Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Razorback Report: Stromberg accepts all-star invitation, bowl projections
Arkansas offensive lineman Ricky Stromberg (51) gets ready to run a play against Alabama during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Fayetteville. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas center Ricky Stromberg has accepted an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine game according to the all-star game’s social media account.
Stromberg announced on Tuesday that he was forgoing his super senior season with the Razorbacks to concentrate on preparing for the NFL Draft. He will not play in the Razorbacks’ bowl game.
Stromberg, a native of Tulsa, started 44 of a possible 47 games during his four seasons as the anchor of the Arkansas offensive front.
The 6-4, 313-pounder, who had started 25 consecutive games, had considered early entry into the 2022 NFL Draft but opted to return for his senior season.
Stromberg’s 81.6 offensive grade, as rated by Pro Football Focus, is the highest among all SEC centers and it ranks fourth in the FBS.
Stromberg will join Arkansas receiver Jadon Haselwood at the East-West game, scheduled for Feb. 2 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Haselwood, a junior, declared early for the draft on Monday night.
Stromberg was one of 12 Razorbacks available to take a super senior season based on the NCAA’s allowance of an extra season due to the covid-19 season of 2020.
The Razorbacks’ bowl projections have taken a decided turn to the south this week, with multiple outlets picking Arkansas to go bowling in Texas.
The Athletic is projecting the Razorbacks to play Texas Tech of the Big 12 in the Texas Bowl in Houston, which is scheduled for 8 p.m. Dec. 28.
The Liberty Bowl has tracked the Razorbacks more in person than the Texas Bowl, but both postseason games are in the SEC’s “pool of six” bowls along with the Las Vegas Bowl, the Music City Bowl, the Gator Bowl and the ReliaQuest Bowl (formerly the Outback Bowl).
SI.com is also projecting a Texas Bowl appearance for the Razorbacks but against Oklahoma State. The Razorbacks and Cowboys will start a pair of two-game series in 2024 with a game at Oklahoma State on Sept. 7.
247Sports.com also has Arkansas headed to the Texas Bowl to face Oklahoma. The Hogs and Sooners, who will SEC opponents by 2025, have met three times in bowl games since their last regular-season game in 1926. Oklahoma owns a 2-1 edge in the bowl games, including a 10-3 win in the Cotton Bowl following the 2001 season.
CBSSports.com projects the Razorback to face Baylor of the Big 12 in the Liberty Bowl which is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Dec. 28 in Memphis.
Coach Sam Pittman said Wednesday night that he expects the Razorbacks will get in about 13 practices prior to their bowl appearance, as long as it is not the Las Vegas Bowl, which is scheduled for Dec. 17.
Speaking on “Sam Pittman Live,” Pittman said the Razorbacks would start bowl practices on Dec. 9 and work in recruiting visits with practices the next couple of weekends.
Pittman said he has interviewed candidates for the vacant strength and conditioning job each night this week. One of them was former Arkansas fullback Kiero Small, now an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Michigan, who interviewed on Monday.
Seven Razorbacks received degrees on Wednesday, though only six of them attended the graduation ceremony.
Coach Sam Pittman wore a suit to his appearance on his weekly radio show and told host Chuck Barrett that he and his wife Jamie had gone to the ceremony and took pictures with all the graduates.
He also noted that all of the graduates have a year of eligibility remaining.
The graduates were safety Jalen Catalon and defensive tackle Taurean Carter, high school teammates from Mansfield, Texas, punter Reid Bauer, defensive back Hudson Clark, defensive lineman Eric Gregory, deep snapper John Oehrlein and offensive tackle Luke Jones, who was ill and unable to attend the ceremony.
Catalon, Carter, Clark and Oehrlein are all redshirt juniors.
Razorback kicker Cam Little was named on Wednesday to the SEC Community Service Team.
The sophomore from Moore, Okla., has donated money for every field goal he has made for each of his two seasons to Down Syndrome Connection of Northwest Arkansas.
This year, donating $20 per field goal, Little has made 12 of 15 kicks to raise $240. As a freshman while donating $10 per field goal, Little went 20 of 24 for $200, taking his two-year total to $440.
Little has also participated in the organization’s annual fundraiser walk to raise awareness, helping spur an unnamed local company to contribute $25,000 live on “Good Morning America” to Down Syndrome Connection of Northwest Arkansas on Little’s behalf.
The SEC names a community service team member for each of its 21 league-sponsored sports.
Castro to portal
Arkansas deep snapper Francisco Castro announced Wednesday that he would be entering the transfer portal next week.
Castro, a redshirt freshman from Miami, was a backup snapper to Eli Stein and John Oehrlein this season.
He will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.
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