Gone are the biggest, baddest, meanest but heaviest offensive line in all of football. During both 2014 and 2015 the Arkansas Razorbacks were road graters with Denver Kirkland, Dan Skipper, Frank Ragnow, Sebastian Tretola and Mitch Smothers. The offensive line averaged 328 pounds. In the running game they imposed their will. These guys were so big, bad and highly regarded by Coach Bret Bielema that he made them the cover of the Arkansas Media Guide as seen below!
Memories of Kirkland and Ragnow mauling opposing defenders will last for a while. Tretola tossing touchdown passes and putting his name into the Heisman race made for good times in Fayetteville. Skipper was a major factor in the 4th and 25 play against Ole Miss by swatting the ball to the ground for Collins to pick up and run for the first down and the ultimate game winning touchdown and two point conversion.
For as great as the line was the first three seasons under Coach Beilema, they were equally as bad the final two. The Hog offensive line struggled in both phases of blocking. Allowing a school record for sacks allowed and quarterback hurries. In 2016, the Razorbacks started 5-2, the best start for a Razorback team under Beilema. Things were looking up. The Hogs were even ranked 16th in the polls until the next week against Auburn at The Plains. The coach’s knew Austin was taking to many hits through the first 7 games but they never would have envisioned how the offensive line would look that night.
Quarterback, Austin Allen, ran for his life that night. Ultimately, being taken out of the game due to an apparent knee injury. The injury happened after he released the ball and a defensive lineman rolling onto him. Allen would not be the same the rest of his career at Arkansas.
The penultimate downfall of the Beilema tenure would be the offensive line. Now new head coach, Chad Morris looks to fix blocking schemes with his offensive line coach Dustin Fry. Quicker play development should help a struggling offensive line. With the quarterback taking the majority snaps in the shotgun and pistol, the line should not have to hold their blocks more than three to four seconds. Quick slants, bubble screens and the many short passes implemented in the HUNH system will help these players out.
In a press conference this past week, Morris let us know of the shoulder injury to left tackle, Colton Jackson, who will be out up to the first six games to start the 2918 season. Jackson, struggled mightily in 2016, his first season as a starter. Opposing defensive ends terrorized Jackson at his left tackle position. 2017 started out better and shored up some of the blocking issues from the previous season.
What does the Froholdt, who made the Rimington Award Watch List, think of the offensive line’s work so far through camp?
The starting five offensive lineman through the first two practices are Dalton Wagner, Hjalte Froholdt, Dylan Hays, Johnny Gibson and Brian Wallace. The coaching staff shuffled them up during the second, third and fourth practices to see which five lineman make the right fit for 2018. Shane Clenin received first team reps at offensive line Monday. He replaced Dylan Hays at center for unspecified reasons. Deion Malone, who backs up Brian Wallace suffered a season ending knee injury which will hurt an already thin offensive line.
These players were too slow and overweight which caused them to lose to many battles at the line of scrimmage the last couple of seasons. They gave up 35 sacks last season which ranked 108th, and 36 sacks given up in 2016 which ranked them 106th. Under the leadership of new offensive line coach, Dustin Fry, the development of this offensive line in the new smashmouth spread offense, they can only go up from here.
Newcomers: Ryan Winkel, Noah Gatlin and Silas Roberson
Will help be on the way? So far, the 2019 recruiting class has commits in East Texas high school standout Beau Limmer and Alabama high school standout Joseph Stone. Both players could see early playing time in 2019 as three seniors graduate this season. Fry has his eye on several Senior high and JUCO offensive line, too. Melvin McBride (6’4, 315) out of Memphis Whitehaven, Lackawanna JUCO lineman Chibueze Nwanna (6’7, 315). 247sports.com consider him a Louisville lean. Others include Tim Anderson, 6-5, 270, Saddleback (Calif.) CollegeAnthony Whigan (6’5, 290) from Lackawanna (Pa.) Community College. He committed to Penn State this evening. Bamidele Olaseni (6’9, 330) from Garden City (Kan.) Community College, Josh Donovan (6’5, 330) from Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College and Charles Cross (6’5, 285) from Laurel, MS. With the offensive line classes divided up the way they are, it would make sense for the Arkansas staff to bring in a few JUCO lineman like those listed above.
What is your take? Will the Hogs struggle again at offensive line or will they improve? Thanks for the read! Good night.