FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman was obviously pleased when running back Rakeem Boyd opted to return to the University of Arkansas for his senior season.
Boyd explored entering the 2020 NFL Draft following a junior season that saw him rush 184 times for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns. He also caught 19 passes for 160 yards. Pittman, who is set to coach his first season as head coach at Arkansas, is pleased Boyd opted to return.
“When you have those discussions with kids that are debating whether to leave or not the number one thing you have to find out is their NFL Eval,” Pittman said. “You have to find out what their worth is in the National Football League. We had a conversation about that and at that point you have to let them know how much you would like to have them back.
“Just like at Georgia you had the conversation with Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson. Their Eval came back first round. What do you say? Bye. I mean there’s not a whole lot you can sit there and say when a guy is gonna sign 28 million guaranteed and 6.5-7 million guaranteed.”
While Thomas and Wilson were both first-round picks from Pittman’s offensive line at Georgia, the truth is not everyone gets those type evaluations.
“But there’s so many others that aren’t in that particular position, so we talk to them about it,” Pittman said. “We found out about things he needs to work on and improve for his value to go up, because if his value is not going to go up, he should have went out. So we basically talked about how we can help him increase his value.
“I don’t ever believe that he really wanted to leave the football program. I think he was wondering, ‘What is my status at this time if I leave?’ I think that certainly him coming back, he had a great offseason. He’s going to help our football team, obviously. I believe we can help him as well in getting upgraded in the draft.”
What are some of the things Boyd can do to help his NFL stock?
“Well, he has to continue to catch the football better,” Pittman said. “I think that’s one of the things that came back on his evaluation, and we’re going to give him opportunities to pass protect a little bit more and become a more physical pass protector.
“Obviously he has great running skills and things of that nature, but those are two things that we talked to him about that he has to improve his game to certainly move up the draft board. To be honest with you, that is one of our jobs. One of our jobs is to get our players drafted as high as they possibly can, and we’re going to go to work for it.”
Boyd came to Arkansas from Independence (Kan.) Community College prior to the 2018 season. He rushed 123 times for 734 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore that fall. He also caught 23 passes for 165 yards.
Boyd started his college career at Texas A&M where he redshirted before heading to junior college. In his one season at Independence, Boyd rushed for 1,211 yards and 14 touchdowns. At Stratford (Texas) High School in Houston, Boyd rushed for 6,436 yards and 80 touchdowns.