It is time once again for our weekly “Ask Mike” Segment where our veteran analyst Mike Irwin answers your questions about Arkansas Athletics. There were some hot topic questions this week. Check below for the questions and answers. Also make sure to log onto Hogville.net and submit your questions in the “Ask Mike” forum to get Mike to answer your question.
Q. A lot of Razorback fans are stirred up over the transfer of Mike Woods including oldfart who asks: Any rumor, or better yet facts, behind Mike Woods’ portal request? Seems like he was a leader in the wide receiver group.
A. A lot of rumors. The only facts are, the day after the spring game a rumor surfaced that he was leaving. Very quickly the rumor proved to be true. Woods announced he was leaving. He posted all the usual things on social media. I love my coaches and teammates. I thank Arkansas for all it’s done for me but I think it’s best that I finish my college career at another school. There was an immediate positive response from his former Arkansas teammate Rakeem Boyd. Boyd had left the team before Arkansas’ bowl game that never happened. There were other messages of support from other Arkansas players and then very quickly Woods announced he was transferring to Oklahoma. That’s all we know for sure.
Q.BloodRedHog says: Regarding the sudden departure and odd timing of the Mike Woods transfer, was it related to recruitment by his former position coach? Was the relationship with the new WR coach strained?
A. That was one of the rumors. That the previous position coach, Justin Stepp, who left for the same job at South Carolina, was very close to Woods. That Woods was unhappy with the demands of Stepp’s successor, Kenny Guiton, and so either Stepp reached out to Woods or Woods reached out to him and that’s when he decided to transfer so he could be reunited with this former position coach. That rumor was quickly shot down by Woods. He stated on Twitter that he liked and respected Guiton. That he had zero issues with Guiton or any other Arkansas coach.
Right after that, Sam Pittman was asked about Woods’ transfer in a Zoom interview with the media. He didn’t say anything about Woods specifically but appeared to defend his right to transfer by pointing out that he, himself, had left Georgia very suddenly right in the heaviest part of the recruiting period and if coaches have the right to do it so do the players. That seemed to defuse the rumor that Arkansas was upset about the transfer and something funny was going on with it. Finally the Stepp rumor was was shot down when Woods announced that the school he was transferring to was not South Carolina but Oklahoma.
Q. Porksoda wants to know: Do you think there is any truth to the rumor that Oklahoma contacted Woods before his entry into the portal? Is this going to be an issue with the portal system? Is this something that needs to be addressed or to you consider it simply supply and demand?
A. I have no idea if Oklahoma contacted Woods before he entered the portal. There is no proof of that.
What was suspicious to some is how quickly this came down. Anybody that has followed Eric Musselman’s use of the portal knows that there is a predictable process that takes place. A certain player enters the portal. Within a week or so one of the recruiting gurus like our Kevin McPherson posts on Twitter that Arkansas is one of several schools this player is considering. A few more days go by and we hear that Arkansas is one of the schools this player visited on Zoom. Then we hear that an announcement is going to be made on a certain day. On that day we see that the player has committed to or signed with Arkansas.
What made some fans suspicious is that the situation with Woods and Oklahoma happened fast and with no other schools mentioned. It didn’t follow the typical process of a player deciding to transfer and checking out his best options before making a decision. So to those fans this whole thing was suspicious. Regardless of what actually happened in this case, the potential for tampering with players is obvious. The biggest fear is that players who get overlooked in recruiting or maybe don’t really develop until after they get to college and end up at smaller schools, have success at those schools and then a top name school with certain needs raids that school and takes the kid away from them. Maybe the kid wasn’t really considering a transfer but here comes a national contender and he’s thinking, Wow, I can play there? Yeah, I’m transferring.
Dick Vitale addressed this last week. He claims that it’s rather obvious that this is already happening in basketball. If so, does it need to be addressed? Of course. Will the NCAA address it? Probably not.
Q: Lanny on Hogville says: I saw where Lucas Coley’s mom got upset with some Arkansas fans who were taking shots at Mike Woods on Twitter for transferring to Oklahoma. Is Lucas Coley close to Woods? He’s only been on campus since January. Did they become close friends that fast?
A. Apparently so. I think it was Lucas who posted how helpful Mike had been as a receiver working after practice and between practices to help him learn the offense as a young quarterback. But more than that I think Coley’s mom was horrified when a certain over the top fan posted that he hopes Woods tears his knee up at OU and if it happens he’s going to be right there on social media laughing at Woods and his family because they are traders.
Those kind of crazy comments come with the territory on Twitter and Facebook. They are rare but it happens. In this case Lucas’ mom got pretty upset and unloaded on this guy and some others who were criticizing Woods. This is the dark side of athletics. The side a lot of parents don’t see until their child becomes a part of a team. Other fans joined in with her. They were also upset with some of the comments about Woods. The best advice she got was from one fan who basically posted, Don’t give comments like this oxygen. Without oxygen it dies. To me, that’s good advice.
Q. Jimmy Igo asks: I see where Bielema’s lawsuit against Arkansas is over. Who came out on top?
A. I think the Razorback Foundation came out on top because they saved themselves almost 4 million dollars off of what was a bad contract offered to Bielema by Jeff Long after that Texas Bowl win. I agree with Hunter Yurachek who says the model for athletic directors should be performance based contracts that reward coaches for success but doesn’t reward them for failure. We hired you. You didn’t do the job we hired you to do but you get wads of money to go away any anyway. The explanation is that there is such competition for coaches that ADs have to make the big buyout concession to get the best person for the job. Performance based contracts are the answer to that if more ADs will take that position.
The bottom line is Bret Bielema settled for less that half of the disputed amount because he is now a head coach again and is making more than he made at Arkansas. So whatever he got from Arkansas was gravy. If he was still an assistant coach, even in the NFL, he would have had less incentive to settle. So the Foundation caught a break but it still did it’s job by realizing that Bielema wasn’t totally living up to his end up the buyout agreement so it stopped paying him figuring that he would eventually settle for less than the total amount which he did. In the process the Foundation corrected the over the top buyout that Jeff Long had given Bielema.
Q. HoggusMaximus says: Arkansas will make it back to the sweet 16 next year. Change my mind.
A. I won’t try to change your mind but I will point out something that has always been true of the NCAA Tournament. You can’t predict it. This time last year Ohio State fans had every reason to believe that the Buckeyes would be a Sweet 16 team. Maybe even a Final Four team. Who would have predicted that as a two seed they would be knocked out in the first round by Oral Roberts?
What about Texas? They were looking good going into the tournament but were also eliminated in the first round by Abilene Christian University.
I think Arkansas had a good chance of going deep into the tournament again next year. They’ve got several players with NCAA Tournament experience. Eric Musselman has worked some magic in the transfer portal. But will they get to the 3d round next year? They will if they don’t run into the wrong team at the wrong time.
Q. Hoggle says: You touched on players being paid for their “image and likeness.” For instance, getting advertising dollars from a local car dealership. I think it will be much more that this. Once it is OK to pay players, booster clubs will form “image and likeness” foundations that offer recruits big money to come to their school.
A. First of all none of this has been approved by the NCAA so there are no regulations on how it will work. I’m about 100 % certain that payments for image likeness and personal endorsements would come only after the athlete was enrolled at a school. Any effort to pay them during the recruiting process would be an NCAA violation. The real issue would be boosters making promises of dollar amounts once that athlete is on campus. That’s gotta be a violation too. It might not stop some boosters from trying but they’re not going to be able to do it out in the open. I do predict problems with allowing players to get paid. It does increase the chances of buying players and it could end up being a real mess.
Q. The_Bionic_Pig says: Upon watching the Red/White game and witnessing what AJ Green at Union can do. I will safely assume he will not be redshirting. He is Madre Hill with Fred Tally’s track speed but will Kendal Briles allow a freshman to ascend a Senior for the #2 RB spot in TJ Hammonds?
A. First of all I’m not assuming that Hammonds will be the number two running back. He might well be but there are others in the mix for that. However, no question Briles will allow it if Green comes in and proves in the pre season or even during the season that he is the best backup candidate. He had an impressive list of offers, including LSU. Running back is a position where a true freshman can often play or even start if they have the talent and show it right off the bat on the college level. Remember Alex Collins? We will see what happens with Green.
Q. T.L. Slaten asks: Does Arkansas have the pitching to make it to Omaha?
A. Right now the team ERA is 4.08. That’s not good. But raw stats don’t tell the whole story. This team has the best record in college baseball playing the toughest schedule in college baseball. The bottom line, when the pitching is not good they usually get good hitting. When they are not hitting the pitching is usually good. This team finds a way to win. Game three against Ole Miss was a good example. Arkansas gave up 14 runs but won 18-14. Game three against South Caroline was the flip side to that. For the first half of the game Arkansas had scored just two runs but had given up one run. They ended up winning 5-1. Patrick Wicklander and Kevin Kopps combined to throw a two hitter with 11 strikeouts. It’s hitting one game, pitching in another.
Q. Eddy Lynn says: I saw where Arkansas got two defensive linemen out of the portal in one day. Are they that short on D-linemen?
A. For what Barry Odom wants to do, yes they were short on D-Linemen. Last year there wasn’t enough depth. The starters had to play too much. They ran out of gas late in some games. Odom wants his guys coming after the quarterback hard on almost every play. To do that you have to rotate guys in and out. The two players they got on Sunday look like they’re going to really help.
Q. Slopperslob says: Baseball is looking good, basketball good, softball good, track and field good, gymnastics good. Will the football team win 6 games? I’m an optimist and say YUP!
A. I really don’t think you have to be that optimistic to expect six wins in football. If they win all four non-conference games and two SEC games they’re there. That’s 2-6 in the SEC. If they don’t beat Texas they’d need to win three SEC games. I feel a lot better about this team after the spring game. I don’t think seven wins is a stretch.