FAYETTEVILLE — Ty Clary’s senior season didn’t start like he hoped, but he’s now playing a key role for the University of Arkansas on at right guard.
Clary came to Arkansas from Fayetteville High School with the promise of a scholarship after one semester. He started the first four games as a true freshman at right guard. He had started 23 consecutive games on the offensive line heading into this season. He described what happened to cause him to miss early action this fall.
“So, I got quarantined due to close contact,” Clary said. “It was hard because it was in the middle of all camp. It was kind of during the heat of trying to win spots and everyone’s working really hard on their craft, you’re not too worried about other things yet. It was upsetting, but it is what it is. The guys on the O-line, with or without me, I love the way they work, love the way they attack everything. It’s just kind of how it went and how it is.”
He started all 12 games at center in 2019, but with Ricky Stromberg manning that position he has moved back to right guard this season.
“It’s nice to play,” Clary said. “I love playing. That’s why everybody comes to college. That’s why you come to Arkansas, you want to play to play in the SEC. I’m not just here and I’m not playing to play. We want to win games. We want to be a good O-line. So that’s the goal. It’s not about playing time.”
But after starting 23 games in a row how hard was it to sit and watch from the sidelines?
“Well, watching those guys play,” Clary said. “Obviously, I want to play. I want to be on the field. I want to be a part of the difference, a part of the win. I didn’t play at Mississippi State, we won the game and I would rather not play and win with this group of guys every day. But obviously playing is huge, it’s a lot of fun.”
Clary and the other seniors are seeing a turnaround of the Arkansas with two wins already in 2020. That is more SEC wins than the Hogs had the past three seasons combined. How does it feel to see the program appear to be turning around?
“Growing up here in Fayetteville and then playing here the past couple of years, going through the struggles the team went through, it’s so exciting, especially for my class,” Clary said. “I mean, some of the guys I came in with, Shane Clenin, (Dalton) Wagner, everybody’s so happy with the wins we’ve already gotten. But now it’s like, ‘We have to get more.’ You want more. No one’s satisfied.”
When did you first realize maybe this team was going to be pretty good?
“That’s a good question,” Clary said. “I’d say you could feel it in fall camp with how the competition would go. You could feel it. And then when we played our first game you could tell things were different this year. When you beat Mississippi State and get that first win, I think that’s when a lot of guys on that team were like ‘We could beat them. We can win games.’ It was no longer the ‘Oh they just scored on us,’ it was ‘Hey let’s get this, let’s go.'”
The Razorbacks haven’t had a 20-yard run by a running back this season. What does the offensive line have to do to maybe open bigger holes?
“The O-line, we want more than anyone else on the team to hit those big runs,” Clary said. “That’s probably one of the most exciting plays for me. The O-line, the guys in the group, really want to put an emphasis on creating those big plays and executing the blocking assignments to the whistle so we can make those plays happen. We’re kind of taking this week to obviously look at A&M, our next opponent, but also take a look at ourselves and really try and fix this issue and create something.”
Another thing that would help produce some big runs is getting senior running back Rakeem Boyd going. He has battled injuries and not looked like the same running back this fall.
“Rakeem works super hard,” Clary said. “He really wants to run the ball and he’s a really hard runner. The O-line, we have to start executing better, I think. Those plays are going to happen, especially with any of our backs in. I trust that they’re going to make a play. So we have to give them an opportunity to make a play.”
Clary also isn’t listening to all the praise the Razorbacks are getting from national media.
“It’s fun to get the attention and hear praise,” Clary said. “But you kind of have to ignore it. We’ve only won two games. We’re 2-2 right now. There’s six more games left in the year. It’s more about what we’re going to do the next six games rather than what we’ve done with the first four.”
One reason for so much praise from the national media is the play of Arkansas’ defense. Clary is also a fan of that unit.
“Our defense, to me, is probably one of the most exciting defenses in the country to watch right now,” Clary said. “They’ve been excellent. Playing against them, they’re extremely tough. That’s what we went against all fall camp. It’s exciting to see those guys fly around and how much they work. They just work. They go out there and execute on defense. It’s awesome.”
Arkansas will face Texas A&M on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. Both teams had a bye this week, but how much prep for the Aggies did the Hogs get in during that bye week as you try to snap the eight-game losing streak to them?
“We started A&M,” Clary said. “We’re not going to throw everything in. Bye week is a time to get healthy, a time to rest your body a little bit. But also to work on a lot of fundamental, a lot of mental errors that we have. With the losing streak, it’s something that you have to talk about. But we’re just going to play A&M and play our best.”
Considering many of those eight losses were extremely close games how do you treat it like just another game on the schedule?
“That’s a tough question,” Clary said. “Good question. Right now, the next game is a trophy game. We want to take home the trophy. We want to end the streak. But I don’t think you can let that overwhelm what it is. I think you can’t prepare for one opponent more or less because of a trophy. You have to take everyone the same and treat every team as just the next game and a game you have to win.”
Texas A&M is ranked No. 8 in the nation and brings a record of 3-1 into the game.