Rag­now touts sta­bil­ity on line

The Sentinel-Record - - SPORTS -

FAYET­TEVILLE — It was ob­vi­ous to those around Frank Rag­now, who was healthy but not scrim­mag­ing last spring, that he felt mis­er­able when the Ra­zor­backs held full-scaled scrim­mages.

But just how mis­er­able wasn’t fully as­cer­tained un­til he was me­dia avail­able af­ter last Sat­ur­day’s pre­sea­son prac­tice.

Any­one lament­ing miss­ing the mis­ery of swel­ter­ing sum­mer pre­sea­son two-a-days prac­tices is bound to feel tor­tured and mis­er­able sit­ting out a spring scrim­mage.

Both cur­rent New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots Su­per Bowl cham­pion de­fen­sive end Trey Flow­ers and Buf­falo Bills run­ning back Jonathan Williams, both of whom opted for their se­nior year with the Ra­zor­backs in­stead of turn­ing pro af­ter their se­nior years, were kept out of the Ra­zor­backs’ spring prac­tice scrim­mages to cut down on un­nec­es­sary in­juries, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema told them.

Flow­ers and Williams then both scrim­maged dur­ing their Au­gust se­nior year pre­sea­sons. So will Rag­now, who as­serts know­ing that Williams’ 2015 se­nior sea­son ended be­fore the first game upon break­ing his foot dur­ing an Au­gust scrim­mage.

“I be­lieve I’m full go,” Rag­now said of next Sat­ur­day’s first fullscale scrim­mage. “It’s time to start play­ing foot­ball.”

Rag­now and the Hogs com­pleted two NCAA man­dated no-pads prac­tices and one day in shoul­der pads by last Sat­ur­day when Rag­now was in­ter­viewed.

Mon­day’s prac­tice af­ter Sun­day’s off day also is NCAA-man­dated to be in what Bielema calls “half-pack” be­fore Tues­day’s prac­tice in full pads.

All were con­ducted with just one prac­tice per day as the NCAA voted do­ing away with two-a-days, for­merly a pre­sea­son sta­ple that most play­ers re­call as drudgery. In­stead of two-a-days, schools are al­lowed more pre­sea­son prac­tice days be­fore their sea­son opener. The Ra­zor­backs prac­ticed for the first time in July de­spite open­ing sea­sons in Au­gust, as they do in this sea­son’s Thurs­day night Aug.

31 opener against Florida A&M at War Memo­rial Sta­dium in Lit­tle Rock.

Does Rag­now ap­pre­ci­ate the new for­mat?

“I like two-a-days, but, I don’t know… what­ever we’ve got to do I’ve got to do, I guess,” Rag­now said. “It’s foot­ball.”

How was the first day at least in some pads?

“It was good; it was phys­i­cal,” Rag­now said. “As an of­fense, we def­i­nitely need to clean up the er­rors, whether it’s by ball con­trol, false starts and stuff like that, but it was a good first day.”

Though as old school as they come, Rag­now prac­tices with the strange look­ing red fuzzy rub­ber atop their hel­mets which the Ra­zor­backs of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive line­man have donned for prac­tices as ad­di­tional con­cus­sion pro­tec­tion.

“I’m all about it if it pro­tects our heads and ev­ery­thing like that,” Rag­now said. “It’s a lit­tle hot­ter. But if it’s go­ing to pro­tect our heads and ev­ery­thing, I’m all about it.”

Rag­now also is all about the con­ti­nu­ity this line brings from

2016 into 2017.

Left tackle Dan Skip­per was the lone start­ing se­nior line­man in 2016.

So Rag­now again is flanked by ju­nior guards Johnny Gib­son of Du­mas and Hjalte Fro­holdt, the Den­mark na­tive and for­mer de­fen­sive line­man who had never played the of­fen­sive line un­til the spring of 2016, with sopho­more Colton Jack­son of Con­way now at left tackle and ju­nior Brian Wal­lace re­turn­ing at right tackle.

“It’s a lot bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion-wise,” Rag­now said. “Just get com­fort­able with guys that know what to say. There are times I can look to my left, and I don’t even have to say any­thing. I can look at Hjalte, and he knows what do, and it’s the same thing with Johnny. With the of­fen­sive line, the con­ti­nu­ity is so huge. It’s def­i­nitely show­ing in the pass pro­tec­tion as

the year has gone on.”

Since he prac­tices di­rectly against him, Rag­now said the progress that a more svelte and faster but still im­mensely strong Bi­jhon Jack­son is hyped to have made at nose tackle is au­then­tic.

Great things were pro­jected for the now se­nior de­fen­sive line­man when he ar­rived in Fayet­teville as a high school All-Amer­i­can out of El Do­rado.

“He’s just do­ing so much more,” Rag­now said. “He’s just bought in so much. He does so much with Herb (strength coach Ben Her­bert) flex­i­bil­ity-wise. He’s just bought into his diet and ev­ery­thing like that. It’s been im­pres­sive how it’s shown up on the field so far that’s for sure.”

Rag­now also cited Austin Capps, the sopho­more backup nose tackle from Star City, and red­shirt fresh­man Dy­lan Hays of Lit­tle Rock Chris­tian, for­merly one of Rag­now’s own as a re­serve cen­ter and of­fen­sive guard moved this pre­sea­son to de­fen­sive nose tackle.

“Yeah, we give him a lot of crap for that,” Rag­now said.

The move makes sense, though, Rag­now said.

“He’s like a lit­tle wreck­ing ball,” Rag­now said. “I think that’s why they moved him to de­fense. He’s like a lit­tle mad squir­rel. He’s been re­ally im­pres­sive. You can def­i­nitely tell he’s got the mo­tor for it.”

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