HOGS: Disciplined O line deeper, driven
FAYETTEVILLE - No Arkansas position group struggled during the 2-10 season of 2018 like the offensive line.
Strength coach Trumain Carroll offered Arkansas fans encouragement, noting the linemen who struggled together last fall rallied together in the off-season and summer.
“Ah, man. That’s one of the closest units on our team,” Carroll said. “They self-police each other, self-govern one another. Ty Clary (junior center from Fayetteville) and Dalton Wagner (third-year sophomore right tackle from Spring Grove, Ill.) do an extremely great job of keeping that group in line, in order and in check.”
Referencing the Ben Franklin quote regarding upstart America battling Great Britain that “we must indeed all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately,” these linemen have stuck together after they figuratively were hung separately on social media.
“I’m very happy with how they performed this summer,” Carroll said. “Just because I know they caught a lot of heat from everybody out there and how we’re going to be this year. They worked to prove people wrong. Not necessarily prove people wrong but prove them right because they know what they can do.”
The whole line took it personally, offensive line coach Dustin Fry said starting with his two returning starters: senior left tackle Colton Jackson of Conway and junior center Ty Clary of Fayetteville.
“Those guys read,” Fry said. “They are not stupid to what people say about them. I know Ty’s hungry. Being a kid from Fayetteville and having the pride he has for the Razorbacks, I think he’s really hungry to have a good year.”
Ditto Jackson. Maybe more so since this marks the fifth-year senior’s last go-round.
“I’m excited where he is mentally,” Fry said. “I know he’s hungry. I don’t read Twitter, but I know he does, and I know there were some nasty things said to him after a couple of those games last year. I know that’s fired him up a little bit. More than a little bit. I think he’s ready and hungry to have a good season.”
Jackson showed it the first half of spring practice before missing the last eight drills with injuries.
“His first seven (spring) practices before he got banged up, were the best I’ve seen him practice since I’ve been here,” Fry said.
Even when injured, Jackson served as the line’s elder statesman, Fry said.
“He’s been a great leader for me, and I’m excited about where he is going into his senior year,” Jackson said. “I know he’s hungry, and I know he was very disappointed in how the season ended last year.”
This line seeks to improve despite losing three 2018 starters, including New England Patriots fourth-round draft choice guard/center Hjalte Froholdt and NFL signed free agent Brian Wallace and Dumas’ Johnny Gibson.
“Obviously, losing Fro is a big deal because he was our leader,” Fry said. “He was our bell cow and could play three different positions. But I like where those younger guys are coming in. I like the work they’ve put in. They understand the offense. Only time will tell if we’re better, but I would say on paper we’re better.”
With the lack of O-linemen numbers inherited from the Bret Bielema regime and due to injuries, Arkansas first-year 2018 head coach Chad Morris, offensive coordinator Joe Craddock and Fry often practiced with just eight linemen.
Between the recruited scholarship freshmen and two junior college transfers, enticed walk-ons and some of last year’s injured now healthy, the O-line bodies more than double.
“You are talking about more dudes and definitely more competition,” Fry said. “I’ve got three or four groups. There were days last year we didn’t have a full 2-deep. When that happens, you’re smoking your starters. You’re saying, ‘We don’t have anybody. You’ve got to play.’”
Fry and Carroll spied more numbers and budding talent all summer.
“I think we have to be better,” Fry said. “There’s really no excuse for not showing improvement. We should be in a position to have much better cohesion and on the same page. I think the group’s in a better place.”
Especially with all reminded of where they were last year.