Analysis: Arkansas beats OU for much-needed Cunningham

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Myron Cunningham
Myron Cunningham

— Arkansas may not be playing in a bowl game for the second straight year, but it just landed a big postseason win over No. 4 Oklahoma.

Iowa Central offensive lineman Myron Cunningham (6-5, 300) announced Tuesday afternoon he will sign with the Razorbacks over co-finalists Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska and others.

It is somewhat of a surprise because Cunningham, who started his career at Western Illinois, had declared his official visit to Oklahoma on Nov. 16-18 as “one of the best moments of his life.”

Cunningham noted that he almost committed to the Sooners’ staff while on visit to Norman, but decided to wait because of Arkansas offensive line coach Dustin Fry.

Fry and Razorbacks head coach Chad Morris took the opportunity to remind Cunningham that Arkansas had been on him the longest, how much he was needed and how he could be part of arguably the greatest recruiting haul in the school’s history.

The addition of Cunningham and the likely pledge of fellow 3-star prospect Scranton (Pa.) Lackawanna standout Chibueze Nwanna (6-8, 314) on Wednesday is a big-time late daily double for the Razorbacks and will give them 27 commits – two who are private pledges.

Going into Tuesday, Arkansas’ recruiting class was 11th by Rivals, 16th by ESPN and 17th by 247.

Nwanna is ranked as the 35th-best junior college player and Cunningham the 65th-best per 247, which has no 5-stars and only 13 4-star players in the 2019 class.

Both are early enrollees, will be able to go through offseason strength and conditioning and spring practice and are expected to be starters next season.

You don’t recruit junior offensive linemen, especially ones with two years left, unless you expect them to make a significant impact from Day 1.

While Arkansas also has the pledges of four high school offensive linemen, including early enrollee and preferred walk-on Drew Vest of Searcy, it needs the immediate help of these two junior college standouts.

Cunningham redshirted his freshman season at Western Illinois and did not play as a redshirt in 2017, thus accelerating his departure from the school.

He comes out of Iowa Central as a much better and more developed prospect than he was out of high school in Warren, Ohio.

The play of Arkansas’ offensive line was obviously lacking this season and loses three seniors.

While both Cunningham and Nwanna are viewed as top-notch left tackles, they both also have the versatility to play other positions on the line.

Fry will no doubt take the two junior college additions and mix them in with senior-to-be Colton Jackson and some promising redshirt sophomores and redshirt freshmen to find the best mix on the line that he can.

While Arkansas has landed top prospects at almost all other position in its 2019 class, it needed these two guys to have some hope that the line can improve next season.

What’s left? It appears that Arkansas will add a linebacker, whether it be East Mississippi Community College’s Sci Martin (6-4, 230), Dodge City (Kan.) CC’s Lakia Henry (6-1, 220), Fullerton (Calif.) CC’s Caleb Johnson (6-1, 215) or someone else.

That would leave one spot, which would likely be used for the best player available – a graduate transfer quarterback or another need.

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