ARKANSAS AT MISSISSIPPI:

Ankle injury ends Ragnow's UA run

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Arkansas offensive lineman Frank Ragnow talks with offensive line coach Kurt Anderson during a game against South Carolina on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Columbia, S.C.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas offensive lineman Frank Ragnow talks with offensive line coach Kurt Anderson during a game against South Carolina on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Columbia, S.C.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The injury woes for the struggling Arkansas Razorbacks took a turn for the worse since Saturday's 52-20 loss to No. 21 Auburn.

Coach Bret Bielema announced Monday that preseason All-American center Frank Ragnow and freshman tailback Chase Hayden, who had been the team's leading rusher, are both out for the rest of the regular season.

Ragnow suffered a severe high ankle sprain in the first half against Auburn and played through it, but on Sunday he experienced intense swelling, Bielema said, and will require a surgical procedure to fix the issue. The recovery period for Ragnow is estimated at 12 weeks.

Hayden had his left foot fallen on by Auburn safety Daniel Thomas as he was dragged down at the end of a 40-yard run late in the first half, and the freshman suffered what Bielema termed a "lower leg fracture." Bielema said Hayden's injury is nonsurgical, and he will need about 4-6 weeks to recover.

"Obviously it would put him out for our regular season," Bielema said. "If we qualify for a bowl, he'd have a chance there, but he'd be out for the rest of it."

The injuries have piled up for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, which is 2-5 (0-4 in the SEC) heading into Saturday's 11 a.m. road game at Ole Miss. The Razorbacks have lost three consecutive SEC games by a combined score of 141-51.

Ole Miss (3-4, 1-3 SEC) also has been affected by injuries, adding to its other issues, such as a self-imposed bowl ban due to an NCAA investigation and the abrupt resignation of Coach Hugh Freeze in July based on off-the-field behavior.

Quarterback Shea Patterson was lost for the year after suffering a torn knee ligament in Saturday's 40-24 loss to LSU. Additionally, top running back Jordan Wilkins is questionable with an ankle injury and center Sean Rawlings is in concussion protocol and also questionable for Saturday's game.

The Razorbacks injuries are heavily concentrated around some of the team's top players. In fact, a spring list of Arkansas' top 10 players likely would have included four players now out for the year: Ragnow, running back Rawleigh Williams, cornerback Ryan Pulley and receiver Jared Cornelius.

Hayden impressed early in training camp, burst onto the scene with a 120-yard outing in his debut against Florida A&M and was the team's leading rusher with 326 yards at the time of his injury. Senior David Williams tied him with 326 yards after gaining 86 against Auburn, and sophomore Devwah Whaley is right behind with 295 yards.

On top of that, senior quarterback Austin Allen still is on the mend from the shoulder injury he suffered in a 48-22 loss at South Carolina on Oct. 7. Allen is questionable for Saturday.

"He's been throwing," Bielema said. "If there is a chance for him to play on Saturday, this Saturday, it's been the best of any of them to this point.

"But Cole Kelley will get the majority of the workload unless Austin really comes on strong at the end of the week, and see where we go from there."

Bielema choked up briefly when talking about Ragnow, saying, "He just holds a special place in people's hearts."

Ragnow lost his father, Jon, to a heart attack Oct. 1 and has talked about how his recovery was aided by support and well wishes from his teammates and the coaching staff and by Razorbacks fans. The 6-5, 317-pound senior from Victoria, Minn., considered early entry into the NFL Draft before electing to return for his senior year.

Bielema said his wife, Jen, made the observation that this could be the worst run of significant injuries faced by one of his teams. Bielema could not recall a year when as many top players had suffered an injury.

"Usually you're going to have a couple in the preseason, and you may get one or two during the course of the year," he said. "But to have a running back, wide receiver, quarterback, best offensive lineman -- maybe the best offensive player on our team. You know it's just, it's not anything more than reality. You've got to step up and play and see where it goes from there."

Offensive coordinator Dan Enos faced a question about the injuries to key players to open his Monday news conference.

"I guess it's just part of the game," Enos said. "Some years you get hit with more injuries than others."

Enos pointed out that in his first year at Arkansas in 2015, the same five linemen started all 13 games.

"I think that's kind of unusual," he said. "This year, on the other side of it, I think it has caught up to us a little bit. In spring practice we talked about it. We felt like we were strong up the middle with Rawleigh, Austin and Frank. Obviously none of those guys are playing right now, and it makes it difficult. But this is a great opportunity for young guys to step up and really be accountable to their teammates and this program."

Bielema said Zach Rogers, who started at center against Alabama two weeks ago, would take over as the starter, with Jake Raulerson also available at the position.

Sophomore T.J. Hammonds, who has been less than 100 percent in recent games, is expected to rejoin the running backs room.

"I did talk to T.J. Hammonds this morning," Bielema said. "He had been doing a good job [at slot receiver], but I think he feels -- and as coaches we feel -- the best position for him probably, and especially with this injury to Chase, he can really take over all the reps and the schemes and the personnel groupings that Chase was using and be a pretty natural fit to that. Talking to him this morning, he's very excited about that opportunity."

Hammonds has seven carries for 56 yards this season, most of them on sweeps and laterals. He does not have a catch.

At a glance

RECORDS Arkansas 2-5, 0-4 SEC; Mississippi 3-4, 1-3

RANKINGS Neither team is ranked

BETTING LINE Mississippi favored by 3½

COACHES Bret Bielema (27-31 in fifth year at Arkansas, 95-55 in 12th year overall); Matt Luke (3-4 in first year at Mississippi and overall)

SERIES Arkansas leads 35-27-1

RADIO Razorback Sports Network, including KABZ-FM 103.7 in Little Rock; KQSM-FM 92.1, KIGL-FM 93.3, KAKS-FM 99.5 and KUOA-AM 1290 in Fayetteville; KERX-FM 95.3 in Fort Smith; Sirius 137; XM 190

"I think he can help us," Enos said. "I think he's a very capable running back. I think this way it'll be a lot easier to get him touches and get the ball in his hands and see what he can do."

Sports on 10/24/2017

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