By Otis Kirk
FAYETTEVILLE — No unit is more seasoned and experienced than Arkansas’ offensive line under Cody Kennedy.
Gone is only one starter from last season, Myron Cunningham at left tackle. Center Ricky Stromberg, guards Brady Latham and Beaux Limmer along with right tackle Dalton Wagner have a wealth of starting experience since Sam Pittman became the head coach.
Redshirt senior Luke Jones worked a lot at left tackle in the spring. Latham also moved out to tackle some with Jones moving inside to guard. Junior Ty’Kieast Crawford is a transfer from Charlotte who played sparingly at Arkansas last fall. But no one made a bigger move than Crawford and now Pittman as well as Kennedy are looking for a spot to play him.
“Ty’Kieast is going to start off at tackle, I think,” Pittman said. “Cody and I had a long conversation about him. Dalton is a guy that, we want him to stay healthy every game. But I don’t know that he can play every single rep of every game. I don’t know. He’s got some issues, some physical issues injury-wise. So, we’re going to solidify that right tackle spot first. We’re also going to move him in at right guard. I just think the guy’s a really good player, and I think he needs to help us. So, we’re going to keep him on the right side right now – right tackle, right guard – see if he can win one of those spots. If he doesn’t, he’s going to play a lot of ball for us either way. We talked about left tackle, as well, but I think the best thing for him for playing time is to keep him on that right side and let him learn two positions.”
At right guard, Crawford would have to compete with Limmer, who Pittman praised as someone who stood out this summer with his work.
“I mean, he’s a freakish type guy,” Pittman said of Limmer. “He’s strong in the squat and the bench and all these things. I mean, he’s kind of a freak of nature type guy. He stood out. That’s the one that I would say right now that I can recall that I thought really was unbelievable. There’s a lot of them, but he’s one I want to talk about.”
The only offensive lineman who wasn’t here in the spring is true freshman Patrick Kutas from Memphis. Pittman likes what he has seen of Kutas to this point.
“Yeah, there’s a list of guys that weren’t here in the spring and you’re going, ‘Can they help us?'” Pittman said. “Kutas on the O-Line would be one of those guys. He’s really talented. But yes, those are few guys that you’re going to find out within the first couple of weeks whether they’re going to be a part of helping us on a Saturday as far as on the field is concerned.”
Whether it’s the offensive line or some other position, Pittman talked about what he expects from the team in the first two practices without pads.
“The way we practice,” Pittman said. “The expectations of practice, I want us to be sharp as a coaching staff. I want to be sharp players. I don’t want to have a lot of missed assignments. I want to bring in who we are and practice how we are and practice fast and physical and transition well and take care of the football. Of course, on defense, try to get the football out and things of that nature. But I just want to be organized. We’ve been bragging all the time, ‘We got all these coordinators back.’ And I want to see that. If we’re going to beat people, we’ve got to be ahead of them in practice as well.”
When Pittman took over as head coach in 2020 he was surprised by the lack of size at Arkansas. The previous staff had gotten the offensive linemen extremely small supposedly to help quickness. Pittman immediately hired Jamil Walker to make the team bigger and faster.
“Yeah, we are bigger,” Pittman said. “I mean, we’re a big football team now. We look like an SEC football team, in my opinion, now. Speed-wise, I think there’s two parts of that. One is you recruit speed, and the other is you develop speed. I think we’ve done a really good job, Coach Walker and his staff, of developing our guys to get bigger and stronger, but also we spent a lot of time on speed development training as well. So I think we’re a bigger and a faster team. And then I think recruiting and the guys we brought in we’re starting to recruit bigger and stronger and faster guys when they walk in the door and then you can develop them even further at that point. So yeah, I like the way our team looks and I like our team speed.”
The Razorbacks hit the practice fields later today for the first time this preseason.