Playmakers continue to go down for Hogs

By: Clay Henry
Published: Monday, October 23, 2017
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen (behind) prepares to take the snap from center Frank Ragnow during a game against Florida A&M on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Little Rock.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen (behind) prepares to take the snap from center Frank Ragnow during a game against Florida A&M on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Little Rock.

— The injuries are mounting for the Arkansas football team. It's a full blown raid on the best playmakers from the 2017 team. Not surprisingly, the Razorbacks are 2-5.

Gone for the year are Rawleigh Williams (retired after neck injury), Ryan Pulley (shoulder surgery), Jared Cornelius (Achilles' surgery), Frank Ragnow (ankle surgery), Jamario Bell (foot surgery), Chase Hayden (broken leg) and Koilan Jackson (knee surgery).

Bell and Jackson are the only non starters in that group. Bell was a backup outside linebacker ahead of the season. Jackson played on special teams in the opener. Hayden was the leading rusher on the season ahead of the Auburn game and was listed as a co-starter with Devwah Whaley and David Williams at running back.

Quarterback Austin Allen has missed the last two weeks with a shoulder injury. He's at least questionable for this week's trip to Ole Miss, but is throwing again.

Ragnow and Hayden are the two latest on the injury list. Both were hurt in a 52-20 loss to Auburn. Hayden won't have surgery, but he's done for the rest of the regular season.

Ragnow and Allen are the two offensive team captains. Williams was considered to be an outstanding leader, too.

Reporters gave coaches a chance to talk about the volume of key injuries at Monday's regular time in the Arkansas media room. None brought them up on their own.

“My wife brought it up to me,” Bielema said of the lengthy injury list of key playmakers, noting she thought it was a longer list than usual.

“She's been with me for a little bit of time. Overall, it's a large number of premier guys. You may get one or two now and then, but this is a quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback and your best offensive linemen.

“There's nothing you can do but go forward.”

Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads suggested that it's not usual to see injuries, but seldom almost all are at key spots.

“I've seen it before in my career,” he said. “When it's your playmakers – and I'll say that with what Frank does in the way he pulls and plays he's a playmaker – then the results have been like what we've seen here.

“You don't have a roster full of 22 playmakers. You have some playmakers and then some role players. You lose this many playmakers, it's tough. I know Ryan Pulley is a playmaker for us at corner.”

Rhoads said the key to surviving such a run of injuries is “mental toughness. If you are going to be successful through this, that's what you have to have.”

Offensive coordinator Dan Enos was greeted by a reporter with an opening question: How do you survive losing Williams, Allen, Cornelius, Ragnow, Hayden and Pulley. Enos stared blankly for a few seconds.

“I'm not very optimistic when you put it like that,” Enos said.

Then, in the next breath, he said, “It's part of the game. I will say that my first two years here we went the whole year without getting one offensive linemen hurt.”

There was a question about starting spring practice with all of those key players.

“Yes, I recall that Coach Bielema was commenting about being strong up the middle,” Enos said. “We had Frank, Austin and Rawleigh. That gives you a great chance to be successful.

“Now, you just have to have someone step up. You keep moving forward.”

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