FAYETTEVILLE -- Offensive lineman Myron Cunningham got a taste of starting for the University of Arkansas football team during spring practice.
Cunningham, a junior-college transfer from Iowa Central Community College, worked at first-team left tackle for several practices -- including the Red-White game -- after junior Colton Jackson was sidelined by a knee injury.
"I think it was a good experience to take those first-team reps in a live environment and a crowd there," Cunningham said. "It benefited me quite a bit, so I could show my potential and what I can bring to this team."
The coaching staff is counting on Cunningham, 6-6 and 292 pounds, to bring a lot to an offensive line that has to replace three starters with the losses of Hjalte Froholdt, Johnny Gibson and Brian Wallace.
"Myron is a great pickup for us, a great kid," Razorbacks offensive line coach Dustin Fry said in a UA video on signing day. "He's going to come in and compete right away. We told him, 'This ain't a come in and see how you can do. You come ready.'
"He's got that kind of mentality. As a technician, he likes to learn the game, he likes to watch other guys, and he studies the game."
Arkansas Coach Chad Morris said Cunningham had a good spring.
"Myron could play this game for a while," Morris said. "He's got great feet. He adapted really quick, really well to the system."
Cunningham was a first-team National Junior College All-American last season while playing left tackle.
Cunningham at a glance
POSITION Offensive lineman
HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-6, 292 pounds
HOMETOWN Warren, Ohio
JUNIOR COLLEGE Iowa Central
AGE 21 (born Oct. 21, 1997)
NOTEWORTHY Was a National Junior College All-American last season. … Rated a three-star recruit by Rivals and 247Sports. … Played left tackle and guard in practice last spring. … Chose Arkansas over several offers from Power 5 conference schools, including Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Nebraska, Kentucky and Mississippi State. … Was a teammate of former Arkansas offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt at Warren (Ohio) High School. … Parents are Mary and Myron Cunningham Sr.
"Myron was really a rock for us," said Adam Dutcher, who was Iowa Central's offensive line coach last season and now has the same position at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa. "He showed great power in run blocking, and his pass protection was flawless.
"When you're tough and you're athletic and you can just move someone out of the way from point A to point B against their will, that's what Myron can do as a football player.
"He was always our hardest worker. He really just loves to perfect his craft. Everybody says that -- it's a big cliche -- but he was always staying after practice and working when everybody else had left the field. We did a lot of one-on-one teaching together."
Cunningham had several scholarship offers from Power 5 conference schools and picked Arkansas over Oklahoma. The Sooners made their second consecutive appearance in the College Football Playoff last season while the Razorbacks went 2-10.
Arkansas was among the first Power 5 schools to offer him a scholarship, Cunningham said, while Oklahoma's offer came later in the process.
"I just thought Arkansas was a better fit for me with the connection I had with Coach Fry and Coach Morris from the beginning," Cunningham said. "I felt a connection with the players here, too, when I took my visit."
Cunningham said the belief he can play right away also attracted him to Arkansas.
"I watched a few of their games, and I definitely saw a need for some O-linemen," he said. "I knew that I could come in and play at a high level. So I took that into consideration, knowing they needed some help."
Cunningham worked at left guard as well as tackle in the spring.
"The thing about Myron that I like is he played both inside and outside," Morris said.
Cunningham said he's not sure whether he'll be at tackle or guard when preseason practice starts in August.
"I'm just keeping my options open," he said. "Trying to stay versatile so I can play wherever I'm needed to get on the field."
Cunningham, who played at Warren (Ohio) High School, said he improved significantly during the 15 practices last spring.
"Obviously, it was a change in speed going from juco to the SEC, but I think I grew and learned a lot of things to help my game," he said. "Technique-wise, I added a few things.
"From practice 1 to 15, it was definitely a great improvement. The explosiveness out of my set [for pass protection] got better. I worked a lot on using my hands, too."
Dutcher said Cunningham's speed and quickness are impressive for a player his size.
"The guys that can move like him at his weight and his height, they're few and far between," Dutcher said. "His athleticism is really what helps him out. His arms are extremely long, too.
"Then he just has a great feel for how to play. The offensive line is about feel for the position. He has tremendous feel."
Dutcher said he's confident Cunningham can be an impact player for Arkansas this season.
"I think he can go in there and play right away," Dutcher said. "He's going to be a tremendous player at Arkansas for the next two years, and hopefully after that as well. I know Coach Fry is going to do an amazing job with him and his development.
"Myron's going to be a team guy, too. At the offensive line position, all five guys have to play together, and he brings that. He can bring guys together.
"He's kind of quiet, but if he says something, everybody's going to listen, because he doesn't say a whole heck of a lot."
Cunningham also said he's confident he'll be ready to play this season.
"I'll be 100% ready as soon as that time comes," he said. "Right now, I'm just focusing on getting stronger, faster, keeping up in the playbook."
Cunningham considers himself a student of the game.
"I can catch on to things pretty fast," he said. "It doesn't take me too long to learn stuff."
He said the resources available at an SEC school compared to a junior college have been a nice plus.
"It's a relief after all that hard work you put in at a juco to go to a place where everything's at your disposal," he said. "It definitely helps, especially with weight management and getting stronger and bigger to play the game at a higher level."
Dutcher said he and Cunningham have stayed in touch.
"We talk at least once every couple of weeks," Dutcher said. "He loves it at Arkansas, and they're fortunate to have him.
"Arkansas got an amazing football player, but an even better person."
The eighth in a summer series featuring newcomers to the University of Arkansas football team.
Sports on 07/11/2019
Print Headline: Plug and play: Juco lineman sees opening to compete