FAYETTEVILLE — Junior center Ricky Stromberg announced Friday he was returning to Arkansas for his senior season.
Two seniors, cornerback Montaric Brown and defensive tackle John Ridgeway, have accepted bids to play in all-star games following the bowl game. But they could opt out of the all-star games and return to Arkansas for their COVID season. Both said on Friday they are still trying to make a final decision.
Stromberg credited Sam Pittman and Cody Kennedy, the offensive line coach, for wanting to return another year.
“I had a couple meeting with Coach Pittman after Missouri,” Stromberg said. “We talked about my grade, and I didn’t really like my grade at the time. With Coach Pittman and Coach Kennedy, I think it’s a no-brainer to come back and go up from there.”
Wide receiver Tyson Morris is pleased with the decision that Stromberg made.
“I feel like Ricky made the best decision for himself,” Morris said. “He probably didn’t like his grade that he received back from the agents and scouts and stuff like that and he probably just wants to get better. Ricky, he’s all about ball. He’s going to come back and he’s going to give it his all one more time. And I feel like that’s a great decision for him.”
Stromberg has made some of the All-SEC teams. He talked about how he feels his junior season went.
“I thought I played good overall.” Stromberg said. “I thought there were some tweaks here and there I could get better at. I thought I had an overall good season. I think I do need to get a little bit stronger. I think that’ll help. Next year, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to stay and get a little stronger and it’ll definitely help for my senior year.”
The Razorbacks were one of the finalists for the Joe Moore Award, given to the nation’s best offensive line.
“I think we had a heck of a year as an O-line,” Stromberg said. “We definitely got a lot closer. We were close last season, but this year as a group, we grew closer. Coach Kennedy coming in, he was awesome. We just bonded right away all with each other. I think we can only keep going up from here.”
Ridgeway, who goes against Stromberg at practice on a regular basis, is pleased for the talented center.
“I think that’s a great decision, too,” Ridgeway said. “It gives him a chance to finish his degree, and education is what he came here for. It also gives him a chance to get better. They have really good coaches here at Arkansas and they can only mold him to make him a better center in the long run.”
Brown, a former four-star recruit from Ashdown, had 53 tackles, including 24 solo, five interceptions, five pass breakups, forced a fumble and recovered one. Brown talked about the kind of year he feels he had.
“I feel like it was great,” Brown said. “There’s always room for improvement just to work on technique and things like that. But I feel like it was great.”
What do feel made it a great season?
“It feels great,” Brown said. “Just trusting Coach (Sam) Carter and Coach (Barry) Odom’s plan and having them put me in the right positions to make plays. Just working on my technique every day and trusting the process. It was a great feeling having a great season and everything went as planned.”
Brown was asked if he has made a definite decision on leaving or returning?
“I’m not sure yet,” Brown said. “I’m still deciding if I want to come back.”
What are the factors that will help you decide on next season?
“It’s a lot of keys that play into that,” Brown said. “I just have to communicate with my family and my coaches.”
Morris feels that Brown will excel whatever he decides. Morris has gone against Brown in practice for a few years now.
“Buster, he’s a great athlete,” Morris said. “He’s a great cornerback. I feel like what makes Buster so good is his ‘want to,’ his confidence. He’s not scared. Once Buster’s by himself out there, it’s him versus the world. He truly believes that, and he goes all-out to make sure that he’s not the one who’s going to mess up. He takes pride in his job. He takes pride in being a great football player, a great all-around football player. So, I feel like it’s his pride, confidence. Obviously his athleticism and talent was already there. I just feel like it’s confidence and pride, no doubt. As far as him ranking against the defensive backs I’ve played against, he’s definitely top three.”
Where has Brown improved the most since his freshman season?
“I think overall he’s matured more,” Morris said. “When he first came in, he was all ready. He loved the game of football, but there was some growing to do. And he’s definitely done that. He’s definitely turned into the young man that I’m pretty sure his parents want him to be. I think he’s done a great job coming in and sticking to the script, never giving up and getting better each year and definitely advancing his skill level.”
Ridgeway has accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl, but is eligible to withdraw and return to Arkansas for his COVID season.
“I haven’t really talked with Pitt yet lately,” Ridgeway said. “I’m sure I’m gonna have a talk with him this week. As of now I’m just weighing out my options, seeing what’s best for me, best for my family and best for my future.”
Has going against Stromberg in practice helped you gauge your status?
“Yeah for sure because he’s looked on so highly at that spot,” Ridgeway said. “For me to go against him and see how I stack up against someone like him definitely helps me in the long run and definitely helps me look at my fundamentals and technique and what I need to work on to be better. Talent only takes you just so far and you need to work within your fundamentals to bring yourself to be a better plays, so going against him, a talent like him is definitely good.”
What makes Stromberg so good compared to other centers you faced?
“He’s really quick off the ball,” Ridgeway said. “He gets on you quick. A lot of centers, they’ll take their time and wait for another guy to help, but he likes to take on the whole block by himself, which is nice. He wants to take charge. He’s one of the leaders of the O-line, which is good. He definitely likes to get after it every day, so I enjoy that.”
The Razorbacks will face Penn State in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day. Kickoff set for 11 a.m. CT and televised on ESPN2.