Arkansas' offensive line beginning to settle on a group; DJ Dean hated the idea of redshirting; a few players miss final scrimmage with nagging or minor injuries.
FAYETTEVILLE - Unsexy as it may be to talk offensive line, figuring out what his team was going to do up front was one of the top priorities Arkansas coach Bret Bielema made this fall camp. After weeks - months, even - of tinkering, a lineup is coming into focus.
Dan Skipper. Hjalte Froholdt. Frank Ragnow. Jake Raulerson. Colton Jackson. From left to right, those five were the starting unit Saturday during the team's final scrimmage of fall camp. Those five have only been together for a few days worth of practice, but it's becoming clear to Bielema those are his best options.
"I feel pretty good about that but that’s not saying it’s etched in stone," Bielema said of that lineup. "I’m not locking it in 100 percent, wait until we see the film. (But) They’ve had that rotation really the last two to three days and they keep getting better at it."
Froholdt was a given. Bielema has loved him since arrived on campus. Froholdt moved from defensive tackle to left guard at the beginning of spring and has been the first-teamer there ever since. No one had really come close.
Skipper and Ragnow were also locks to start. The question was where. Ragnow, now a junior, played center his freshman year, but moved to guard last year. He spent most of the fall at center, though, save some days here and there. Skipper was the team's right tackle all last year, all spring and then for the first week-and-a-half of fall camp. As predicted by Arkansas News Bureau during the spring, however, Skipper is now locked in at left tackle.
He moved there to take over for Jackson, who has staved off Brian Wallace on the right. Jackson, a redshirt freshman, had a good spring and decent fall. Even he wasn't a starter, he was going to be a top reserve at either tackle spot.
Finally, Raulerson has played center, right guard and right tackle. The tackle spot was an experiment. He started at center for Texas two years ago, but he isn't the same talent there as Ragnow. He has proven to be an effective guard and could, in theory, play anywhere along the line in a pinch.
That leaves Wallace as the top back-up tackle, Jalen Merrick as a top reserve on either right-side spot and Zach Rogers at guard and center. Walk-on Johnny Gibson and junior-college transfers Deion Malone and Paul Ramirez vie for the ninth spot.
Missing In Action
Several players did not dress for Arkansas' final scrimmage Saturday. Some were held out for precautionary reasons. Some were unable to go at all.
Freshman running back TJ Hammonds should be back Tuesday, Bielema said and senior wide receiver Dominique Reed (ankle) the same. Freshman safety Micahh Smith tore his meniscus and is likely out a week, at least, though he is almost guaranteed to redshirt, anyway.
Senior running back Kody Walker (foot) remained out of action, but should be ready by the beginning of the season. Junior-college transfer offensive lineman Paul Ramirez's status is unclear going forward, but he is still likely to play a reserve role on the offensive line this year and redshirt freshman Jalen Merrick (concussion) will return when cleared, probably Tuesday.
Tight ends Austin Cantrell and Cheyenne O'Grady, both redshirt freshman, missed with a groin injury and knee injury, respectively. Anthony Antwine, a junior walk-on, saw a good chunk of the second-team reps with Jack Kraus and Will Gragg following, in that order, behind guaranteed starter Jeremy Sprinkle.
Freshman running back Devwah Whaley, Antwine and senior wide receiver Keon Hatcher all wore green jerseys to signify their limited contact Saturday. Each is dealing with a slight shoulder injury, Bielema said.
- The top five wide receivers in the Arkansas rotation are locked and it will be a stretch to see much from the sixth. Redshirt freshman Deon Stewart and freshman Jordan Jones are the closest to the sixth job right now.
- Freshman linebacker De'Jon Harris is the third best linebacker on the roster. It doesn't mean he'll see the third most snaps, though. Junior Khalia Hackett and senior Josh Williams split time, with Hackett a slight ahead, at the team's strongside, or SAM, linebacker spot.
- With the spate of injuries dealt recently, Bielema chose not to have his first-team offense go full contact. None were tackled Saturday.
- Bielema's conversation with senior cornerback DJ Dean about potentially redshirting was a non-starter. Dean was not interested and the season-ending knee injury to Britto Tutt (ACL) means Dean is back in the mix when he returns from a now-much-more-minor hamstring injury than what was first suggested. Dean will still be the back-up behind Henre' Toliver, Jared Collins and Kevin Richardson upon return.
- Preseason All-SEC defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. was not at the scrimmage as he traveled to a funeral for his recently deceased grandfather. Ja'Michael Winston, a senior and captain last year, saw a majority of the time in his stead.
- One defensive line grouping was especially noteworthy Saturday. Freshman McTelvin Agim played defensive tackle with Karl Roesler and Randy Ramsey flanking him at defensive end. It looked like a group designed specifically to get to the quarterback.
- Redshirt freshman Ricky Town took only snaps with the developmental team Saturday. He is the definitive No. 5 quarterback in the pecking order: "Where he's at compared to the other guys isn't that close," Bielema said.
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