By ROBBIE NEISWANGER
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETTEVILLE — Tackle DeMarcus Love may have a bright future in the NFL, but getting the senior to look ahead to his post-Arkansas plans is a practice in futility.
Take an interview session last week, when Love was asked about his successful 2010 season and what it might mean for his prospects in next April’s draft. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Love wouldn’t even consider the conversation.
"Right now, man, I don’t even want to get into that," Love said, politely steering the interview back to the task at hand. "We’re just worried about Ohio State right now.
"Maybe I can talk to you about that after the game."
Love and the Razorbacks (10-2) will be back on the field in the Superdome this morning, going through their second workout in preparation for next Tuesday’s Sugar Bowl against the Buckeyes (11-1). While Love won’t talk about his future in pro football, it’s safe to say Arkansas wouldn’t even be playing in its first Bowl Championship Series game without the Lancaster, Texas, native’s efforts this season.
Love lined up as Arkansas’ weakside tackle, taking on a position previously held by teammate Ray Dominguez in 2009.
Coaches said Love asked to flip with Dominguez in the offseason, taking on a position in Arkansas’ offense that very seldom had any help from tight ends in pass protection.
The move was a success. Love went head-to-head against the nation’s top ends and was rewarded, earning All-Southeastern Conference first-team honors from the Associated Press.
"I’m proud of him," Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee said. "He wanted this challenge. When it came, we got in our conference and started playing these guys. He accepted the challenge and I think he did a good job."
The performance was not exactly a surprise. Arkansas entered the year expecting Love to be the line’s bellcow.
In fact, offensive line coach Chris Klenakis said in the preseason Love was a "nasty" player who took things very seriously, two traits he loved. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett added if he had his choice, he’d pick Love to join him in a "dark alley" if they had to fight someone.
"Just being able to give Mallett time to complete a pass is what it’s all about and seeing the offense work," Love said of his role with the Razorbacks. "Offensive linemen don’t get too much credit, but it really doesn’t matter as long as we see those guys scoring touchdowns and breaking tackles."
Love will face one more intriguing test when the Razorbacks meet Ohio State in the Superdome next Tuesday.
He’ll spend most of the night lining up opposite Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward, who is project as a first-round pick in next April’s draft. Heyward has only 2 1/2 sacks this season, but was a first-team Big Ten selection.
Love knows it will be a challenge. But it’s not the first.
"He is a good player," Love said. "I see good players every week. So really, nothing changes. Just another name and another team. Just the same thing we do every week."
Another strong performance for Love would only boost his draft stock. He was named the most NFL-ready offensive lineman by The Sporting News earlier this season and many mock drafts project him being selected in the early rounds.
Clearly, Love’s time to publicly ponder life in the NFL is coming soon. He’s got one more thing to take care of, though, lining up for his final game with the Razorbacks.
"This is definitely a game the NFL is going to look at, but right now you can’t look toward the NFL," Love said. "I still have my heart here to make us finish in the top five. I want to do the best I can to finish as one of the best 11-win teams ever to play at Arkansas in one of the best offenses this state has probably ever seen.
"As long as I can make that happen, everything else will fall into place."