Ready for takeoff: Rocket entering portal

Arkansas running back Raheim "Rocket" Sanders (5) takes the field at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville in this Sept, 16, 2023 file photo.
Arkansas running back Raheim "Rocket" Sanders (5) takes the field at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville in this Sept, 16, 2023 file photo.

FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas tailback Raheim “Rocket” Sanders intends to enter the NCAA transfer portal.

Sanders did not announce the news himself but he posted a breaking story from On3 Sports saying he planned to enter the portal on his Instagram account Tuesday night.

Though the news was not a complete surprise following a disappointing season that began with a knee injury in the season-opener, it is still a blow for the Razorbacks after Sanders broke onto the national scene and earned All-SEC honors after a 1,443-yard rushing season in 2022.

Sanders, a 6-2, 242-pound junior from Rockledge, Fla., rushed for 209 yards and 2 touchdowns in 6 games this season and averaged 3.4 yards per carry. Both of his touchdowns came in the season-opener against Western Carolina, when he ran for 42 yards on 15 carries but suffered a knee injury that kept him out of the next three games.

Sanders played in consecutive games against Texas A&M and Ole Miss midway through the season, but he lacked explosion and running room and managed 49 yards on 19 carries in those games. After rehabbing through two more games and an open date, Sanders returned to notch his best game of the season.

Playing in his home state, Sanders ran for 103 yards on 18 carries to help the Razorbacks win at Florida for the first time in school history with a 39-36 overtime triumph.

Sanders set up the game-winning walk-off touchdown in overtime with a tackle-breaking 11-yard run to the Gators’ 4. He briefly recaptured the form that led to 10 touchdowns and seven 100-yard games during his sophomore season.

Sanders is the second Arkansas tailback to announce for the portal, following junior AJ Green. Position coach Jimmy Smith had been praised by Coach Sam Pittman for largely keeping the running back room together through his first three seasons on the staff. Trelon Smith, Little Rock Parkview’s James Jointer and Javion Hunt are believed to be the only scholarship tailbacks to leave the program previously under Smith.

Sanders ranks fourth on the UA single-season rushing list, his 1,443 yards trailing only two seasons from Darren McFadden (1,830 in 2007 and 1,647 in 2006) and one from the late Alex Collins (1,577 in 2015).

His seven 100-yard games in 2022 tied for the third-most in a season at Arkansas.

Sanders signed with Arkansas as a receiver and skill player but converted to running back as a freshman and became one of four Razorbacks to rush for 500 yards in 2021 along with Dominique Johnson, Smith and quarterback KJ Jefferson.


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