FAYETTEVILLE – Ricky Stromberg became Arkansas’ center of attention both for how he played in the nationally 16th-ranked Razorbacks’ 45-10 victory over Georgia Southern last Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium and if he will play in this Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. CBS televised SEC opener against nationally No. 7 Texas A&M at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Along with Ole Miss offensive lineman Jeremy James, instrumental in Ole Miss’ offensively explosive 61-21 victory over Tulane, Stromberg Monday was named SEC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week by the SEC Office in Birmingham, Ala.
Stromberg helped pave and protect the Razorbacks to 633 yards total offense against Georgia Southern.
However Stromberg left the game injured early in the fourth quarter and did not return.
Starting right guard Ty Clary, moved to right tackle during the game when starting right tackle Dalton Wagner was injures, finished the game at center.
Starting guard Brady Latham then moved to right tackle with backups Beaux Limmer, actually starting last Saturday at right guard ahead of Clary, and Luke Jones finishing as the guards.
That reshuffled line finishing against Georgia Southern may be Arkansas’ starting line against Georgia Southern pending how fast Stromberg and Wagner can mend.
“I’m positive neither one of them will practice today,” Pittman said at his Monday noon presser. “I’ll probably know (if they can play) Wednesday.”
In the meantime offensive line coach Cody Kennedy will make last Saturday’s Plan B the start of the week’s Plan A.
“I told Coach Kennedy we’d better get ready as if neither of them will be able to play,” Pittman said. “I was so proud of Cody and that group, because he had them ready last week. ‘We’re going to be prepared if they’re not able to.”
Does Clary actually work three positions in the same practice like what occurred against Georgia Southern?
“He gets action at all three of those spots,” Pittman said. ‘His least amount of reps is probably at right tackle. He gets those in one-on-one pass-pro. There’s certainly a big difference in playing tackle and playing guard, but if you keep him on the same side, a lot of the run game is similar. There is a lot more space out there (tackle) understand that, and your pass protection is different.”
Center, where Clary started in 2018 and 2019 for the Chad Morris regime before Pittman arrived in 2020 and swapped Clary and Stromberg from the center and guard positions they held previously, of course differs from all with the snap often with a nose tackle looming dead ahead.
“Ty last week, went to center and his first rep at center, the nose beat him,” Pittman said. “He (Clary) went back and kept him off KJ (Jefferson the Arkansas quarterback completing 13 of 23 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns and zero turnovers. The next rep, he did a great job one-on-one with the nose and we threw the touchdown to Warren Thompson. I like where Clary’s at. He’s unbelievably valuable to our football team because he can play any position on the field.”
Pittman proudly points to an Arkansas defense that skunked then 15th-ranked Texas in the first half of a 40-21 triumph and dominated Rice, 38-17 and Georgia Southern, 45-10 but the Aggies defense has yielded just seven points for its last two games.
After opening, 41-10 over Kent State, Coach Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies escaped Colorado, 10-7 and skunked New Mexico, 34-0.
“Just a smothering defense,” Pittman said. “Very, very, very good defense at the front end, middle and the back end.”
Backup quarterback Zach Calzada, A&M’s backup quarterback become starter with starter Haynes King breaking his leg in Game 2 against Colorado, was shaky when first quarter first thrust into that game. But he finished throwing the fourth-quarter, come from down 7-3 game-winning touchdown pass and confidently threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns against New Mexico.
Pittman isn’t surprised with Calzada’s improvement.
“I think he’s a fine quarterback,” Pittman said. “He wouldn’t be at A&M if he wasn’t. That second game he had a little more confidence. I think he’s got belief and the wide receivers and tight end (Jalen Wydermeyer, 6 catches for 92 yard and 2 touchdowns in last year’s A&M 42-31 victory at the Aggies’ Kyle Field in College Station, Texas) have belief in him.”
Arkansas and Texas A&M were supposed to play at AT&T Stadium last year. With the dates and scheduled covid reshuffled to an entirely SEC schedule, the game got moved to A&M. It’s back as contracted to AT&T Stadium skipping a return matchup at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
“I don’t feel great about it, to be honest with you,” Pittman replied when asked of the Aggies getting a home game last year without reciprocating Fayetteville this year. “I believe that if we’re in this (Reynolds Razorback) stadium that we’re hard to beat because of our fans. Everybody will think, ‘Oh, Coach is throwing out excuses.’ No, I’m not. I feel very confident we can go in and play well at the Dallas Cowboys stadium, I do. But would I rather have them in here? Yes.”
Photos courtesy of Craven Whitlow, CW3, Sports Action