Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year twice.
HOG FUTURES Zach Rogers:
Lineman likes life in center
Lineman Zach Rogers speaks to members of the media Monday, Dec. 22, 2014, during a press conference ahead of the Razorbacks' Dec. 29 bowl game with Texas in Houston.
The 13th in a series profiling newcomers on the 2015 Razorbacks football roster
FAYETTEVILLE -- For someone who never played center before participating in Arkansas' spring practice, freshman Zach Rogers adjusted pretty well.
"Mentally, I couldn't imagine the spring being any better for Zach," Razorbacks offensive line coach Sam Pittman said. "He learned so fast.
Zach Rogers glance
HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-1, 300 pounds
HOMETOWN Carrollton, Texas
HIGH SCHOOL Hebron
AGE 18 (born Dec. 23, 1996)
NOTEWORTHY Enrolled at Arkansas in January and closed spring practice as the No. 2 center behind Mitch Smother. … Played left tackle in high school. … Missed junior season at Hebron after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a fall scrimmage. … Broke left ankle in third game last season and didn’t play again. … Was rated among the top 50 Texas high school players by several recruiting services. … Chose Arkansas over offers from Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor, UCLA and Texas Tech. … Plans to major in criminal justice and wants to be a game warden after his playing career is over.
"Even though he didn't play center in high school, he didn't have any snap-exchange problems, didn't have problems snapping in the Shotgun. I thought he went in there and did a real nice job."
Rogers, who came out of spring practice listed as the No. 2 center behind returning senior starter Mitch Smothers, played left tackle at Carrollton (Texas) Hebron High School, but said he knew that wouldn't be his position in college.
"I'm pretty short to play tackle at this level," said Rogers, who is 6-1 and 300 pounds. "With every college coach in recruiting it was always, 'You're going to have to play inside,' and I'm fine with that."
Rogers, among Arkansas' January enrollees, said he was excited to move to center and accept the challenge of learning a new position.
"It's definitely demanding at center," he said. "There's just a whole lot you have to know and understand.
"You have to understand how everything works on offense and understand the defense."
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said Rogers -- rated one of Texas' top 50 players by several recruiting services -- had an impressive start to the spring and kept improving.
"Sam and I were both blown away by how Zach did in the first two weeks," Bielema said. "He's so conscientious. The center makes all the calls, and he was locked in from Day 1 all the way through."
Rogers said Smothers and sophomore guard Frank Ragnow -- the backup center last season -- helped him out as well as the coaches.
"You have the weight on your shoulders at center of having to change things depending on how the defense has lined up," Rogers said. "The first couple of practices in the spring I struggled with that. Then we had that week off for spring break, and I came back and was able to watch a lot of film and talk to Coach Pitt and Mitch and Frank.
"Things started to click for me, especially toward the end of the spring."
Rogers said he realized after a few practices he prefers playing center to tackle.
"At tackle you're out there on an island with the defensive ends," he said. "At center you're always working with somebody."
A sore left ankle slowed Rogers at times. He broke the ankle in the third game last season.
"Most days in the spring it would get a little bit sore, but that was about it," Rogers said. "On some of our longer practices, towards the end it might hurt to push off of it, but I'd get it taped a little bit more and keep going."
Rogers missed all of his junior season at Hebron after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a scrimmage in fall camp.
"I don't even notice my knee anymore, and my ankle is pretty much 100 percent now, too," Rogers said. "I should be full go for fall camp."
Rogers laughed when asked that if he had to deal with injuries, whether it's better to have something happen to each leg or hurt one leg twice.
"At least now I'm all balanced out right and left," he said. "Injuries are part of the game of football.
"There are guys that have gone through a lot worse than I have. You've just got to keep going."
Bielema said Rogers has handled his injury rehabs well.
"A lot of times those scars, they run deep into your body," Bielema said. "They last a long time and can motivate you in the future.
"I think those things that have set him back in the past are reasons he'll be propelled in the future."
Rogers said that after each injury, he quickly heard words of support from Arkansas' coaches.
"I never had any worries about Arkansas' commitment to me," he said.
Rogers committed to Arkansas in the summer of 2013 before his junior season at Hebron, turning down scholarship offers from Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor, UCLA and Texas Tech.
"Coach Bielema and I wanted to stay with Zach no matter what happened, if he could back strong from the injuries or if he couldn't," Pittman said. "That's just something good people do."
Bielema said ideally Rogers would spend this season practicing with the second-team offense and traveling to games, but be able to redshirt.
"Hopefully, we only use him in an emergency situation," Bielema said. "His best football, by far, is in front of him."
Rogers said there are pluses to playing or redshirting as far as gaining game experience or being able to focus on developing physically and thoroughly learning the offense.
"I'll just show up to practice, play the best I can and then let the coaches decide what's best," Rogers said. "Those guys know a lot more about what needs to happen than I do."
Rogers said a Texas Tech assistant coach unwittingly helped him decide Arkansas was his best choice.
"Right in the middle of recruiting, a coach from Tech said, 'The thing you've got to do is find the place that if you weren't a good football player, where would you want to go to school?' " Rogers said. "He said, 'You should go there.'
"Arkansas was that school for me. It just felt like home up here more than anywhere else."
Sports on 07/22/2015
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.