The NCAA Cancels NC State, Hogs in the MLB Draft, Football Recruiting and More on This Week’s Ask Mike

Pig Trail Nation

Q. Our first question is from Razorback RedNeck who says: The NCAA has ruined the college baseball season by removing North Carolina State from the College World Series because of its inflexible COVID protocols. Four vaccinated players tested positive so their season is over? Come on. What’s the point of vaccinations?

A. Some find it very inconsistent that fans can sit full capacity in the stands with no COVID testing and no proof of vaccinations while players on the field, in a sport where they are much more socially distanced than they would be in the stands, have to go through this. The NCAA is still adhering to standards developed last year when much less was known about COVID and before vaccinations.

A lot of fans think it’s overkill. If you look at how COVID is spread the CDC says it’s indoors after several minutes of close contact with somebody who has it. That doesn’t describe a college baseball game.

There seems to be a widespread feeling that there was a way to play that game and that the NCAA made a quick decison that may have robbed those players and NC State fans of something very special. That decision will be questioned by them for years. This is one of my bigggest issues with the NCAA. That organization is supposed to be be all about enhancing the student athlete experience but to a lot of folks those suits in Indianapolis get caught up in rigid rules and standards and do a lot things things just because they can.

Q. Lanny says: If vaccinations don’t mean anything what’s to stop us from having this game cancellation stuff in football all over again? Are were really going to go through another season of this?

A. The good news is the NCAA does not control college football or the football playoffs but in the playoffs of other sports it’s a different story. Until this thing happened with NC State I was under the impression that only non vaccinated athletes would be tested moving forward. Apparently the NCAA had a stated guideline for College World Series teams that if an unvaccinated athlete tested positive, vaccinated players could then be subject to testing too. I see this as an attempt to force vaccinations on all college athletes. Right or wrong it may just work. If there’s a choice between taking a chance on forfeiting games or having everybody who gets off the bus vaccinated, I could see where coaches would say, You can do what you want but you won’t go with us to games unless you’ve been vaccinated.

Q. Stu asks: Care to comment on the NCAAs actions against North Carolina State baseball team at the College World Series? Seems a bit fishy to me.

A. This question is different because Stu seems to be implying that the NCAA might have done this because it wanted Vanderbilt in the championship series instead of NC State. I don’t see that as the reason. I think it’s all about the reasons I’ve already stated. Trying to force 100% vaccination compliance among college athletes evn though data shows that they don’t get sick if they get COVID. Basically it is part of a a, “it’s our way or the highway” attitude about just about everything the NCAA thinks it can control.

Q. peakhog asks: If the SEC leads the charge to separate itself from the NCAA, do you think the other Power 5 Conferences would follow? How many more nails in the coffin do we need to get rid of these cronies?

A. I think it would take an effort by the SEC, the ACC and the Big 12 just like we saw with the decision to play college football last fall after the Big 10 and Pac 12 had said they wouldn’t.

To my knowledge it hasn’t reached the point of trying to separate from the NCAA but keep an eye on this name and image likeness issue. If the NCAA continues to push in court a rigid stance on rules for amateur athletes, at some point member schools may start to see the light that a big change needs to be made.

Q. Alex4Hogs88 wants to know: What are your top 5 moments of the 2021 baseball season?

Okay here we go:

No. 5: Robert Moore’s ultimate home run bat flip after a rowdy South Carolina crowd had taunted him in game one of the series. He actually hit two in that game including the game winner, that’s how you silence a crowd on the road.

No. 4: Jalen Battles’ home run against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament championship game. He went three for four in the Hogs 7-2 win and was named the tournament MVP. The first SEC Tournament title for DVH.

No. 3: Charlie Welch’s walk off 9th inning RBI double in game two of the Florida series giving Arkansas its first outright SEC Championship under DVH, allowing Arkansas to go a perfect 10-0 in conference series’ in 2021.

No. 2. It’s Welch again, this time with an 8th inning 3-run home run against Nebraska in the Fayetteville Regional title game increasing Arkansas lead from 3-2 to 6-3.

No 1. Happened right after that. Kevin Kopps erased the Huskers in the 9th completing 7 innings of scorless relief in that game on 90 total pitches. He got the win just two days after he’d gone four scorless innings with 71 pitches in a save against Nebraska. That’s 161 pitches and no runs scored against him in those two games. Unreal.

Q. AlabamaHog asks: Given the turnover in the football staff, what is your perception of the new staff?

A. Kenney Guiton was hired first. He had a previous background with Kendall Briles. By all accounts, including spring football, that looks like a really good hire.

Kody Kennedy is was orginally hired as the tight ends coach. He moved to the O-line when Brad Davis left to go to LSU. Kennedy is young. He’d only been a full time assistant for two years before coming to Arkansas but he worked as a grad assistant at Georgia under Sam Pittman. His O-line at Tulane was very successful. With Sam Pittman’s background as one of the top O-line coaches in college football I think you can assume that he would not have hired Kennedy if he didn’t think he was ready for the SEC.

Michael Scherer is the new linebackers coach. He’s also in this late 20’s. He played under Barry Odom at Missouri and he also stepped in and coached the linebackers the week that Pittman was out with COVID last season when Odom took over as head coach for that week. Again what we’re seing is a coach with previous ties the coordinator he’s now working under. If you trust Odom as a former head coach and a well respected defensive coordinator you have to think that Scherer is a good hire.

The newest hire is Dowell Loggains. He was a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in the NFL. Seems like an odd fit for a tight ends coach. There’s no way to really evaluate him in that job until this fall. He is a former Razorback and some think he will become the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator when Briles leaves to becomes a head coach which seems almost certain to happen in a year or two.

Q. CowHog32 want to know: If you could schedule one future game for each big 3 men’s program, who would we play and at what venue? For Football, Basketball & Baseball.

A. I don’t have to schedule those games. They’ve already been scheduled for next year. In football it’s Texas coming to Fayetteville for the second game of the season. That should be a great draw for the fans. Then there’s Bob Huggins and West Virginia coming to Bud Walton as a part of the SEC Big 12 challenge. That sounds like a hell of a matchup and then in baseball, how about giving new LSU baseball coach Jay Johnson a proper welcome to the SEC? He comes to Baton Rouge from Arizona, they were a CWS team this year.

Q. pghawg1 says: With the Rice game being at 1:00 on Labor Day weekend, it will be hot. When Hunter Yurachek has a press conference could you or someone at Pig Trail Nation ask him why the game can’t be at night since it is not televised.

A. No point in asking him since there’s no option there. The game is televised, just not on conventional TV. It’s an SEC plus game and part of the SEC TV package. Member schools don’t tell the SEC what time of the day they play. You play what’s on the schedule. Early in the season with non conference games there are as many as 14 SEC games that are televised on a Saturday and only so many hours to fit those games in. It’s not hard to figure out that some of them will not be in the cool of the day. Maybe you’ll catch a break that day and a cool front will come through that weekend. I’ve seen it happen. Temperatures in the upper 80s on an early September afternoon instead of 95 plus.

Q. Texas Grocery Hog wants to know: What do you recall being the game or moment in the Bielema era and Morris era when you first recall thinking “this tenure has gone south and I don’t know if this guy can recover?” Is there a moment that sticks out with you when you had a feeling it was the beginning of the end for them?

A. With Bielema it was the South Carolina game in 2017. It was a road game and Austin Allen got hurt in the second quarter. Bielema left him in even though he could not throw the ball effectively. It was only when the game was out of hand that he put Cole Kelley in. Kelley played really well and if the change had happened before the Hogs got hoplessly behind it might have made a difference. At any rate it was a game Bielema needed to win to avoid a second straight losing season and Arkansas got hammered. At that point I was pretty sure he was gone.

With Morris it was the Western Kentucky game, last one he ended up coaching at Arkansas. I knew he was in trouble but no coach at Arkansas had been fired after two years. I figured he’d get another season and then get the ax. However when Western Kentucky absolutely killed Arkansas with Ty Story at quarterback and it was obvious how much better Storey was after transferring away from Arkansas and working under different coaches, it was obvious that Morris had reached the end of the road at Arkansas.

Q. Hogginintheville says: Arkansas has had some highly drafted baseball players over the years. When thinking about the players that have either had good MLB careers or drafted high, how do you feel about our guys this year?

A. I think Christian Franklin has a good shot at making it in major league baseball. He’s going to have to develop more consistency at the plate but he’s got good power and he’s an outstanding centerfielder. Those two traits alone give him a good start.

I don’t know about Kopps. The question is, can he continue to baffle players at the next level with that gyro pitch and for how long? It did seem like two teams in particular started to figure it out just a bit. Tennessee and North Carolina State. But on the other hand he doesn’t have to be as dominate as he was this year to be successful as a Major League reliever and he won’t throw as many innings. It’s just one of those things were we’re not gonna know until he goes through the process.

Casey Optiz, he’s got the defensive skills. Can he hit well enough at the next level? It seems like he became a clutch hitter toward the end of his last two seasons but he’ll have to develop more consistency at the plate as he goes through the minor league system.

There are some guys over the next couple of years who have a good shot. Robert Moore is an outstanding shortstop with good power.
The same thing with Caden Wallace as an outfielder.

Charlie Welch needs to develop as a position player next season but clearly this young man can hit for an average and he’s got good power.

Q. Dr. Starcs wants to know: Who’s the best Hog player you’ve seen in football, basketball and baseball?

A. In football Darren McFadden followed closely by Matt Jones. In basketball Sidney Moncrief followed closely by Joe Johnson and in baseball, up until this year I would have said Jeff King. Now it’s Kevin Kopps.

Q. austin.hogfan says: As a fan I feel the momentum in football, men’s basketball and baseball. From what you can see, do you feel this upcoming recruiting class in each sport appears to be taking us another step forward, or at least in baseball keeping us near the top?

A. It looks like basketball is going to be a top five program under Musselman. His recruiting and use of the portal seems to be the wave of the future. If you think about it, the transfer portal the way he’s using it could be a new and more effective version of the one and done. Plus his recruiting of AAU and high school players is going up.

Baseball is already top five. The new performance center and the success Arkansas is having should move the program up a notch.

Recruiting for football looks good but Sam Pittman and his staff had a long way to go when they started. I will say that some of these staff changes have been about recruiting and that’s good. I was talking to Ken Hatfield last week and he says recruiting is the key to everything. Much more important than recruiting good players and trying to coach them into outstanding players. Yes there are some Grant Morgan type players out there and you need to develop a strong preferred walk on program to get those players into your program and identify them. But landing four and five star players is the answer to getting better. Top 20 in recruiting is a good start. Now Pittman and his staff need to move up to the top 15 and keep going upward.

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