FAYETTEVILLE - Last August, Colton Jackson began the Razorbacks’ football season as a not-ready-for prime-time redshirt freshman thrust into starting at right offensive tackle.
Tuesday, the listed 6-6, 300 third-year sophomore from Conway begins Arkansas’ spring drills as the starting left tackle and offensive lineman that Arkansas coach Bret Bielema touts most from the winter offseason other than, obviously, senior incumbent center and All-American candidate Frank Ragnow.
"I would say the guy that has jumped out the most, Colton Jackson, has taken a step forward in a competitive nature," Bielema said addressing media during the Razorbacks’ Pro Day when many of last season’s senior auditioned for NFL scouts. "I am really excited to see him play."
Bielema cited other offensive linemen who got their Razorbacks’ starting baptism under fire last season which meant all but Ragnow.
They include incumbent junior left guard Hjalte Froholdt, late-season incumbent junior right guard Johnny Gibson of Dumas, junior tackle Brian Wallace and Jake Raulerson who transferred last year as a graduate student from the University of Texas with junior football eligibility now headed into his senior year,
" I think if we lined up today it would be Colton at left tackle. Hjalte at left guard, Frank at center, probably Johny Gib at right guard and at right tackle maybe Jake Raulerson or Brian Wallace," Bielema said. "Either one of those two. Jake Raulerson has had a really good (offseason). This is his first out of season with us and his body looks different. He’s a different player. Plus another year in our system and knowing our expectations and how we do things here have really helped him. He’s really grown a lot. Johnny Gibson has had a pretty good winter as far as transforming his body. And Brian Wallace has been good, too. The six guys that started games have been very impressive in the way they have handled it since then."
Bielema also mentioned Deion Malone, the junior college transfer redshirted last season, and January enrolled freshmen Shane Clenin, Dalton Wagner and Arkansas native Kirby Adcock of Nashville.
"Deion Malone has been a particularly impressive guy overall," Bielema said. "The three freshmen: shane Clenin is a very, very talented football player. Dalton Wagner probably at tackle and a great demeanor and Kirby Adcock is a really good athlete that is just beginning to understand how good he can be."
On the defensive line, Bielema was asked about sophomore McTelvin "Sosa" Agim of Hope.
Arkansas’ most touted 2016 freshman class signee as a 5-star recruit and a January, 2016 UA enrollee, Agim debuted last season playing every game and made 27 tackles, 5.5 behind the line for minus 27 yards including 2.5 quarterback sacks. And he was twice credited with quarterback hurries pressuring passers to throw incomplete. Agim played both defensive end and tackle last season and his versatility seems especially counted on since Bielema and defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads switch the base defensive scheme from a 4-3 to 3-4 alignment.
"Sosa has had a really nice offseason," Bielema said. "He really has. Now he’s got some new challenges coming at him. He’s picked a very difficult major so he’s got the academics coming at him full throttle. In addition he’s a second-year player so he’s not a freshman anymore. He’s one of our most productive players."
Bielema was asked about the spring practice availability of 2016 junior college transfer cornerback Britto Tutt and 2016 freshman receiver Kofi Boateng, both redshirted last season because of August preseason injuries.
"Britto and Kofi both had knee surgery," Bielema said. "I wouldn’t say they are 100 percent but they are above 90. They are full go. But you could see sometimes in their gait, especially when they get tired that they are not there yet."
For the next five weeks, the Razorbacks spend their allotted 15 spring practice dates on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Bielema said they won’t have their first Saturday scrimmage until April 8.
Though the north end of zone Reynolds Razorback Stadium undergoes ongoing destruction/construction to install more luxury seating, Bielema said the annual Red-White game concluding spring drills on April 29 is still set for the stadium pending further updates as game day approaches.