FAYETTEVILLE — Senior left tackle Myron Cunningham is by far the oldest starter on Arkansas’ offensive line.
Cunningham is joined on the offensive line by a redshirt sophomore, a true sophomore and two redshirt freshmen. He helped Arkansas defeat Mississippi State this past Saturday night.
“The win was special,” Cunningham said. “After so long of not having an SEC win, just to get our first SEC win under the belt for the season, it was special to us and it meant a lot.”
Arkansas’ running game hasn’t taken off though in two games. Against Georgia, the Hogs rushed 28 times for 77 yards. Then this past Saturday Arkansas had 37 attempts for 63 yards. Arkansas still hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown.
“We’re just shooting ourselves in the foot sometimes,” Cunningham said. “We just have to clean up the mental errors and when we do that, I think everything will start clicking and we’ll be a good run offense.”
Cunningham was asked to compare the two defensive lines Arkansas has faced thus far and also the preparation for Auburn.
“Out of Georgia and Mississippi State, I would say that Georgia, they twisted and moved a lot, but compared to Mississippi State, I would say Mississippi State, they moved almost every play on us, whether it was blitzing, line movement or whatever,” Cunningham said. “From what we’ve seen from Auburn on film this week, it doesn’t look like they move a lot or stunt. It’s just a pretty plain defense. They’re going to bring their guys and they think they’re better than us.”
One of the first things Sam Pittman did when hired was ask the offensive linemen to get bigger. Cunningham and center Ricky Stromberg were two of the main ones Pittman pointed to. So, after two games, how has playing with the additional weight been?
“I feel a big difference,” Cunningham said. “I don’t know, it just helps in the run so much when you have that extra little bit of weight to push defenders out of the way. It helps in pass pro, especially when you have the bigger guys on the edge when they try to bull rush you. It’s definitely been an improvement.”
The Arkansas guards are both redshirt freshmen. Beaux Limmer at right guard and Brady Latham on the left side. Cunningham has been impressed by both.
“Well, after the first two games, they’re improving a lot,” Cunningham said. “They’re young, but they’re willing to fight every play and strain like Coach Pittman tells us. You can’t ask for much more.”
One thing about playing in Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville is teams know they will have to compete with the cowbells in the stands. Saturday night was no different.
“For the noise factor, the cowbells, they were loud,” Cunningham said. “But we didn’t really change our cadence much. We were going the clap or our regular cadence sometimes. The noise really didn’t affect us when we were out there. For Auburn, it’s just another SEC game. There’s gonna be crowds. Almost every crowd is going to be loud. It’s just another SEC game.”
Auburn has dominated the series against Arkansas in recent seasons. The Razorbacks won in 2015, but Gus Malzahn and the Tigers have won most others in recent years. Cunningham said the Hogs are intent on turning that around.
“Just to change the narrative of this program,” Cunningham said. “If we want to keep winning, we have to work to strain every day and fight every day at practice in order to change that narrative of a losing team. I think we can do that. We just have to keep coming out to practice every day fighting and straining and working to get better.”
In addition to just the incentive to win another game, Arkansas will also be facing the coach who recruited many of the current players. Former head coach Chad Morris is the offensive coordinator at Auburn.
“We’re not really focused on that right now,” Cunningham said. “We’re just coming out to practice every day trying to get better and focusing on beating Auburn this weekend.”
Cunningham and the Hogs are practicing this week preparing to play in a possible heavy downpour at Auburn.
“It’s always fun to play in the rain, get a little messy,” Cunningham said. “I think it’ll be good for us. Especially if it starts raining. In practice we’ve been running a lot of wet ball stuff, but obviously if it’s raining you’d like to run the ball a little more. So, it will give us a chance to prove we can run the ball.”
Another senior on the Razorbacks who has impressed Cunningham is wide receiver De’Vion Warren. Used mostly as just a kick returner in the past, Kendal Briles and Justin Stepp have inserted Warren into the plan at wide receiver. He has responded with five receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown. He had four catches for 100 yards and a touchdown in Saturday night’s victory.
“He’s just locked in,” Cunningham said. “He’s a guy that just comes to practice every day, no matter the circumstances, and just works his butt off. As a senior, that’s what you want your young guys to look up to. Just someone that fights, strains to the last little bit, and that helped us this last weekend to get the win.”
Arkansas and Auburn will kickoff at 3 p.m. Saturday with the game televised on the SEC Network.