Ask Mike: A Look at August Camp; The Future of the Longhorn Network and the day Johnny Mac Pulled a Fast One on Mike

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Q. Our first question this week comes from Lanny who says: With Mike Woods gone to OU I’ve been hearing for months that that Trey Knox will take his place. Knox dissappeared last year. Why is he the guy now?

A. Coming out of high school Knox was tall, thin and fast. There was an assumption that he would add size and end up the kind of big, physical receiver that Treylon Burks was. It didn’t happen. He came in at 6-5, 205. By last year he’d gained just two pounds. He described himself as pretty much a string bean his whole life and he had given up on trying to add weight. That was a problem because at the SEC level he was getting controlled too much by those covering him. He didn’t get good separation.

Saturday he said he was up to 220 pounds and he feels he’s faster and more explosive. He said the process has been a lot of fun trying to figure out how to play as a bigger receiver. We’ll have to see how that translates to the playing field but it sounds like he’s found himself.

Q. Swine American asks: Did you think that a tempo, no huddle offense would succeed in the SEC back around 2006/2007? In my view, for Arkansas to have any hopes of championship success in the “New” SEC, it will have to do something unorthodox and innovative to negate the talent deficiencies we currently have?

A. That’s not Sam Pittman’s approach. His answer is to recruit better, not come up with new offenses or new gimicks to move the ball. He replaced half his staff after year one because he wanted better recruiters. After being on the Georgia staff for five years his goal is for Arkansas to win like Georgia wins. With better players. But he’s also mindful that getting his players bigger and quicker with a top notch strength and conditioning program is essential for success. Finally I think his ultimate goal is to have an offense that plays bully ball. Knocking opposing defenses off the ball while dominating time of possession with the running game. The passing game will be more effective because of that strategy.

Defensively Arkansas will be out to disrupt opposing quarterbacks with pressure. There’s nothing new or unorthodox about any of this.

Q. Razorback Redneck wants to know: How has KJ Jefferson looked so far in practice. What about the other QBs?

A. He’s one of the few players on this team who was not a starter last year but watching him so far it’s hard to think of him as a new starter. Let me read you a quote from Kenny Guyton, Arkansas new receivers coach, who was a quarterback himself.

“He’s got an older mentality. Guys follow him because of that. He’s got that older midset that guys understand. He’s mature. He progressed throughout the spring and he’s been on fire lately.

He’s taken ownership of that position like, ‘Right now I am the starting quarterback. I’ve got to lead an SEC team to big time things.’ “

I’ve noticed the same thing. When you watch him he looks like a senior who has started for a couple of seniors. He stands out from the other quarterbacks. Like a clear Alpha male.

Of course those are just words. He’s got to prove it on the field and I understand why some Hogs fans are nervous about this sittuation. There were seven starting quaterbacks under Chad Morris and Jefferson was one of them. all I can say about that is, Chad Morris is gone. Kendall Briles is the coach Jefferson has been working with for a year and a half. I think Jefferson is ready.

Q. @ozark marie on Twitter says: I saw where Sam Pittman said the offense was going to have some run only drills in practice with no passing allowed as a way of improving the team’s three and short first down percentage. How is that going?

A. They did it for the first time on day two which was Saturday. For the running backs it was rough. At one point freshman running back Javion Hunt was surrounded in the backfield. He slipped an fell. Pittman immediately said to him, ‘Congratulations, you just made four yards for the defense.’ He also chewed out the offense after that drill. But there were some bright spots. A.J. Green, the promising freshman running back out of Tulsa looks really good in that drill

Q. Eddy Lynn on Facebook says: I read on Twitter that the defense had six interceptions in Friday’s first practice but Coach Pittman said the quarterbacks threw the ball fine. That doesn’t make any sense to me.

A. it sounded like the picks happened when the number two offense was on the field. That would mean against the backup offensive line. Also Pittman said it’s hard to pass block in your underwear. What he meant by that was right now the players are in shorts, jerseys, shoulder pads and helmets. You can’t judge the pass blocking until you get into full contact in full pads.

Nonetheless I consider those picks good news for the defense. The pass rush was good. The linebackers and secondary took advantage. That’s what Barry Odum wants to see more of from the defense this season.

Q. @mousestown says: With COVID numbers on the rise in Arkansas have any players been quarantined from practice so far?

A. None that we know of but I suspect that, just like last year, no names will be released under the medical privacy act. If the number was high and we were in season I’m sure it would be mentioned. The good news is the vaccination rate is now over 90%. Plus some of the players had COVID last year. Supposedly that’s better protection than a vaccination. Frankly I’m more concerned about how this new spread might affect attendence at games this fall.

Hopefully the spread will run its course and there will be no changes in the crowd policy for games.

Q. @Razorback_Jack asks: What should happen with the Longhorn Network? Should Texas shut it down or should they split revenues equally with all members?

A. The SEC office has a few years to figure that out but my guess is it will go away. It could resurface as a streaming service. That is computer only. The word is Arkansas is about to unveil its own verson of that sometime soon.

Q. @chadhallAR says: I really don’t want to be in a pod with Miz, OU, and Texas. I feel like a better fit for us would be Ole Miss and LSU.

A. The pods I talked about last week were just my best guess on how a four pod SEC would look.I do think that Mizzouri and OU will be in with Arkansas just because of how close those schools are to each other.
I suppose Ole Miss could end up in that pod instead of Texas. If so Texas could end up in a pod with A&M, LSU and Mississippi State. Geograpically that’s a good arrangment for both pods but the southwest pod would be pretty tough year in and year out.

And, as I mentioned last week, in a four pod system there would be five crossover games each season so to me if you start talking about unfair schedules, those crossover games could make it worse.

So what if something like this happens to say Texas in a certain season. I’m sure the conference office would try to balance these crossover games and some seasons would be tougher than others for each specific school. But would Texas like a schedule like this in say 2027? This is why I don’t like the pod system.

Q. HangTenHog asks: Who was the best player you’ve seen in practice who translated into awesome performance in games? How about a guy who nailed practice but never could get it going in an actual game? Finally, what about a guy who performed terribly in practice and yet shined on the field for the Hogs?

A. Since it’s football season I assume you’re referring to football. I’d go with three guys who played at the some time under Houston Nutt. The best practice player who took those practices to the playing field was Tony Bua, a kind of hybrid safety/linebacker. He was undersized at 5-11, 180 but he was fast and he hit people like a truck. Worked his tail off in practice. Played like a wildman in games.

A player who looked good in practice but it didn’t translate to games, I’d go with Ryan Sorahan. He got into games because he would out perform Matt Jones in practice. A good example is the Florida game in 2003. Nutt put Sorahan in but eventally had to replace him with Jones. Matt brought Arkansas back but ran out of time. The final was 33-28.

That brings us to players waho wasn’t much in practice but was great in games, and that would be Matt Jones. Matt had little or no interest in practice but when you put in on the field in a big game, he was the best quarterback I’ve seen at Arkansas. That kid had talent coming out of his eyeballs.

Q. tusked wants to know: If all schools can make it through Covid and get back to big crowds and the money gets back to normal, what’s left to do at Razorback Stadium as far as upgrades or expansion?

A. Not much. I’d say the Razorback Road or home side needs work. Specifically the back of it which looks like an erector set. It needs to look more like the back of the east stands and the south side. And then under the home stands the restrooms and concession stands need to be upgraded and they need more concourse space under there. Go look under the east stands and then compare that to the west side. There’s more room for fans to move around on the east side.

As far as football facilities, I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago. I’m told that the current staff doesn’t like way the Smith center is layed out. The lockerrooms, meeting rooms and treatment areas are all underground. It’s nice but it’s like being in a bunker. I was told that at some point in the future if the money is there that building will either be replaced or heavily modified.

Q. Twinky275 says: Last year they were on the edge of a breakout year. This year they’re out to prove every nay sayer wrong. I believe they can go 11 and 1. A lot of things have to play out for it to happen but do you think they have the tools, mindset, leadership to do it, or is it a lofty dream.

A. I’d say that was walking-in-your-sleep dream. I think most fans would be happy with a winning record especially considering their schedule. At Georgia. At Ole Miss. At. LSU. At Alabama. But if you want to dream, have at it. Football should be fun. The only thing I would add is, don’t go off he deep end if this team doesn’t come close to 11-1. There’s a lot of acceptable in between room there.

Q. Peakhog wants to know: With 16+ SEC teams in 2025, how do you see the TV scheduling working out? I guess we could have breakfast ball with 9:00 AM kickoffs!

A. I don’t think we’ll see 9 AM kickoffs but I do think we will see more games that are streamed. The whole ESPN3 thing. We’ve already got one this season coming up in a few weeks. The Rice game is on ESPN3 or the SEC network plus. You can get that on your TV but your TV has to be set up to play games are wi-fied to your set. If we end up with enough of those games I could see the cable companies and sat services carrying them for an extra fee.

Q. Ruby Razorback Red on Facebook asks: About the only thing John L. Smith was good at was cracking jokes but you’ve said you didn’t think his jokes were funny. Why not?

A. Because he tried to be funny to cover up for being completely in over his head as an Interim head coach and there’s thing funny about losing. To me the funniest people are those that don’t have to try to be funny. Like John McDonnell. The guy was one of the best coaches ever and totally serious 99% of the time but when he decided to be funny he’d catch you totally off guard and he was a riot.

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