Razorbacks not likely to receive much love from media voters

By: Harry King
Published: Thursday, July 12, 2018
Arkansas offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt lines up during a game against New Mexico State on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt lines up during a game against New Mexico State on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Fayetteville.

LITTLE ROCK — Announced in a matter of days, the media’s All-SEC preseason team will include only a few Razorbacks.

Such minimal representation can be anything from an omen to an opportunity.

A year ago, Arkansas was one of five teams with only two players each on the three-deep team announced during SEC Media Days.

The Razorbacks and two of the others —Tennessee and Vanderbilt — were a combined 2-22 in conference play. On the other hand, both Missouri and Mississippi State were 4-4 in the SEC and won a total of 16 games.

A year ago, Arkansas’ representatives were first-teamer Frank Ragnow and third-teamer Austin Allen, and neither was a surprise.

Guessing which Razorbacks will be honored this year, the front-runner is Hjalte Froholdt, who has some advantages over his teammates:

—Position/Publicity: Froholdt has received national recognition from reputable sources and many of the more than 200 media members who vote at the upcoming Media Days in Atlanta need help identifying offensive linemen. Pro Football Focus graded Froholdt as the No. 2 guard in the SEC and CBS Sports named him the No. 23 player in college football. Plus, five of the 10 offensive linemen on The Associated Press All-SEC team last December were seniors.

—Back story: The media loves a good angle. Froholdt played his sophomore year in the U.S. as a foreign exchange student, went back home to Denmark for his junior year, then returned to the U.S. to finish high school. Plus, not many four-star defensive players make the successful transition to offense after one year and the other finalists for his signature were Florida State and Michigan.

—UA resume: Froholdt has started 25 straight games since making the transition to left guard and he did not allow a sack while playing almost 400 snaps last year. New offensive coordinator Joe Craddock calls Froholdt a “bell cow,” and line coach Dustin Fry labels him a “stud.”

Recognition of Ragnow and Allen was rooted more in documented accomplishments.

Ragnow made 26 consecutive starts prior to his senior season, was named first-team All-American by Pro Football Focus in 2016, was on several preseason All-American teams and was a candidate for the Rimington Trophy that goes to the best center in the country.

Allen led the SEC in passing with 3,430 yards in 2016, completing 61 percent of his attempts, and threw two or more TD passes in nine games.

Ragnow’s play was so solid that he made The AP’s All-SEC Second Team even though he suffered a season-ending injury in the eighth game of the year at Auburn.

Allen had no chance for postseason recognition after he missed four games with a shoulder injury, his completion percentage dropped five points and his passing yardage was down 2,000 yards from 2016.

On top of that, Missouri’s Drew Lock led the FBS with 44 touchdown passes and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham was 37-of-51 when the Tigers beat No. 1 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama in three weeks on their way to a 10-win regular season. Appropriately, they were on the first and second teams selected by The AP’s dozen-plus voters.

Last July, the three-deep at quarterback was Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald and Allen.

Other than Froholdt, linebacker De’Jon Harris and defensive lineman McTelvin Agim are the Razorbacks most likely to receive preseason honors.

Harris made The AP’s Second Team last year as a sophomore after finishing second in the SEC with 115 total tackles. He recorded 10 tackles or more against six conference opponents, although a cynic might suggest he racked up such big numbers because of innumerable opportunities.

A five-star recruit, Agim has been something of a disappointment but the junior claims he will benefit from John Chavis’ 4-3 alignment, billed as more of an attacking approach than the 3-4 employed last year.

Cornerback Ryan Pulley, who missed the final 11 games last season, is a longshot to make the preseason team, but could be on the All-SEC team that matters in December.

The last Razorback defender to make the All-SEC First Team in the postseason was linebacker Martrell Spaight in 2014.

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