FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — As Arkansas begins fall practices Thursday evening, the offensive line is the most heavily-scrutinized position group.
The Razorbacks are replacing three starters up front from a unit that was considered among the best in the country last season.
Senior right tackle Dan Skipper, a preseason first-team All-SEC selection by multiple publications, is expected to anchor the unit. Junior Frank Ragnow is the other returning starter, and will shift from right guard to center this season.
Other than that, several inexperienced players are expected to compete for the starting spots under the watchful eyes of coach Bret Bielema and new offensive line coach Kurt Anderson.
“More than ever, I’m probably looking forward to looking at that group the first five days,” Bielema said Thursday.
“I think in these first five days we would really like to get a good stronghold on who our five to seven best offensive linemen are. I think it’s a position that’s very hard to evaluate until you put pads on. A guy can look like King Kong before the pads come on and look like Jane after, or vice versa.”
Bielema has no timetable on when he would like to have his starting unit in place, but did say he would like to have a good idea going into a scrimmage set for Aug. 13. That would allow the group to mold together over the final three weeks before the season starts.
“I really love the attitude our offensive line showed this summer,” Bielema said. “I really think (Anderson) was a perfect fit to kind of bring some new blood in and rile the troops a little bit.”
Junior college transfer Paul Ramirez and Texas transfer Jake Raulerson, both of whom arrived this summer, were mentioned by Bielema as key players added to the competition. Bielema said Raulerson currently projects as a backup center behind Ragnow.
Redshirt freshman Colton Jackson is considered the front-runner to start at left tackle. Converted defensive tackle Hjalte Foholdt, a sophomore, is a candidate to start at one of the guard spots.