FAYETTEVILLE -- On Sept. 9, Chase Hayden joined an unofficial club, adding to the ranks of illustrious former Arkansas Razorbacks as Madre Hill, Cedric Cobbs, Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Jonathan Williams and Rawleigh Williams among others.
All arrived at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, as superbly gifted freshman running backs better equipped to run the ball every down they could than play every down.
When running backs are not adept at what they are supposed to do without the ball, the quarterback could suffer, whether from a key missed block, fake not executed properly or pass route not run as prescribed.
So after debuting Aug. 31 with a game-high 120 yards on 14 carries in Arkansas' 49-7 season-opening rout of outmanned Florida A&M, freshman flash Hayden only carried twice in the first quarter against the No. 15-ranked TCU Horned Frogs on Sept. 9.
Hayden netted just a yard. He was swarmed trying to bounce outside against the quick Horned Frogs after accelerating around and through FAMU.
On Hayden's runs of 2 and minus-1 yards, it was wondered if he would be summoned to return to a game that remained close until the final 2:18.
Against that TCU defense, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, offensive coordinator Dan Enos and running backs coach Reggie Mitchell apparently concurred on some level that going with sophomore Devwah Whaley and senior transfer David Williams was Arkansas' best chance.
Regrets, of course, spewed assessing that the Arkansas back all three coaches called their best at "making something out of nothing" didn't get to do anything beyond two totes.
"Obviously Chase Hayden is a guy we feel really, really good about," Bielema said. "Did not like the fact that he only got the two opportunities. So that takes an assessment as well."
That assessment was already assessed.
"I had a conversation with Coach Mitchell," Bielema said. "I get it they were bringing some pressure and we want to protect the quarterbacks and as a young player that's an area that you've got to gain the most. We've just got to get him better at those things because I think he gives us a really good opportunity when he's got the ball in his hands."
Hayden does provide that opportunity and proved it against Arkansas' first-team defense in preseason scrimmages. He will get more carries Saturday, Bielema and Enos promised.
However, go back to that FAMU game. Sure, Hayden ran up stats. But it was Whaley who saved quarterback Austin Allen's hide by picking up a blitz, allowing Allen to time to find Deon Stewart for a touchdown.
The two weeks of practices between that TCU game and Saturday's SEC opener against Texas A&M might prove more important to Chase Hayden than any other Razorback.
"The more he practices and the more reps he gets the more comfortable we are with him," Enos said.
Sports on 09/20/2017
Print Headline: Hayden's talent does not bypass learning curve