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Positional Preview Part Seven: O-Line, Nowhere to Go but Up, Right?

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For Arkansas to succeed, the O-Line must improve.

NCAA Football: Belk Bowl-Arkansas vs Virginia Tech Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

It feels like a lifetime ago when Arkansas when the offensive line was on the cover of the media guide and you heard “did you know Arkansas’ line is bigger than every NFL line?” Every. Single. Game. In 2016, it was a struggle to say the least. Austin Allen was constantly picking himself off the ground, even to the point opposing players were going on about how tough he was.

Needless to say that needs to change in 2017, and so far it sounds like things have gotten better. There are two reasons for that, experience and continuity. Experience is such an important and rare thing in the SEC. Colton Jackson started the year right off his redshirt season before falling to the second team. Johnny Gibson started as a walk on, and Hjalte Froholdt was switching from defense. Had Arkansas kept up the lofty standard they’ve set for themselves it would have been miraculous.

The starting five will be very similar. Only Dan Skipper won’t be returning, and he’s being replaced by Jackson, who has a few starts under his belt. Froholdt will line up at left guard and Frank Ragnow will be the leader right in the middle of everything. His experience should be like almost having a second quarterback making pre snap reads. Johnny Gibson and Brian Wallace are lining up on the right side, where they each started the last five games together.

When talking about the Arkansas offensive line, the question is always how big are they? I’m sure this is a shock to no one, but they’re still pretty dang big. The five starters average 6-foot-5 and over 319 lbs., which is slightly bigger than last year. So don’t worry, Bielema’s line is still very much on brand.

The backups haven’t gotten a ton of time on the field, but have gotten some time and have been with the program for a while. Paul Ramirez, Jake Raulerson, Zach Rogers, and Jalen Merrick are all in at least their second year with the team. Dalton Wagner is the only newcomer in the projected two deep as of right now.

In college football, some of the biggest gains happen between year 1 and year 2. That’s where most of this offensive line, including offensive line coach Kurt Anderson, is at. So if you’re placing bets, smart money is on big improvements. If you listen to leader of the group Ragnow, the unit is practicing, training, and communicating smarter. While nothing is proven until they step on the field, everything you want to hear is being said.