FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — After three years under Bret Bielema, Arkansas has become largely defined by its big, tough and physical offensive line. The Razorbacks have averaged about 200 yards on the ground in each of the last three seasons.
Because of that offensive line, Arkansas has been one of the teams you want to see least when the schedule hits November and the physical toll of a long, hard season in the SEC begins to compound.
This season, Arkansas features two returning starters on the offensive line and also has a new position coach. Those facts make senior tackle Dan Skipper the No. 2 most important Razorback entering 2016 in SEC Country’s rankings.
2. Dan Skipper, Sr., OL
Jersey number: 70
2015 stats: N/A
Career appearances/starts: 38/34
Skipper enters 2016 having started 34 consecutive games. His versatility throughout his Razorbacks career has added to his value.
He started eight games at guard as a true freshman in 2013, then all 13 games the next season at left tackle before switching to the right side last year.
It seems the plan for now is for Skipper to remain at right tackle while redshirt freshman Colton Jackson takes over the left tackle spot, although if Jackson struggles — and as a freshman left tackle in the SEC, that seems possible — Skipper could flip back to the left side to protect Austin Allen’s blind side. Heck, he could even move back to guard if needed.
A preseason, third-team All-American according to Athlon Sports, Skipper is an effective and talented player. And his ranking on this list is due in part to how much the Razorbacks offensive line would suffer if he had to miss any time.
But beyond that, the leadership Arkansas will need from Skipper adds a great deal to his importance.
Former offensive line coach Sam Pittman — who left Arkansas for the same job at Georgia during the offseason — was responsible as anyone for the success of the Razorback big uglies in the last few seasons.
There is absolutely no reason to believe new Hogs offensive line coach Kurt Anderson can’t pick up the mantle and lead excellent units himself — and he was there for spring ball — but it would be perfectly understandable if there were still some growing pains on both sides early in the season.
That’s where Skipper, as the mainstay of the group, could potentially make his greatest impact in 2016.
Editor’s note: Arkansas beat writers Jason Kersey and Trent Shadid are counting down the most important Arkansas football players for the 2016 season. The countdown will continue over the next four days, with each remaining player getting his own post.
Here is the list of previous articles in this series:
Tuesday, July 5: Nos. 25-16
Wednesday, July 6: Nos. 15-11
Thursday, July 7: Nos. 10-6
Friday, July 8: No. 5
Saturday, July 9: No. 4
Sunday, July 10: No. 3