PTN’s “Ask Mike” – February 17th

Pig Trail Nation

Our first question this week is from HotlantaHog who asks: Does the recent slump in Hog basketball raise questions over the long-term outlook for the Hogs under Coach Muss? What’s the outlook after this year plays out?

I think most fans understand the limitations this team had from the beginning. They also know that coach Musselman is bringing in a top 5, top 6 recruiting class with a couple of really good transfers who are sitting out this season. Mason Jones, Isaiah Joe, Desi Sills and Reggie Chaney will likely all be back. Plus Mussleman can really coach. The general feeling I get from most fans is, they believe that much better times are coming up.

mphshog says: I’ve been intrigued over the years about our track teams sustaining success for many years. What is it that makes the UofA so appealing to say foreign runners as opposed to other successful schools that might have warmer climate?

It has nothing to do with climate. In the winter months here…. Arkansas uses and competes in the Tyson Center, one of the best and fastest Indoor tracks in the world.

Foreign athletes at the U of A started with John McDonnell in the late 70’s, early 80’s. John was from Ireland. He tapped into the tradition that country has of great distance runners. He once told me that in America kids grow up playing football and baseball. In Ireland they run. So he started recruiting the best of those kids to come to America and Arkansas. He had his first national sucess in cross country but soon it spread to indoor and outdoor track. He expanded his recruiting of foreign students to other events and in other parts of Europe. He started recruiting sprinters and jumpers from the Carribbean islands. Now a lot of these athletes would compete in international events….especially the Olympics..for their native countries and a lot of were successful so the word spread. Go to Arkansas. Get coached by the best guy in track and field. You’ll get a good education and when your college career is over you’ll have a good chance to make money in pro track events…the Olympics. Get endorsements from companies back home. Look…. when you win they will come. It’s all about your reputatation. It didn’t hurt that Arkansas has great facilities. The Tyson Indoor Track that I’ve mentioned. The outdoor track was totally rebuilt. It is one of the best at the college level. So there was… and is… a lot Arkansas has to offer those young men and women.

IceColdMintJulep observes: The women’s BB team has not been able to beat South Carolina, but just demolished Kentucky. Seems like they don’t have enough to win it all, but will go deep in a tournament. Are they at their ceiling this year or is there improvement to be had and a good possibility at beating a South Carolina?

There is a big difference between number one South Carolina and a program like Kentucky which was ranked 15th when Arkansas beat them. Sunday Kentucky came back and blew out number 6 Mississippi State so Kentucky was a big win for Arkansas and they also scored 108 points Sunday against Ole Miss after scoring 103 against Kentucky. So does that mean this team is peaking at the right time and maybe they can beat South Carolina in the SEC Tournament? I don’t think so and I think you’re right ….Arkansas is not going to win it all this year and I’m not sure that they’ll go deep in the NCAA tournment, They might. Their lack of size has created matchup problems against some teams. It puts too much pressure on Arkansas’ outside shooters. They have a bad shooting night and they end up with a head scratching loss like to Georgia at home. But regardless of what happens this season Coach Neighbors is bringing in more size and more top quality players. The

program is on the rise and personally I’d much rather it be done this way. It took Nolan five years to reach the Final Four but look what happened after that. You build the right foundation and your success will last longer. Neighbors is here for the long haul.

BaconTheSaddleAgain says: It appears that all the head coaches and the AD are really clicking, having fun together, and tightening the athletic department as a whole into one big Razorback family. Does it provide any intangible positives that can help our teams be more successful on the field or court?

I give Hunter Yurachek credit for that. He hired two coaches….Eric Musselman and San Pittman… in the two big attendance sports … who are huge supporters of the other sports on campus. Dave Van Horn was already into that so yes, the three of them are seen everywhere these days and it helps. The word is spreading, Come here in any sport and you’ll be a part of a big family. I think that is going to become a recruiting plus for Razorback athletics moving forward.

I_Called_That_Play_Brotha makes this statement: The Hogs could hit October without a victory with two of the next three games against LSU and AL. This is going to be a big leadership test more than “X’s and O’s” for the foreseeable future. Collectively, any insight yet on whether this staff is up to it?

Don’t overlook the first game this fall. Nevada was 7-6 last year. Their big win was over Purdue at home. The season opener is not a lock but I’d be suprised if Arkansas doesn’t win that game. This is a much better coaching staff than the teams that lost to all those mid major opponents the last two season. I also think Philepe Franks is a much better QB than anybody Arkansas has put on the field over the past two seasons. The O-line will be better. Barry Odom is going to have the defense better. There is better talent on campus than most fans realize. The coaching in 2018 & 2019 was awful and it wasn’t a whole lot better the last two years under Bret Bielema. I get it that Arkansas fans are shell shocked right now about football but I think the turnaround is going to be much quicker than most expect.

Orlando Hog says: I’ve always wondered with the history of Barnhill it would it make sense to have one men’s and one women’s basketball game a year held there. I’m sure it is a long shot but I think people would get behind it especially for an early season non conference game against a lower level school. *Also what is your favorite Barnhill memory?

Some schools have done that. Before they tore down that old Municipal Coliseum in Lubbock…. Texas Tech played a couple of non conference games there in front of like 10,000 fans and that was after their new arena was built that seats 15,000. But at Arkansas I think the best you’re gonna get is a Red-White game like we had last November. That was nice. It’s not gonna happen with a regular season game. There are parking problems. No place to hold a post game press conference. Plus with Musselman and the way he recruits I still think they’ll draw way more than 9,000 for non conference games. So they’d be giving up some money to play there and how would the athletic department decide which fans got into such a game and which didn’t? Finally not all fans are in love with Barnhill the way some are. The younger fans in particular have no memory of that place. Now….my favorite Barnhill memory was a loss to number one UNLV in 1991. The pregame atmosphere that day was unreal. Jim Robken was never better. When he reeled in that inflatable shark, representing Tark the Shark….the noise meter stayed on the top light forever. Plus that was the game where Larry Johnson told Nolan, you better go get you some men if you want to beat us. Nolan did just that and three years later won a national championship.

Sed76 wants to know: What do you think went wrong with the defense the past few years? I thought at the very least John Chavis would get the team back to the basics like proper tackling and wrapping up but it just seemed to get worse.

Looking back it’s almost like Chavis saw Chad Morris coming. Like wow…this guy’s gonna pay me 1.5 million a year and I’m out of a job? Sure, I’ll go to Arkansas. I don’t have any other offers like that. Look, Chavis had a great career at Tennessee and LSU but he was headed downhill at A&M before he got here. Sam Pittman basically said that the defense Arkansas had been playing the past two season was out of date. Not enough pre-snap movement. Not enough movement at the snap. Very easy to block. What we saw was a total failure to pressure quarterbacks, a secondary that lacked speed and a D-Line that had trouble stopping the run. Some say that Chavis was another John L. Smith. He had a cush job guaranteed, 3 million dollars for two years. So he collected big paychecks and when the job was no longer his he rode off on his motocycle with a nice retirement in hand. I wouldn’t go that far but when I watched him in practice I didn’t see a lot of energy from him. Not from a guy who’s defenses were getting shredded each week. I expect a lot more out of Barry Odom.

PorkSoda asks: Can you highlight a recent recruit and their story of how they ended up signing with Arkansas?

It’s not a dramatic story but I liked the recruitment of Malik Hornsby. Kendal Briles said that when Hornsby picked Arkansas that sent a message to recruits all over Texas….this isn’t the Arkansas you’ve heard about. There’s a new coaching staff in place and things are about to change big time. I’ve said before…. Hornsby is the run/ pass quarterback the fans have been clammoring for and Arkansas has been trying to land for years. So how’d he end up here when the program was coming off its worst two years in the modern era of football? Well it started with Briles. He’d been recruiting the kid since junior high. Persistence pays off. But here’s the interesting part. Hornsby’s host on his recruiting visit was Treylon Burks. Burks is well known in the media for not having a lot to say. Well, maybe that’s just around us because when asked about his visit Hornsby raved about how much fun the had with Burks that weekend. Fans should like the sound of that. Burks will be a junior receiver when Hornsby possibly takes over at QB. Those two could do some really big things together at Arkansas.

JHicks3636 says: Rumor has it that Bucknam and Harter will both retire at the end of this school year and a single head coach will be named over both teams. Any legs to this?

Harter is redshirting a number of his athletes for next year when it looks like Arkansas will be loaded. It’s not likely he’d do that if he were planning to retire. Don’t know why he’d do it anyway. His program is rolling. Best in the nation. He’s becoming John McDonnell-like. Now… I do believe that sometime in the future both progams will be under a single head coach. That’s the trend right now. It saves money.

Swine American observes: Vanderbilt has won 2 National Championships in baseball over the last decade. Why do you think a private school known for academics in a conference dominated by state schools, has had so much success? What does Vanderbilt have that we don’t have?

Its academic reputation. College baseball is different from football and basketball. It’s known for high academics to begin with. Some would say smart kids like baseball. I don’t know about that but a lot of top high school baseball players who qualify for acadmic scholarships end up at Vanderbilt. because of the value of a degree from that place. However, Van Horn’s recruiting has been at another level lately. With the new performance center coming up Arkansas is going to be up there in recruiting with any baseball program in the country….. including Vanderbilt.

Porked Tongue wants to know: If you were to guess, would Arkansas have more or less basketball wins if the coaching staff had stayed the same this season?

Depends on whether or not Daniel Gafford had stayed. If not…. Arkansas’ record would have been much worse. If Gafford came back the results maybe would be closer to what we have now but Jimmy Whitt would not be here. So I still think the record with Musselman is better than it would have been. But honestly who really knows? What I AM sure of is the recruiting is much better now than it would have been and that’s the future of this program.

Lanny says: I’m not much of a baseball fan but a lot of Hog fans are. What did you like about opening weekend. Was there anything that concerned you?

I liked the hitting, the pitching and the defense. Let’s start with pitching. Ten Razorbacks combined for 31 strikeouts. Eastern Illinois batted just .206 against them. Three games into the season the staff ERA is 1.33. Connor Noland and Patrick Wicklander…the Friday and Saturday starters….struckout 18 batters and walked 3 in a combined 11 2/3 innings. Neither gave up an earned run.

At the plate Arkansas pounded out 33 hits with 26 RBI and 27 runs scored for a team batting average of .324. And how about Heston Kjerstad? National player of the week. He’s batting .583 with 4 home runs. Arkansas hit seven total home runs along with 8 doubles and three guys are batting over .400.

The defense? Only one position player made an error. Casey Martin. The infield defense was impressive. All three outfielders were solid. Kjerstad and Breydon Webb each made diving catches into the wall. Casey Optiz had EIU baserunners scared to death.

The only issue I saw was with Sunday starter Blake Adams. He had been solid in pre-season scrimmages. He struggled somewhat in his first start as a Razorback.

Gave up two runs in three innings. Walked two. Will be interesting to see what he does this weekend. I mean he’s a true freshman pitching in front of 9,100 fans. Probably just needs some time to adjust because he’s got good stuff. He showed that in the pre-season.

draftkings33 asks: Why do you want kids off your lawn?

My five grandkids love my lawn. Especially the tire swing under Ernie, our 120 year old oak tree. Now… it is true that I would not want YOU on my lawn… unless you offered to help me mow my lawn in which case you’d be welcome. Clint Eastwood is also welcome on my lawn anytime.

That’s it for now. Ask Mike returns next Monday.

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