FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The starting Arkansas offensive line looks like this.
The left tackle is a 3-star, in-state recruit who began last year, his redshirt freshman season, as a starter before losing the job halfway through.
The left guard from Denmark played defensive line his adolescent and teenage years until he was moved to offensive line about 20 months ago.
The right tackle played Class 4A football in the state of Arkansas and arrived to the Razorbacks without a scholarship.
The right guard played about a mile away from Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and is in his first semester at college without it being paid for, either.
Oh, and the center is the best offensive lineman in the country.
The Odd Quintuple.
The biggest surprise to outsiders last Thursday in Arkansas’ season opener against Florida A&M was the offensive line. Ty Clary had been highly spoken of through fall camp, but not once was he mentioned as a potential starter.
That’s where the walk-on freshman finds himself entering Week 2, though. Coincidentally, Clary is next to the other man who came to Fayetteville without a scholarship. In fact, Clary supplanted Johnny Gibson for the starting job at right guard. Gibson then booted 4-star recruit Brian Wallace from the starting five.
It worked fine against Florida A&M. This week, though, it isn’t an FCS team Clary, Wallace, Gibson and the Razorbacks offensive line is facing. Texas Christian is attacking, blitz-heavy and confounding.
“One thing about TCU’s defense, it’s almost like, I think they’ve got a definite plan in terms of their recruiting,” offensive line coach Kurt Anderson said. “It’s almost like they’re plug-and-play guys. A guy graduates and there’s a guy that has the same body build, the same motor and they teach the techniques.”
Gibson and Clary stayed on top of the depth chart at their respective positions when coach Bret Bielema made the sheet public on Monday. Bielema said later that day, however, Wallace was in contention to get his job back from Gibson. The two were working at right tackle. Whoever had the better week in practice this week was going to be in line for the starting gig come Saturday.
Anderson didn’t tip anything bout potential changes when he met with the media Wednesday. Nothing suggested Clary was going to come out, though. The first five questions Anderson fielded were about the blueshirt Fayetteville High product.
And Anderson wants it noted. Blueshirt means a scholarship is coming. It’s the designation for when a player is put on the roster and promised a scholarship at a later date. In Clary’s case, he is expected to be put on scholarship in January.
“My job as a line coach is to play the five guys that are playing the best football,” Anderson said. “It’s not an indictment on anybody else. Brian Wallace has been playing good football. Jake Raulerson has been playing good football. Zach Rogers has been playing outstanding football. But Ty Clary, the last two weeks was playing even better football.”
Some feathers were ruffled on the outside of the program for the starting of Gibson and Clary. No one suggested the two didn’t deserve spots. In fact, most agreed they probably did. What troubled some was two players who came to Arkansas sans their schooling paid for were outplaying two 4-star recruits in Wallace and Jalen Merrick. Both juniors.
Clary’s development also allowed Bielema to shift personnel. Earlier this fall, reserve center Dylan Hays was moved to defensive line. Word came out Wednesday that reserve guard Deion Malone, who was listed behind Gibson as the No. 2 right guard during the fall, was moving to the defensive line, too. Malone was a junior college transfer two years ago.
Wallace remains, though. He isn’t going anywhere, position-wise. Wallace is the same player who Bielema raved about in 2014. Wallace was a redshirt that year, but Bielema brought him on road games. The coach was prepared to remove Wallace’s redshirt if needed, he thought that highly of him.
Things have not progressed as anticipated. Wallace could earn his job back and it could be as soon as Saturday. Anderson isn’t going to give the job back, though, because Wallace is on scholarship. He showed that last year injecting Gibson into the starting lineup, and he did it again last week with the debut of Clary.
“It’s not a who-is-on-scholarship [thing] or anything like that,” Anderson said. “Nobody is entitled to a starting spot. I’ve told guys from Day 1 that every day you’re fighting to earn a starting spot. No one is going to be given anything.”
The post Brian Wallace, Johnny Gibson and Ty Clary are 3 guys for 2 spots on Arkansas offensive line appeared first on SEC Country.
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