INDIANAPOLIS — The University of Wisconsin boasted one of the best, if not the best, offensive line in college football last season.
The on-going NFL Combine is ample proof.
Wisconsin has three highly regarded offensive lineman in attendance and all of them are virtually locks to be selected fairly high in the upcoming NFL draft. Several scouts at the combine believe offensive tackle David Edwards, guard Beau Benzschawel and center Michael Dieter will all be drafted between the second and fourth rounds.
As good as the aforementioned trio was at Wisconsin, though, the Badgers’ offensive line might have been even better. At Thursday’s Combine, Hjalte Froholdt, an intriguing draft prospect from the University of Arkansas, said former Badgers coach Bret Bielema was probably aware of him when was attending IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
“I think he (Bielema) saw my name from when he was still up at Wisconsin,’’ said Froholdt, who was born and raised in Denmark before coming to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student his sophomore year in high school. “I had a couple of Big Ten offers (Ohio State and Michigan among them), but they (the Badgers) did not (offer).
“I think he waited out on me. He had seen something and didn’t say anything until he got down to Arkansas.’’
Bielema shocked many in the college football world by bolting Wisconsin for Arkansas in December of 2012 for Arkansas. A few years later and Froholdt decided to join the Razorbacks as well.
“He was the first coach from an SEC school to offer me; I had never talked to Arkansas,’’ Froholdt said. “I got the offer out of nowhere. But me and my dad (Hans) took a road trip around and we were like, ‘Arkansas was good to us; they offered us, but do we really want to drive 16 hours down there?’ And we were like, ‘The heck with it, we’re going to do it.’ So we drove to Arkansas, I loved it and it’s all history now.’’
Froholdt, who is 6-foot-5 and tips the scales at 305 pounds, said Bielema made a profound impact on his football career, one that he hopes will extend for years to come in the NFL. Bielema, who was fired by Arkansas in November, 2017, is now a defensive consultant for the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
Froholdt is one of the more versatile offensive linemen in the draft, capable of playing both guard spots and center. As a junior, while playing left guard, he didn’t allow a sack in 389 snaps in pass protection.
A slew of teams, including the Green Bay Packers, have shown interest in Froholdt, who is projected as a middle to late round pick. He has impressed the scouts with his strength and ability to play in space.
“Coach B was really supportive,’’ said Froholdt, whose first name is pronounced Yell-duh and last name Fro-holt. “He’s kept in contact the whole time. He’s really been good to me.
“And he’s helped my parents a lot as well with some questions. We’re really clueless about this whole thing. He’s been in this game for a very long time. He knows a lot about it.’’