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HawgBeat is counting down the 10 most important Arkansas players for the upcoming 2021 season. Links to previous players in the list will be included below.

Without the pandemic, Myron Cunningham would be on an NFL roster right now. Instead, the big lineman opted to take advantage of the eligibility relief granted by the NCAA and return to Arkansas for an extra year.

After two seasons with the Razorbacks, the former JUCO transfer likely would have been taken in the middle-to-late rounds of the NFL Draft, but Cunningham is confident that another year under head coach Sam Pittman could vault him higher.

While that is certainly a good reason for him to come back to school from a personal standpoint, his decision also has serious ramifications for the team, as the Razorbacks won’t be looking for a new left tackle to protect KJ Jefferson’s blindside. It means they return every offensive lineman in the two-deep, as well.

The coaching staff seems to be really high on Marcus Henderson and he would have been a strong candidate to replace Cunningham. Although he’ll probably be the backup – and could be a swing tackle capable of playing both sides – he’s still just a second-year player and listed at 295 pounds.

As for Cunningham, he’s now listed at 6-foot-6, 330 pounds and truly looks the part of an SEC left tackle. Last season, he played every single offensive snap of every game and earned a respectable 66.2 grade from Pro Football Focus.

That was a nice jump from his 58.7 grade in 2019, which he earned while not playing every snap and getting to face some non-conference opponents. Another encouraging sign was that Cunningham played really well down the stretch, posting a 64-plus grade in each of the last four games. He had just one such grade against SEC foes a year earlier.

If he can make similar improvements in 2021, which seems plausible considering it will be his second year under Pittman and a second year playing at his increased weight, then it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that Cunningham pushes for a spot on the All-SEC team at the end of the season.