FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Dustin Fry coaches Arkansas’ offensive line and it’s a unit that has generally played much better this season.
Fry met with the media on Wednesday and talked about the offensive line to this point particularly coming off the showing against Texas A&M this past Saturday.
“We did a really good job,” Fry said. “Obviously kept the quarterback upright more. That was very disappointing the way we got the quarterback hit against San Jose. We take a lot of pride in that. Our sack total is really low this year. We’ve got to keep those hits off of them though. We’ve only given up five as a unit this year…seven total, But when that guys getting hit that’s an issue. That’s something we take personal.
“So we really went into last week working a lot of twist, lot of movement working back to fundamentals and sets and hands. I think it really paid off. They take a lot of pride in that.”
Fry talked about the hits on Nick Starkel and Ben Hicks against the Aggies.
“I think we only allowed three hits on the quarterback last week,” Fry said. “To be honest with you I took two of those hits as a coach. It was a look they hadn’t shown, I hadn’t seen it. I said, ‘Guys that’s on me not on you.’ Total we probably got the quarterback hit maybe once or twice last week that was just on us as a unit. The pride in that room to keep him clean. They know when our quarterbacks have time they can do a pretty good job.
“They were pretty upset. It wasn’t something I had to come in after San Jose and just light the room up. They were pissed at themselves. We hunkered down in that room and said as the offense goes we go. If the O-line is playing well the offense is gonna do well the team is gonna do well. They take a lot of pride in that.”
One area where the Razorbacks including the offensive line is continuing to work to improve is in the red zone.
“Obviously on paper it’s not what we want,” Fry said. “We don’t want field goals. We want to make sure we score. It’s not for lack of study or lack of scheme. We’re just not executing down there. It’s always something whether it’s either we miss something or somebody else misses something, we drop something or someone throws a pick. We’re just not firing down there and sometimes we do and just don’t get it done.
“That’s definitely something we take a lot of pride in is our red zone scoring. It hasn’t been what we wanted. It’s something we study a lot and scheme it up every week. We know we’ve got to be better down there and we know we’ve got to have scores down there. We can’t throw picks. Obviously we can’t give up hits on the quarterback. Can’t get pressure down there and we’ve just got to be better as coaches and players when we get in the red zone. We’ve got to smell it and make sure we get in the end zone.”
Will practice time possibly help with that this week?
“Absolutely,” Fry said. “It’s one of those things where we sit there and look, these plays we’ve schemed it up in the red zone before and they worked. We’ve been 90-percent in the red zone before in the past at Clemson and different things. So we know these plays work. We’ve just got to execute and we’ve got to make sure I’m coaching them right and we’ve all got to just make sure we get it done.”
Junior center Ty Clary has been one of the key players on Arkansas’ offensive line. He is out this week while in concussion protocol. Fry was asked if he’s condident he will have him against Kentucky on Oct. 12?
“I am,” Fry said. “I don’t expect him to miss. He’s one of those guys that he doesn’t expect to miss, either. I wasn’t mad at him because he was in a yellow jersey this week. He’s taken every rep with the ones since camp started. And that’s a lot of pounding, a lot of beating. So for him to get a little bit of time off, as much as we need practice, he’s had plenty of reps to where I’m not worried. I was able to get Shane some good reps this week.”
Senior left tackle Colton Jackson is another key member of the line. He has battled some various injuries this season. Fry said he’s being smart in practice with how he uses Jackson.
“Very careful with that,” Fry said. “He’s a veteran. He helps Ty a lot, too, out there. He sees a lot. He understands the pressure plan. So he’s a guy that’s very valuable for me to have on the field on Saturdays. We kind of treat him a little bit like a pro. He does a great job in the meeting room taking notes and understanding what we’re doing.
“He’s a guy we know we’re going to usually get those Tuesday, Wednesday practices. We know he may be out on Sunday and we’ll get him going from there. He’s a high mileage guy, and he doesn’t do us any good when he can’t play. So we’re going take care of him a little bit.”
Myron Cunningham didn’t see any action against Texas A&M. He has experience playing both guard and tackle spots this season. Fry was asked why Cunningham didn’t play against the Aggies?
“That was more just coming off the San Jose State week he was disappointed how he played,” Fry said. “I was disappointed how he played. It was one of those games where the plan was to spell Colton. Colton is kinda a hard head a little bit, ‘I’m not coming out. I’m not coming out.’ When a senior says he doesn’t want to come out I’m not gonna take him out. A guy that knows the offense. He knows what we’re trying to do. I’m not gonna take him out of the game.
“I thought it was too close. Not that I don’t have confidence in Myron. Myron is gonna play a lot this coming week. It was more just kinda the roll and how we were feeling. It was just that I’m rolling with the guys I’ve got. He was definitely my sixth guy if anyone was gonna come in.”
So it was nothing Cunningham did?
“No, nothing he did,” Fry said. “Still again, I have a lot of confidence in him. It was just that type of game. I wasn’t happy with his performance against San Jose State and neither was he. But it wasn’t anything where I go, ‘Oh God this guy can’t play against A&M.’ The plan was to play him. We just got going and I wanted to stick with what I had.”
Arkansas will practice again Thursday before the players get Friday and Saturday off.