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Ricky Stromberg was 'voice of reason' on Arkansas offensive line

05302023 OTAs30575

Arkansas offensive line coach Cody Kennedy's first interaction with Ricky Stromberg was not in the most ideal circumstance. 

Kennedy, originally hired as the Razorbacks' tight ends coach, was only on the job for about six months when he experienced a shift in his role. Brad Davis, who was Arkansas' offensive line coach, was hired away by LSU with the same role in June prior to the 2021 season. That left Kennedy to take over the position just a couple months before the season began. 

Getting to know a new room in that short of a time frame can be a difficult task, even for the best coaches. Fortunately for Kennedy, he had Stromberg to help ease the transition. 

"It was really instrumental for me to have a guy like that who's played a lot of snaps...playing center, making calls," Kennedy said.  

Stromberg, who only played for Kennedy in the final two seasons of his college career, quickly became one of the players Kennedy could trust the most because of his intelligence and knowledge of the system. He was a fast learner when it came to terminologies and techniques, and he paired that with a skill set that improved each year. Both of those traits have Kennedy convinced Stromberg will eventually thrive in the NFL. 

"It was really good to have that voice of reason there and be the older voice in the room," Kennedy said.

Stromberg was already an established player by the time Kennedy took over the offensive line room. He started 20 games in 2019 and 2020 combined, allowing only one sack on 722 pass blocking plays, according to Pro Football Focus.

Calling a player a sponge can be cliché, but there's no other way for Kennedy to describe Stromberg. He's constantly absorbing information, Kennedy said of Stromberg, but he also does a good job of looking for the next step.

"He's really good at getting baseline concepts, and then he'll pick it apart. He's very mechanic in the way of, 'What if this happens, of if this happens, then what call do we make?' ...He's looking for the why in everything."

Stromberg was almost like a coach with the way he dissects plays. He absorbs as much information as possible in meetings, but he isn't the type of person who boisterously lets everyone in the room know how in tune he is with the scheme. Instead, he asks one question after another about every possible scenario and how the offensive line should respond to it.

He also knew when to dive deeper into a play and when to simply do the task that Kennedy would assign him.

"Ricky was really good about knowing when there was a time to converse...and then the time to just do it," Kennedy said. "I think he was very mature in the way he went about it and handled his business."

Check out the top photos of Arkansas center Ricky Stromberg during his college career. (Photos vis The Associated Press)

The relationship between coach and player is not supposed to be at the pointer where "you're just a buddy," Kennedy said, but he and Stromberg did have a heavy line of communication at time when Stromberg could give his opinion on things.

"I was able to utilize some of his knowledge to help me as a coach early, and that built the trust throughout his career," Kennedy said. "We were able to speak the same language by the end of it, and it was really beneficial for both ends."

Stromberg's knowledge is what he "checks the boxes" of what Kennedy wants from his centers.

"You gotta have a guy that has a third for knowledge of the game," he said. "A complete knowledge, not just what you do, but what everybody does."

And his new coaches have already picked that up about Stromberg.

"We had a really great visit," general manager Martin Mayhew said of Stromberg after he was drafted. "Another very, very, highly football intelligent guy. We talked a lot of ball, watched tape together. He's gonna fit in really well here. He can play center, he can play guard as well. He brings a lot to the table."

Kennedy never doubted Stromberg's skill set, he wasn't sure how teams were going to stack him up against the other centers in the class. As the draft process continued, though, more teams started paying attention to Stromberg and how he was able to lead the Razorbacks' offensive line while being an all-conference player and receiving the Jacobs Award for being the best blocker in the SEC.

Because of that, Kennedy thinks Stromberg was one of the biggest sleepers in the draft.

"I think he's in that top echelon of centers in this draft class, and I think he'll definitely hit the mark as a player in the National Football League.

"You got a guy that's...done everything the right way, and it pays off for him. It's a testament to the work he's put in."

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