LITTLE ROCK — Cue the trumpet fanfare for one of the few certainties about Arkansas football in 2016.

LITTLE ROCK — Cue the trumpet fanfare for one of the few certainties about Arkansas football in 2016.


Unless silhouettes are employed, the offensive line will NOT be on the cover of the UA media guide again this year. Only Dan Skipper and Frank Ragnow are for-sure starters and, even then, there is uncertainty where Ragnow will line up.


The 2015 cover created nationwide buzz when the guide was released in July, to the point that College Spun called it perfect, adding, "It features the team’s defining unit, the offensive line."


CBSSports.com mentioned that offensive linemen generally operate in obscurity and are identified only when there is a gaffe. "But Arkansas wants to change that this season," the article said. "Considering the Razorbacks’ style of play, the argument could easily be made that the offensive line is the most important part of the team."


A year ago, the starters were so familiar that they were not identified by name on the cover, but simply appeared with uniform numbers showing — 70, 72, 65, 73, and 55 — translated right tackle Skipper, right guard Ragnow, center Mitch Smothers, left guard Sebastian Tretola, and left tackle Denver Kirkland.


This year, only a die-hard fan would know No. 60 last year was Brian Wallace, a leading candidate to start at right tackle.


When spring practice begins Tuesday, much of the attention will be focused on the competition between Austin Allen, Ricky Town, Rafe Peavey, and Ty Storey to replace Allen’s brother, Brandon, at quarterback.


That’s the nature of football, but that battle is no more important to the success of the 2016 Razorbacks than sorting out the offensive linemen. The quest for chemistry among the five guys charged with protecting the quarterback and opening holes for the running backs, is a cliché, but working together, confident in the man beside you, is a very real asset and takes time.


Last November, the backups to Kirkland, Tretola, Smothers, and Skipper were freshmen Johnny Gibson, Josh Allen, Zach Rogers, and the aforementioned Wallace. Behind Ragnow was a senior. None of them played much.


Plugging in the players begins with moving the 6-foot-10 Skipper to left tackle to protect the blindside of whoever winds up at quarterback and deciding whether to move Ragnow to center where he would be responsible for protection calls and other intricacies of the offense. Ragnow played more than 200 snaps at center in his freshman year.


From there, the competition under new offensive line coach Kurt Anderson, is wide open. Conventional wisdom says newcomers Deion Malone and Paul Ramirez will be very involved because they are junior college players who were recruited to contribute immediately. Malone, who enrolled early and will be available for spring practice, could compete at guard with Hjalte Froholdt, who was considered one of the top defensive linemen in the 2015 class. Also include redshirt freshmen Jalen Merrick and Colton Jackson in speculation at guard.


Ranked as one of the Top 10 offensive tackles in the country when he signed with Arkansas in 2014, Wallace had an impressive collection of offers, including Alabama, Georgia, Michigan State, and Nebraska.


Running backs Juan Day, and Damon Mitchell will get a good look in spring and Arkansas uses more than one, but incoming freshman Devwah Whaley will have every opportunity in August to be No. 1. Rawleigh Williams has a health question and sixth-year player Kody Walker is not the next Alex Collins.


A depth chart should be available early next week and identification of the pass catchers is about the only known commodity involving the offense. Tight end Jeremy Sprinkle caught six touchdown passes last year, Drew Morgan proved to be a go-to guy, Dominique Reed demonstrated his big-time speed more than once in the second half of the season, and Jared Cornelius caught 15 in a four-game stretch.


For the other spots on offense, the depth chart is only a starting point. Changes are guaranteed.


Harry King is sports columnist for GateHouse Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: hleonk42@gmail.com