Offensive line priority for Bielema

By: Nate Allen
Published: Monday, December 24, 2012
Arkansas center Travis Swanson, a three-year starter, was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list, it was announced Tuesday.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas center Travis Swanson, a three-year starter, was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list, it was announced Tuesday.

— Barring developments, former Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino recruited only two offensive linemen equal or better to who Houston Nutt brought to the Razorbacks.

Petrino in 2008 inherited linemen Jonathan Luigs, Mitch Petrus, Jose Valdez, DeMarcus Love, Wade Grayson, Ray Dominguez, Grant Cook, Grant Freeman and Seth Oxner.

All played well, the last two, Cook and Freeman, in 2011.

Only Petrino era recruits seniorto-be center Travis Swanson and senior-would-have been guard Alvin Bailey, both with past All-SEC recognition, rank with or above any of those recent Razorbacks barring developments.

“Barring developments” is mentioned again because offensive linemen generally take longer to develop than any position. So maybe Brey Cook and Mitch Smothers,compelled by line attrition to play too soon as true freshmen in 2011 instead of redshirting, will blossom in 2013. Maybe others years apprenticing like Luke Charpentier, Grady Ollison and Chris Stringer will hit their stride like senior-to-be former walk-on tackle David Hurd did in 2012.

If some don’t, the struggles to run the ball affecting the 4-8 Razorbacks of 2012 under Interim Coach John L. Smith will beset newly hiredCoach Bret Bielema in 2013.

Bielema starts even deeper lodged behind the 8-ball. Bailey has already turned professional for the 2013 draft as did running back Knile Davis.

Swanson has done the paperwork to keep his NFL options open but since first meeting with Bielema has sounded likely to return.

“I have met with all the seniors,” Bielema said during a teleconference Saturday. “There hasn’t been anybody that has approached me as far as transferring and moving on.”

The offensive line appears to be emphasized by Bielema like Petrino emphasized Razorbacks receivers. It’s an emphasis Bielema believes the linemen already taste even while now back home tasting Christmas dinner.

One junior college lineman, guard Jonathan McClure of Butler County (Kan.) Community College,signed to transfer in January.

Apparently McClure swung at a pitch Bielema has crafted from churning out NFL quality linemen during his seven years head coaching Wisconsin.

“It’s kind of fun,” Bielema said, “to tell a kid my last two years we had a left tackle [Gabe Carimi] that was drafted in the first round by the [Chicago] Bears and got a left guard [John Moffitt] that was drafted in the third round by the [Seattle] Seahawks, and the center [Peter Konz] who left us early who went in the second round to the [Atlanta] Falcons and a right guard [Kevin Zeitler] that was a first-round draft pick to the [Cincinnati] Bengals and a right tackle this year that potentially could be the first tackle picked in the draft and we had a guy that didn’t even play for us that is starting as a rookie for the Cowboys drafted in the seventh round. So you got those guys’ attention.”

Sports, Pages 16 on 12/24/2012