FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — There is an internal pool — don’t worry, just for fun — about who is going to be the most improved player on the Arkansas football team this year.
Personally, I have it as the starting left guard.
Hjalte Froholdt is back for his second season as a starter. Year 1 produced mixed results. The early going was tough for the converted defensive tackle. And why not. He had been at the position less than a calendar year. Freshly thrust into SEC football isn’t easy.
It showed. Froholdt was a target for lots of fan ire last year while quarterback Austin Allen kept eating grass. Of course, it wasn’t all on Froholdt. It wasn’t even all on the offensive line. But there were plays where he would miss an assignment or whiff on a block and Allen would be, as they say, blown up.
But as the year went on, those occurrences happened fewer. Froholdt wasn’t the same player in December as he was in September. As such, he won’t be the same player this August as he was in December, either, and never mind the September before.
“I never want to have that feeling again of looking back and seeing someone on the ground,” Froholdt said.
He’s sincere, too. Allen isn’t just his quarterback. He’s his friend. And Allen isn’t shy about expressing his feelings. There were times last year Froholdt — and others — felt the sting of his words in an angrier-than-hoped tone.
Froholdt may not turn into the first-team All-SEC player college football analyst Phil Steele has pegged him as this summer. He may, too. Regardless, he’s going to be improved. With four starters back on the Arkansas offensive line, that’s only going to help. Because even though chemistry is overstated as a means to quality on a football field, it can be integral to an offensive line that works together as a unit.
Playing next to Frank Ragnow, the best center in the country, helps, too.
“It’s tough to be just thrown out there. I see it with some of the new guys coming in now,” Froholdt said. “That’s how it was with me and [starting left tackle Colton Jackson] last year. We had to play. We didn’t have the depth that we needed but we had to go out there and step up. Having Frank back helps me a lot on the inside.”
Don’t expect that same mistakes you saw last year from Froholdt. A year older. A year wiser.