Bret Bielema taking extra precautions to avoid injury to OL Frank Ragnow

Nov 25, 2016; Columbia, MO, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks offensive lineman Frank Ragnow (72) signals at the line of scrimmage to the rest of the offensive line during the first half agains the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field. Missouri won 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

One of Arkansas’ best players sat out Saturday’s scrimmage, and that was by design.

Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema had Ragnow watch the scrimmage from the sidelines to avoid any chance of injury, according to Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“I mean, he could have played every rep today and gotten a little bit better,” Bielema said. “But the risk of what could be the byproduct of something negative to me isn’t worth it.”

Losing Ragnow on the offensive line would be a big blow to the Hogs. Pro Football Focus recognized the center as the best offensive lineman and best run blocker of 2016. According to PFF’s stats, the Razorbacks averaged averaged 5.31 yards per carry when backs ran through the gaps between a guard and Ragnow. In pass protection, Ragnow’s pressures allowed dropped from 19 to 12 in 2016 and he did not allow a sack.

Bielema’s concern with potentially losing Ragnow to injury, and his irreplaceability at center, seems to contrast his plans to possibly use Ragnow on defense this season, something he discussed in a radio interview last month.

“To be quite honest, as the season goes on and we go into fall camp, he’s a guy we probably use on defense in a certain capacity,” Bielema told Arkansas radio host Bo Mattingly. “He’s just too talented — like a six technique defensive end. When we are running a 3-4, once you get down to a certain area of the field, you need more and more defensive linemen. If he can be a guy that gives us valuable asset there, we’ll probably use him on the defensive side of the ball.”

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