COLUMBIA, Mo. -- When Arkansas offensive lineman Brian Wallace gets his hands on something, he doesn't let go.
"Brian's grip strength is off the charts good," Razorbacks offensive line coach Kurt Anderson said. "So once he gets his hands on you, it's over.
Brian Wallace at a glance
CLASS Redshirt sophomore
POSITION Offensive tackle
HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-6, 335 pounds
HOMETOWN Florissant, Mo.
HIGH SCHOOL Christian Brothers
AGE 20 (born Feb. 3, 1996)
NOTEWORTHY Has started the past eight games at right tackle after being put into the lineup against Texas A&M. … Played in three games as a backup last season after redshirting as a true freshman in 2014. … Chose Arkansas over numerous offers, including Alabama, Missouri, Georgia, Michigan State, Iowa and Nebraska. … Rated among the top 10 high school offensive tackles nationally by 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals. … Son of Brian and Leslie Wallace. … Majoring in sociology.
"You turn on the tape from last week and he's got his hands in a great position -- inside the framework of the body of a defensive end from Mississippi State -- and the guy couldn't do anything. It looked like a fly on flypaper."
Wallace has kept his grip on the starting right tackle spot, too.
The redshirt sophomore from Florissant, Mo., will make his ninth consecutive start when Arkansas plays Missouri today at Faurot Field.
It will be the first time Wallace, who starred at Christian Brothers High School, has played a college game in his home state.
"He's definitely excited that he's going back home," Anderson said. "You can tell he's juiced up and ready to go."
Wallace, 6-6 and 335 pounds, has helped solidify Arkansas' rebuilt offensive line.
"He's a freak of nature, athletically, for being as big as he is," Razorbacks offensive coordinator Dan Enos said. "He's got great feet and balance and power and explosion.
"With him, it's just all about knowing what to do and playing fast."
Wallace -- ranked among the top 10 tackles nationally as a high school senior by 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals -- was expected to win a first-team job in the spring with the Razorbacks losing three starters on the offensive line, but he was slowed by an ankle injury.
After fall camp, coaches decided Wallace still wasn't ready to start. Redshirt freshman Colton Jackson was at right tackle for the first three games.
"One of the things I always tell our players is that I'm going to try as a head coach to never put you in a position to fail," Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said. "If that means playing someone that maybe isn't a popular choice or whatnot, I just think you can set a kid's career back quite a bit if you play him before his time.
"B-Wall wasn't quite ready yet. He kept working."
Bielema said Wallace became more committed to his preparation and practiced with added intensity.
"Locked himself in," Bielema said. "Playing with a little bit of a passion and a little bit of an edge."
Wallace made his first start against Texas A&M and found himself blocking defensive ends Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall.
"He got his feet wet against Texas A&M and that's going to be maybe the first pick in the draft," said Enos, referring to Garrett. "Then he's got to play Alabama, then he's got to play Auburn.
"I think as the season has gone on, he's blocking the best people in the country and he's seeing that, 'Hey, I'm having some success doing this,' which he should. He'll continue to get better for us."
Wallace said the week after the Texas A&M game he was comfortable starting.
"It actually felt amazing," he said. "I loved it. I always say I can do better. But from what I see on film, I feel like I played good."
Wallace, who wasn't available for an interview this week, has consistently improved, according to his coaches and teammates.
"He's progressed very well," said freshman defensive lineman McTelvin Agim, who goes against Wallace in practice. "His sets are better. His one-on-one and pass blocking game is better than he was at the beginning of the season.
"Stronger, quicker -- dependable definitely."
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen said he feels good having Wallace blocking on the edge for him.
"He had to learn on the fly a little bit earlier in the year, but he's gotten better each week," Allen said. "He cares a lot and works hard and really studies the game plan and wants to do well and be a great player."
Wallace has been going to Anderson's office at 6:30 a.m. to get one-on-one time with his position coach.
"It's paid dividends for him," Anderson said. "Every meeting, every practice, he continues to learn. He's still got a long ways to go, but it's exciting he's got such a high ceiling. He's got an unbelievable future ahead of him."
Wallace said the week after the Texas A&M game that he wasn't going to give up when he didn't open the season as a starter.
"You have to find a way to elevate your game," he said. "Coach Anderson told us in the spring when stuff gets hard, you've got to find a way, and if you really want it, you can go get it."
Anderson was hired at Arkansas in January after working for the Buffalo Bills the previous three seasons.
"I think it took longer for Brian to initially adapt to my techniques, terminology, verbiage, and exactly what I need to get done with him," Anderson said. "But when the mental caught up with the physical, then it was a matter of getting his game legs underneath him.
"It took him a good two, three weeks of the season to get himself ready to go."
Now Wallace has proven he's ready to start, Anderson said, and go the distance.
"It's like a heavyweight boxer," Anderson said. "If you've got George Foreman out there and he's got those heavy hands and he's wailing on you for 12 rounds, it's the same thing as Brian Wallace wailing on you for four quarters.
"By the end of the game he's going to wear you out."
Sports on 11/25/2016
Print Headline: Wallace grabs hold of position