Arguably Kentucky’s two most proven offensive linemen are from the state of Alabama: Logan Stenberg and Bunchy Stallings. Stallings was a late addition to the heralded Class of 2014. He’s been a continual presence along the UK offensive line and has played both center and guard.
Stallings has started 20 games; 4 at center, 16 at guard. His move from center to guard developed into a season-changing personnel move in 2016. John Schlarman’s offensive line was one of the better, if not the best, groups in the Southeastern Conference. 2017 saw the 6’3, 305-pounder again starting the season at center but was moved back to guard following the emergence of Drake Jackson. The middle of the offensive line (Guard-Center-Guard) figures to be the strength of the Kentucky offense in 2018.
Offensive line coach John Schlarman and then UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown traveled to Spain Park High School to visit with Stallings when a winter storm blanketed the Birmingham area with snow. Legend says that the Wildcat coaches were stuck in the car and decided to walk several miles to speak with Stallings and were then stuck in the school due to the aforementioned weather. Stallings committed to Kentucky soon after.
Here are extracts from Tuesday’s interview with Bunchy Stallings:
Q: Give us the state of the Kentucky offensive line (Question by Lonny Demaree).
Stallings: “As an offensive line unit I feel like we’re all maturing, we’re all veterans, we all have experience, so now the communication is much easier, working together much easier honestly because we’re all so close; one big happy family.”
Q: On a scale 1-10, how much better is the OL compared to this time last year (Q by Lonny Demaree).
“I can probably say a 10. Just because as soon as the season was over last year we got back into it. Mentality has changed over the years. Coach Schlarman has done a great job keeping the mentality strong in the room, keeping everybody together, being there when we need him; things like that. On a scale of 1-10; I think it’s a 10, we’ve taken a total flip; 360 turn.”
Q: Is OL responsibility greater for OL with a couple new quarterbacks coming in and trying to help those guys, making sure you guys are clean to help them (Q by Jeff Drummond)?
“If a quarterback feels like that, he shouldn’t be a quarterback. Because, at the end of the day, a quarterback is always looked at like the leader of the offense, leader of the team. That’s his job. The quarterbacks we have in there now, whoever it is, will do a great job leading us.”
Q: How’s the communication between you, Bunchy, and Logan inside? (I screwed this question up royally).
“Me, Drake, and Logan? (Bunchy corrected my horrible question) Honestly, that communication is great because, it’s kind of weird because we’re so close we can talk to each other and it can come off wrong to someone else; as a unit we can say it with a stern voice to get that point across. I think that is the biggest difference is being able to take constructive criticism.”
Q: What specific techniques are you working on as a senior?
“Really, everything. I’m trying to take my passing game to another level. Just take every aspect of the game to another level.”
Q: What’s the biggest area of development that you’ve grown into in the four years being here?
“Probably consistency. Honestly, that’s the biggest thing I’m trying to work on this spring. Stay consistent, especially in passing game, passing sets. Doing passing sets with a sense of urgency.”
What does all this mean?
Bunchy Stallings has been a constant presence along the Kentucky offensive line thanks to persistence by John Schlarman on the recruiting trail as well as in player development. He’s going into his third season as a starter while going through a noticeable body change since his arrival. Stallings weighted 330 lbs. when he reported to camp as a freshman. He’s now a mobile 305 and joins fellow guard Logan Stenberg in providing a nasty streak to the Wildcat offensive line-of-scrimmage. The interior of the UK offensive line should be its strength.
Stallings is a pure center that made a transition to guard in 2016. An attempt to move back to center didn’t work which allowed Drake Jackson to stabilize the front. Bunchy seems more comfortable at guard. Experience is an invaluable teaching tool. UK’s interior offensive line has plenty of that going into 2018.