FAYETTEVILLE — Ten Arkansas Razorbacks from their football senior class of 2017 plus four Razorbacks from further back in the UA past auditioned at Monday’s Pro Day for NFL scouts assembled inside at the Walker Pavilion.
Alphabetically, the 10 from last season’s Razorbacks aspiring to continue into the NFL are quarterback Austin Allen; safety De’Andre Coley; deep snapper Robert Decker; linebacker Dwayne Eugene; defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson; safety Josh Liddell; center Frank Ragnow; linebacker Karl Roesler; cornerback Henre Toliver and running back David Williams.
Resurfacing from the past were 2016 senior wide receiver and Camden native Dominique Reed; 2015 senior defensive back/receiver Davyon “Sleepy” McKinney of Forrest City; 2016 Razorbacks receiver/running back Damon “Duwop” Mitchell, concluding his collegiate career as a 2017 graduate transfer letterman at Rutgers; and running back Knile Davis, a Razorback from 2009-2012 and a Kansas City Chiefs running back-kick returner from 2013-2016 trying to reenter the league as a free agent.
Of Monday’s aspirants, Ragnow, a 2018 NFL Combine and Senior Bowl invitee and 2016 All-America and 2017 postseason honored despite a season curtailed by injury, by far has the most favorable odds of opening the 2018 season in the NFL.
Yet Ragnow had much to prove at Pro Day, his first official skills test since his 2017 season ended with an Oct. 21 ankle injury during the SEC loss to Auburn.
He proved himself joyfully ready.
“I felt athletic,” Ragnow said. “You don’t really feel like an athlete when you’re hurt.”
Ragnow isn’t hurting anymore and refreshed and thawed since returned from training in his native Minnesota.
“Not many people go up to Minnesota to train,” Ragnow said. “Everybody goes to Arizona or California or whatnot. So I’ve kind of been alone in the snow training. I pumped up the Rocky V soundtrack. First two weeks, no heat in my car when I got up at 6 a.m. “
Obviously Ragnow did some training indoors, too. For the 310-pounder clocked a 40-yard dash Monday closer to a sprinter’s shoes than snowshoes.
“I heard a 4.97 or 4.98,” Ragnow said. “So it felt good to get in the 4s. I’m going to hold onto that my whole life that I ran a 4.98.”
Ragnow said he jumped a personal record 33.5 inches on the standing vertical jump and excelled at everything except maximum attempt bench pressing 225 pounds.
“Only 27,” Ragnow said. “I’ve done 36 so I kind of choked there not my greatest today, but I’ll take it.”
The 27 proved far more than adequate, particularly since it was Ragnow’s mobility coming off the ankle injury that most concerns the NFL evaluators.
“I’m very happy with my day,” Ragnow said. “I felt like my numbers were right where I wanted them. So I felt really good.”
Ragnow should feel that way said Allen, the starting quarterback taking Ragnow’s snaps the past two seasons.
“Frank just made himself a lot of money,” Allen said.
Allen of Fayetteville also was invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Unlike Ragnow, who just was interviewed by interested teams at the Combine, Allen did his physical tests at the Combine and concentrated on throwing pass routes Monday to the auditioning receivers.
“Just kind of taking it all in,” Allen said of his Combine feedback. “They say they like my tape and think I’m tough. Whether that’s in the draft or whether that’s free agency. I’m just trying to get in the door.”
Jackson of El Dorado, the 330-plus nose tackle in the 3-4 defensive scheme that Arkansas played last season, and Liddell, a Pine Bluff Dollarway alum proven adept at both free safety and strong safety these last four seasons, both appeared to test well Monday.
Like Ragnow, Jackson said he was below hi par on the bench press Monday (“I did 22 and I’ve done 30”) but at and mostly above his norm everywhere else on agility drills, 40-yard dash, and standing vertical jump and standing broad jump.
“Other than the bench I had the best day I could possibly have,” Jackson said. “It was low but I talked to a couple of scouts and they weren’t too worried about that. They know I can hold the gap. At 330 pounds they were concerned with how I would move. Movement, I felt it was as good as I’ve ever had.”
And apparently they took note.
“I talked to a couple of the scouts after the position drills and they told me that I definitely helped myself today and that I’ll pretty definitely get a shot,” Jackson said. “I feel good about today and how I helped myself.”
Liddell, a testament to new strength coach Trumain Carroll whose staff has helped any outgoing seniors who have asked, says he’s actually seven pounds lighter than when the season ended yet looks and feels stronger and ran better clocking 40-yard dashes 4.5 or below.
“I know people had questions about my speed coming into today and those questions were answered,” Liddell said. “So, yeah, I feel good about my day and all my numbers. I think it was a good day.”