Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Roll call at center, right guard drags on
Arkansas offensive lineman Luke Charpentier runs drills during practice Thursday, April 10, 2014 in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Eventually, the versatility could prove to be a major plus.
Presently, though, all the personnel shuffling that Arkansas Razorbacks offensive line coach Sam Pittman is orchestrating at center and left guard is more of a reflection that many players are doing something but none enough to take command.
The Razorbacks are heading into today’s scrimmage, their 12th practice of the spring, and Pittman has spent the first 11 rotating senior Luke Charpentier, junior Mitch Smothers and sophomore Cordale Boyd at center, the position manned the past four years by 2013 All-SEC performer Travis Swanson, and has tried Charpentier, Smothers and Boyd at left guard, along with junior Grady Ollison, who moved over from offensive tackle,.
“I think we have got two positions that we are not positive who is going to be the starter at this point,”Pittman said. “We have got to figure out who is going to play left guard for us and who is going to play center for us.”
There’s no telling who will be starting at center and left guard when the Razorbacks travel to Auburn for their Aug. 30 season opener. Given how last year’s offensive line evolved, it could be one of the current players or perhaps one of the newcomers arriving during the summer.
Last year’s starting guards ended up being Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper, true freshmen recruited as tackles but moved into starting positions midway through the season.
Skipper has moved to starting left tackle, replacing 2013 starter David Hurd, while Kirkland remains the starting right guard.
On the opposite side of Skipper is right tackle Brey Cook, a guy Bielema and Pittman thought for sure would be better at guard.
Bielema and Pittman both believed last summer that Cook, 6-7, 328, from Springdale Har-Ber, was better suited physically to guard, especially if he continues into the NFL, even though he had always been a tackle.
“He proved me wrong,” Pittman said during spring drills, recalling Cook’s demotion/promotion from guard to tackle last season. “He is the first guy I ever had that lost his job on a Sunday and won another position by the end of the week. I never had that done before. I certainly thought he would be a better guard, and he may be, but he is a better tackle right now than he is a guard.”
TURNOVERS TURNED AROUND
Alandise Harris and Ky Madden received the dubious Apple Turnover Awards at the Arkansas basketball team’s annual postseason banquet at Walton Arena and did their best to roll with the punches.
The Apple Turnover, most turnovers on the team, is the only negative award Coach Mike Anderson bestows on a night dedicated to honoring Razorbacks achievements on and off the court.
“I want to thank my teammates for putting me in bad situations,” Harris said, drawing laughter, upon being handed his Apple Turnover.
Madden had received the team’s assists and free-throw shooting awards before receiving his Apple Turnover.
“This is the only award I knew I was going to win,” Madden said.
Sports, Pages 22 on 04/19/2014