No look­ing back for Hogs’ Rag­now

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE - NATE ALLEN

FAYET­TEVILLE — No Ar­kan­sas Ra­zor­backs foot­ball player can play the what-if game like Frank Rag­now can.

What if Rag­now, a three-year let­ter­men at the Univer­sity of Ar­kan­sas, Fayet­teville, had opted to en­ter the 2017 NFL Draft after a ju­nior sea­son in 2016 that saw him earn sec­ond-team All-SEC hon­ors?

Rag­now, as the NCAA al­lows, ex­plored his NFL draft pos­si­bil­i­ties be­fore with­draw­ing his name from con­sid­er­a­tion to re­turn as Ar­kan­sas’ start­ing cen­ter.

At 6-5, 320 pounds, Rag­now has gone from be­ing an oc­ca­sional starter at cen­ter as a true fresh­man, to ev­ery game start­ing of­fen­sive guard in 2015 to much-her­alded start­ing cen­ter in 2016.

Rag­now, from Vic­to­ria, Minn., says he some­times thinks about how he could be earn­ing money right now.

“It’s weird,” Rag­now said. “Me hav­ing that op­tion ear­lier this year of leav­ing or com­ing back there are def­i­nitely days where you are like, ‘Wow! That could be me train­ing for the NFL right now!’

But Rag­now said he is look­ing for a larger re­ward down the road that could come his way after spend­ing an­other un­der sea­son un­der coach Bret Bielema, of­fen­sive line coach Kurt An­der­son and strength coach Ben Her­bert.

“You take a step back, and it’s like I get a whole other year of prepa­ra­tion,” Rag­now said, re­al­iz­ing what more recog­ni­tion, such as All-Amer­ica men­tion, could bring him on the NFL Draft mar­ket. “I get a whole other year with Coach Herb. A whole other year with Coach An­der­son, a whole other year of ma­tu­rity and to un­der­stand foot­ball. That gives me a step up on the guys in the next class. It’s all work­ing out. Coach B has been phe­nom­e­nal. Coach An­der­son has been phe­nom­e­nal. Coach Herb … every­body has been phe­nom­e­nal.”

In ret­ro­spect, Rag­now said, it might not have been all that bad to have red­shirted as a fresh­man and play 2018 as a fifth-year se­nior.

“I think there is no one you can say that a red­shirt year wouldn’t ben­e­fit,” Rag­now said. “It’s a year to get a step up on your play­book and your phys­i­cal­ity and all that stuff. I don’t think there is any­one who can say a red­shirt year wouldn’t ben­e­fit them.”

That won’t hap­pen now, with Rag­now primed for next spring’s draft and ap­proach­ing grad­u­a­tion as a sports man­age­ment hon­ors stu­dent.

Plus, Rag­now said, there is un­fin­ished busi­ness with the Ra­zor­backs. What if he and se­nior quar­ter­back Austin Allen can lead the Hogs to a re­bound from a dis­mal fin­ish of 2016 when Ar­kan­sas blew half­time leads of 24-7 at Mis­souri and 24-0 against Vir­ginia Tech in the Belk Bowl to end the sea­son with losses of 28-24 and 35-24.

“I re­gret as a ju­nior not be­ing more vo­cal,” Rag­now said. “So you see a lot of guys like my­self and Austin and a lot of guys re­ally try­ing to get out of our com­fort zone and be a vo­cal leader. That’s the most im­por­tant thing.”

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