FAYETTEVILLE – After being told practically since Sam Pittman’s, December, 2019 Arkansas head coaching hiring that he’s a better guard than the center position he started in 2018 and 2019 for former Arkansas Coach Chad Morris, Ty Clary starts back at his old center stand.
Starting incumbent junior center Ricky Stromberg has been idled since Aug. 9 by an injury. So starting right guard Clary has started all over again at center.
“It’s like I never left,” fifth-year senior Clary of Fayetteville said after Tuesday afternoon’s practice. “You know it’s like riding a bike. Pick it back up and go back to center.”
Clary had to start the one game at center that Stromberg missed in covid tracing quarantine last season.
And while the hope is that Stromberg, who did some no contact walkthroughs Tuesday can return by the Sept. 4 season opener against Rice, longtime former offensive line coach Pittman (including 2013-2016 for Bret Bielema at Arkansas) and new offensive line coach Cody Kennedy (Pittman’s 2018 grad assistant when Pittman coached Georgia’s offensive line) say there is no offensive line position needing quality depth more than center.
“Coach Pittman is always on me with how many guys you got who can snap the ball?” Kennedy said. We’re trying to be deep at that position. So, this is only increasing our depth. He (Clary) is doing a really good job building confidence.”
The center is the offensive line’s quarterback making the line calls.
Clary has been there and done that and doing it again though admitting he’s always ready to unleash at guard.
“At guard you can be a little more violent, a little more physical and I like that,” Clary said. “Center you have to make the calls and you’re at the front of the line. So you have be ready to take some hits and also just get back off the line so you don’t get picked.
He should soon get his guard wish while always knowing he’s a snap away from doing the snapping.
“ Do I see him moving back to guard once Ricky gets back there?,” Kennedy asked rhetorically. “Absolutely. But he’s doing a great job and it’s only going to help us in the long term.”
Third-year sophomore Beaux Limmer has benefitted working at first-team right guard while Clary works at center ahead of fellow senior Shane Clenin.
Since spring ball starting left guard has see-sawed between third-year sophomore incumbent Brady Latham and fourth-year junior Luke Jones of Pulaski Academy before spending his 2018 freshman year at Notre Dame then transferring to and redshirting at Arkansas in 2019.
“It’s going to be down to the wire,” Kennedy said. “And it’s not one of those bad down to the wires either. They’re scrapping every day. They know what’s at stake. It’s not a secret in our room that there’s a competition there.”
Senior starting right tackle Dalton Wagner concurs it’s a toss-up tussle at left guard.
“You’re talking about two extremely high level players there,” Wagner said. “Both of them know what to do. Both of them are violent, violent human beings. And they take it personal when one of them moves up the depth chart and one of them moves down the depth chart. Those guys are going to fight for that spot tooth and nail, and it’s going to be interesting to see who wins it.”
Latham and Jones, both 6-5, have bulked up from the 280s during the 2019 Chad Morris regime espousing a smaller, quicker line to a listed 305 and 310 pounds since Pittman brought strength coach Jamil Walker with him from Georgia.
Wagner, 6-9 and Clary, 6-4, weighed 285 and 308 playing for Morris in 2019. They respectively list 330 and 315 now under Pittman and Walker.
“It sucks looking back when we wanted to be smaller so we could move better when it’s like ‘we’re probably moving better now when we’re heavier,” Wagner said Tuesday. “You’re not going to be able to move anybody weighing 270, 280, 290. But you are going to move someone weighing 330, 320, 315.”
Recruited as a big-framed 6-4 quarterback out of Little Rock Parkview, true freshman Landon Rogers Tuesday became the latest auditioned for tight end depth behind line experienced tight ends Blake Kern and Hudson Henry.
Running back Dominique Johnson, moved last week to tight end, moved back to running back where touted freshman AJ Green has been idled by injury since last week.
Photos courtesy of Craven Whitlow, CW3 Sports Action