FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The offensive line depth is much better at Arkansas and the way fall drills has started off that is a good thing.
On the first day of preseason camp in shorts, redshirt freshman offensive tackle Noah Gatlin suffered a torn ACL and is out for the season. Dustin Fry talked about losing a player on the first day.
“That’s like waking up on Christmas Day and your tree’s burned down … or something like that,” Fry said. “That was disappointing. But things happen like that. It was kind of a freak deal. His foot just kind of got caught a little bit in the ground. Nobody rolled up. Everybody was clean. That kind of stuff happens. But I was really disappointed, and devastated for the kid.
“He’s had a great summer. I was excited where he was going. But his next step is to get ready — hey, man, we need you back next spring we need you back next year. You’ve got three years left to play. And I know he’s going to attack that rehab just like he’s attacked everything else.”
To add to that, a pair of senior starters, left tackle Colton Jackson and left guard Austin Capps, have been missing from practice this week. Capps had minor surgery and Jackson has an issue with his foot according to Chad Morris.
“I’m not going to really talk about the injuries, but I expect all those guys to be ready go week one,” Fry said. “Timeline-wise, we’re going to make sure they’re ready for week one.”
Tough to lose guys, but depth is better this year, easier to absorb?
“It would have been tougher last year if something like that were to happen,” Fry said. “A lot of stuff did happen [last year]. But this year we’ve been able to absorb it just a little bit better. But losing [Gatlin], I had a lot of different plans for him that we could have done. It strings you out a little bit on some things rotation-wise, maybe moving guys inside that you wanted to do that with, and now they have to stay outside. But you just roll with it and go.”
You’ve got a new left side this week with Jackson and Capps out. How has that gone?
“Guys have gotten so many reps this camp playing with split fields,” Fry said. “So it wasn’t a big change for some of those guys. But when you’re down two starters right now, threes have to step up to twos, twos have to step up to ones. There’s a little bit of a learning curve, but for the most part they’re doing a good job.
“I didn’t like the way we finished today. But for the most part they’ve been doing a good job with it.”
Junior college transfer Myron Cunningham has been at left tackle this week and sophomore Kirby Adcock is at left guard. How have they done?
“[Myron’s] doing good,” Fry said. “Today I would say he took a little bit of a step back. I didn’t like his strain a little bit today. I hope he hears that, alright? Because he’ll hear it again in the meeting room. But overall, it’s what we thought. It’s exactly what we thought. Having to go guard one day and then all of a sudden we had to go right back to tackle, but he’s handling it pretty well.
“[Adcock’s] had a solid camp. With Kirby, his thing is pad level. We’ve got to play with lower pads with him. He understands what to do. He understands the footwork. He’s not an MA guy (missed assignments). It’s just pad level now. Playing with good levels. He has a tendency to get a little high. And that’s the biggest thing we’ve been working with him on. But he’s doing a good job. He’s had a good camp.”
Ty Clary is the returning starter at center. Fry talked about how he has performed so far in practice.
“I think he’s doing a great job,” Fry said. “I’ve been really impressed with his lock-in, his work ethic. He’s done a great job with really learning that spot, and that’s not just technique. That’s film study of defenses, how to slide things in protection, how to make calls. He’s really stepped his game up for sure.”
Several players are getting work at center behind Clary. Fry talked about some of them.
“Beaux Limmer’s playing second center right now,” Fry said. “Ricky will play some center, Luke Jones, Silas (Robinson). Austin Nix has done a really good job playing center. You can never have enough back there. My best pure snapper is actually Austin Nix. I mean, that guy doesn’t miss a snap. He puts it right there every time. He does a great job for us.”
Dalton Wagner has been running with the first unit all preseason at right tackle. How is he doing?
“Fantastic,” Fry said. “He’s having a great camp. He’s really impressed. He plays long, he understands the game. He’s a trooper. He goes at it every day and takes great notes. He wants to be coached hard. He’s impressed for sure.”
Shane Clenin came in the same recruiting class with Wagner, Clary and Adcock. He is at right guard with the starting unit now.
“There’s a lot more I need from Shane, but he wants it,” Fry said. “He works at every day. We’re pressing him every day.”
In addition to Limmer, a freshman who has started to make an impact is Ricky Stromberg. Fry had high praise for him.
“He’s at a weight where I would feel comfortable playing him, but he does need to get a little heavier,” Fry said. “The freshmen, I’ve been very excited about them. Ricky’s done a great job.
“I think he’s about 280. I want him at 285, 290. I don’t want him to put on bad weight, but he’s definitely got to get up a little bit for this league sure. But he’s had a great camp along with the rest of those guys.”
Arkansas will return to the practice fields on Friday and then a scrimmage on Saturday. Both are closed to the media.