Arkansas football positional previews: Will running backs bounce back in 2024?

With just 11 weekends left until Arkansas football kicks off again, the Razorbacks are preparing for the 2024 season opener against UAPB in Little Rock on Thursday, August 29, at 6:30 p.m. (ESPNU).

Coming off a disappointing 4-8 season, Arkansas saw offensive coordinator Dan Enos dismissed midseason, alongside the departures of key players KJ Jefferson and Raheim ‘Rocket’ Sanders, who were central to the program.

In response, the Hogs have hired Bobby Petrino and aggressively pursued talent through the transfer portal, bringing in numerous new players for what is shaping up to be a crucial season for head coach Sam Pittman.

Over the next month, the Southwest Times Record will feature bi-weekly positional previews, each addressing two questions and offering one bold prediction. We previously discussed the quarterback position.

Now, let’s look at the running backs for 2024.

**Is there a clear starter at running back for Arkansas football?**

Ja’Quinden Jackson and Rashod Dubinion are frontrunners for the starting role. Both ran with the first team during the spring game, with Jackson taking most carries and scoring twice. Jackson, who ran for 797 yards with an ankle injury last year at Utah, also showed promise as a receiver and pass blocker in the spring. Dubinion, entering his third year, topped the team in all-purpose yards last season and had notable plays, including a critical touchdown reception against Alabama.

Jackson is currently the projected starter, but Dubinion will keep the competition intense throughout camp.

**How long until Braylen Russell makes an impact?**

The freshman, a top recruit, impressed coaches immediately with his strength and agility. Russell’s physicality and receiving skills were evident this spring, and he is expected to become a significant offensive contributor early in the season, similar to how Luke Hasz was utilized last year.

**One bold prediction: Hogs to increase rushing output by 1,000 yards.**

In 2023, Arkansas rushed for 1,668 yards. The team aims to approach their 2022 total of 3,075 yards, aided by a revamped offensive line, a new coordinator, and better injury luck. Rodney Hill, a transfer from FSU, adds depth behind the top three backs.

Under Petrino, the offense will focus on explosive passing plays, but Pittman’s strategy will still emphasize a strong ground game. Expect Arkansas to exceed 2,675 rushing yards, potentially ranking 22nd in the country.

**What the coaches said this spring:**

Offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino highlighted the competition in the running back room, noting Jackson and Dubinion as the primary contenders for the starting spot. He praised Braylen Russell’s physicality and receiving skills but mentioned his adjustment to the playbook. “He’s got a chance to be special,” Petrino said of Russell.