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.
Jefferson could make impact for UA
Cameron Jefferson was a three-year starter at UNLV before transferring to Arkansas.
FAYETTEVILLE -- If Cameron Jefferson lives up to the odds he established in Las Vegas, bet on the Arkansas Razorbacks opening fall camp in August with more centers and less center/guards than they closed spring practice with last April.
Eligible to transfer with immediate eligibility as a graduated UNLV fifth-year player with UNLV not bowl eligible for the upcoming season because of substandard overall APR (Academic Progress Rate) scores, Jefferson is a 6-5, 309, 3-year starter and UNLV team captain. Last year he started 13 games as UNLV's Mountain West honorable mention left guard.
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema and offensive line coach Sam Pittman began drills last spring seeking to replace graduated All-American center Travis Swanson, drafted by the Detroit Lions, and at left guard replacing sophomore to-be Dan Skipper.
Skipper moved from left guard to left tackle, the position for which he originally was recruited, to replace graduated starter David Hurd.
Bielema and Pittman did not lack for candidates with the potential at center and left guard last spring. But none performed so well to deem anyone a starting shoo-in for the Aug. 30 season-opener at Auburn, Ala., against the SEC champion Auburn Tigers.
During spring drills, fifth-year senior Luke Charpentier, fourth-year junior Mitch Smothers and third-year sophomore Cordale Boyd all practiced at first-team center and first-team left guard. Fourth-year junior Grady Ollison bandied between first and second-team left guard.
Bielema tentatively listed first-teamers at center and left guard in his spring football wrap-up press conference last April. The endorsements washed bathwater tepid.
"I think if we had to play tomorrow Mitch Smothers would be our starting center and our left guard would probably be Grady Ollison," Bielema said. "But on the flip side of it, I think Charpentier, and, you know, the possibility of Cordale Boyd could pop in there as well. You might get a different answer out of Sam. You might get a different answer out of the left tackle and the right guard who play right next to them as well as B.A. (quarterback Brandon Allen) who is going to get the snap."
Potentially, Ollison, 6-5, 309 with the athleticism of a defensive lineman which he played to an All-State level at Malvern High, would be a strong left guard candidate if his consistency reflected his ability.
"I would say Grady when it's good Grady," Bielema said back on April 30. "When Grady's on, he is probably our best option at left guard."
Now Jefferson presents a competing option.
"We're thrilled to add Cameron Jefferson to the Razorback football program," Bielema said after Jefferson transferred during late May. "He [Cameron] worked his way into becoming an anchor for the line at UNLV. We look forward seeing the impact he will have at Arkansas."
If his guard presence with Ollison allows more centered on replacing Swanson, Cameron Jefferson will start making an impact at Arkansas regardless if he starts.
Sports on 07/07/2014