Published June 11, 2012 - 4:32pm
NEW: Discuss this topic in the Google+ community for SEC fans.
This is the first of seven pre-season breakdowns covering the 2012 Arkansas Razorbacks. I realize it is still a bit early in the summer, but I am chomping at the bit for college football to begin. I guess this is my way of satisfying my own football-jones.
We start with the big uglies in the trenches, the O-Linemen. Last year, Arkansas’ line was adequate, sometimes even very good. But they were never great. Tyler Wilson spending half of the season on his backside was enough evidence of that. But the 2012 version of the Hogs line is shaping up to be better.
There is experience and leadership returning. Center Travis Swanson (6’5″ 305), a JR from Kingwood, TX, is on the pre-season Rimington Award watch list, and he has a nasty streak about him. He is the leader along this front five.
Next to Swanson is returning guard Alvin Bailey (6’5″ 312), a JR from Broken Arrow, OK. Bailey has slimmed down a little since the end of last season from 320 lbs. Alvin has been mentioned on several pre-season All-SEC squads, and even a handful of All-American Teams as well. He is a road-grading force when he pulls down the line and clears out a hole for the running backs.
The remaining guard position is up for grabs, with three players butting heads for the right to be named a starter. Redshirt SR Tyler Deacon (6’4″ 300) of Little Rock, AR, has patiently waited his turn, and he now sees the opening he has been looking for since he walked onto the team back in 2008.
Deacon will have to fend off two sophomores with loads of talent in Mitch Smothers (6’4″ 295) of Springdale, AR, and Luke Charpentier (6’4″ 305) of River Ridge, LA. Smothers started a few games at OG and OT in 2011.
OT has been a position of contention over the last couple of years for the Hogs, and it doesn’t look any different this season. SR Jason Peacock (6’4″ 305) of Milledgeville, GA, doesn’t have the typical tackle length that Arkansas wants, but his explosiveness and lateral movement are very good. Peacock is the only senior at tackle. He will most likely miss at least one game due to disciplinary actions.
Look for JR Chris Stringer (6’7″ 305) of Rancho Cucamonga, CA, or junior David Hurd (6’6″ 300) of West Monroe, LA, to fill in during Peacock’s abscence. Hurd is another former walk-on.
Left tackle will be the key position on Arkansas’ offensive line, and a former five-star recruit has settled in there. Sophomore Brey Cook (6’7″ 315) of Springdale, AR, has claimed his first starting job. Cook burned his redshirt freshman year in 2011 when he came down with mononucleosis, after playing in multiple games. He worked on his hip and leg strength in the off-season, as well as his lateral movement. All of the aformentioned have improved, and Brey’s vast potential is beginning to show through.
Behind Cook, look for a pair of redhsirt freshman to vye for the back-up role. Austin Beck (6’7″ 307) from Nowata, OK, and former defensive tackle Grady Ollison (6’5″ 290) of Malvern, AR, will both contend. Grady’s uncle Tony was a starting DT for the Razorbacks from 1987-1990.
Incoming freshmen Jeremy Ward (6’4″ 290) of Pottsville, AR, and Cordale Boyd (6’3″ 305) of Memphis, TN, may get a chance to earn playing time at guard or center.
Overall, this group is talented and deep at each position. If they can keep QB Tyler Wilson off the turf and show the ability to make a few holes for the running backs, this Arkansas offense will be even better than the one in 2011, which is very promising.
In the next Arkansas breakdown, we will take a look at the wide receivers and tight ends.