If all they cared about was pass protection, they would not have Froholdt in the lineup at all, and Ragnow would be playing tackle or guard instead of center. Really, he would be the guy most physically capable of handling left tackle. You would have Ragnow at left tackle, Skipper at right tackle, Wallace playing guard, Raulerson and Rogers in the other two spots.
Would that line be better in run blocking too? No idea, but I bet it would be better than the worst pass-protection line we’ve ever seen.
The main problem here is that Arkansas has a pro-style offense that is designed to run the ball 60% of the time. Players have been slotted into positions with that run/pass mix foremost in mind. The running game isn’t working well enough, so against good competition the Hogs end up failing in the run and playing way too many downs in obvious passing situations without enough protection for the QB.
They could have improved on this situation, but it would have meant trashing the offensive scheme they wanted to run. Some people would have loved that.
On offense and defense this season, you see all sorts of signs that the Razorbacks got caught in no man’s land. They do not have enough players that fit the schemes they wanted to run, at least not today. On both offense and defense, the coaches are being forced, grudgingly, to compromise. Forced by the ineffective running game, forced by outlier-bad results in run defense and pass protection.
From my view, the initial mistake on offense was a failure to properly prioritize the positions on the line. They needed to find a legitimate left tackle first and foremost. The best offensive lineman on the team should have been moved to left tackle. Instead, they handed the job to a redshirt freshman for all of spring and part of August. Some freshmen can handle that, but it’s a move you’d better be right about. They were wrong, and it was so obvious that the Hogs moved Skipper to the left side in the second week of August.
In March, Arkansas did not know it would be joined by Jake Raulerson later in the spring. We were looking, for center, at Ragnow, Rogers and a whole lotta reaches after that. In that situation it might be understandable to put Ragnow at center, and August might have been a pretty late time to decide that Ragnow could be the best option at left tackle.
When I talked with a couple of old hands (longtime college coaches, retired) recently about what they thought about Arkansas in the A&M and Alabama games, both asked why Ragnow was playing center instead of left tackle. I had to explain the sequence of events. They both thought the real mistake was not putting him there years ago, though they recognized Arkansas’s priority was on having powerful players at the tackles, not the most agile ones.
It’s easy to say now that Arkansas has two other players who could play center, but it only became that way after spring. To me, the choices are difficult now. What I’d do to salvage the season is prioritize pass protection instead of run blocking. That would mean removing Froholdt from the lineup and completely reevaluating the center and guard situations. Does Ragnow need to move back to guard? Is somebody on the bench who would be a better option at guard, if the foremost need is to protect Allen?
If you make moves to improve run-blocking (such as replacing Raulerson at right guard), will that hurt pass protection? Or can the running game improve enough to take off some pressure? Can the Hogs upgrade the line by replacing Raulerson with Ragnow and starting someone else at center? Does the line have one weak link, or two?
What I would do is not what Arkansas is likely to do. They will double down their focus on repairing the running game, to try to reestablish the play-action threat and put Allen in better down/distance situations. Stay committed to their philosophy. If it works, it will look brilliant.