FAYETTEVILLE — Ricky Stromberg burst onto the college scene last season as an undersized true freshman on the offensive line, but he made his mark earning a starting role.
While he played guard last season Stromberg is now also working at center. Stromberg, 6-4, 311, updated his playing status following Tuesday’s practice and was asked if he had ever played center before?
“Yeah, I have,” Stromberg said. “I played center in high school, my first three games of my senior year. Mostly in practice, I’ve been taking most of the center reps. Then when we split fields I’ll go to right guard for a couple of reps, but I’ve been taking mostly center reps, really.”
Stromberg was asked if he has a preference between guard and center?
“It’s going good, so far,” Stromberg said. “I’m adjusting. First day in full pads, first time I’ve ever put a glove on and snapped, too. So I’m adjusting to that. I’m used to wearing gloves, I’m not used to not wearing a glove on this hand or anything. I’m adjusting, it’s going good so far. I’m liking it.”
When Sam Pittman was hired to become head coach of the Razorbacks one of his first goals was to get the offensive linemen bigger. Stromberg and Myron Cunningham in particular were two he felt had the obvious talent, but were undersized last fall.
“It went good,” Stromberg said. “In the summer, I put on about 40 pounds. Honestly, I thought I was going to get kind of out of shape. Mostly, it was good weight, but when you gain that much, you’re going to be a little tired. But it went good today. Really the whole offensive line, we all strained today, we all busted our butts, so, overall it was pretty good.”
What was your approach to gaining that much weight?
“I got up to like 300 here in February, then I went home for quarantine,” Stromberg said. “Honestly, all I did was work out. We had some Zoom meetings, so I didn’t have much to do in quarantine. So, I got bored and I ate. Really, whatever Myron said, I probably did the same thing.”
Stromberg then listed his go-to foods to add that much weight.
“I would say Qdoba, Chipotle, Schlotzsky’s,” Stromberg said. “It was kind of a lot of fast food, then sometimes I’d be at home and cook for myself, chicken and rice, vegetables, those sort of things. I eat a lot.”
Stromberg laughed about how his weight has fluctuated since high school.
“I really haven’t noticed anything different in myself, but you saying that it kind of blows my mind, all the big weight changes and stuff,” Stromberg said. “I’ve just been adjusting to it. Especially gaining 40 pounds this year, playing out there is a little different than last year, so I don’t have to do a bunch of different things to hold my own. My weight holds my own for me now, so I can just play. It’s a lot better.”
Last season when he reported, Stromberg was listed at 6-4, 266. A perfect example of the difference between Pittman and Chad Morris as far as size on the offensive line, a true freshman offensive guard this year Jalen St. John is listed at 6-5, 359.
“He’s coming along,” Stromberg said. “He’s new, so he’s not used to it yet. But he’s coming along. He’s physical, he’s a smart kid, too, and he’s tough, so that will go a long way no matter what. But he’s coming along.”
With Brad Davis not available to coach the offensive line for a few days, Pittman has helped there along with Ryan Yurachek and Joseph Henry.
“It’s been awesome,” Stromberg said. “Him and Coach Davis kind of coach the same, but it’s been nice and just hearing all about him with the offensive line experience and stuff like that. It’s been real nice.”
It didn’t take Stromberg long to realize Arkansas had made a very good hire with Pittman.
“When I found out that Sam Pittman was our head coach, I didn’t know anything about him,” Stromberg said. “But I saw all the alums, Frank (Ragnow) and all of them on twitter, and Hunter Henry, were like ‘Yes, this is a perfect hire.’ So, I trusted it, I went with it, and it’s been really good so far. They really focus on technique and just the little things of the game that’ll make you a lot better. I’m loving it so far.”
Tuesday was the first day in pads. Stromberg talked about how that went as well including a long touchdown run by Rakeem Boyd.
“Today went good,” Stromberg said. “Offensive line-wise, I’d say it went good. Like I said earlier, we really strained today. We executed pretty well. I mean, the first play of team we scored a touchdown, like a 50-yard touchdown, so we were super excited from there on. It kind of carried over to the rest of the team periods. Overall, today we executed really well and I thought the whole offensive line strained our butts off today. So, we’ve just got to keep packing those days on.”
He talked about the expectations for the offensive line this fall.
“I expect Rakeem to have another 1,000 yard season, even more,” Stromberg said. “We’re all bigger up front. We can handle the big guys a lot better this year. I expect us to blow it out of the water this year, to be honest. I expect a lot out of our group.”
Ty Clary is the returning starter at center, but also has experience at guard. Stromberg talked about his battle with Clary at center and also his thoughts on Cunningham who is being touted among the best in the SEC.
“Myron, I think he’s going to be really good this year,” Stromberg said. “He’s up to 328. I saw the Reese’s Bowl thing he got elected to. I think he’s going to be really good, he just has to keep practicing.
“Me and Ty, we’re just battling it out. This is not personal. We’re just battling it out like teammates. That’s how it is.”
There’s a great chance that either Stromberg or Clary will be snapping to quarterback Feleipe Franks when the Hogs open the season on Sept. 26 against Georgia. How has it been playing with Franks?
“It’s pretty cool,” Stromberg said. “He was at Florida for I think two years, or something like that. He’s played in big games. So he knows what it’s like. He knows how to run an offense. It’s been fun so far, and we’re getting to know each other better. Hopefully as the year goes on things will improve.”
Arkansas will hold a scrimmage on Friday.