Center of Attention

FAYETTEVILLE — Wade Grayson is the first to admit that his first experience playing center didn't go very well last August.

He had never played the position before being tabbed as a potential successor to then-senior Jonathan Luigs. So he had to get used to the nuances of it all. And snapping the ball felt like a foreign task.

"Life is a lot different when you put a ball between your legs," Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Summers said.

But a year later, Grayson sounds like he's getting the hang of it.

Arkansas is looking for a starting center for the first time in three years after the departure of Luigs, the 2007 Rimington Award winner, and the Grayson is the top choice this spring.

Grayson, who started every game at weak guard in 2008 after senior Mitch Petrus was ruled academic ineligible, opened the spring as Arkansas' first-team center and has held the spot throughout the first two weeks of practice. He, sophomore Seth Oxner and junior Clay Bamberg are all getting work at the position.

The change hasn't been perfect. There have been some errors in the center-quarterback exchange through six practices. But it hasn't been a widespread problem that has the Razorbacks concerned.

"I think everything is going as good as expected," Grayson said after Tuesday's practice. "I think I've had, we started out the first day with one or two bad snaps. After that, we haven't had any snaps on the ground. Maybe a ball off to the side, but that's about it."

Grayson believes the past year has helped him get comfortable at the new spot. Even though he played a different position last season, he still spent a few minutes snapping the ball before practices began.

He moved over full-time this winter and has put in three months worth of work with quarterbacks Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson.

There has been plenty of classroom work as well. Grayson said he has gone over and over Arkansas' offense, absorbed blocking schemes and studied defensive fronts. Snapping the ball and blocking a defensive tackle is only part of playing his position.

"(The center is) the leader of the offensive line so he's got to make all the calls for everybody and everything like that," Grayson said. "Me and coach summers have been in the meeting room talking about that. We've improved a lot with that and everything is going well."

Said Oxner: "That's the trickiest part. It takes a lot of time. Wade has got it down pretty good and I'm still working on it."

Grayson's goal is to become as well-versed at the position as Luigs, who started three years and finished his career as one of the most decorated players in school history. Grayson lined up next to Luigs last season and said he learned plenty by watching him work.

But that type of success won't come overnight. Summers said Grayson and the rest of Arkansas' centers remain a work in progress.

"They have to get us all on the right page and understand where to go," Summers said. "They have to snap the ball and block their position. There's a lot of aspects to that that they have to master.

"Some plays and some days are good. And some days we take a step backwards. So we're still working to develop that position."

But one thing is certain: Grayson feels much more comfortable about playing center than he did last August.

"Everything's been going good so far," Grayson said.



Profile



Wade Grayson

Position: Center

Class: Junior

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 289 pounds

Hometown: Harrison

Notable: Started 12 games at weak guard last season, but has moved to center. ... One of three offensive players (joining center Jonathan Luigs and tackle Jose Valdez) to start every game in 2008. ... Only returning offensive player to have started every game. ... Has played in 17 games and logged 13 starts in his career.

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