FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas senior starting left guard Hjalte Froholdt starting to snap at center cross-training to provide the Razorbacks’ offensive line emergency depth starts looking now like he’s becoming the starting center.
After Thursday’s second full pads practice day of Arkansas’ 2-year starting left guard playing first-team center, new Arkansas Coach Chad Morris referred to the position switch as “moving” rather than emergency case cross training.
“Moving him there is going to help us out right now and help this entire football team,” Morris said, addressing media after Thursday’s practice.
So indeed this is a “move” rather than just doubling up for depth?
“Yeah, he’s playing a lot of center right now,” Morris said. “Right now, we’ve made that transition. It doesn’t mean he’s not playing some guard. He’ll get some reps at guard. But he took over (center) the last few days. He’s taken a majority of reps at center.”
Third-year sophomore Dylan Hays, not an incumbent, as last year’s centers both graduated, started this preseason as the first-team center off of his spring ball performances but has been idled all this week by an ailing back.
“I’m hoping to get Dylan back,” Morris said. “If it’s not for Saturday, for Monday.”
Center is such a vital position that Froholdt, considered Arkansas’ best lineman, may well continue there since Hays and redshirt freshman Shane Clenin, who practiced at first-team center Monday and Tuesday, could both play guard. Both were guards earlier in their Razorbacks practice careers. Clenin worked at guard Wednesday and Thursday while Froholdt did the snapping with sophomore Ty Clary as the backup center.
Redshirt freshman Kirby Adcock of Nashville also worked Thursday at left guard.
How has Froholdt fared these two practices as the center of attention?
“You know he’s looking good,” Morris said Thursday. “I think today was better than yesterday. He studies the game and wants to be the best. His snaps were more on time. Some of his snaps had been kind of delayed but today was much, much better.”
Morris was asked defensively who has stood out these past two practices tackling in full pads.
“Yeah, you know .. it’s .. the guys you would expect that you’ve seen that are playing well,” Morris said.
Morris cited senior defensive ends Randy Ramsey’s Wednesday practice (he was withheld Thursday because of a tweaked hamstring) Gabe Richardson, inside linebackers Scoota Harris and Dre Greenlaw and their backups, Greenwood native Grant Morgan and Dee Walker, outside linebackers/nickel backs D’Vone McClure of Rixey via Jacksonville High and Hayden Henry of Little Rock and Pulaski Academy.
In the secondary, Morris can see why last year’s 4-8 Razorbacks under former Coach Bret Bielema so missed cornerback Ryan Pulley, out for the 2017 season upon injury during the second quarter of the season-opener.
Pulley was a lockdown corner during spring drills and apparently still shines in the practices that have been closed to media other than the first 20 minutes and will be completely closed both for today’s light practice and Saturday’s scrimmage.
“Out there at corner, I’ve been pleased with Ryan Pulley,” Morris said. “I think he definitely has a great mindset about him right now. D’Vone McClure is another one who just shows up. He just keeps showing up in a live setting. “
Media during Thursday’s 20 minutes did get to see true freshman quarterbacks Connor Noland of Greenwood and John Stephen Jones and redshirt freshman Daulton Hyatt alternate with the top offensive units normally quarterbacked by fourth-year junior Ty Storey of Charleston and third-year sophomore Cole Kelley.
Noland quarterbacked a drive capped by Connor Limpert’s 37-yard field goal, and Preston Stafford’s 39-yard field goal capped Hyatt’s turn at the helm.
As expected, heralded junior college transfer defensive end Dorian Gerald pays a conditioning price for having to spend the summer in California completing his academics at the College of Canyons while most of the team trained in Fayetteville.
“We are trying to get him in shape right now,” Morris said. “He’s in shape but not anything like we need him to be. He’s just been here like a week and a half so we are bearing down on him. He’s got a lot of potential but he’s got a lot to learn, too.”