Froholdt stepping into significant role on offensive line

By: Clay Henry
Published: Thursday, July 5, 2018
Hawgs Illustrated/BEN GOFF Hjalte Froholdt, Arkansas left guard, blocks during the game against Coastal Carolina Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Hawgs Illustrated/BEN GOFF Hjalte Froholdt, Arkansas left guard, blocks during the game against Coastal Carolina Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

— Hjalte Froholdt has come a long way. That could be in reference to his journey from Denmark to Arkansas, but that’s just half the story.

Froholdt came to Arkansas as a budding nose tackle, but he’s likely to leave as a drafted All-SEC left guard.

The senior is likely to be a captain under new coach Chad Morris. He’s already on some preseason All-SEC teams announced after last spring when he wowed his new coaches, including offensive line coach Dustin Fry.

There’s been enough of a stir about Froholdt that Morris admits at Razorback Club meetings in May that there will be some snapping this summer so that Froholdt could slide over to center if there are injuries at that position.

Froholdt (6-5, 315) played nose tackle as a true freshman, then was converted to offensive guard the following spring. There were growing pains for sure and there were times that Froholdt gave up sacks when blitzes and stunts had his head swimming.

That wasn’t so much of a problem last year in his second year at the position. He dazzled this spring as Morris put in a new offense. The new coaches remarked about Froholdt’s ability in the weight room, in the tape room and on the field.

And, offensive coordinator Joe Craddock made it obvious that Froholdt was among the team’s best leaders, stepping in for graduated All-American Frank Ragnow as the top man on the offensive line. He became vocal and demonstrative in the spring even as he was learning a new system that features new blocking to highlight the run-pass options in the Morris scheme.

“He’s one of our best leaders,” Craddock said. “I call him a bell cow. He tries to be at his best at all times. He’s a great run blocker and is good at pass protection, too.

“He’s kind of hard on himself and that can be good and bad. It can be his weakness at times. He can miss a block and he’s too hard on himself. You just have to move on sometimes.”

Craddock laughed when asked if he’d heard Froholdt go off on himself in Danish. Yep, that’s happened. But it’s less and less.

It might be more frequent this summer — after he’s back from about two weeks home. He gets about two trips home per year. The visit with family was a little too long this winter because the Hogs didn’t have a bowl game.

“I think it was almost six weeks this winter,” Froholdt said. “In previous seasons with a bowl it might be as short as 10 or 12 days. This May, it was 16 days.”

Obviously, Froholdt hopes for a shorter stay next winter. He wants to end his senior season with a bowl trip. But when he’s home, he makes the most of it, enjoying his mom’s cooking and filling up on dishes that aren’t available in the Ozarks. He got his favorite dish — kebabs.

“It’s more of a Middle East dish, but we do it right in Denmark,” Froholdt said. “The best way is to get it in a sort of sandwich, made with peta bread. It’s got a variety of meat, but mostly pork. And, lots of other ingredients. I dip it in ranch. When I go home, I might have that four or five times at different restaurants. My mom’s cooking is great, but I really miss the kebabs the most.”

Early in his time at guard, fans thought he “missed” too many blocks. It gets easier in the Morris offense because there are fewer defenders in the box and fewer blitz options for the defensive schemes. Froholdt admits that his new coaches have stressed it will fewer defenders to block and that the offense has easy fixes for most problems. Line coach Dustin Fry said there are clues to all the fixes.

“He told us that there was an answer for everything,” Froholdt said. “He’s a great coach. He told us there would be cleaner looks for us in the box and that we’d have things for the linebackers. What we are doing now in the spring is concentrating on the little things.

“Coach Fry is a great technician and a great coach. You get a feel for someone pretty quickly. He’s given us things to work on and to get the footwork right for a different system.

“We know we are learning how to handle pressures that we’ll get in this scheme because coach (John) Chavis gives us new looks every day, a new pressure. We saw pressures the very first practice this spring.”

They’ll handle the great SEC defensive ends with a different plan.

“Those are great players,” Fry said, noting the ACC is loaded with talented defensive ends, too.

“We never tried to block defensive ends with anything but an offensive tackle. You just can’t do it. We aren’t going to leave a tight end on a defensive end. It’s just not what we do.”

Fry is pleased with the progress of his new offensive line, especially Froholdt.

“I love them,” he said. “Froholdt is a stud. He is analytical and takes coaching. He’s a great leader. All the way around, I like what I see of my guys so far.”

The leadership piece was something Froholdt knew was coming. In fact, he had to step forward at the mid-point of last season when Ragnow, his best friend, went down with an ankle injury.

“I felt it was time for me to step forward and become more vocal,” Froholdt said.

Interestingly, he’s now sort of a player/coach for the summer as Fry has to step away from on-field contact per NCAA rules. So Morris set things up for the summer with two practices after the spring game to simulate summer workouts. A player-coach was picked for every position group. Froholdt was an easy choice with the O-line.

“Our coaches made sure there was someone to teach the new technique for the incoming freshmen over the summer,” Froholdt said. “What they have changed us to doing isn’t too difficult. I didn’t find it hard to pick up.

“What we are doing is a big change from last summer. And, I don’t think it’s going to differ from what is done here going forward.

“We have three seniors in the offensive line and I believe all of us know the techniques and can teach it to the newcomers. Colton Jackson and Johnny Gibson have both had substantial playing time, too. They know how our new coaches want things to look so we should have a good summer.”

Froholdt said it didn’t take long for the O-line to get a top buy-in with Fry.

“You always have the ideals of the new coaches to learn,” he said. “I believe their ideology is going to be successful and I believe there is buy-in already.

“What has been taught to us is very clear for what we will do this summer. We were taught a 15-minute team segment we will do every day and 15-minute individual drills that players will teach.

“To be honest, what we did is going to be of great benefit. I think it’s going to be very effective this summer and then again in the summers going forward. The way we are doing it will continue in future summers.”

Froholdt said the buy-in with Morris has been quick for the team. Morris said that was one of his primary goals in the spring and again with post-spring individual meetings.

“I know he’s been on the road recruiting and I know he probably worries that he could be spending more time with us, but I firmly believe that we understand what he wants and the culture that he has installed.

“I think Coach Morris did a really good job coming in to make it clear what was needed. We also have clear direction from Coach Craddock and Coach Fry on the offensive side. The relationships with the players are really good.

“I think we have coaches we really respect. I want to play well for them. I look at them as father figures. I always want to play hard for myself because I expect a lot from myself. But I also want to play hard for these new coaches.”

If they want a little extra from Froholdt, maybe someone can find him some kebabs in the Ozarks.

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