The offensive line has been a unit that has taken a lot of criticism this season and now has lost its leader who also is likely the best player on the team.
Senior center Frank Ragnow has graded out higher this season than any offensive lineman in the nation according to Pro Football Focus. Not only that, but PFF also has graded him higher this season than any player in the SEC regardless of position. He will obviously be missed and one of his closest friends is junior left guard Hjalte Froholdt. On Tuesday night Froholdt talked about the loss of Ragnow.
"It's definitely tough not having Frank (Ragnow) out there any more," Froholdt said. "That extra voice, that leader the guy that's dependable. It's tough but he laid a great foundation with the guys. We're comfortable with that and just got to move forward."
What has Frank meant to you personally?
"Personally he's a friend and mentor," Froholdt said. "He's a great guy and he helps with everyone's mood. He communicates with everybody.
"There's not enough great things to say about Frank. I think it has already been said before multiple times, but he's an amazing friend and great guy. He's going to the next level and now he can focus on that. I wish him a speedy recovery.
Playing alongside him on the offensive line and being a friend off the field what have you taken from him?
"His approach every single day," Froholdt said. "That's a guy that knew every single thing about every defense. He knew all the blitzes. He's a smart player, a physical player. He strains through the whistle every single play. Every time he's on top of somebody and they are on their back. Overall just great."
Junior Zach Rogers is going to step in at center now in the absence of Ragnow. Froholdt talked about what Rogers can bring to the position.
"Zach is extremely smart," Froholdt said. "He's a guy that doesn't want to go out on the field and not know what he's doing. He's just as smart as Frank and maybe smarter. He's a guy that knows the playbook inside and out. He knows everything before the play like Frank does. We're extremely lucky to have a guy that was backing up Frank and now is gonna get in that starting role."
Kurt Anderson coaches Arkansas' offensive line. He talked about what he has seen from his unit and what he expects going forward.
"Well obviously, when you lose a guy like that, you take a hit in terms of leadership, in terms of your go-to guy in the room, in terms of a captain," Anderson said. "But the guys understand that they have to step up and the expectation is on the position. The way he played for three and a half quarters, they way he played like that, you talk about a warrior and you talk about inspiration.
"I think it actually brought some juice to the guys in terms of some passion, in terms of what the game means to Frank Ragnow for him to play on that (injury). He’s a guy who’s never been injured, so he wasn’t aware of how significant of an injury it was. Guys have to step up. All those reps that they’ve had, that they’ve taken, those are ultra important reps. It’s time for those guys to step up with the expectations on the position and go out there and play ball and have fun. It’s their time to shine."
Rogers at center and Johnny Gibson at right guard is that your best combination?
"We're obviously banged up and have injuries and so guys are in that training room working rigorously to get themselves back out there," Anderson said. "We've had to play multiple combinations throughout the year due to some injuries and some other things withstanding. Johnny is a guy who has the most ambidexterity, position flex to his game.
"But we have guys that all have game experience that will be lining up and playing. That's obviously going to become very useful in that environment on the road. Zach obviously started that Bama game, so this isn't going to be his first game. He goes against the best defense in the country so he's got that game under his belt."
The offensive line hasn't protected the quarterback very well the past two years. What is the reason for that?
It's a lot of things," Anderson said. "You know, it's obviously it's our ability to execute the protection plan. It's getting five guys to execute it at all times. It's not just five guys. There's tight ends involved in that. There's running backs involved in that. There's obviously receivers getting open and there's the quarterbacks in their pocket.
"It's a team. It's an offensive thing and yes, we've struggled. We have dissected and worked on the issues tirelessly since we've been here. So it's something that obviously guys are frustrated and coaches are frustrated. It's about execution of the protection plan and they've got to go out and execute it."
Do you try to simplify it more or is that a possibility?
"I think we've simplified it as about as simple as you can simplify it," Anderson said.
In addition to Ragnow, Arkansas also lost freshman running back Chase Hayden to an injury Saturday night. Sophomore T.J. Hammonds has moved back to running back from wide receiver. Reggie Mitchell coaches the running backs and was asked how Hammonds looked on Tuesday.
“He looked good today,” Mitchell said. “He really has got fresh legs it looks like even though he has been at wide receiver. The thing about him is he is that change of pace guy, has a burst, has good vision and I am excited to see what he is going to be able to do this weekend.”
Arkansas still has senior David Williams and sophomore Devwah Whaley at running back. What has it been like though to lose first Rawleigh Williams III and now Hayden?
“It is kind of the next man up,” Mitchell said. “With losing Rawleigh in the spring, at least we had the summer to kind of regroup from that. I feel bad for Chase because he was just starting to hit his groove and it seemed like he was getting more comfortable playing with his role and he was able to play on all three downs.
“I feel bad for him, but I feel glad that we have David here, Devwah is getting better and now that we have T.J. we are just going to keep moving forward.”
Arkansas will be at Ole Miss on Saturday at 11 a.m. CT.