State of the Hogs: First Day Winners at Arkansas Spring Football Practice

Frank Ragnow called it a seamless work with quarterback Austin Allen, among the highlights as Arkansas began spring drills on Tuesday.

Frank Ragnow was happy just to be able to talk a little trash. Hjalte Froholdt was pleased to get some praise from Ragnow for a perfect double team block. Keon Hatcher was just glad to be on the field again, as was running back Rawleigh Williams.

Williams revealed that his surgery last fall after an injury against Auburn was to repair a bulging disk. He said it was pressing against his spinal column between the second and third vertebrae. He's had no issues since the surgery and took some teasing from the defense because he's in a green jersey for the spring.

Then there was the quarterback stepping into the void left at Arkansas by his older brother. Austin Allen was grinning about a good first day and sporting some wavy locks that earned him $50.

Allen was complimented by his teammates for his play, but he talked more about the bet he won from former roommate Hunter Henry.

Allen had kept his hair trimmed short for his first three falls with the Razorbacks. But he was dared by Henry, off to the NFL, to let it grow. First, Austin let his beard grow in a November period along with many of his teammates. Then, he began to let the hair grow over the winter.

"Hunter bet me $50 that I wouldn't do it," Austin said after Tuesday's opening practice of the spring for the Hogs. "So I did it. Yes, I've already got the $50."

It's a light brown in color. And, that's a different shade than what Brandon sported as he let his dark mane grow wavy and his beard to fill out as the season progresses. He's different, say his teammates, in other areas, too.

"He's more laid back," said Hatcher, back for another try at his senior year after missing most of last season with a broken foot.

"Austin had a good day. He had a lot of zip. He put it in there. But he's always done that. He's a good quarterback. We are going to be fine."

Ragnow worked with the first team at center. He started last year at right guard, but he said there has always been a good mesh with Austin Allen.

"I was the backup center last year so I took all the snaps with Austin," Ragnow said. "We had a perfect day. We didn't put anything on the ground. We've really worked together for the last two years because I played center as a freshman."

Ragnow was as pleased with his new sidekick at guard. Hjalte Froholdt, a convert from the defensive line, lined up at right guard for the first day with Ragnow at center. They worked some double team magic a couple of times in the first day.

"Hjalte is amazing, to make that move and do it so well," Ragnow said. "He looks like an offensive linemen to me and I don't know if that's a compliment."

Actually, there were plenty of compliments about the way the offensive line fill out their uniforms. Ragnow is up to 314. It's all muscle.

When a reporter remarked that it was all sharp angles, Ragnow beamed, then quickly said, "Thanks. I appreciate that. I've worked hard. We all have. I feel like it's good weight and in the right places."

Then Ragnow pointed at Froholdt with a comment about the mesh they had up front. He said, "We moved some guys and I think he felt what it's like to make a good block. He felt the reward. I think we did that a couple of times."

Froholdt loved it. He said he'd seen the right moves on tape from new offensive line coach Kurt Anderson over the winter. And, he'd seen it drawn up on the white board. But that was the first time on the field.

"I think when you actually feel it, it's pretty rewarding," he said. "Frank told me they were good blocks."

Ragnow thought it was a good day.

"It's so good to be out there on the field," he said. "You know, with an offensive lineman you spend a lot of time lifting. But it feels so good to take what you have done with your body and take it to the field. It just felt good to be out there going against guys like Deatrich Wise and trash talking."

Asked about the way things went with Anderson, his new coach, there was nothing but positives.

"He's a loud and brings it, but it's all positive," Ragnow said. "There's no cussing you."

Obviously, it's been a good match for the young offensive line. Ragnow said it's been a good winter with Anderson taking the reins of that unit.

"We are learning a lot," he said. "It's been a lot of tape of the NFL, of the Buffalo Bills. We've learned new terminology. Some things are the same, but there are some new terms. It's a learning time for us in a lot of ways. He's given us some new techniques and a better understanding of why we do it.

"Sometimes you need to know why it's a certain way and he's able to explain it. He really knows it. We know it's stuff from the highest level of the game.

"We've changed some things. But we are trying to play fast, not thinking. He said he doesn't want to give us too much new stuff because it will slow us down."

Head coach Bret Bielema indicated that some new techniques will improve the run blocking.

"I see why he would say that," Ragnow said. "What we are doing is gong to help us in that area. I believe that."

It's stuff that ought to be fun for Williams, the sophomore running back who scared everyone with his neck injury against Auburn.

"Real scary," Ragnow said. "We are so glad to have him out there today. He looks so good."

Williams said it "felt good" to be back, although he's felt he's been back for quite some time. He did all of the drills over the winter in the offseason program. He wished he didn't have to wear the no-contact green jersey for the spring.

"I understand it's for my own protection," Williams said. "I think I'm ready for everything, but they aren't going to let me do some things. I'll take reps with the first team, but the defense has to let off. They've let me know about that."

Williams said the injury scared him, too.

"I never was out," he said. "I remember it all. I remember looking up and my parents were there. I could move my arms and fingers, but when I said they felt hot, they stopped me. I remember getting covered by a blanket and I was feeling stinging all over.

"I do remember right before the surgery being able to move everything."

There was six weeks with a protective neck brace.

"I didn't have to wear it when I went to sleep, but I had to be still," he said. "I had four pillows propped under me. I was so glad when I got rid of that thing."

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