RazorbacksSports

Kennedy discusses Razorback offensive line

By Otis Kirk

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas has a very experienced offensive line and is developing some key depth as well.

Arkansas’ Cody Kennedy returned four starters on the offensive line with only left tackle needing to be filled. Kennedy has seen redshirt senior Luke Jones gain control of that spot to replace Myron Cunningham.

“He’s done a very good job,” Kennedy said. “He’s kind of like that blue collar story. He came in here, flirted around with the guard spot throughout spring, then obviously we had Myron Cunningham leave so there was a void there (at left tackle). He’s stepped up and done a really, really good job. Just handles his business. I think at times that’s kind of what you need at left tackle. You need a left tackle you can trust. Obviously in the NFL that’s why they pay them the big bucks. They need somebody they can trust and he’s been really sound out there.

“He’s gotten a lot better in his pass protection technique. And he works at it. He’s a kid that, he knows what his deficiencies are. He’s smart enough to know what his deficiencies are, plays to his strengths, and he goes out there to work every day. He’s really gotten some good action versus Drew Sanders coming off the edge, some live rushes coming around there. He’s done a really, really good job. I’m impressed with him. That goes from a question mark you have early, and then he kind of plays himself into a solid spot right there. He’s doing a great job.”

With Dalton Wagner (right tackle), Beaux Limmer (right guard), Ricky Stromberg (center) and Brady Latham (left guard) established starters with multiple years starting experience that has been a bonus for Kennedy.

“You’ve got more coaches on the field,” Kennedy said. “I can pair those guys up and say ‘Hey Ricky Stromberg, go take X, Y, Z young guy and go work on this.’ There’s ownership there. Obviously as a coach, you’ve got to make sure Ricky is teaching the right thing, but he is. He’s invested, he knows our techniques. But you’re able to kind of branch guys off. When you’ve got more coaches, you’ve got more eyes. They’re coaching young guys. Beaux Limmer is coaching a Patrick Kutas. Brady Latham is coaching a Patrick Kutas. Luke Jones is coaching an Andrew Chamblee, Devon Manuel. So, you’ve got more eyes out there that you trust from them playing together as ones. The communication level is at an elite level right now, because number one the knowledge base is there. You can’t communicate at a high level if you don’t have a firm knowledge base, and they’ve got that knowledge base as the season progressed last year, now they’re able to execute that through high levels of communication.”

Coming off a 9-4 season, Kennedy has also seen the accountability go to another level on the team as the expectations continue to grow for this program.

“The standard last year was lower than what it is this year,” Kennedy said. “Sometimes we would miss blitzes last year and it was like, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do better.’ This year it’s moreso on the players, like, ‘Hey, let’s go. We know that.’ So that standard [is higher]. That’s how you build great programs and great organizations, is the standard has to increase. Not necessarily with the expectations, but it’s just got to increase off being around each other and playing the game together.

“I’ve had that comparison with the O-line. Hey, last year that would have been an OK practice. This year, that’s a bad practice. So we’ve got to keep building it and keep raising the standard around here to get where we want to get to.”

Wagner returned for his super senior season and gives them a proven veteran at right tackle and another leader for the team.

“He’s the old man of the room,” Kennedy said. “He’s really smart. He’s seen a lot of looks. He’s been through the ebbs and flows of this thing, man. He’s been through it all. He has a great attitude. I feel like he’s come back and he understands what’s at stake this year. He understands what his goals are, what he wants to do, where he wants to see this program at.

“He’s just a team player that goes out there and gives it his all every day. And you’re going to want some different things out of Dalton here and there, ‘I wish he could do that.’ Man, he’s going to lay it on the line for Arkansas every day. You love those guys in your room. They’re great for your room, they’re great for your team, they’re great for everything.

“He’s just done a really good job. I think he’s cut 2 or 3% body fat, which he’s still one of the largest humans I’ve been around. But he’s trimmed up. He’s done a good job with Coach Walker in the weight room preparing for this last hoo-rah and going to achieve some dreams. He’s a team-first guy. There’s nothing about him that’s individual. He’s just got goals see everybody else be happy, see everybody else win. Typical O-line guy.”

Most offensive line coaches prefer to have at least eight players who are capable of playing in case of injuries. Junior Ty’Kieast Crawford is someone the coaches feel could start at numerous spots.

 “You can go down the wormhole on it and sit on the board and the depth chart, who goes down here, who goes down here,” Kennedy said. “Beaux has been taking a lot of center reps, as well, in the event that something were to happen to Rick or one of the other centers. So you’ve got a ride-side void there. Ty’Kieast has been working that, he’s also been working 1 right tackle reps. All of those guys, as well as Brady has been working 1 left tackle reps. So you’re getting those combo periods where, when we go into a Saturday, I don’t want to put a kid in a position that he has not seen versus the best that we have to offer here.

“Because the kid’s confidence is going to go up if I’ve played him in that position, so Ty’Kieast is getting a little bit of that. He’ll see a little bit more 1 guard as we progress through camp, but he’s gotten some 1 right tackle, he’s done well at 2 right tackle. He’s in a really good spot. Ty’Kieast has really taken a hold of that. He’s in a really, really good spot right now. From a standpoint of making calls on offense that he wouldn’t have dreamed about making last year. He’s got to keep progressing and keep that consistency up. We’re going to need him this year. This is a big boy league. Offensive line-wise, you’re going to have issues at some point during the year. Not saying that he can’t go win it right now, but he’s progressed and he’s on the best trajectory he’s ever been here. And he’s the most ready to play that he’s ever been since he’s been here.”

Kennedy also broke down who else is in contention for playing time in a backup role.

“I’ll just kind of go from left to right, and it’s going to be a handful,” Kennedy said. “So that’s a good thing, right? You don’t want to be, ‘Aw, let me try and get to seven.’ I’m going to give you an over, and then we’ll figure it out in these practices, right? You’ve got Andrew Chamblee running 2 left tackle. You’ve got Devon Manuel, whose had reps at 2 left tackle as well. OK, they’re in the mix. Jalen St. John’s in the mix.

“(Josh) Street’s been running at 2 center for us right now with Marcus Henderson coming back. Marcus Henderson also another one. E’Marion Harris is another one as well, and obviously we’ve already talked about Ty’Kieast. But those are guys that are like it’s a battle every day now. That’s what you want. You want guys competing and trying to … when they get in with the 2s, it means something to them, or when they get in with the 1s, it means something to them. Now should we all be red-lining it every rep? We should. But those guys, it means something when they’re in there and they’re battling every day.”

Arkansas will return to the practice fields on Tuesday morning.

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