Cunningham’s presence pushing O-line
FAYETTEVILLE — It doesn’t seem a matter of if or when.
But where Myron Cunningham fits into Arkansas’ offensive line picture poses the question likely to be as much answered by others as it will be himself.
Cunningham is the 6-6, 290-pound junior offensive lineman who transferred last January to the Razorbacks via Iowa Central Community College.
Last spring Cunningham debuted challenging senior incumbent Colton Jackson of Conway at left tackle.
He’s still listed there behind Jackson but this August preseason also has practiced contending with thirdyear sophomore Shane Clenin for the right guard spot vacated by 2018 graduate Johnny Gibson.
Then with redshirt Noah Gatlin lost for the season requiring knee surgery after the first August preseason practice, Cunningham also has practiced at right tackle where Gatlin was considered in near dead-heat competition with third-year sophomore Dalton Wagner.
For his role in in this past Saturday’s closed to the media 175-play scrimmage, Cunningham under the direction of Coach Chad Morris and offensive line coach Dustin Fry, apparently played all the above. Fitting him into where it seems he’s needed most remains a complex process as time creeps towards the Razorbacks’ Aug. 31 seasonopener against Portland State.
“I do feel that Myron will eventually be at some point in this rotation, without a doubt,” Morris said post scrimmage. “It’s just finding where is that rotation at for him. He’s gotten a lot of reps at left tackle, but Colton’s been doing really well there, as well. So we’ve been able to get him to the right side, working some at right tackle and then move him some at right guard, just to kind of see where’s the best fit for him.”
And obviously what would be best for the Hogs depending on the health and progress of others.
In one respect, Cunningham has already accomplished his mission even before the seasonopener.
Fry freely said Cunningham in part was recruited “to piss off” the returning offensive tackles as a competitor for their jobs.
Fifth-year senior Jackson stoically says, “That’s just part of the game. I’m used to it. When you go recruiting, you’re looking to replace guys and create competition. Nobody’s spot is secure.”
Nevertheless, it seems
his game stepped up since Cunningham’s arrival last spring.
Wagner, yearning to replace graduated 2018 starting tackle Brian Wallace, took more personally Fry’s remarks about last winter about signing JC transfer linemen Cunningham and Chibueze Nwanna.
“That is the first thing he said to us,” Wagner said.
“He said ‘I have recruited two junior-college tackles coming and I expect them to take your positions.’ It lights a fire under your butt and gets you going. It gets you all competitive, gets you angry. You are like ‘I am not going to let him take my spot’ so you work extra hard.”
So Fry’s intent succeeded. “It’s about competition and we are definitely a lot better for it,” Wagner said. “It’s a lot better than we were a year ago just making sure that competition, as I have said before, competition breeds success.”
Coming off a 2-10 season, these Hogs want success in the worst way. And for this line, one of the best ways is a talented, versatile lineman almost by himself creating depth last year’s O-line didn’t have.
“He did a tremendous job today,” Wagner said post scrimmage. “He really stepped up, playing all the different positions, playing with the ones and the twos, especially. “Myron has been a guy that has really stood out, really stepped up no matter where Coach Fry tells him to go. He is always going there and doing a good job.”
Wagner especially seemed to enjoy playing alongside Cunningham when the two have been paired at right tackle and right guard.
“For as big as he is, he gets really low and does an excellent job getting underneath blocks and really posting it up for me to come and clear it all out,” Wagner said.