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Search for Swanson's Replacement Continues

Arkansas starting center for the 2014 season may not be decided until August.
FAYETTEVILLE--For the past four seasons various Razorback coaches haven't had to worry about who to play in the middle of the offensive line. Rimington Award finalist and All- SEC performer Travis Swanson started 50 straight games in those four seasons. Finding his replacement has not proven to be an easy task this spring. Senior Luke Charpentier was the heir apparent to Swanson but as of Tuesday former guard Mitch Smothers was working as the number one center. The eventual starter at that position, however, may not yet be on campus.

"We obviously recruited a junior college player for a reason, because we thought he was good enough to come in here and start for us," second year offensive line coach Sam Pittman told reporters. "If he is, then he will. If not, we'll go with the lineup we've got right now."

Pittman is also replacing a guard with the move of sophomore Dan Skipper to offensive tackle while Skipper continues to learn his new position. The changes have been frustrating at times for head coach Bret Bielema who made the team run a lap around the Hogs' double practice field after a false start in the offensive line, one of many this spring.

"It's just a mental discipline thing that we've got to continue to get better," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney explained. "We've got to change the snap count once in a while. We can't go on one all the time."

Struggles in the offensive line have resulted in over 30 lost yardage plays in the two major spring scrimmages to date but the guys toting the football say there is more at work than just breaking in players at new positions.

"We're just pushing through it," junior running back Jonathan Williams said of the minus yardage plays. "The defense has definitely stepped up and they're more aggressive plus it's kind of hard to run the football against a defense that has been seeing you every day."

"Travis was a good addition to our offensive line but all our linemen have done a good job of making improvements," sophomore running back Alex Collins added. "I really look forward to running behind them in the Red-White game."

Collins was suspended for a week during the Razorbacks winter conditioning program. Tuesday, for the first time, he publicly addressed a rumor that at one time he was in Bielema's doghouse and was considering transferring out of the program.

"I love it here," Collins emphasized. "When I came here on my official visit I fell in love with the campus, the people, the environment. I could have stayed home in Florida. I could have went anywhere."

As for speculation that he put on too much weight in the offseason, Collins said, "You always worry about gaining weight. You want to put on the right weight. I've been working hard with (strength) coach Herbert and I've gained weight from last season but I haven't lost a step. I feel good with it. I'm stronger, more powerful and I still have breakaway speed." 

Only one practice remains before Saturday's Red-White spring game. Thursday the team will go through a light workout as a final prep for that game.





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