Cun­ning­ham’s pres­ence push­ing O-line

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - By Nate Allen Ra­zor­back Report

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.


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