PTN’s Ask Mike Segment: 3-9-2020

Pig Trail Nation

Our first question comes from Pork Soda who says: Spring practice will be starting soon, what can fans hope to glean that will give hope for the upcoming season?

The first thing you should look for is better coaching. If these spring practices are open to the media we’ll be able see how this staff compares to the previous staff. Like are actual corrections being made or does some assistant coach just yell out, HEY, DO THAT RIGHT…and then the drill or play continues. I’d also look at the quarterback situation. Is there a clear cut leader from the start? Or do we get more of this…WE’RE NOT SURE WHO IS NUMBER ONE RIGHT NOW. EVERYBODY IS EQUAL RIGHT NOW. MIGHT BE AUGUST BEFORE WE KNOW. How about the offense Kendal Briles is installing? If it doesn’t go a lot smoother than the “hammer down, left lane” thing Chad Morris tried, then we’re all in trouble. You should also make note of the new 3-3-5 defense Barry Odom is installing. Supposedly there will be more pre-snap movement. More shifting or stunting between the linebackers and the D-line AT the snap. We’ve been told that some of the scrimmages may end up open to the fans so that would help them track the differences and changes. Hey…we’re a week away so get ready.

IAMHogholio says: Give us a Hog Fan a mantra to cover Spring and Summer for the big two sports. We out-of-towners can’t really connect to baseball like we can football and basketball. What’s the thing to carry us over until we get a chance at some do overs.

I never really thought too much about this but you out-of- towners are really missing a great experience by not being a part of the Baum-Walker Stadium crowd. Plan a spring trip. Come to a big SEC series. You won’t forget it. Walking around on the concourse at Baum-Walker and just hanging out with the fans is the best part of my job these days. You can also get a Watch ESPN app for you phone or computer and see most of the games that way. If that still doesn’t do it for you… you’ll have about five weeks of spring football from mid March to the last part of April capped off by the Red-White game. After that…. we’re into the talking season and for that you are already where you need to be. Hogville is the best fan board there is. It’s a great place to hang out and talk football and basketball with other Hog fans… and its free. But you already know that.

LifetimeHogFan asks: Don’t we have some good talent on both sides of the ball who have not seen the field yet? Also can we expect any of these 2020 recruits (not grad transfers) to come in and really contribute this season? Lastly, do you think Dorian Gerald will be 100% after that freakish injury?

I would not count too heavily on the incoming freshman. A few might play. What you need to do is keep an eye on last year’s freshman class. There’s some real talent there with guys like Treylon Burks, Trey Knox, Hudson Henry and Mataio Soli. Those guys are almost certainly going to be better. Two other guys to watch…Noah Gatlin…supposedly the team’s best offensive linemen… is back after tearing an ACL on the first day of August Camp last season. Also Luke Jones steps in after sitting out last year following his transfer from Notre Dame. Those two could have a huge impact on the O-line. As for can follow him on Twitter. Here are some of his tweets during the winter conditioning period.

“I been fighting battles up a steep hill, Lord knows”

And this….”Never too much prayer!!! Send a kite for the boy.”

And this….”It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Look, coming back after an injury like that is not easy but as far as I know he’ll be out there this spring and should be 100% in the fall. Having Gerald back will be huge for that D-line.

Arkamedes wants to know: Do we know for certain whether or not Felipe Franks will be participating in Spring practice or will he still be rehabbing his injury?

Franks was injured in mid september of last year. He dislocated an ankle with a fracture. After surgery his rehab was projected to take six months. That’s about how long it’s been. I don’t know how much he’s been doing in the winter conditioning program but the word is he’ll be full speed, full go for spring football.

LZH says: We all love Sam Pittman and his laid back demeanor, but do you know of or have you ever seen a mean streak in him? I know the phrase “players’ coach” automatically brings feelings of being easy on players.

Seems like we get this question every other week or so…. there must be some fans out there who are really worried about this. Maybe because Chad Morris and Bret Bielema were laid back with the players. Bielema’s issues came in his last two seasons and it was mostly due to his staff and the fact that he wasn’t involved enough. Morris had huge staff problems and I’m not sure he even wanted to be here. As far as discipline and accountablity…. you don’t have to be a Nick Saban to get the most out of your players. As I’ve said before… the O-linemen who played under Pittman here have indicated that he’s all business on the field and practice field. But how he will be as a head coach remains to be seen. But I’ve also pointed this out before… Most of the in-your-face stuff comes from position coaches. I’ve seen nothing so far to indicate that this staff is going to be soft on the players.

Iwastherein1969 asks: With Alabama beginning a slow descent toward the middle of the SEC West along with LSU losing a once in a lifetime quarterback and top-shelf wide receivers, what are the odds the Hogs are going to shock the world of college football and go from worst to first in the SEC West?

Wow…doom an gloom for the Tide and Tigers? I like it. Hogs fans should always assume the worst about their SEC west opponents in the off-season. Makes you sleep better at night. The odds on a worst to first turnaround? About one in a million. So-am-I- telling-you- there’s-a chance? Sure. There’s always a chance. But realistically there would be much better odds of pulling off an upset of one of those two teams. Both are home games this year. Back to back….in fact. Hey Alabama can’t keep beating Arkansas forever and you’re right LSU will drop off a lot in talent this year. But if we’re talking SEC wins I’d look at the Aggies and Mizzou. Yeah, I know, A&M is stacked with veteran starters this year but the Aggies are…..Aggies. And that Drinkwitz guy at Mizzou? He pops off too much. Time to take him down. along with his buddy Gus.

ReddieHog19 has a similar but not as dramatic question: Based on the grad transfers and the quality of the coaching staff, do you think the hogs can make a bowl game next season?

I think it’s probably too much to ask….but there’s a theory that this “four wins in two years” stuff had everything to do with a lack of coaching…not a lack of talent. Especially at quarterback and especially with the defensive scheme. You hook Franks up with Briles…with Rakeem Boyd back at running back. Then add Gatlin and Jones to the O-line and ditch John Chavis’ horribly bland and outdated defense and just maybe…the difference will be dramatic. If the schedule were a little easier a bowl would certainly be a possibility. But again…just guessing right now…I’d say it’s a stretch.

Hoggle says: The“blue bloods” in football and basketball almost always get the best players, more so than ever it seems. Do you think this is because players are being bought, one way or the other, more than ever?

Rumors about cheating are rumors. Hard to prove unless maybe some reporter devoted full time to it. Perhaps went undercover. Posed as a booster with money. Got to wonder why the NCAA doesn’t do something like this. Have I heard stories about cheating? All the way back to when I lived in Alabama in my first TV job in the early 70’s… years before Arkansas was in the league. Auburn and Alabama fans would brag about which school cheated best. I know an Auburn fan right now who freely admits that Auburn boosters cheat but says Alabama is much better at it. People in the SEC media and some former SEC coaches have told off the record stories about cheating. But until a school gets hit with sanctions….like Ole Miss recently….they’re still just rumors.

billmontgomery10 says: With the Diamond Hogs’ inability to score base-runners lately and the drop in home run production, do you anticipate Dave Van Horn employing more small ball? That was the successful formula he used a decade ago and he certainly has the team speed to make it happen.

First of all….I would not assume that because a lack of timely hitting was a problem in two of the games during that five game losing streak, that this team will have to resort more to small ball this season. As it stands right now Arkansas is hitting .307 as a team. Christian Franklin is batting a sizzling .426. Heston Kjerstad is right behind him at .424. Braydon Webb, 326. Casey Optiz, .298. Robert Moore and Matt Goodheart are in the .270’s. Jacob Nesbit and Casey Martin are in the high .260’s. Only Cole Austin is struggling a bit at .214. Also this team has hit 19 home runs in 14 games. That doesn’t exactly suggest a home run problem to me. But Arkansas does play small ball. So far they’ve stolen 17 bases…more than one a game…and seven more than their opponents.

BloodRedHog with a follow up to that: The baseball team just lost 5 in a row. What is going on? What is wrong with this preseason top 5 team?

I’m not going to say what some fans… and some in the media have said about this. That it’s nothing. That people like you are freaking out. That you just don’t understand baseball. This has happened before. The season is just getting started. Blah blah blah. I don’t know what it means moving forward. I do know what was going on. Three of them were one-run games. Could have gone either way. There were different issues in each the five. Some of it was a lack of timely hitting. Some of it had to do with too many unearned runs as a result of bad defense and a lot of it had to do with pitching. It is true that coaches start off with ideas of who should pitch and when. They adjust as the non conference season evolves. Dave Van Horn has already made some adjustments. There will be more if certain pitchers like Wicklander and Kopps continue to struggle. Both of those guys have ERAs of over six. Caleb Bolden….who got the Saturday start against South Alabama… may take over as the Saturday guy. He’s looked really good. And there’s a true freshman from Bryant…Will McEntire who didn’t allow a baserunner in two innings of relief in that game. Struck out four of the six batters he faced. His role will be increased. There are four guys on the staff with E-R-As over six. But there are six under 2.0 and 9 under 3. So again there will be some adjustments. Now….as I said earlier….hitting is not huge problem. Not when you have a team batting average of .307… However we’ve seen Van Horn juggle the batting order to try to produce more runs. Am I concerned? Yeah, somewhat. This was a top five team that suddenly has the worst record in the SEC West and is one from the bottom in the entire conference. Arkansas is down to around 14th composite in the various polls. Fans were over the top excited after the first two weeks of the season. That losing streak was a punch in the gut to them. But there were still almost 9,000 fans at Baum on Saturday when that streak ended with a 15-2. win. Arkansas got more good pitching on Sunday and big walk-off home run to take the series from South Alabama. Maybe Kjerstad big blast will provide just what this team needed. Hopefully that five-game losing streak was a just glitch but I’m not ready to say that. The road trip to Mississippi State this weekend will be huge after midweek games on Tuesday and Wednesday.

AlabamaHog recalls: Coach Muss mentioned that Jimmy Whitt’s mother stated that he had better treat her son right. Has Whitt’s mother made any comments regarding Coach Muss, the program and/or Jimmy’s senior season?

I’m not aware of any comments she has made but after the 99-90 win over LSU on Seniors Night… Whitt himself issued a remarkable statement on Twitter about his return to Arkansas for his senior year after playing here as a freshman and transferring to SMU. Let’s take a look at that Tweet.

Dear Razorback Nation,
This has been one of the best years of my life. Everyday I feel grateful that I get to spend my last season playing for such an amazing community.
Tonight was my last game in Bud Walton Arena and I just want to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for welcoming me back with open arms because I know you didn’t have to. Thank you for showing up at every home game, making it one of the hardest places to play in America. Thank you for loving my teammates through all the ups and downs of the season. I will cherish these memories I’ve created this year with you all for the rest of my life. Thank you for everything.

With all my love,
Jimmy Whitt

Now that was awesome. So I think it would be safe to say that Jimmy Whitt and his mother are very happy with the way things turned out. Eric Musselman is all about defense and Jimmy has been Arkansas best defender this season, sometimes at the expense of his scoring. We all saw what happened to this team in those five games that Isaiah Joe missed. I don’t want to think about what this whole season would have been like had Jimmy Whitt not decided to come back home. He will go out as a huge fan favorite.

greasy_corner wants to know: Now that the season is over, who gets the recliner chair used in the recliner FT contest at every home basketball game?

If you watched Ask Mike very often you’d know the answer to that one. Closets, man. There are lots of storage closets in the various facilities operated by the athletic department. If I had some time on my hands I could probably find that chair somewhere in a closet at Bud Walton Arena. However…the home season may not be over. There’s still a possibility of an NIT game or two at the Bud.

Lanny wants to know: What happened to the basketball team at Texas A&M? There was so much on the line in that game and I thought we had a good chance of winning it?

Long story short 62 of Arkansas 69 points were scored by three players. Mason Jones who reached 30 for the 9th time this season, Isaiah Joe who had 22 and Jimmy Whitt who added 10. Arkansas’ three inside players scored one point between them. Plus once again the Hogs got killed on the boards 41-25. This in spite of the fact that going in the Aggies were averaging just two rebounds a game more than Arkansas.

But there was another factor. Fouls. Here’s the revealing part. Going in Arkansas had shot over a hundred more free throws than the Aggies. In this game, A&M more than doubled the Hogs at the line….31 free throws shot to 15 for Arkansas. I think that probably had a lot to do with the technical foul called on Eric Musselman late in that game. Arkansas fans on Twitter were furious with the officiating but what else is new?

Ark Redneck is looking ahead to the post season. He asks: What are the Hogs chances for the NCAA tournament? If they don’t make it what would an NIT bid look like?

The only way they get in is to win the SEC Tournament. Okay..maybe if they reach the finals… four wins would put them at 23-13…the selection committee would be impressed with their overall record. But come on. This team has no bench. Two wins is the most I could see. By game three the starters would be exhausted. Now…21-13 WOULD impress the NIT committee. Arkansas might end up as a one seed in the NIT with games at home all the way to the semi’s in New York, as long as they win. But one win in Nashville and Arkansas would likely drop to… say… a four seed with just one home game in the NIT. And if the Hogs go one and done in the SEC tournament they might not even get an NIT bid. So the SEC tournament is about more than just trying to win four or five games to get in the NCAA Tournament.

That’s it for now. Ask Mike will be back next Monday.

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