FAYETTEVILLE — In the not-so-distant past Arkansas was short of linemen, but the depth and numbers are now good on both sides of the ball.
Both Jermial Ashley and Cody Kennedy are preparing for their first season at Arkansas. The Razorbacks have all their starters back on the offensive line and missing one on defense. Jonathan Marshall is now with the New York Jets.
With the numbers good on both sides of the ball plus plenty of experience it has made the one-on-one battles with the lines interesting in practice. Ashley coaches the defensive line and praised Kennedy’s unit on Wednesday.
“They come out ready to work every day,” Ashley said of Kennedy’s group. “They’re hard-nosed. They come out and attack. They actually challenge my guys daily to bring what they have to the table.”
Likewise, Kennedy paid respect to Ashley’s linemen.
“They’ve done it,” Kennedy said. “They’ve checked the box. You know with the grad transfers that have come in, (John) Ridgeway, (Tre) Williams, I don’t want to leave guys out, because heck, they’re shuffling them in there and they’re rolling. There’s some guys that were higher up on the depth chart on the spring. You know there’s a lot of competition right there. And they’re able to skate guys on 1s and 2s pretty seamlessly and have a lot of threat out there.
“With the big man Ridge in the middle, that’s what we needed. We went out and were able to secure that. Obviously you want to get to the edge and rush the passer and I think there’s a different look there too. I think we’ve checked the box. I don’t want to leave any of those guys out. Obviously we’ve got some guys that have been there that are flashing, the (Dorian) Geralds, those type guys that are flashing. So, it’s impressive and it helps us obviously with the various looks Coach (Barry) Odom puts them in. And they’re able to get after the passer and give me a little bit of heartburn when I go to bed at night. So they’ve checked the box.”
Redshirt sophomore Eric Gregory said he has been playing both inside and outside on the defensive line. He has been impressed with the offensive linemen.
“I feel like we’re getting better as a whole as a front,” Gregory said. “I feel like iron sharpens iron, so going against those types of guys like Myron (Cunningham) and Ricky (Stromberg) and all those guys, I feel like we’re getting better as a front group and it’s making us way better as a whole and as a team. We’re the front line, so we have to be tough, we have to push, fight, strain and all of that to get linebackers to make plays and stuff like that. I feel like us going against the offensive line, those guys are making us better as a whole unit.”
Super senior defensive end Dorian Gerald has faced a lot of different combinations on the offensive line since becoming a Razorback. He too is impressed with this group.
“Iron sharpens iron,” Gerald said. “We’ve got a whole bunch of older guys on the D-line and a whole bunch of older guys on the O-line and it just makes us better.”
One thing Gregory has noticed about the offensive line is how the average weight has gone from 293 to 316.
“Oh yeah, most definitely,” Gregory said. “Me just moving from like different positions, from nose, to end to tackle, I feel it, man. I feel the aggression. I feel the strength they’ve developed over the offseason from Jamil Walker. I feel all that, so man yeah. Those guys are definitely still moving in increased weight. They’re still moving good — blocking, double teams, all this aggression. They’ve got way better, most definitely.”
Gerald agreed with that.
“Yeah I think Coach Walker has done a great job with everybody, not just O-line, D-line but everybody,” Gerald said. “Strength wise, you know we needed it. And like you said, I looked up and the whole offensive line was 300-something pounds. They got huge.”
Arkansas will practice in the mornings the rest of this week.