By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Detroit Lions offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn loves the third-round pick of Arkansas center Travis Swanson, who played in 50 straight games for the Razorbacks. Washburn, also a former center for Arkansas, believes the conference he once played in produces some of the best prospects.
“I’m an SEC guy,” Washburn said Friday. “I make no apologies about it. It is a litmus test for offensive linemen, yes. Larry [Warford] played against the best; Travis played against the best. And so I would expect them to be a little more NFL-ready.”
Swanson believes in the reputation of the SEC as well, and he agrees that his 50-game streak holds particular merit because he played against high-caliber competition so often.
“I think it’s crucial,” Swanson said. “Obviously you always hear a lot of people say the SEC is in its own sense the minor league of the NFL, so I think the durability that that shows, the 50 games in what many believe to be the toughest conference in all of college football, I think that will help me tremendously as I go from this transition period from college and the NFL.”
While Swanson played all 50 games for the Razorbacks at center, he also played both right and left guard at the Senior Bowl and said he has been working on both positions for the last month. Washburn said he hopes that Swanson will be the eventual replacement for longtime center Dominic Raiola but will not know for sure whether Swanson will play more guard or center until he gets on campus.
The Lions like the options anyway.
“His flexibility helps us, though, because as you know, on game day we have a guy who’s dressed out to play center or guard,” general manager Martin Mayhew said. “He’s big enough to play guard, and he can play center as well, so that really helps us out a lot.”
Swanson is 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 312 pounds, and his size was another draw for the Lions.
“Typically in the middle, particularly when you’re dealing with centers, often times you’ll find guys that may be just a little bit slightly undersized, but in this particular case, we got a big guy who’s physical and can play the game smart, which is what you like, and he has grit,” head coach Jim Caldwell said. “Anybody that obviously plays consecutive games like that, it’s not because of the fact that he doesn’t suffer any injuries or anything of that nature. Typically what that tells you is he played through them, and that’s a great sign because you want, obviously, the centerpiece of your offensive line, whether he’s playing guard or center, is very, very important for us, particularly keeping that pocket nice and solid.
“I think he’s just an outstanding acquisition for us,” Caldwell concluded.
Swanson said he will be comfortable in whatever role the Lions need him to fill.
“It is honestly not that much different,” Swanson said. “If you’re a left guard, obviously your left hand’s down as opposed to snapping with your right, so it’s very comfortable to me. I’ve been working this last month in my guard stance both left and right and just want to contribute as much as I can.”