Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is the host of Recruiting Thursday, a weekly radio show that airs from 7 to 8 p.m. on 92.1 FM in Fayetteville; 93.7 FM in Little Rock; 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home; and 106.9 FM in Arkadelphia.
Stromberg waited out Power 5 offer
Union offensive lineman Ricky Stromberg is shown during a photo shoot in May 2018 in Tulsa.
University of Arkansas freshman Ricky Stromberg was one of the more athletic offensive linemen in the nation, but his scholarship offer list didn’t reflect it.
He turned heads when he recorded the best 2018 The Opening football rating for offensive guards with a score of 103.86 while weighing 320 pounds.
Stromberg, 6-4, 268 pounds, of Tulsa Union recorded 5.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.46 seconds in the shuttle, a 27.9-inch vertical jump and a power ball throw of 40.5 feet.
The rating even surprised him.
Ricky Stromberg At a Glance
POSITION Offensive Lineman
HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-4, 268 pounds
HOMETOWN Tulsa, Okla.
HIGH SCHOOL Tulsa Union
AGE 18 (born Nov. 10, 2000)
NOTEWORTHY Three-star prospect by Tom Lemming. … No sacks allowed as a three-year starter. … Helped Tulsa Union to a 32-6 record. … First sophomore offensive lineman to start at Union since 2000. … 4.46 pro-agility shuttle, 28-inch vertical. … Recruited by offensive line coach Dustin Fry.
“I didn’t really notice until after I realized what my numbers were at my weight,” he said. “The whole time I knew I was athletic, but didn’t realize I was that athletic at that weight until I got my sheet back.”
Despite the showing and highlight video that showed impressive athleticism, he didn’t receive a Power 5 scholarship offer until the Hogs extended one Dec. 18.
A day later, he flipped his commitment from Tulsa to Arkansas. He also had offers from Colorado State, Arkansas State University, North Texas, Texas State, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan.
Tulsa Union Coach Kirk Fridrich has coached offensive linemen Brian DeShane and Alec Henry of Tulsa, and defensive lineman Jordan Kelley of Oklahoma. He said Stromberg is the best he’s coached.
“He’s the best lineman we’ve had,” Fridrich said. “I’ve been there 13 years, and without a doubt as a sophomore he was the best one we had.”
Fridrich was puzzled by Stromberg’s lack of Power 5 offers.
“I think one of the biggest things for him is he felt like in order for him to play Division I football he needed to be as big as he could be,” Fridrich said. “I think he put on a little bit of bad weight going through his junior year, and I think when he was evaluated he was probably a little heavy.”
Stromberg adjusted his diet the summer before his senior season.
“I was eating chicken and rice all of the time,” Stromberg said. “I ate the same thing every day. [The weight] fell off pretty quick, especially with workouts. I was dropping fast. The first game I played at 305, and then the last game I played at 278.”
The frustration grew as the season unfolded without any Power 5 offers.
“My dad and I talked about it every night,” Stromberg said. “I just stayed focus. I just kept working out. I was staying focused on that it could happen, but yeah I always had those doubts in my mind.”
It wasn’t until after the season that Coach Chad Morris and offensive line coach Dustin Fry presented him an offer from Arkansas.
“It was always my dream to play at a bigger school, so I was hoping it would happen,” Stromberg said. “I had a feeling it would, and it all worked out. It was a dream come true, like a childhood dream. Something you dream of all the time.”
Before getting to campus May 28 for the first summer session, Stromberg and Fry discussed his future position.
“Center or guard, but mainly a center,” Stromberg said.
Stromberg played three games at center in high school. He said there are a lot of differences between guard and center.
“You’re the first guy to move,” he said. “The moment you snap, you’re the first one to move. That’s the advantage, but the disadvantage is you’re sitting up high from snapping so it’s harder to fire off, but I adjusted pretty quickly.”
Before reporting to Fayetteville, Stromberg had a setback after getting sick and losing about 20 pounds in April.
“My mom, she’s a nurse, and she said it had something to do with allergies, but they really don’t know,” Stromberg said. “It’s kind of weird. All my strength went down. It was a major setback.”
Stromberg has regained some of the lost weight and is looking forward to adding more.
“I see my playing weight being around 290 to 300,” he said.
Because of his athleticism, Stromberg also played snaps on the defensive line as a senior.
“He was athletic enough to play on the defensive line, and I kind of look back and wish we would’ve played him there more because he could move so much better and move so well,” Fridrich said.
Fridrich still scratches his head about Stromberg’s lack of offers.
“I have no clue how recruiting works,” he said. “There’s so many mysteries and things that frustrate you as a high school coach.”
Stromberg was born to be a lineman.
“Someone asked me how many games he started, and I said he’s been a starter since he’s been born,” Fridrich said. “I think he was born in a three-point stance. He’s been a lineman and a good one his whole life.”
The sixth in a summer series featuring newcomers to the University of Arkansas football team
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