FAYETTEVILLE - Part seven of Arkansas News Bureau’s complete and thorough preseason roster report continues today with the offensive line, a unit almost completely in-flux at Arkansas.
Razorbacks fall camp begins Thursday with a 105-man roster in Year Four of the Bret Bielema regime. Each season Bielema has been on campus, the Razorbacks have gotten better, increased their win total year-over-year. Projections for 2016 have Arkansas anywhere between sixth and second in the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division.
Here’s a helper.
Every day from now until Razorbacks Media Day on August 7, Arkansas News Bureau is going to provide a position-by-position analysis of every player on the roster. The reports will include scouting notices, player dimensions, and, on occasion, coach’s comments. The idea is to arm readers with the most complete and objective information ahead of the 2016 season.
1. Frank Ragnow, junior (6-foot-5, 319 pounds)
Last year: Started 13 games at guard
Glance: Ragnow can play anywhere along the line. He'll start here. It's the same position he was in most of his freshman year behind Mitch Smothers. Last year, to get him on the field, they shifted him to guard, a place he may end up by the end of the year. Things on the offensive line depend on how you look at them and Ragnow is the poster child: Almost every player can play multiple spots, but almost none of them have a particular job on lock down. Ragnow will start. Probably at center. Possibly at guard. Story of the line.
Quotable: “He is the point forward right? Like Magic Johnson bringing the ball down the court. He is doing a great job. I am really happy with his communication and I love the way that he world. He takes coaching very very well. He is constantly in my office getting extra help in my office hours. I am very pleased with Frank and where he is at. I wish I had 15 Franks. He is a gym rat and I love the way he works and I love the way he leads. He still makes some mistakes of someone who has not had a ton of reps playing center, but at the same time he is one of those guys that learns from his mistakes and moves forward.” - Anderson
2. Jake Raulerson, junior (6-4, 301)
Last year: Played in 11 games at Texas. Transferred to Arkansas in the offseason.
Glance: Bielema said it himself during Thursday's season-opening press conference - Raulerson, right now, is the No. 2 center behind Ragnow. He can play guard, too, and might find himself out there as a starting, even, depending on how the players currently receiving reps there pan out. He's experienced - he started five games at Texas his freshman year, too - and should earn some playing time at various points throughout the year, even if he doesn't start.
Quotable: "Jake Raulerson is a very talented player. I was able to catch a little of the moving session he had the other day and I can see that he can definitely do some things that are gonna help us win football games." - Bielema
3. Zach Rogers, sophomore (6-1, 301)
Glance: Rogers played in three games last year on the interior. He was considered a front-runner for the starting job until the arrival of Raulerson from Texas. Like Raulerson, he can play guard, as well. He does lack experience the same experience, however. Rogers is probably one of the team's 10 best offensive lineman, but whether that's good enough to see much time will be determined in camp.
Quotable: “Zach will work at center and guard. He fits both places. We’re going to get the best five guys out there.” - Bielema
1. Hjalte Froholdt, sophomore (6-4, 318)
Last year: Three tackles in three games at defensive tackle
Glance: The Denmark native moved from defense to offense in the spring and looked like a future player at guard. But he has only 15 practices there. He struggled badly against Jeremiah Ledbetter at opposing defensive tackle, but had moments where he handled some of the other Arkansas defensive linemen. His progression in the fall is one of the top five things to watch among the Arkansas roster.
Quotable: “I think everybody saw him on defense and thought he was going to be a good player over, but Bielema he’s been doing this a while. I think he thought with his athleticism and his mindset, he really could be a difference maker on the offensive side of the ball. What a great transition it’s been so far.” - Enos
2. Brian Wallace, junior (6-6, 335)
Last year: Three games, no statistics
Glance: Wallace was the most talked about player who didn't play a single game two years ago. Bielema was such a big fan he would bring Wallace to road games despite his redshirt. He felt in a pinch he could use the big tackle. Flash-forward 18 months later and Wallace is trying to figure out where he fits. Right now it's guard. Maybe not as the starting right guard, but maybe, as well. That position is completely in-flux right now as Anderson tries to find the pieces to best fit. It's possible Wallace moves back out to tackle and Dan Skipper could move back inside. It's possible Wallace never plays a down this year. Guard is the most up-in-the-air spot on the roster right now.
Quotable: “To me, he looks like the prototypical starting guard that you would want on all 32 of the NFL teams. I wanted to give him an opportunity to see what he did. When I put him over there, he almost looked like a different guy. He looked very comfortable, was aggressive, very physical, used his hands. And so I’m not saying that he’s got a starting spot or anything like that, but he definitely, for that one day he was there, definitely looked comfortable.” - Anderson
3. Deion Malone, junior (6-3, 296)
Last year: Played at Northwest Community College in Mississippi
Glance: Malone was brought in to contend for the very open guard job. He didn't take it by the horns in the spring, but has a leg up a bit on some competition because he's older and more experienced. Like Wallace, it's hard to tell where he fits in the scheme of things right now as Arkansas continues to mix and match along the front.
Quotable: “But I think the part that has been very exciting for us is Deion Malone. … He has a lot of experience in junior college ball and is very powerful. I think him and Kurt really hit a common ground about technique. He knew what to do, he needed to be taught how to do it. If we get a little depth at guard there, maybe you see help coming in at tackle in the recruiting class, but other than I like the growth the group has had and hopefully keep going.”
4. Paul Ramirez, junior (6-6, 299)
Last year: Played at San Bernardino Valley Community College in California
Glance: Not much is known about Ramirez, who didn't arrive for spring practice. It's possible he's the starting right guard when camp opens. This position the chart is very much an educated guess.
5. Jalen Merrick, redshirt freshman (6-4, 327)
Last year: Redshirted
Glance: Merrick was a four-star recruit out of Florida. At first glance in the spring Merrick was a ways behind Froholdt, Wallace and Malone in the guard pecking order. He's a hulking guy, but not fleet of foot. He likely won't play this season as he continues to adjust to the college game.
Quotable: “He looks the part and I like him in the classroom. A lot of these guys, sometimes when you get the transition from being the scout team guy to the guy that is thrust into a role to get snaps and take snaps and you get a lot of reps, it takes some time to get that scout team player out of yourself where you are just there to service the other side. What comes along with that is the hanging the head, the body language and the feeling sorry for yourself type of deal. The reality is there is not time for that. You either get better or you get worse. There is no staying the same.” - Anderson
6. Jake Hall, sophomore (6-5, 266)
Last year: One game, one tackle (played at defensive end)
Glance: Hall made the move from defensive end to offensive line in the spring. Bielema praises his work ethic, but Hall is undersized at just 266 pounds.
7. Tyler Hall, freshman (6-4, 296)
Last year: N/A
Glance: Hall is a walk-on from Maumelle who is likely to spend most of the year on the practice team.
1. Dan Skipper, senior (6-10, 319)
Last year: Made All-SEC honors for nearly every major publication in his first season at right tackle.
Glance: Simply stated, Skipper is the anchor of the offensive line. At nearly 7-feet tall, he's a difficult player to maneuver around on the edge despite him starting his career at guard. Sure, it's possible he moves back inside what with all the difficulty the team had in the spring in finding a right guard, but he's so good on the exterior, that probably isn't the best fit. He may move back to the left side, depending on the next player's development, but for now, Skipper is the calming presence (go figure, for a guy as aggressive as he is) on an offensive line searching for answers.
Quotable: “Yeah. He’s a tremendous leader. He’s tough. Loves the grind. He loves the meetings. he’s in the office all the time. Him and Frank both. Really really tough mentally tough guys that are competitive. Certainly figured it out as far as what it takes to win and the mentality of what it takes to win. They do a tremendous.” - offensive coordinator Dan Enos
2. Colton Jackson, redshirt freshman
Last year: Redshirted
Glance: Jackson was something of a surprise as the team's starting left tackle in the spring. He played guard and tackle in high school and had the preps honors to make everyone think he was a possible future starter in the SEC. Few figured so soon. A redshirt freshman at left tackle means he's either going to be awfully good or depth is an issue. Coaches think it's the former.
Quotable: "He showed in the spring, first off, the capability to learn it. I thought every practice went on and every rep he got, he’s like a sponge. Then you see a guy that’s extremely athletic. He’s really determined. We think he can be a tackle in this league for many years. One thing he lacks is playing in games." - Enos
3. Johnny Gibson, sophomore (6-4, 344)
Last year: Three games, no statistics
Glance: Gibson is a well-liked walk-on who is sound, but not as athletic as some of his teammates at the position. He, too, can play inside or outside and saw reps both places in the spring. If he is starting, something odd is going on, but he's a serviceable back-up in the short-term.
Quotable: “I have moved him around a little bit. I like his smarts. He’s got to work on getting his first two steps in the ground with a sense of urgency and speed. But he is a versatile guy being able to play inside and outside. You have got to have guys able to swing and play multiple positions. He’s a smart guy that understands already the technique and things I am asking him to do. Now it’s a matter of when he gets the opportunity of taking advantage of it.” - Anderson
4. Jake Heinrich, freshman (6-4, 295)
Last year: N/A
Glance: Heinrich wasn't around in the spring and may end up back on the inside at tackle (it's very possible he and Ramirez flip). He was the No. 1 or No. 2 recruit in Iowa, depending on your recruiting service site preference. He is expected to be a long-term player along the time. How soon is the question.
5. Jackson Hannah, sophomore (6-2, 282)
Last year: DNP
6. Dylan Hays, freshman (6-3, 294)
Last year: N/A
7. Cooper Sone, redshirt freshman (6-2, 277)
Last year: Redshirted
Summary of Hannah, Hays and Sone: All three are Arkansas high-school products, walk-ons. They provide scout team ability and could see reps in a blowout.
Follow Eric on Twitter: @ericwbolin