FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Let's face it, an offensive lineman is never going to win the Heisman.
However, with so many Arkansas fans trying to promote Raheim "Rocket" Sanders for the award, there's one particular lineman who's going to get a lot of air time if Sanders is named a finalist at the end of the season.
Unless it's technically part of the job, there aren't many people out there watching Arkansas Razorback clips at half speed. Fortunately for the readers, that's exactly what happens on Sundays and Mondays around the allHogs headquarters.
At full speed, this past Saturday is about Sanders, KJ Jefferson, and Matt Landers putting on their super hero suits to pull out the win from the offensive perspective.
However, at half speed, which is how we watch it to pick up specific details, those three are hard to notice because it's impossible to take your eye off the giant bull that is Stromberg.
Go back and watch the Sanders touchdown reception, and yes, it is technically a pass, on the KJ Jefferson shuttle pass into the offensive line. This time, instead of following Sanders, which is what your eye is conditioned to do, train your eye on No. 51 at center.
It's a play of exsquisite design. Every member of the offensive line gives ground to create a natural vacuum behind Sanders except Stromberg.
Instead, he delays his block to make sure no one is going to blow up the play, then works his way up to the second level.
The true value of Stromberg isn't that he blows up the defender, creating the perfect running lane to allow Sanders to fully accelerate. It's his spatial awareness and football IQ.
Stromberg picks up the linebacker visually right away. However, he is careful to engage him not only at a point that maintains leverage from an angle standpoint, but that is safely behind the yardage that would draw a flag for an illegal player downfield.
If watched slow enough, there is a subtle shift in his positioning when defenders close in on Sanders from Stromberg's right peripheral vision. The 313-pound senior lineman adjusts his hips and pressure points, turning what was once an outside drive block into just enough of an inside block to let Sanders cut off his backside and safely burst free.
In another clip, this time earlier in the gam with Arkansas down 17, Sanders pops a huge run on a drive where he appeared to put the team on his back and will them to not get blown out.
However, once again, we slow it down, and it's Stromberg's back that's doing the heavy lifting. Sanders just does his best to make sure it's not in vain.
In the highlights below, skip ahead to the 4:52 mark and click on the settings button next to the closed caption to slow things down. Keep an eye on No. 51 again in the heart of the offensive line.
Stromberg shoots all the way across the face of a Missouri State defensive lineman, turns his body, and presents that big old rump of his at a 45 degree angle as if it's a flashing exit sign guiding Sanders into daylight.
If he doesn't have that quick first step or the agility to turn and seal his block, the big gain by Sanders to turn momentum in a game devoid of such a thing for Arkansas at that point, the air stays sucked out of Razorback Stadium and the energy heading into Texas A&M has a much different feel.
Skip ahead to the 9:48 mark in the highlights to a key Sanders run that set up the final Jefferson touchdown.
Here Stromberg works his way up the second level again, laying a block on the linebacker once more to create a crease for Sanders to cut into on his left to spring Sanders once more and put the game away.
This page could be filled with great blocks by Stromberg that avoided disaster, broke open a play or allowed extra time so a receiver could get open, but what has already been presented is enough to get the point across.
Sanders is an amazing back who shows more growth each week. However, if either he or Jefferson make it to New York for the Heisman ceremony, they might want to stow Stromberg away in their luggage and buy him an overpriced cheeseburger in Times Square because the big man will definitely have earned it.
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