By Otis Kirk
Junior Chase Hayden was slated to get a lot of reps this spring, but with injuries to other running backs he’s getting even more.
Arkansas entered the spring with four scholarship running backs. Junior Rakeem Boyd was ruled out prior to the beginning due to a shoulder issue. Since then senior Devwah Whaley and sophomore Jordon Curtis have been injured. That has left Hayden to get a lot of reps.
The Hogs held their final practice prior to spring break on Wednesday and once again Hayden got extensive work.
“Yeah, I was the only scholarship one out there today,” Hayden said. “Yeah, just an opportunity to get better.”
This is probably a lot more reps than you ever dreamed of getting in one spring?
“Yeah, pretty much,” Hayden said. “It’s a chance to get better.”
Are you worn down?
“Not really,” Hayden said. “Everybody’s worn down right now.”
Arkansas is off until a team meeting on Sunday, March 24. The spring break comes at a good time after seven practices?
“Yeah, I think it’s a good time,” Hayden said. “A lot of people are dinged up a little bit.”
Have you had to make any adjustments due to the lack of other running backs?
“There’s not an adjustment really,” Hayden said. “You just have got to step up and keep working hard and try to get better with the amount of reps.”
There was a lot of high expectations for Hayden last season, but an injury prevented it from ever materializing.
“Not really what I expected,” Hayden said. “Coming back frown an injury it’s a lot to go through, especially a lower leg injury. Probably this spring last Saturday is first time I’ve felt fully healthy for awhile. I had a hamstring at the beginning of the year last year so I’m just trying to get healthy. I’m feeling better now.”
How long did the hamstring bother you?
“Probably the first couple of weeks,” Hayden said.
Curtis moved over from cornerback at the beginning of spring. How has he looked when he’s healthy?
“He adds another body and he did pretty good,” Morris said. “Especially for not playing running back I guess for two years. He came out there and competed hard.”
With so many new players have you helped by becoming a leader?
“I’m more of a lead by example type of guy,” Hayden said. “I’m not really too vocal. I just have been trying to do the same things everybody else.”
Also, what are your impression of Ben Hicks?
“Ben has been doing good,” Hayden said. “He pretty much knows the offense and its in and outs. So it hasn’t been really any different.”
Hicks is one of 11 new players who came in at midterm. Wide receiver Trey Knox has also made a strong impression.
“Trey has been doing really well out there,” Hayden said. “He competes. He’s a competitive kid and competes really hard out then.”
While running back has seen its depth tested, so has linebacker on defense.
“Yeah I guess they are pretty down in numbers, too,” Hayden said. “Especially losing Scoota (Harris).”
The second half of Wednesday’s practice was a closed scrimmage. It seems the offense struggled is that true?
“They sent a lot of blitzes today,” Hayden said. “We didn’t get a lot going today. They sent a lot of blitzes we weren’t really prepared for.
“We just didn’t get going today. That’s just something we have to get better when we come back from break. There were a couple of fumbles by our newer guys.”
Chad Morris has praised your pass blocking this spring.
“I didn’t hear that,” Hayden said. “That’s good then.”
Arkansas will have eight practices remaining following spring break. Hayden talked about the advantages of breaking spring ball in half before and after spring break.
“A lot of people are dinged up right now,” Hayden said. “So just taking care of your body over break and coming back in shape.”
Obviously the offense wishes they could have had a better practice before the break?
“Yeah, that’s pretty frustrating but we’ll just keep it in the back of our head and come out and compete when we get back from break,” Hayden said.