feel like Rocket is a quick learner. Big guy, very strong, fast. I really believe Rocket will have a great future here once it’s his time. As far as AJ Green, he’s coming along real quick. He’s been here the least amount of time, and he’s picking up on the offensive plays very well. He’s learning the stuff real quickly. He’s getting the hang of things. That surprised me a lot, because with most guys coming in, it takes them some time. But he’s picking things up real quickly, and I like that about him.
“Javion Hunt, oh man, he keeps his nose down. He just works. He doesn’t really say much. He’s really a quiet guy. But he’s just going to work and try to prove what he can do on the field. He’s going be a real good back as well. When his number is called, I feel like Javion will be ready to step up to the plate and perform. All three of them, overall, I’d say man, these guys are going to be some great football players. I believe that.”
Trelon added some more thoughts on Green.
“I feel like it is rare for a young guy (to be this calm),” Trelon said. “Just to see it coming out of AJ Green, man, that’ll let you know that this Arkansas team has a great future ahead of them with Rocket and Javion as well. Since AJ Green came in, he’s just worked and worked hard. He’s been picking up on plays very well and I feel like he’s getting a handle on things very quickly and I’m surprised about that. I actually like that about AJ Green, that he comes in and works. He knows what he’s here for and he knows what he wants to do. If he can play this year, that’s what he’s going to try to do. AJ Green has been busting his tail on and off the field every day.”
Josh Oglesby also offered up his thoughts on the trio of freshmen running backs.
“From my perspective, all three are workhorses,” Oglesby said. “They work hard and a lot of freshmen don’t come in with that mentality. In the running back room, we’re a hard-nosed room and all those guys work hard. AJ is kind of similar to me, a fast guy, quick guy, makes quick cuts. He sees the hole very well. Rocket sees the hole very well, made great cuts. Javion, also. They all bring different things to the table and they’re all doing what they need to do and they’re coming along very well.”
Arkansas will hold its fifth preseason practice this afternoon.