FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt freshman running back Dominique Johnson is making the most of his opportunities this season.
In preseason, Johnson wasn’t necessarily one of the running backs the coaches had in mind to get several carries. He was even looked at as a tight for a day or two. But now after seven games, Johnson is fourth on the team with 33 carries for 218 yards and four touchdowns and three receptions for 27 yards. His 6.6 yards per carry leads the team of anyone who has over one run. Johnson knew he could do what he’s doing though.
“Oh yes sir, I knew I can do everything that I’m doing now,” Johnson said. “I come to practice and I work hard like everyone else. I put my head down. I don’t say anything. I come to work. I really love playing football. I love being physical. I know that’s me. I’m a bigger back obviously I know I can pound the ball, but if you give me a crease I can run really well. I just do the best I can with the carries I get.”
So far Johnson has had to share carries with Trelon Smith, AJ Green and Rocket Sanders. Sam Pittman was asked if he still expects to use four running backs each game moving forward?
“You know, the only disappointing thing to me that we’re where we are is I don’t think we’re getting Dominique Johnson the ball enough,” Pittman said. “Every time he seems to run the football, good things happen. To me, he probably has to double his load, what we’ve been giving him, because he’s proven that he’s a really good player. With that said, someone’s going to lose carries and that’s fine. When you give reps, you give them so you can see what the kids are able to do and when you’re in Game 7, you’ve probably seen it. Now there needs to be a little bit more of an order of, ‘This guy gets this many carries, this one gets this, that.’ Before, it was kind of that way, but you’re dividing them by four. I think the division’s got to come maybe a little closer to three, 2.5.”
Johnson said Tuesday he was unaware of Pittman saying that on Monday.
“I mean they don’t talk to me about the carries,” Johnson said. “We don’t really discuss the carries, but I’m not upset with the amount of carries I’m getting right now. I mean everybody is doing their job with the amount of carries they are getting. You see Deuce get the ball. He’s a blaze. You see Rocket the ball. He gets in there and pounds the ball. I get in there and pound the ball. It’s just different styles of running that we can all have. It’s just hard for another team to stop the running style we have that we bring to the field every game.”
Speaking of tight end, what did it take for you to do to get moved back to running back?
“When I went to tight end, I was still at running back, so I was splitting reps with both the tight end group and running back group,” Johnson said. “So when they moved me to tight end, I would go there and I would go full speed and then I’d get moved back to running back for a couple plays and I basically made the most of my running back plays. Go as hard as I can to show them I’m still the running back that they recruited.”
Against Ole Miss, Johnson had a bone-crushing block. He reflected back on that Tuesday evening.
“Okay, so actually the first time, we had a running play a couple of plays before that play, and I had actually overran the man, so I didn’t see him the first time,” Johnson said. “So, I was running to the sideline and then Malik Hornsby was like, ‘Slow down next time. You overran the man.’ So I was like, ‘Okay.’ Then we ran the play again a couple plays later, and I had seen him right there. Then, in practice I just love practicing near foot near shoulder because I’m pretty good at… I crack people at practice.
“So when I got my opportunity in a game, I just made the most of it. I made the block, and it made me happy to see I could make that block for KJ (Jefferson). Yeah, I was probably the talk of practice for about a week for that block. Everybody was talking me up about it. The whole team gets excited when I make blocks like that. They all want to see it. It makes me want to make more blocks like that.”
Arkansas and UAPB will kickoff at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Little Rock. The game will be televised on SEC Network for anyone who can’t attend.