Grayson Rewarded For Work

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas guard Wade Grayson didn't give himself enough credit when he started working with the first-team offense two weeks ago.

He thought the promotion had little to do with his performance. Instead, he said it was a creative way for Arkansas to motivate the player he replaced — senior guard Mitch Petrus. So Grayson figured he wouldn't last long.

But Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Summers said the past two weeks are proof that Grayson was wrong.

"I don't like to play games with the starting lineup," the no-nonsense Summers said. "He's there because he's earned his position to be there. ... If guys come out and perform then they get rewarded. That's the value of competition."

So the hard-working Grayson is on the verge of landing a starting spot for Saturday's opener against Western Illinois and, in the process, complete his run as one of the biggest surprises of Arkansas' preseason camp.

Many had Petrus penciled in as one of the line's anchors before practice began, but Grayson has proven his worth the past two weeks. His work ethic helped him land with the first-team offense, but his skill, technique and intelligence at the position have helped him hold onto it.

"I like his heart," Summers said. "I like his competitiveness and I like his toughness."

The 6-foot-4, 292-pound Grayson does have some game experience after appearing in five games as a true freshman.

One of those was in a starting role when he replaced Petrus for the Tennessee-Chattanooga game.

His performance with the first-team group wasn't enough to help him hold the position, though. Grayson returned to his backup role and played in two more games in 2007.

But tight end Andrew Davie said he and other veterans began to notice an improvement in Grayson's practice performances late in the season. He said it carried over to the spring and has continued this summer.

"He's one of those guys that you laugh at a lot and you think that guys is kind of funny and goofy, but Wade is a tough dude," Davie said. "He'll put his face in there, anybody, anywhere. He's done a really good job for us."

As a result, center Jonathan Luigs said Grayson is much more prepared to fight for a starting job.

Luigs said Grayson's confidence has grown tremendously in the past year as has his knowledge of the position.

"He's an incredible worker," Luigs said. "We've seen what he can do on the field. He can really make this offense work. He's a smart guy and knows where to go and what the scheme is supposed to look like. He is as good as anybody."

But even if Grayson doesn't end up with a starting job, the Razorbacks have important plans for him.

He is one of the most versatile members of the offensive line and has been cross-trained at the interior positions. His work at weak guard is the third position he has practiced since the spring. Grayson spent the spring at strong guard and also had a brief stint at center early in the preseason.

"I think I've moved around a lot so that if somebody goes out, maybe I'll be the one stuck in wherever," Grayson said.

But Grayson is concentrating on the starting spot at guard for now and for good reason. Summers said no one's job is safe even though the opener is creeping closer and closer.

So Grayson's preseason work isn't done. He doesn't want to simply settle for being the surprise of camp. He wants to be one of Arkansas' steady starters all season.

"When I got to take over with the first team, I said I was going to do with it what I could with it," Grayson said.

"I'm still trying to hang in there and keep that job."

Wade Grayson

Position: Offensive Lineman

Class: Sophomore

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 292 pounds

Hometown: Harrison

Notables: Played in five games as a true freshman and earned one start against Tennessee-Chattanooga. ... Graded out at 82.8 percent for the season, including 95.6 percent on pass plays. ... rated him as the No. 48 guard in the country out of high school. ... Played offensive tackle and defensive end at Harrison under coach Tommy Tice.

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