Razorbacks need more talent all around

By: Nate Allen
Published: Saturday, December 1, 2018
Arkansas offensive linemen Johnny Gibson (62), Ty Clary (66) and Hjalte Froholdt (51) fall into pass protection while Auburn defensive lineman Nick Coe (91) applies pressure during a game Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Auburn, Ala. Froholdt and Clary swapped positions for the game, a move that is expected to continue in future weeks.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas offensive linemen Johnny Gibson (62), Ty Clary (66) and Hjalte Froholdt (51) fall into pass protection while Auburn defensive lineman Nick Coe (91) applies pressure during a game Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Auburn, Ala. Froholdt and Clary swapped positions for the game, a move that is expected to continue in future weeks.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Bret Bielema spectacularly succeeded six years head coaching Wisconsin in big part because he and his staff cultivated, improved and stockpiled a big cast of outstanding offensive linemen.

He ultimately was fired after five Arkansas seasons in part because of leaving the line threadbare.

That not large enough line inventory in large part debited his last Razorbacks team to 4-8 overall/ 1-7 in the SEC.

In large part it just contributed debiting new Coach Chad Morris to an ignominious 2-10 overall/0-8 in the SEC debut for 2018.

While struggling through that 2017 sad swan song, Bielema candidly admitted that after his first recruiting class of 2013 landed instant starters Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland and in 2014 All-America Frank Ragnow and junior college transfer Sebastian Tretola that he didn't sign enough O-linemen.

"Ya, think?" Morris must think.

The best that Bielema bequeathed, departing 2018 senior offensive guard Hjalte Froholdt, was recruited as a defensive lineman.

Not all that surprising. The more athletic linemen often play from the defensive side. Such UA Razorbacks Hall of Honor inducted O-line greats as Leotis Harris, the Razorbacks' first black football All-American; Steve Korte; and Freddie Childress, all were recruited as high school D-linemen.

But the changes that Denmark native Froholdt weathered in four years, two head coaches, a D-line coach no longer at Arkansas, two O-line coaches and two offensive coordinators reflect the program's recent instability from which Froholdt told the 2019 returnees they must grow.

"Hjalte spoke to the team," Morris said at his Thursday season wrap-up press conference. "He talked about all the change that's happened since he's been here. The number of coaches and strength staffs and position coaches that have come in and out. To listen to him talk to the young guys was very powerful."

Presumably Froholdt also talked about reverse musical chairs. Too few linemen trying to fill too many vacancies by playing multiple positions.

Now three senior starting O-linemen -- Froholdt, Johnny Gibson and Brian Wallace -- depart.

"We don't have the depth in our offensive line," Morris said, noting injuries and attrition thinned a position group requiring a quality 10 filling first and second teams. "I think I had one week with 10 scholarship guys. When you don't have that, you've got to do a lot of cross training."

Morris and staff recruit ceaselessly trying to stock not only freshmen but whatever quality junior college transfer O-linemen they can muster that maybe can provide immediate help.

One big problem. When you recruit off an inherited 4-8, as Bielema did following John L. Smith's interim 2012, and then 4-8 bequeathed Morris with a team since skidded to 2-10, you've got too many holes gaping elsewhere that need filling, too.

Morris cringes at needs for receivers and on defense post his 2-10 2018 just like Bielema did post his 3-9 2013.

It's why the O-line waited in line too long.

Sports on 12/01/2018

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