Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Senior Bowl awaits pair of Razorbacks
South Squad center Travis Swanson of Arkansas (64) puts on his helmet during Senior Bowl practice at Fairhope Municipal Stadium, Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 in Fairhope, Ala. (AP Photo/G.M. Andrews)
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas’ representatives at the Senior Bowl - defensive end Chris Smith and center Travis Swanson - will get their final chance to impress at the week-long event today.
The 65th Senior Bowl will kick off at 3 p.m. from Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., and will be televised by the NFL Network.
Smith and Swanson are among the 19 SEC players, the most of any conference, on the South squad, which is being led by Coach Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville Jaguars staff. Missouri has two players, defensive end Michael Sam and receiver L’Damian Washington, on the North roster, coached by Mike Smith and the Atlanta Falcons staff.
Both Razorbacks have gotten dual training, with Swanson taking reps at guard in addition to his familiar center spot, and Smith working at defensive end and outside linebacker.
Swanson, 6-5, 310 pounds, will split time at center with Florida State’s Byran Stork, the Rimington Trophy winner, and Oklahoma’s Gabe Ikard.
“That was one of my biggest goals, to come here and add to my resume to try and elevate my stock and show people I can play other positions besides center,” Swanson told reporters in Mobile.
Swanson, a 50-game starter for the Razorbacks, is projected as a first- or second-round selection in May’s NFL Draft. The Kingwood, Texas, native has gotten particular scrutiny from the New York Giants, who are in the market for a center, and the Jaguars, who are getting extended looks at the South’s centers.
Smith said he’s had fun working with Auburn defensive end Dee Ford and also taking reps at outside linebacker, a position he dabbled with at Arkansas.
“I want to show I’m a competitor,” Smith told reporters who asked which position he’d prefer to play in the pros. “It doesn’t matter. I can play both. I’m comfortable dropping back and things of that nature. I added about 15 pounds. Anywhere they want to put me.”
Smith drew strong reviews from members of the media, including Adam Hoge of CBS, who wrote that Smith wowed scouts with a “ferocious punch” early in the week, then impressed with a lightning spin-move another day.
“There wasn’t a single offensive lineman Tuesday who looked comfortable blocking him,” Hoge wrote.
Smith, listed at 6-3 on the Arkansas roster, checked in at 6-1 1/8 and 266 pounds on weigh-in day Monday.
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/25/2014