Logan Stenberg on the fine art of trash talking
More from the series
Scouting the Cats
University of Kentucky football beat writer Josh Moore and columnist Mark Story are examining the 2019 Wildcats position by position through a series of nine stories leading up to the start of their season on Aug. 31 against Toledo. Click below to read previous installments in the series.
Drake Jackson has not commissioned a scientific poll. Based on observation, however, the Kentucky Wildcats center is proclaiming UK left guard Logan Stenberg to be the SEC offensive lineman that defenders most dislike.
“You want to be an offensive lineman that the opposing team’s defensive line goes home and says ‘Man, I hate that guy,’” Jackson says. “We’re all trying to be that, but I think Logan is that guy.”
In part, that comes from Stenberg’s relentless habit of playing through the whistle — regardless of where he is in relation to the football.
“He’s knocking his guy down even if the ball is (past),” Jackson says. “He’s just trying to be annoying out there. He’s trying to get inside guys’ heads.”
Once Stenberg, a 6-foot-6, 321-pound redshirt senior from Madison, Ala., gets his man to the ground, he’s not through.
Stenberg “loves trash talking. Loves it,” says UK left tackle Landon Young. “(He) absolutely loves taking (defenders) and piling them up, then telling them about it.”
If Kentucky is going to “back up” its 10-3 breakthrough season in 2018 with a memorable 2019, a veteran offensive line must lead the way. Stenberg, a preseason Second Team All-America choice by The Sporting News, will be at the core of that effort.
Though personable and friendly in conversation, Stenberg’s coaches and teammates tend to all use the same adjective to describe his on-the-field demeanor.
“Nasty,” Young says. “A nasty guy.”
The “edge” that has helped a relatively unheralded recruit — besides Kentucky, Stenberg’s scholarship offers came from Troy and Southern Mississippi — become a legitimate NFL Draft aspirant comes from childhood.
Kimberly and David Stenberg’s youngest child has three (much) older brothers. Of Logan’s siblings, Eric is 15 years older, Ryan 13 years older and Jacob seven years older.
In spite of the age differences, the brothers “did roughhouse with (Logan) a lot,” Kimberly Stenberg says. “From an early age, he was trying to be better than his brothers.”
Says Logan Stenberg: “They beat the tar out of me growing up. I credit them with my toughness, honestly. You had to be tough with them.”
Not long after Logan was old enough to start school, there was a day when Kimberly Stenberg needed to make a trip to the grocery. She instructed her older sons to watch their little brother.
As it turned out, his brothers had no trouble keeping an eye on Logan — once they duct-taped him to the coffee table, took him outside and left him.
“They left me out for about an hour and a half, until my mom came home,” Logan Stenberg says. “I was crying the whole time. My mom, man, she was irate. She ripped into them when she got home.”
As upsetting as that sounds, Logan says he was not traumatized by the duct-taping. “It was all in love,” he says. “But, my brothers, they did make me tough.”
‘Want to play in the SEC?’
A moment that could have been a scene from a movie began the process that brought Stenberg to Kentucky.
During his junior year at Alabama’s James Clemens High School, Stenberg was one day called into the office of his high school offensive line coach.
Cyrus Swearingen looked Stenberg dead in the eye and asked, “You want to play in the SEC?”
“Of course,” Stenberg said.
The next thing the player knew, he was outside with Swearingen doing agility drills. While Swearingen recorded it, Stenberg went through a four-cone drill, did some mock pass sets, even pulled once simulating the lead guard on a running play.
At Troy, Schlarman had signed two offensive linemen that Swearingen had coached, Hazel Green’s Tyler Lassiter and Huntsville’s Terrence Jones. Both developed into starters.
“I had met Coach Schlarman at Troy, and I kind of knew what he looked for,” Swearingen says.
Once Swearingen had finished recording Stenberg doing drills, he emailed the video to Lexington.
Says Stenberg: “Coach Schlarman called me that night, said, ‘Hey, I see what Coach Swearingen sent. He vouches for you. I’d love to have you up for a visit.’”
During that visit, Stoops offered Stenberg a Kentucky scholarship. On April 16, 2014, Stenberg verbally committed to UK.
Stenberg almost certainly could have used that initial SEC scholarship to leverage other schools for additional offers. Instead, “more credit to him, he shut (recruiting) down,” Schlarman says.
When he arrived in Lexington in the fall of 2015, Stenberg brought with him size, strength and his on-field nasty streak. Where he has progressed in his time at UK is as a technician of his craft.
“As a young guard, I just wanted to maul people, just put my head in there and try to pancake everybody,” he says. “I’ve learned through the years that is not how you win blocks all the time. It’s about hand placement, footwork, where your hips are. That’s really where I’ve improved my game.”
Over the past three seasons, Kentucky has improved its game — winning 24 football games and playing in three straight bowls.
As a redshirt freshman in 2016, Stenberg was a contributing reserve in a nine-player offensive line rotation. Over the past two seasons, he has started 26 straight games.
In a Kentucky football program that has turned a perceived lack of respect from outsiders into a motivational art form, Logan Stenberg has been an ideal fit.
It’s just, for him, the chip on his shoulder traces its roots to childhood.
“To this day, Logan wants to be better than his brothers at everything,” Kimberly Stenberg says.
Scouting the Cats
This is the fifth of nine stories looking at the 2019 Kentucky football team position-by-position.
Offensive line outlook
The main men: Senior left guard Logan Stenberg and junior center Drake Jackson are the lone returning starters from the offensive line that helped Benny Snell become Kentucky’s all-time career rushing leader as UK went 10-3 last season. Perhaps UK’s most physical player, the 6-foot-6, 321-pound Stenberg was chosen a preseason Second Team All-American by The Sporting News. Jackson, a 6-2, 312-pound Woodford County product, was ranked the best center in the SEC in Phil Steele’s 2019 College Football Preview.
The supporting cast: Junior Landon Young was slated to be the starting left tackle last season before a left knee injury knocked him out for the year. The 6-7, 321-pound Lafayette High School product has returned healthy and could be primed for a big year. There will be new starters on the right side, with 6-6, 305-pound junior Luke Fortner slated to start at guard and 6-5, 325-pound sophomore Darian Kinnard the likely starter at tackle. Both were in the offensive line rotation last season; Fortner played in 11 games and Kinnard started two of the last three games of 2018 at left tackle.
The outlook: Optimists about Kentucky’s 2019 football prospects generally point to prospective UK strength at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. For UK to back up last season’s breakthrough year, it will need what is an experienced offensive line corps to play strong.