Luigs Is At The Center of Attention

FAYETTEVILLE -- Every good pitcher needs a catcher he can trust, one who can spot what the opposing team is doing and make the proper adjustments.

Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs is the football equivalent of that for starting quarterback Casey Dick. The two have a level of comfort with one another that's critical for them to have.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Luigs is considered perhaps the nation's top center, the kind of smart, physically imposing player who can pick up blitzes and dominate the interior line.

The Sporting News ranked Luigs as the No. 1 center in the country, and the junior's name was included on the numerous preseason All-America teams that were released over the summer.

"I took notice of it, but the way I look at it is (the attention) just puts a big 'X' on my chest and it's something that gives me motivation to come out and work and play to my potential," said Luigs, whose 21st birthday is today.

"I kind of look at it in a positive way, knowing I need to come to work everyday and try to beat everyone in the country."

The center position doesn't always get the recognition it deserves. Offensive tackles are the stars of the front line, and the elite ones get drafted high and receive big signing bonuses from NFL teams.

Centers, meanwhile, can go unnoticed until they fumble the snap. But they're considered the quarterbacks of the offensive line, and they must be able to read defenses and tell the other offensive linemen what to do.

Luigs, with his large frame, impressive football knowledge and total lack of an ego, is generally regarded as one of the nation's best at the position.

He was a finalist for last year's Rimington Trophy, awarded each year to the nation's top center. And he's already considered a strong candidate to take home the trophy this season after his dominant performance as a sophomore in 2006.

But Luigs doesn't seem consumed by the hype surrounding his 6-foot-4, 307-pound frame. He's polite, low-key and talks about putting the team first.

"The thing that (Luigs) has got to fight is just everybody is patting him on the back and saying, 'You're this and you're that," Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Markuson said. "But the bottom line is he's got to take it to the field every Saturday night and every Saturday afternoon and put blinders on."

Luigs has started 21 consecutive games for the Razorbacks, and he offered Arkansas' coaches a glimpse of what he'd bring to the center position when he filled in for an injured Kyle Roper as a redshirt freshman in 2005.

Markuson said one of the reasons why Luigs is considered such a dominant center is because he has a good supporting cast on the front line.

Arkansas must replace three starting offensive linemen this season, including tackles Tony Ugoh and Zac Tubbs. Offensive guard Robert Felton is back, but as the center, Luigs is being counted on to help hold the offensive line together.

That could be a challenge, though, with newcomers like redshirt freshman Ray Dominguez and fullback-turned-offensive guard Mitch Petrus vying for starting jobs.

"I was in the same position they were in. When I came in, I had to have people to look up to to get to where I'm at now," Luigs said. "I know what they're going through, what's in their heads.

"They're just looking to see how it should be done and the way to approach the practice field. That's the way I go about myself. I try to lead (and) make a good example for them."

The recognition comes later.

Jonathan Luigs

Size: 6-foot-4, 307 pounds

Age: 21 (His birthday is today)

Hometown: Little Rock

High School: Pulaski Academy

Notable: Luigs has started 21 consecutive games at Arkansas, and all 24 games he's played in during his three seasons with the Razorbacks. He arrived at Arkansas as an offensive guard in 2004, but he was the scout-team center while redshirting that season. He started at guard and center in 2005, and he took over the starting center position when Kyle Roper graduated. Luigs was the only sophomore last season named a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, given each year to the nation's top center.

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