Zach Rogers waited patiently for chance

By: Jimmy Carter
Published: Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Arkansas center Zach Rogers calls out a play during a game against Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas center Zach Rogers calls out a play during a game against Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

— Zach Rogers waited patiently for his chance.

The junior offensive lineman put in the time and work while backing up Frank Ragnow, arguably the best center in college football, in the hopes he’d be ready to go when his number was called. That it happened in a raucous Bryant Denny-Stadium with a matchup against No. 1 Alabama was a bonus.

“You get to this level of football, especially in the SEC West, everybody here’s good, so you’ve just got to work, work, work," Rogers said. "And you’re not really waiting, but you’re trying as hard as you can to get out there. So when it finally comes especially when it’s taken this long, it’s extremely rewarding.

The 6-foot-1, 309-pound Carrollton, Texas, native broke his ankle in the fall of his senior season, but arrived on campus as an early enrollee in the spring of 2015 with the hopes of being able to acclimate and contribute quickly. The desire wasn’t unfounded: He was ranked a four-star prospect and top-five center by one publication.

But Ragnow had by then emerged as a premier center, which relegated Rogers to mop-up duty, small test runs at guard and cameos in heavy formations. Until the coaching staff made the decision to move Ragnow to right guard in an effort to get their best five lineman on the field, that is.

The staff began working the new-look offensive line the Monday prior to the Alabama game, resulting in Ragnow starting at right guard, Johnny Gibson sliding to left tackle and Brian Wallace popping in at right tackle. Junior left guard Hjalte Froholdt was the only holdover starter in the same position he’d been all year.

Still, Rogers was the only player of the bunch making his first start.

“I didn’t play as good as I could have, but for a first game, I didn’t think I did too bad,” Rogers said. “It was a good day.”

Predictably, the new line struggled against one of the top defensive fronts in college football. Arkansas ran for only 27 yards on 29 attempts while allowing quarterback Cole Kelley to be sacked six times and hurried 11 more.

But there’s no indication the previous iteration of the line would’ve fared any better. Physically, the new group appears superior and all indications are the staff will stick with it moving forward.

Rogers’ second start will be against Auburn, another team with a tough, physical defensive line. But his teammates have confidence in him.

“He’s just as smart as Frank is when it comes to knowing the plays, knowing what everybody should do,” Gibson said. “So we wouldn’t have a bump in the road switching from Frank to Zach at center, because he’s just as smart and plays just as hard.”

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