FAYETTEVILLE - It wouldn’t surprise if last August that Arkansas Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema and Arkansas offensive line coach Kurt Anderson wished they could have told Hjalte Froholdt and Colton Jackson what they likely imparted to the high school linemen attending the UA’s recent Trench Hogs camp.
Keep patiently persevering, keep learning and keep lifting is the typical camp message for nearly all athletes, but especially offensive linemen — if they believe themselves destined to play college football.
Ideally, collegiate offensive linemen apprentice two years, sometimes three, redshirting one year and ranging the next one or two from more scout team to nominal backup before summoned to play a key role.
Sometimes a true freshman or redshirt freshman starts in a Division I offensive line because of nigh unbelievable athletic precocity.
Mostly, though, rookies starting in the offensive trenches do so because the cupboard is so bare that they are the best available.
Such was Arkansas’ case last season with Jackson and Froholdt.
And in large part because of Jackson and Froholdt and others, such won’t be the case for installer Kirby Adcock of Nashville, Shane Clenin of Festus, Mo. and Dalton Wagner of Richmond, Ill.
The three have been apprenticing at the UA since January as December high school graduates. It would bode well if they stick to the conventional offensive line timetable for 2017 and 2018 unless one or more proves out of this world ready before their time.
It proved too much too soon for Jackson, the Conway native and 2016 redshirt freshman opening last season as the starting right tackle.
He didn’t last the season starting as Bielema and Anderson kept shuffling the offensive line deck.
And though he started every game at left guard, especially too much too soon for Froholdt.
Born in Denmark and meaningfully introduced to American football as a high school exchange student defensive lineman in Ohio and then football apprenticing at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Froholdt didn’t just have to adapt from speaking Danish to speaking English.
He had to adapt from speaking defensive lineman to speaking defensive lineman. Froholdt lettered in 2015 as a Razorbacks true freshman reserve defensive lineman.
With starting lineman Denver Kirkland turned pro early, Bielema, Anderson and offensive coordinator Dan Enos tried with one spring and a summer to make Froholdt a SEC starting offensive guard.
“Last year everything was new to me,” Froholdt said after an April spring practice. “I was like a newborn baby.”
He said that made 2016 senior offensive tackle Dan Skipper virtually become a new father.
“ I remember first day coming out, they said a specific play, a rollout and I was like “where am I going?”’ Froholdt recalled. “Skip was like “Just run left.’ So I just ran left. This year, it’s great feeling a lot more comfortable going up to the line knowing what I’m doing.”
Absolutely it was too much to ask of Froholdt last season, Enos said, but in the same breath Enos said Froholdt’s ability and size (6-6, 318) still made him the best they had.
Even before spring drills, Enos said Froholdt had transformed from being the best by default to the best because he had become a really good, really knowledgable really strong offensive lineman.
Last year’s School of Hard Knocks helped those young linemen like Froholdt, Jackson, junior guard Johnny Gibson of Dumas, junior tackle Brian Wallace and reserves like junior Zach Rogers, University of Texas second UA year graduate transfer Jake Raulerson and redshirted JC transfers Paul Ramirez and Deion Malone, Enos said.
They are up to following where senior All-American center candidate Frank Ragnow leads them, Enos believes.
““This spring was like a totally offensive line,” Enos said. “Guys were much better and much more comfortable and did a much better job.”