Mike: Before we get started I want to make a correction from last week’s Ask Mike. In referencing a story on the Saturday Down South website claiming that Arkansas and Vanderbilt could end up getting kicked out of the SEC if more schools like Notre Dame and Clemson are invited into the conference, a totally silly story by the way, I tied that story to Clay Travis. Travis’ Outkick website had nothing to do with that story. I got Saturday Down South and Outkick mixed up in my mind. So I apologize to Travis, who again, had nothing to do with that story whatsoever.
Q. Okay, our first question this week is from whippersnapper who asks: Besides the 64 national championship team which past offense and defense from any past seasons would you match up together on a team to win it all?
A. That’s fairly easy actually. It’s all on one team. The ’77 team. That team was loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and in many cases two deep. That’s why they were able to bulldoze heavily favored Oklahoma in the ’78 Orange Bowl with three offensive starters suspended. That team came within five points of an undefeated season. A screen pass the great Earl Campbell was the difference in what I think would have been a national championship that year. They came oh so close to winning it all.
Q. parallaxpig says: The OU/Texas addition to the SEC fired back up the super league talk once again. My assumption is that it will be a football only league that breaks away from NCAA and the rest of sports will still fall under NCAA control. What is your opinion on this?
A. I think the SEC would love to dump the NCAA completely and start over with a new governing body for all sports. But that would be difficult. A football only division of teams, separate from the NCAA, is more likely with, as you mentioned, the NCAA governing the other sports. But it’s way too early to assume that there will be any changes in the way football is governed. Right now it’s nothing but speculation
Q: @mousetown on Twitter wants to know: What is the reason behind this supposed alliance I’m reading about between the Pac 12, the Big 10 and the ACC? Sounds like they are trying to gang up on the SEC. Are they that scared of SEC expansion?
A. Supposedly those three conferences are worried that the SEC going to mess up college sports with its football only mentality. The claim that football is the only thing that matters in the SEC and that the other sports don’t count for much in that conference is nonsense. The SEC is the best conference in baseball and softball. The best in women’s basketball, in men and women’s track, in gymnastics and it’s right up there in soccer along with men’s and women’s golf.
Now the Pac 12 in particular is supposedly claiming that it’s not how good the SEC is in some of these sports other that football, it’s that there are plenty of other sports that that don’t matter in the SEC.
Let’s look at Alabama. The Tide athletic department competes in 10 scholarship sports, whereas at Southern Cal there is more than double that number at 21. The Pac 12 schools pride themselves on the total number of athletes they provide scholarships to. A Southern Cal they have nine men’s sports and twelve women’s sports. But most of them are non revenue producers and there’s no way to pay for that with football and basketball revenues. So tax dollars are used. And student activity fees.
In the SEC scholarships are offered in sports that draw fans.
But look this is not the real reason behind that alliance. It’s mostly about the coming switch to a 12 team college football playoff. Those conferences are worried that with that many teams the SEC is gonna dominate the field with as many as four or five coming from its conference. So the alliance really is about football after all and what not? Football pays the bills. You can bet that those conferences are going to line up against the SEC on a number of issues and out vote it. What will be the outcome of all this?
I could see the SEC taking an interest in other BIG 12 teams not currently in the picture. Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor could end up in a third division of the SEC with Texas, OU and Arkansas. Those teams have a lot more in common with the SEC than the Big 10 or the Pac 12. It also may ended up reaching out to some of the more competitive mid major conferences
Q: PatBoat asks: How good you think Al Jefferson would’ve made the Hogs had he stayed committed.
A. To the best of my knowledge Al Jefferson is Arkansas only none and done. In 2004 he was the top high school center in the country and the number four overall recruit. He averaged an astounding 42 points per game his senior year. His commitment was a huge get for Stan Heath who was struggling to come close to the kind of success Nolan Richardson had achieved. But Jefferson jumped straight to the NBA out of high school and played 14 years in the league.
How much difference could he have made? A big difference in the 2006 team which went 22-12 but lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. If Arkansas had advanced to the Sweet 16 or Elite 8 that year Heath might have not been fired a year later and there would have been no John Pelphrey, the one really bad basketball coach Arkansas has had in my years of covering the team.
Q. Alex4Hogs88 says: With the NIL and some athletes making an unreal amount (for example Alabama’s freshman QB making at least $800K!), would putting some kind of limit on how much an athlete is able to receive from the NIL level the playing field in the recruiting game? Would a $50K or $100K cap be reasonable?
A. The genie is out of the bottle and if the NCAA tried to step in and put a cap on the money that could be earned, lawsuits would follow and the athletes would likely win. The whole concept behind this is, that you can’t deny or limit an athlete his or her right to use our free enterprise economic system. To do so is discrimination. The answer is to this is simple. Business’ that support a certain school are going to have to pony up and offer similar deals. But it has to be legit. All athletes who get money are going to have to earn it with endorsements and the deal has to be offered AFTER they sign a LOI, not before.
Q. OrlandoHog407 wants to know: What would be a realistic SEC rank with the defense this year? I heard a lot of talk last year about improvement with Odom at the helm but it seemed at times mediocre to bottom of the pack at best.
A. The defense started out great last season. Held Georgia to a field goal in the first half. The problem they had all of last season was wearing down because of a lack of depth. It was also made worse late in the season because of injuries and COVID.
When the season was over the coaches used the transfer portal to add talent and depth the the D-Line. They also have a deeper linebacker corp and secondary room. There are some big play guys on the defensive side, like Jalen Catalon and Grant Morgan. They are not going to have to be on the field for every defensive snap.
I can’t predict specific numbers for this season but I do think the defense will be in the top half of the SEC statistically.
Q. austin.hogfan says: When Malik gets a chance to play coach Pittman says we will run a different offense because he isn’t as good in the pocket. Is it really a different offense, or just some different plays? I love the idea of a change up against Texas they really haven’t seen.
A. I don’t remember Pittman saying anything about a different offense but they definitely change the play calling some with Hornsby on the field. Even though we didn’t see the scrimmage I think they did some of that on Saturday and Hornsby had a huge game. Ran for two touchdowns. Threw for two more. Pulled off some chunk plays. But I wouldn’t count on seeing him against Texas unless KJ. Jefferson is hurt. KJ needs all the reps he can get right now and they need him.
Q. T.L. Slaten asks: What’s the latest on the team vaccination rate? Alabama claims its rate is almost 100 percent.
A. We haven’t been updated since camp started. The last number I heard was around 90%. 100% with the staff. I was told that around the country the problem with reaching 100% isn’t so much players holding back on the vaccine but parents who are reluctant to give their permission. There are people out there who question the safety of the vaccine. The Pfizer & Moderna vaccines received full approval from the FDA this week. It will be interesting to see if this improves the numbers not just with athletes but with the general population. But, as we’ve said before, the Razorbacks are above the rate where automatic testing takes place. That’s the big difference from a year ago where players were tested three times a week. Coaches never knew when a positive test or two would sideline multiple players after contact tracing. This year, at Arkansas, you only get tested if you have symptoms. If you test positive the contact tracing is limited to unvaccinated players.
There’s been no word of any Arkansas football players testing positive over the last two weeks. Even if there had been, it would not be made public unless we were into the season and the numbers were high enough to force cancellation of a game. Still, I feel like if there had been a player or players test positive over the last two weeks we would hear about it.
Hopefully COVID will not affect this season like it did a year ago.
Q. Lanny wants to know: In your opinion who is the best player on the team this year? The guy that will last the longest in the NFL?
A. I’d go with Treylon Burks. He’s hurt right now and hopefully it’s not that serious. In addition to what he’s done on the field the last two years, he’s made some spectacular catches so far in camp. Leaping, reaching one handed grabs. He’s physical enough to avoid getting jammed up coming off line of scrimmage. He’s a disciplined route runner. Has a really good combination of size and speed and those big hands, wow. He doesn’t drop many passes. Early this season he’s gonna be targeted but he’ll be fine. Teams will quickly find out that there are other quality receivers on this team and targeting Burks will open it up for others.
Q. @tmerry widow hog says: The offense bounced back in Saturday’s scrimmage but number of the big plays has me worried about the defense. An 80-yard touchdown run and a 45-yard touchdown pass by the number two quarterback. Plus a 40 yard touchdown run by Rocket Sanders. Sounds like some defensive breakdowns.
A. That’s always the problem with intersquad scrimmages. If one side of the ball looks good there’s always a tendency by some fans to assume the other side was terrible.
Coach Pittman did not break down those plays in terms of one offense vs. one defense or two’s vs. two’s but I’m going to assume that those chunk plays came against the two defense. It was my impression from listening to him that the scrimmage was all about taking a closer look at back up players or two’s that are battling for a starting spot. The tip off was a reference he made to K.J. Jefferson having a limited role in the scrimmage. There are players that they know are going to start. They know what these players can do so there’s no point risking them getting hurt this close to the season opener.
I wasn’t there and I could be wrong but I have a hard time believing that Mailk Hornsby ran an 80 yard touchdown against the one defense. If he did, good for him.
Q. Razorback Redneck wants to know: Who is the ex Razorback you’ve had the most fun hanging out with?
A. That’s easy. George Bequette. He was the father of Jay and Chris Bequette and the grandfather of Jake Bequette. All of them were Razorbacks. George played for the legendary 1954 little Pigs, team that beat Texas in Austin and won the SWC title. He passed away about 10 years ago but for many, many years I’d see him bowl games and NCAA Basketball Tournament venues. There’s a media hotel at these things and he’d come into the media hospitality room and hang out with us, telling hilarious stories about coaches and players. He sure blew up the notion that teammates have to be close friends to win. I remember him telling me about one player in particular on the 54 team. He said he didn’t like being around the guy off the field but when it came time to suit up they were buddies because he was a hell of a competitor and they both wanted to win.
I also remember his reaction one day to a story I’d heard about Bowden Wyatt, the head coach at the time and how supposedly he had his assistant coaches carry razor straps at practice. If a player went to the ground and did not immediately pop back up they’d use a razor strap on him.
George Beckett looked at me and scoffed. He said something like, That’s one of those fan myths. Who knows where it came from? I’ll say this, Billy Ray Smith Sr. was on that team. Any coach that used a razor strap on him would eating it about five seconds later.
I always looked forward to seeing Chris Beckett. We’d start talking and I say, You’re not gonna believe what your dad told me the other day. And I’d tell him some story I got from George and Chris would be dying laughing. That’s a great family. All of them. I miss George a lot.