Natasha Tucker

Spring Countdown: Interior offensive line

With the Razorbacks closing in on spring football, HawgsDaily is breaking down who we believe Arkansas' starters are at all 22 positions. We'll reveal a portion of the starting lineup each day through March 28, when the Razorbacks begin practice.

Left guardHjalte Froholdt

Jr. | 6-4 | 318 | Svendborg, Denmark/Warren (Ohio) Harding/IMG Academy (Fla.)

2016 stats: 13 games (13 starts)

Why he'll start in 2017: Starting every game at left guard, Froholdt steadily improved throughout the season. He leaned heavily on center Frank Ragnow, who will also be back in 2017, and left tackle Dan Skipper, who graduated, for help last year. There were still times when he was clearly overmatched and uncomfortable at the position, but overall, he got better each week. During bowl practices - which should benefit him greatly down the line - Froholdt admitted that there were plenty of ups and downs during 2016. "One minute I felt I was starting to get it and then all of a sudden there is another valley I need to get over," he said.

Why this spring is important: It's easy to see what is most important about this spring for Froholdt: Simply getting more reps at left guard. He is at even more of a disadvantage than most players who convert from defense to offense or vice versa because of his background. Froholdt didn't start playing football until his sophomore year of high school, when he came to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student from Denmark. He had to learn all of the rules of the game at a time most guys had been playing for 5-10 years. Throw a position change in the toughest conference in college football on top of that and you're basically setting him up for failure. However, as mentioned above, Froholdt improved during the season and getting another set of spring practices and another offseason under his belt should pay dividends this year.

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CenterFrank Ragnow

Sr. | 6-5 | 319 | Victoria (Minn.) Chanhassen

2016 stats: 13 games (13 starts)

Why he'll start in 2017: After briefly considering entering the 2017 NFL Draft, Ragnow decided to return to Arkansas this season. It was a decision that benefits the Razorbacks a lot because not only was he their best offensive lineman, he was the best offensive lineman in the country, according to Pro Football Focus. Ragnow earned an 88.9 run-blocking grade and 89.4 overall grade from the analytics website, as well. Head coach Bret Bielema has said for a couple of years now that Ragnow probably has the best chance to be his first first-round draft pick at Arkansas.

Why this spring is important: While last spring's storyline up front was about all of the turnover, this year it's about the stability. The Razorbacks will have to replace left tackle Dan Skipper, but that's all. The players around Ragnow are still pretty young, though, so he'll need to continue helping them develop while being the steady force in the middle of the line. Plus, he has experience playing guard - even earning SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week after his only start at right guard in 2016 - so there's always the slight possibility of him moving around in order to get what Bielema calls the "best five" linemen on the field at once.

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Right guardJohnny Gibson

R-Jr. | 6-4 | 344 | Dumas (Ark.)

2016 stats: 13 games (5 starts)

Why he'll start in 2017: Right guard was a weak point on Arkansas' offensive line for most of last season. Finally, during the bye week, Gibson - a walk-on who earned a scholarship after the regular season - took over the starting job and started the final five games of the season. He was not perfect, but he brought some stability to the position. Gibson's size makes him a nice fit at guard and, after being a backup for a year and a half, he won't give up his starting role easily.

Why this spring is important: Gibson will have to fend off several competitors at the position. Jake Raulerson, a graduate transfer from Texas, was the starter before Gibson took over. There is also junior-college transfer Deion Malone and former blueshirt Dylan Hays, both of which redshirted last season. Gibson has a leg up on these players and several others because he ended the 2016 season as the starter and played well, but he needs to reassert himself as the No. 1 guy this spring. He can't lose the chip on his shoulder that came with being a walk-on.

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Here are links to our previous breakdowns, in case you missed any of them:

Quarterback/running back

Wide receivers

Tight ends


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