2013 Preseason All-American Projections: Centers

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2013 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and this coming fall’s stars could be the headline players next April for the 2014 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the postseason awards that are given out to the best of college football.

First-Team Center: Bryan Stork, Florida State

Stork was one of the best centers in college football in 2012. The 6-foot-4, 312-pounder was a good pass-protector for E.J. Manuel while also opening up holes in the ground game. Stork has a nice combination of quickness, agility and strength.

Stork has been coached extremely well at Florida State. He has been an excellent run-blocker the past two seasons who has steadily improved his pass protection. Stork saw some playing time at right guard as a redshirt freshman in 2010. He took over at guard for graduated All-American Rodney Hudson in 2011. The sophomore was moved to center after four games and has stayed in the middle of the Seminoles’ line.

Stork will have the challenge this year – Manuel is in the NFL now – of developing some chemistry with a new quarterback. That shouldn’t be an issue for a veteran like Stork after training camp is over.

Clemson’s Dalton Freeman was the All-American center last year and is now playing for the New York Jets. Stork was the Second-Team All-ACC selection behind Freeman, so Stork is the heavy favorite to take over the First-Team honors in 2013. He could prove to be the best center in college football.

Second-Team Center: Russell Bodine, North Carolina

There is no doubt that Bodine’s job is going to be more difficult in 2013. He lost superstar guard Jonathan Cooper to the NFL, and the uber-athletic Cooper was so good that he went seventh-overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Cooper and Bodine formed a great interior to help pave the way for running back Giovani Bernard. The Cincinnati Bengals now have Bernard playing for them, so Bodine also lost his star halfback.

Still, North Carolina has talent returning and Bodine will continue to work with quarterback Bryn Renner. The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder showed off good mobility in the Tar Heels’ offense. Bodine (6-4, 310) has the agility to handle pass-rushers and get to the second level in the ground game. He has a nice combination of strength and athleticism.

Bodine enters his junior year with experience. He saw playing time as a redshirt freshman before taking over as a starter as a sophomore. With the losses of Cooper, Bernard and right tackle Brennan Williams, the Tar Heels are counting on Bodine providing some production and leadership. Bodine could contend to be the top center in college football.

Third-Team Center: Travis Swanson, Arkansas

Swanson has spent the past three seasons as one of the most consistent blockers in the SEC. The senior has started all 38 games of his collegiate career so far. He was a Second-Team All-SEC selection last year.

Swanson has done an admirable job in pass protection as the Razorbacks have fielded a 3,000-yard passer each year. He also has performed well in run blocking, especially in 2010 when running back Knile Davis was healthy.

Arkansas is a program in rebuilding mode and Swanson will have to adjust to a new quarterback with Tyler Wilson in the NFL. New Razorbacks head coach Brett Bielema is going to feature a smashmouth pro-style offense with a downhill running game. Swanson should have plenty of opportunity to show his run-blocking ability in 2013. Bielema’s tenure at Wiscosin produced a lot of early-round picks on the offensive line and his coaching could improve Swanson as a senior. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Swanson ends up being the First-Team All-American.

Honorable Mentions: Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard, Florida center Jonotthan Harrison, Tennessee center James Stone, Utah State center Tyler Larsen, Georgia center David Andrews, Oregon center Hroniss Grasu and Alabama center Ryan Kelly.

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