FAYETTEVILLE — Senior left tackle Myron Cunningham was voted one of the team’s captains to replace senior running back Rakeem Boyd who opted out of the season last week.
Cunningham’s first game as captain was against Missouri and it also marked a special occasion for him according to Sam Pittman.
“The team voted him in,” Pittman said. “You need four captains, and that’s what we thought. So, we voted in another captain. The team voted on that. I was so pleased and so happy that the team voted him in.
“His mother and father went to his first college game on Saturday. Once we had found that out, and then he was elected as captain, then I wanted him to go out and represent the team because his momma and daddy were at the first college game. I thought it was a great moment. He’s played well. We’re going to get his NFL evaluation when it comes in, and then we’ll let him decide what’s best for him to do. But, he certainly has elevated his opportunity to play in the NFL if that’s what he chooses.”
Cunningham also talked about his parents being present.
“That was special considering my whole college career that was the first game that they had the opportunity to come see me in person,” Cunningham said. “It was special. And I know they enjoyed their time here and I really enjoyed having them there.”
He also talked about what it meant to be elected captain by his teammates.
“In my opinion that’s the ultimate goal as a senior is to have everyone on the team believe in you and trust you enough to vote you a captain,” Cunningham said. “And I just appreciate every one of my teammates for doing that.”
Cunningham and quarterback Feleipe Franks were chosen to play in the East-West Shrine All-Star Game. Since seniors are allowed to return for another season in college is that something Cunningham is considering or definitely heading to the NFL?
“I’m not really worried about that right now,” Cunningham said. “I’m just focused in on Alabama this week.”
The performance by the offensive line in a 50-48 loss to Missouri was that the best performance of the year for your group?
“Yeah, I would probably say that was our best performance of the season, especially running the ball,” Cunningham said. “Getting close to 300 yards, well 300 yards was our goal but getting close to that, I would say that was our best performance. I mean it’s just great from practice each and every day and we just prepared like we were going into the game to win it and that’s what we tried to do.”
Can the performance against Missouri give you added confidence facing Alabama this week?
“I think when you rush for that much and protect the quarterback like we did it gives you confidence,” Cunningham said. “I mean, it should. Missouri wasn’t a bad team. They’re a good team. So, I think when we accomplish something like that as an offense and as a unit, it definitely gives us confidence.”
The line had to block for redshirt freshman quarterback KJ Jefferson, who was playing for the injured Franks. Cunningham liked what he saw from Jefferson.
“Yeah, I think KJ stepping up for us in the Missouri game shows the level of maturity that he has and that whenever his number is called you have to be ready,” Jefferson said. “He was prepared the whole week like a starter, like a leader. And that’s what he came out and did. He led the team and we were successful.”
If he has to start against Alabama how much did his game against Missouri help?
“I think he’ll be just fine,” Cunningham said. “He prepares like a winner. That’s what he is. I think in the huddle he calm. He’s collected. He’s just a leader, and I know if he has to step in for us against Alabama that he’ll be ready.”
Jefferson has started two games in his career. In addition to Missouri, he started at LSU last season when they were ranked No. 1 as well.
“I think starting in an SEC game always help you with experience because experience is the best tool,” Cunningham said. “I think he’ll be find versus Alabama if he has to step in. I think he’ll be good.”
Cunningham also praised Trelon Smith and T.J. Hammonds, Arkansas’ pair of running backs.
“Trelon Smith, I think he’s a fighter,” Cunningham said. “I love when he’s in. I think he just brings another spark to our offense that we always enjoy. He always works his butt off, so we appreciate that. T.J. Hammonds, he’s been showing up these past few weeks and we appreciate that. He works hard throughout the week and it shows come game time.”
This week Cunningham and the Hogs will face the nation’s No. 1 team in Alabama.
“We’re not going to treat it as more than it is,” Cunningham said. “Obviously it’s Alabama, they’re the No. 1 team, so we have to give them some respect, but we’re not going to make it out to be more than it is. It’s just another SEC game that we have to go in there with the right mindset in order to win it.”
Is this the type game where you have nothing to lose considering it’s Alabama and no one will expect the Hogs to win?
“Going into the Alabama game this weekend, we’re all just trying to play our best,” Cunningham said. “Playing the No. 1 ranked team in the country is an opportunity for everyone, and I think we’re going to take advantage of it.”
Arkansas and Alabama will kickoff at 11 a.m. in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. It will be Senior Day and the game will be televised on ESPN.