FAYETTEVILLE — In 2022, Sam Pittman and Cody Kennedy plugged Luke Jones into left tackle to replace Myron Cunningham and the starting unit was set on the offensive line.
But gone are Jones, center Ricky Stromberg and right tackle Dalton Wagner. That leaves right guard Beaux Limmer and left guard Brady Latham returning as starters. Neither may play the position they played in 2022 though.
Limmer moved to center to replace Stromberg who opted out of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl to prepare for the 2023 NFL Draft. He will be the center this season. Latham could play either his familiar left guard or move out to tackle on that side of the ball. Either way, he will start and where he plays may depend on who the coaches feel are the next three best players.
Ty’Kieast Crawford, who was backing up Wagner at right tackle during the season, started the bowl game at right guard when Limmer flipped over to center. However, on the first series Crawford was injured. True freshman E’Marion Harris replaced him and played well. Both are back and the question remains if Crawford will be a guard or tackle.
“I think that’s the beauty of spring, trying to find out your five pieces,” Pittman said. “Is he going to start for us, things of that nature, where they go. Obviously if he was the sixth or seventh man, could he play two (positions)? Is he the sixth, seventh man on the right? That’s the exciting thing about spring, is trying to figure out with injuries, who’s your top five and where should they play? And if you had an injury, who would be your next guy or two in there and where would they play? It’s really exciting.
“But I think, to be honest with you, we still have to find out what he would do. We’ve got (Joshua) Braun who came in, (Patrick) Kutas, Harris, (Andrew) Chamblee — those guys we’ve really got to figure out what our best five is and what positions they need to play. But he would have a chance to play both of them.”
Braun came to Arkansas at midterm from Florida. He had originally committed to Georgia when Pittman was coaching the offensive line there. However, he switched to the Gators when Pittman left to become head coach of the Hogs. In a recent practice, Arkansas had Braun at right tackle. He had told this reporter one of the things he was unhappy about at Florida was playing tackle some stating he’s a guard. Pittman was asked about Braun working one practice at tackle?
“Well, I will say this,” Pittman said. “He has played really well at guard. I mean really well. What we’re doing right now is we’re trying to find out who are top five are. You knew the answer I was going to give you. More importantly or as important as that is we’re trying to find out who that best right tackle is if whomever, whoever the starter is gets dinged up. Is that the move out there?
“The thing is, and you’ve seen it, we’ve played a little bit of musical chairs almost every place. Certainly there’s some thoughts behind that. The portal’s one of them too. You’ve got to keep these kids with ones and different things, keep them alive. You also have to give them opportunities. So that’s what we’re doing. Braun moving out there today, that was his first day. I haven’t had a chance to watch film yet, but we’ll see how that goes. But that’s really more, honestly I think he’s a guard, but that’s really more ‘Are we a little bit deeper at guard and can we move him out to tackle if it was a necessity.”
Quarterback KJ Jefferson will be playing behind the least experienced line since he became the starter in 2021. However, he recently expressed confidence in the options Kennedy and Pittman have.
“Yeah, Coach Kennedy is switching a lot of guys in and out,” Jefferson said. “Just checking to see who can play beside who. Mainly just throwing guys in different areas just to see the versatility that we have on the o-line. I mean, I realize it in the huddle, who’s in the huddle with me. I realize where they’re at, but when the ball is snapped I don’t think nothing else about it.
“I just know those guys up front they’re going to handle their protections and call out the right guys and we’re all going to be on the same page and one accord. I try not to think too much of who’s out there with me and nothing like that, man. I do realize who’s out there, but the main thing is I take things one step at a time and try to get my mind, my eyes on the right gap.”
Pittman also addressed the work of the offensive linemen during the conditioning program leading up to spring drills.
“On the O-line, you have your vets and then Kutas is looking really good,” Pittman said. “He’s gotten big, strong, can move. E’Marion and Chamblee both have looked really good. And our transfer Braun has looked good, along with the older guys.”
Arkansas’ Offensive Linemen
Cole Carson, 6-5, 300, Redshirt Sophomore
Devon Manuel, 6-9, 310, Redshirt Sophomore
Ty’Kieast Crawford, 6-5, 317, Senior
Joey Su’a, 6-4, 347, Freshman
Beaux Limmer, 6-5, 306, Redshirt Senior
Eli Henderson, 6-4, 293, Redshirt Freshman
Payton Simpson, 6-4, 339, Redshirt Junior (walk-on)
Brady Latham, 6-5, 310, Redshirt Senior
Terry Wells, 6-5, 306, Redshirt Sophomore
Kai Hamilton, 6-4, 303, Redshirt Freshman (walk-on)
Josh Street, 6-6, 308, Redshirt Sophomore (walk-on)
Paris Patterson, 6-6, 361, Freshman
Brock Burns, 6-4, 288, Redshirt Freshman (walk-on)
Andrew Chamblee, 6-6, 303, Redshirt Freshman
Brooks Edmonson, 6-4, 311, Redshirt Freshman (walk-on)
Luke Brown, 6-6, 313, Freshman
Patrick Kutas, 6-5, 303, Sophomore
E’Marion Harris, 6-7, 297, Redshirt Freshman
Joshua Braun, 6-6, 341, Redshirt Junior
Tommy Varhall, 6-8, 326, Redshirt Sophomore (walk-on)
Arkansas will return to the practice fields on Tuesday, March 28.