Frank Ragnow drew the interest of college football programs across the country because his 6-6, 292-pound frame allowed him to anchor the outside edge of the offensive line at Chanhassen (Minn.) High School.
Ragnow's future at Arkansas will play out a few feet to the right, at center instead of left tackle.
Ragnow chose Arkansas over offers from Florida State, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Wisconsin and California because he was told he had a chance to play early and because of Coach Bret Bielema's success developing offensive lineman.
He was even able to get over the initial anxiety of a position switch when Bielema and offensive line coach Sam Pittman informed him of their plans during his official visit in November.
"When I first heard about it, I was a little shaky about it," Ragnow said. "I'm not going to lie. I was a little nervous, but from talking to Coach Pittman about it more and more I got comfortable with it. Now I'm really liking it."
Pittman said in February that Ragnow's athletic ability -- he runs the 40-yard dash in 5.0 seconds -- and intelligence would allow him to make the move. He also mentioned that Travis Swanson, a second-team All-SEC center last season who was drafted in the third round by the Detroit Lions, moved from tackle to center.
"It worked out pretty good for him," Pittman said of Swanson, who like Ragnow never played center in high school.
Pittman said having a solid center is essential to success.
"There's one snapper and one quarterback on every team, and everybody else has got two of everything else," he said. "You better have you a center. Frank Ragnow, I believe, is going to be a great center here."
Senior Luke Charpentier is the only experienced center on Arkansas' roster. He played in nine games last year but has only one career start. Ragnow and junior-college transfer Sebastian Tretola are the other options going into fall practice camp.
That inexperience is partially why Ragnow jumped at the opportunity to switch positions, and it's why he spent the summer studying film. He said he watched film of Swanson from last season and is working on different techniques in pass protection.
"I've got to know what every single guy is doing on the offensive line," Ragnow said. "That's the big one. Otherwise, it's not too difficult. It's just getting the plays down and knowing the game mentally. ... I'm starting to get real comfortable with it."
Ragnow said he is entering fall camp with his sights set on earning playing time in his first season. Pittman wouldn't commit to that possibility in February, but Arkansas played plenty of true freshmen last season. On the offensive line alone the Razorbacks played true freshmen guard Denver Kirkland and tackle Dan Skipper.
"Obviously, if they're better than what we have, sure, it's realistic," Pittman said. "But whether [Ragnow] does or not, we won't put that kind of pressure on him.
"If he's ready, we'll play him. You know we will."
Sports on 08/03/2014
Print Headline: Ragnow at center of plans