Each time Arkansas senior offensive lineman Brey Cook (6-7, 328) has trotted out to the field for practice or game in his college career, he has worn a T-shirt with the name of a fallen friend.
Her name – Micayla Ann Patterson, a young lady who was killed in a car accident in 2010 during their senior year at Springdale's Har-Ber High School.
"That's something I've always kind of done," Cook said. "I'll wear her name on my sleeve or my shirt. That's a shirt that I wore all of last season, and I plan on doing that again this season. That means a lot to me. That gives you something to play for."
Patterson had just left a John Mayer concert in Tulsa with two other teens when their vehicle was hit by a truck and killed her instantly.
"She was a great friend of mine and I have just wanted to honor her each time I could," Cook said. "It also reminds me that there is no guarantee that we will have tomorrow so we had better live as much as we can today. I have tried to remember that and go through each day like that."
Cook has bounced back and forth between guard and tackle since he first arrived at Arkansas as a highly-celebrated five-star recruit that chose the Razorbacks over Alabama and many others.
He was the top-ranked recruit in Arkansas in 2010, the 12th-best offensive tackle prospect in the country and one of the top 150 prospects overall his senior season according to Scout.com.
"Brey is just a solid all-around guy that does a lot of things well and has been a strong point for us on the offensive line," Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman said. "He's had several offensive line coaches, several head coaches with all teaching him different things and he has just tried to take it all and become the best player he can. He's been a constant for us since we got here."
Cook heads into the 2014 season as the starting right tackle as he was for the last seven games of the 2013 season after starting the first four contests at guard and then not starting in game five.
"It's definitely tough," Cook said. "It's different, especially moving from tackle to guard and then from guard to center. Those are three completely different positions. It says a lot about the guys who can go in there and succeed switching around."
Cook, ranked as the 19th-best college guard prospect for the 2015 NFL draft by nfldraftscout.com., has totaled 17 starts over the past two seasons at the two positions.
"The coaches help a lot," Cook said. "The coaches are there to kind of guide you along. Especially when you've got good guys around you that help guide you along, it helps, telling you what's going on."
It certainly has been a up-and-down ride for Cook as the Razorbacks won 11 games and played in the Sugar Bowl his freshman season and have gone just 7-17 over the past two campaigns.
"It has been a roller coaster ride for sure," Cook said. "That's exactly what it's been. But I wouldn't' trade it for anything. I've loved every second I've been here, and I'm excited to finish it out strong."
He is one of the vets on the Arkansas team and is relishing that role.
"This is it," Cook said. "This is my last spring, my last eight-week (summer) session here, and then my last fall camp and last season. It's very exciting. It's definitely a chance for me to lead as a senior."
The current first-team line coming out of spring had Cook and sophomore Dan Skipper at the tackles, redshirt junior Mitch Smothers at center, sophomore Denver Kirkland at one guard and Grady Ollison a step ahead of senior Luke Charpentier and Cordale Boyd working at center and guard.
One more player was added to the mix in the summer as UNLV team captain Cameron Jefferson announced plans to transfer to Arkansas, with immediate eligibility. A three-year starter at UNLV, Jefferson should slide into the left guard spot.
Former Springdale standout Smothers – who also chose Arkansas over Alabama - came in with Cook and started a few games his first season.
He redshirted his second season and has bounced between several spots on the offensive line the past two campaigns.
"He did great at center," Cook said. "He came in there and really took charge. He was able to come in without skipping a beat. He knew what was going on. I'm happy for him. That's an awesome opportunity for him, and especially for us. He's really helping the team right now."
Kirkland and Skipper both moved into the starting line up four games into the 2013 season and stayed there the last eight games.
"It's kind of funny," Cook said. "We go back and watch film clips from the early games compared to the late games and it's very obvious when they came into their first rodeo as the new guys. But overall, they did great at those spots."
Skipper has moved from guard to left tackle since last season ended while Smothers has gone from guard to center and Charpentier from center to guard.
"Skip has gotten better and better each day," Bielema said. "The one thing I like about him, it couldn't be any more important to him than the daily grind of film, what you do away from the game and all that stuff… I think we need to work on his punch in pass. That's probably the biggest thing."
Ollison is another who had bounced between several spots – including time at fullback and on defense as well.
"I think competition brings the best out of people, so those two positions, I think, are solidified with the guys that we have on our team," Bielema said. "I think left guard probably a little bit more up in the air, but I would say that between three of the four offensive linemen coming in in the fall and this summer, it's going to be a wide open race for them to kind of see if they can be a little bit like Kirkland and Skipper gave us a year ago."
"We shuffled some guys around in the offensive line obviously at center trying to find our best combination there," Bielema said. "We will have a couple of guys audition for that spot in the fall as well between a couple of recruits. We're trying to find the best match-up there."
Those guys are junior college transfer Sebastian Tretola and true freshmen Brian Wallace and Frank Ragnow.
"Obviously we recruited Frank to play center and we recruited Tretola to play guard and we recruited Wallace because he is really good," Pittman said. "Obviously he is a tackle, but in my career just like with Dan, you have got to play your best five wherever that happens to be.
"We have 30 practices and then there is summer skills to go through and hopefully we will figure it out," Pittman added.
No matter who ends up on the line, Arkansas' offense should be better with adding sophomore tailback Korliss Marshall full-time into a mix that already includes Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins.
"It's awesome to see different ones just streak down the sidelines," Cook said. "It's an awesome opportunity for them, it's great for us. They're three different guys that run differently. They show defenses different looks. They all mesh with us very well."
Offensive line assessments from coordinator Jim Chaney:
Brey Cook (6-7, 328, Sr.) — He had a great spring. He's a solid football player and has become a very good leader. We are real tickled with Brey. It's an interesting dynamic, a year ago I thought he should be a guard. We moved him and he didn't play exceptional. We moved him back to tackle and he has done well. He's a tackle. His movements, his body says guard, but he says tackle. It works better for us. He's a tackle. He's playing good. He's the leader in the O-line. He's been excited about taking over that role and it's incredibly important for any football team. Once we lost Travis Swanson, someone needed to do that, and he stepped up and done great.
Marcus Danenhaur (6-5, 316, Jr.) — He had a good solid spring and played better football throughout the spring. We left him at right tackle and that helped him.
Denver Kirkland (6-5, 348, Soph.) — He played all spring with a hamstring. He played better his last two or three practices of the spring. He didn't have an extremely great spring. He's a massive big man and a good football player. I'm not the least bit concerned with him because it's so important to Denver. He's a no nonsense guy. He wants to be exceptional and he already is pretty darn good. He needs to get healthy and cut a little weight. He is probably too heavy. I'm excited and like him as a human a lot. He loved the spring game run with Canaan Sandy. What you witnessed, Denver running along side Sandy, was real for Denver. He's a big, softhearted kid.
Johnathan McClure (6-4, 331, Sr.) — He's improved and showed some things. He's a big, tough rugged guy. He gets better movement than about anyone we've got. Maybe he can get in the two deep.
Mitch Smothers (6-4, 313, Jr.) — We moved him around at guard, center and ended up leaving him at center. He got better at center. He and Brandon Allen got on the same page with the snaps so we didn't have those issues. He and Luke Charpentier competed quite a bit and we felt it was getting flat and we were having center exchange problems, so we decided to let Mitch handle it. It worked out better for us. He played okay football. He functioned for us. You'd like a more sudden player, but he did well. That's a position we need to find out about as quick as possible. Camp starts Aug. 4 and we'd like to know about Aug. 3. I'm kidding, but we would like to figure out a week into camp. This position that in a pro style offense, it's the stick that stirs the drink so we have to make sure that one is right.
Cordale Boyd (6-3, 298, Soph.) — Very good athlete, leaving him at center and let him play one position will help him. I think he has a bright future. The reality is that he looks very good and it's time for it to click on.
Adam Deacon (6-1, 313, Jr.) — He gives us depth at the center spot and is a hard worker. He does a nice job for us and is a good team player.
Grady Ollison (6-5, 309, Jr.) — We like his athletic ability and we've tried him several spots to see if he can be successful. He looks like you want. We'll keep working with him. He's a heckuva fine athlete. He just needs to grow up on and off the field and maybe some day he's going to do that for us. The light needs to click because he's a good athlete.
Luke Charpentier (6-4, 320, Sr.) — We played Luke at center some and at guard. He played better football at guard so we left there. He'll be in the middle of a bunch of competition. Can he start there or hold on. The reality is at left guard and center there will be a lot of folks. He's a bigger body and understands the offense. He knows how to hit the guy.
Reeve Koehler (6-4, 340, Fr.) — He's young and still developing as a football player. His better days are still in front of him. He needs to improve his quickness.
Dan Skipper (6-10, 315, Soph.) — Did better as the spring went along and got in his groove. He had to learn tackle again. He's a good football player. He has all of those intangibles, his motor. You can't quantify all of it. But at the end of the day, he can play. It might be tackle, might be guard, depending on what we find out about the others, including the new ones coming this summer. By the time we get to that first game, who knows where he'll be playing, but we feel confident with him playing every spot. What he does will manifest itself by what the others can do. We can win with Dan Skipper. I'm amazed at what he can do. He's a giant human being. You don't realize how big he is, a freak of nature. It's a big man's game. You better get some big guys. I don't try to tone him down. The league does. He's a nasty football player and I love it. I will never be the one to tell him to chill. He might take it over the limit once in awhile and is learning to curb that.
Austin Beck (6-7, 305, Jr.) — Played good like he did last spring. We left last spring thinking he could be in our two deep and be a competitive player. We feel the same this spring. We felt he played pretty solid football throughout the spring at the backup left tackle. We look for him to continue to develop and grow. Last fall, he didn't develop like we had wanted. He can have a good summer and help himself and give us something. We are optimistic about Austin. We think he can be a solid player.
Chris Stringer (6-7, 333, Sr.) — He gives us a big tall body, has great stature. He knows the offense and is a veteran.
Brey Cook: Second Chance at Tackle
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