Arkansas Offensive Line Updates

By Otis Kirk

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' offensive line is still progressing as Cody Kennedy has to find three new starters to go with center Beaux Limmer and left guard Brady Latham.

Kennedy is mixing the units in an effort to get the right combinations on the field. 

"Outside of what you see in practice there are also some combo periods where Amaury Wiggins has ran with the ones, Ty'kieast Crawford has run with the ones, (E'Marion) Harris, (Andrew) Chamblee is with the ones," Kennedy said. "So, we are getting a nice mix with the guys to build confidence within the group because as you know you don't control when somebody goes down. So, if someone is put in that situation their confidence is also impacted. So, later in practice is a time for us to utilize those combinations, especially along the offensive line. 

"Because you've got trust among the five guys that are out there that you are next to every day, but you want to fight against a drop off when you sub a guy in or a mishap happens in the game or something along those lines. You want that player coming in to have that same level of confidence as those five. I think we do a really good job. Coach (Sam) Pittman does a good job with emphasis on those periods where every day might not be great. You might lose somebody. What's the next guy up? What's your next combination? That's really good for us, and it's really good for the players as well to have that confidence among the group."

The most used offensive line thus far next to Limmer and Latham has had redshirt sophomore Devon Manuel at left tackle, redshirt junior transfer Josh Braun right guard and sophomore Patrick Kutas right tackle.

In addition to having three new starters and even Limmer moving from right guard to center, the Hogs are also operating and learning with a new offensive coordinator in Dan Enos. Enos brings his pro-style offense from Maryland. 

"I think without giving away too many things, a lot [of difference]," Kennedy said of the two offenses. "There’s a big change within the run game of tight end utilization. There’s a big change within the multitude of protections we use. And I would say the formations have changed drastically with utilizing two tight ends and things like that.

"Everybody kind of asks me, ‘Well, are you going pro style?’ Did you watch the Super Bowl? You had the Chiefs and the Eagles. If that’s pro style, then yes. Pro style has kind shifted along the years. I think it’s really enjoyed for our guys to watch NFL tape and go,’Oh, that’s so-and-so protection. Oh, that’s this run.’ It’s very equitable to that."

Last Friday Pittman put Bentonville offensive lineman Josh Street on scholarship. The redshirt sophomore has impressed Kennedy.

"Man, I was a walk-on," Kennedy said. "Alright? And I got put on scholarship. It was the best day of my football career, right. You work, you bust your tail, you do what you’ve got to do, you show up every day and really you get no reward. You’re busting your tail every day, every day, every day, doing what you need to do, showing up on time, executing things in practice, and really you’re doing it for the love of the game, right. And then you hit a moment where you get put on scholarship. And man, that’s something he can tell his kids. That’s something you can carry with you throughout life; that if you work hard for something, people will notice, and you’ll get rewarded for it. 

"And go chase your dreams, man. You know? Go chase your dreams. And everybody’s going to tell you, ‘Hey man, that might not work out. You can’t do this. Oh man, that’s too much.’ If you go work, and you consistently do everything you need to do to your highest level, eventually people will start falling off, and you’ll be the guy hanging on. You know? I get on a soap box with it, but that means a lot to me, man. Value and hard work, and that kid, he’s done it. He’s been utilized on special teams units, utilized with O-line depth, and he’s done a really, really good job coming into our program, and it’s awesome to see… see guys take that path and bust their tail and get it done."

The next walk-on offensive lineman who could be in that position is true freshman Aaron Smith from Conway. The 6-foot-6, 269-pound Smith turned down several scholarship offers to attend Arkansas. 

"Aaron Smith has stepped up," Kennedy said. "The younger freshman from Conway, doing a good job out there at tackle, getting some plug-and-play reps across the board there, so he’s done a really good job here in camp."

Latham also praised Smith and feels he will eventually play meaningful snaps.

"And then you have Aaron Smith who has really good hands, good feet," Latham said. "Yes sir, I definitely think Aaron Smith can do that. He’s come in, works hard every single day. He has really good technique. The cool thing to watch with Aaron — especially as a young guy, a lot of times you struggle with your hands — his hands are really, really good. He punches hard. He’s really stepped up and gives the defense a hard time."

Arkansas opens the season Saturday, Sept. 2, at 3 p.m. in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium facing Western Carolina.

Photos Courtesy of Craven Whitlow CW3 Action Sports