FAYETTEVILLE — Everyone around him realized Frank Ragnow felt miserable, healthy yet not scrimmaging whenever the Razorbacks full-scaled scrimmage during last spring’s practices.
But just how miserable wasn’t fully ascertained until Ragnow was media available after last Saturday’s preseason practice.
Anyone lamenting missing the misery of sweltering summer preseason 2-a-days practices really is bound to feel tortured miserable sitting out a spring scrimmage.
As he did when current New England Patriots Super Bowl champion defensive end Trey Flowers could have turned pro after his Arkansas junior year but opted to return for his Razorbacks senior year, and Buffalo Bills running back Jonathan Williams did the same, Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema told them he would sit them out of spring practice scrimmages cutting down unnecessary injury risks before their coming Arkansas autumn and NFL draft thereafter.
Flowers and Williams then both scrimmaged during their August senior year preseasons. So will Ragnow, Ragnow asserts even 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 full-scale 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 2-a-days, formerly a preseason staple that most players recall as drudgery. Instead of 2-a-days schools are allowed more preseason practice days before their season opener. The Razorbacks for the first time practiced in July though they’ve opened seasons in August before 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 2-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 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 returned 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 svelter, quicker 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.”