Q. Our first question is from RazorAlex88 who says: It never gets old beating Tony Vitello. What is DVH’s record against Vitello now?
A. Tony Vitello’s record at Tennessee is very good.
In five seasons he’s 213-90. That’s right at 70%. By comparison DVH is just over 66% at Arkansas. But head to head it’s a wipeout. Vitello is 1-9 against Arkansas. His best chance to improve those numbers came last season when Tennessee went 57-9 and 25-5 in the SEC but the two teams did not play each other.
It’s really hard to believe how far Tennessee has fallen from a year ago. Currently they are 5th in the SEC East and tied for 9th overall. Tennessee lost just 9 games in the entire 2022 season. They already have more SEC losses than that and they still have 15 more conference games to play.
So what’s wrong with them?
They have the best ERA in the SEC and were number 3 nationally before last weekend. But they make a lot of errors. Mistakes killed them in the first two games against Arkansas and they are 12th in hitting in the SEC. In 11 of Tennessee’s 13 losses they’ve scored 3 run or less.
Q. Larry Luper says: I heard you say that this is Van Horn’s best coaching job. He’s had better teams. Why are you so impressed with what he’s doing with this bunch?
A. The way he’s having to manage his pitching staff with all the injuries. Every week it’s like dodging mines in a minefield. DVH keeps making decisions that are controversial, like going with Hunter Hollan and Hagan Smith in game one against Tennessee. Everybody is like, Okay, what are you going to do for the next two games? Well, guys like Will McEntire, Dyan Carter and Gage Wood stepped up and you’re like, Okay. I see.
I like the way he never gave up on Wood. At some point he could have said, Okay, the kid’s a freshman. We’ll develop him this season as a midweek guy. But he kept putting him out there in difficult situations and right now he’s their go-to SEC closer.
I like the way DVH brought Caleb Cali back after benching him early in the season. Look where Cali is now. One of their best clutch hitters while playing one heck of a third base.
Very quietly Arkansas has moved a game and a half ahead of LSU in the SEC West and after being 5th overall for the first half of the season, Arkansas is now tied for second behind Vanderbilt.
He’s pushing all the right buttons with this team.
Q. WizardofhOgZ says: After the switch to BBCOR bats in 2011 dramatically reduced the number of HRs and hitting in general, College Baseball “Tweaked” the baseball itself to make it livelier. Since that change things improved and seemed pretty stable until this season…..
…..Mid-season numbers indicate a dramatic increase in HR’s this year. I know DVH was one of the College coaches that was outspoken in making the changes in 2015. Has anyone asked him if he is aware of another change in the ball this season?
A. Phil Elson, the play by play voice of Razorback Baseball, tells me that DVH said a couple of weeks ago that he thinks the baseball is firmer. He did not say if he likes that or not. There are couple of other things that could be at play. Because of the extra eligibility thing with COVID, a lot of teams have older players. Also most teams are now using computer programs coupled with video of hitting practice. This is the launch angle stuff we’ve talked about along with an emphasis on exit velocity of the baseball after it comes off the bat.
We’ll ask DVH more about this firmer baseball stuff at his next press conference. See if we can get him to elaborate on it more.
Q. WVHogfan wants to know: When the softball and baseball teams are scheduled for home games the same day, why are the starting times scheduled so that both games are played at the same time? I am sure some fans would like to attend both games if the games were played at different times.
A. An athletic department spokesman says they do try to avoid game times for baseball and softball that overlap but there are times when they don’t have the flexibility to avoid it. Early in the season it’s often too cold to play night games so you can’t have one game in the afternoon and another one at night. Also bad weather predictions cuts down on the flexibility of scheduling baseball and softball games on the same day. You play at night to work around bad weather or play in the afternoon to work around bad weather. You can’t do both. The same thing with creating doubleheaders to avoid an entire day of bad weather. That would be four games in one day. And of course sometimes rain delays will push one game into competition with another.
Q. Mousetown asks: Why doesn’t the athletic department do something about ticket scalpers? Apparently somebody was buying up seats from the school for the bases loaded landing for $35.00 and reselling them for $130.00. That kind of a ripoff is not good for the baseball team.
A. Scalping is illegal in Arkansas. If you want to take the time and effort to catch somebody doing it you can turn them in. It’s the only way the athletic department would know that it happened. But most people pay the scalped price and live with it.
By the way supposedly there is legislation coming in Arkansas that would legalize scalping. So any relief you have as a fan could go away. It’s like if I sell you something I’m not responsible for what price you charge if you resell it.
Q. Dr. Strangepork wants to know: How is it that the baseball SECT seems permanently fixed in Hoover, AL and softball rotates between campuses . With as many nice minor league parks located throughout the SEC and a few major leagues ones as well …
……surely rotating the baseball SECT around the SEC and working with minor/major league park schedules could be done. Why don’t they? Money, kickbacks, SEC office in Birmingham 11 miles away?
A. The Hoover Met is an abandoned minor league park. The city of Hoover offers a sweet deal to the SEC to lease it. It’s at the end of a long dead end road so local traffic is limited to fans going to the ballpark. Parking and traffic is easy to control. It’s close to SEC teams like Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Tennessee and LSU so there’s good crowd support and yes, it doesn’t hurt that it’s just a few miles down the Interstate from the SEC office.
There are four additional NCAA regulation baseball fields, equipped with state-of-the-art facilities as a part of the complex and there are other high school fields in the area for practice purposes.
There are multiple hotel and restaurant options nearby to accommodate teams and fans plus a large retail mall.
I think even the coaches agree that the event can be run better from a single location than to move it around where it would probably take a lot of advance planning to make it work at each new site.
Q. Pigsfeat asks: How would you evaluate the Red/White game. Can we learn anything from it?
A. Absolutely. I actually prefer the scrimmage format to one of those contrived Red-White games that are scripted for success. You know, the top offense and defense is on one team and they roll all over the twos and threes.
I liked seeing K.J. Jefferson directing the offense against this new defense under Travis Williams. K.J. had some big plays but they disrupted him a lot with pressure from the D-Line.
A couple of times the one offense started 1st and 10 and ended up 4th and 15. There were 10 sacks in that scrimmage, a fumble recovery and a 75 yard interception return.
K.J. ‘s numbers were okay, around 150 yard passing and a couple of touchdowns. But he was 50% on those passes which is low compared to last season. He admitted that he’s still learning the terminology associated with Dan Enos’ new offense. Sam Pittman is not concerned about that. KJ has the summer and fall camp to continue get these changes down. Plus he’ll have two games against mid major opponents before Arkansas takes on BYU in mid September.
Also Cam Little had a 58 yard field goal in that scrimmage with about five yards to spare. He’s developing into a real weapon.
Q. Terri McAllister says: I thought Sategna looked really good in the spring scrimmage but how come nobody is talking about Mbake? He’s got some serious speed too. Why didn’t we see more of him last season?
A. Because they had several veteran go-to type receivers last season and with all the injuries in the secondary Mbake moved to defense with the promise that it would be temporary.
He had a rushing touchdown in the scrimmage on a sweep to the right side. You’re right. He looked rally fast on that play. I definitely think he’ll be in the rotation at receiver along with Sategna, A&M Commerce transfer Andrew Armstrong who’s long and tall with really good hands and Isaac Te’ slaa, a Division II transfer with really good hands. Quarterback turned receiver Landon Jackson is also looking good.
Q. After Saturday’s spring scrimmage Sam Pittman specifically mentioned this as a good Ask Mike question: If you don’t tackle in the spring should you make firm decisions on your depth chart now?
A. Pittman proceeded to answer his own Ask Mike question so this one should be labeled “Ask Sam.” The answer is no. He said he made the wrong decision last season on a backup QB based on what he saw in the spring. In the fall, when the season started, he realized his mistake. So no more of that. Tackling changes everything. So spring football gives the coaches an idea of what they have going into the fall but players should be placed on the depth chart based on full contact work in the fall. At least that’s what he appeared to be suggesting.
Q. Hogdogger wants to know: How is the Longhorn Network is going to work with the SEC when they come in 2024. Doesn’t ESPN own the rights to them. I’m assuming that they will just transition over to sec and nothing will really change or will it?
A. Just like with ESPN and ESPN 2, The Longhorn Network will become the SEC Network 2. It will have different content from the SEC Network. Don’t want to watch Finebaum? There will be something else on The SEC Network 2. It also means there will be extra games carried on your cable or satellite provider for those who don’t have ESPN plus streamed on their TVs.
Basically you’ll be getting twice a much SEC content as you do now and no, it won’t be Longhorn exclusive.
Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy wants to know: Does Coach Muss have a “pecking order” should too many guys want to come back?
A. He’s never going to talk about it but of course he does. Not every player who hits the portal is doing it because they want to go. Barry Dunning Jr. is a good example. When other freshmen were tweeting that they were coming back he simply tweeted a shot of the floor of Bud Walton Arena with a one word message. Home.
Courtney was perceptive enough to pick up on that. I was not. Clearly he wasxpressing his desire to remain with the team. A week later he entered the portal. Dunning Jr. didn’t suddenly change his mind. More than likely he was encouraged to leave to make way for a new transfer.
Q. Hawgredneck says: So the Internet is buzzing about this Jordan Walsh Tweet. Video of him looking at a basketball goal and pondering what he terms “decision.” It seems pretty simple. He’s deciding to leave or stay.
A. And what is that decision? Some say, based on the video, he’s staying. Some say, no he’s leaving. Everybody has an opinion except those who admit they don’t know what to make of it.
Q. Leroy Hackett says: Muss goes out and gets another guard. What’s up with that? How many guards to we need? How about a center?
A. El Ellis is a true point guard who can score. He averaged just under 18 points a game. Shoots 41% from the floor and 81% from the line. He’s still in the NBA draft pool and will need to withdraw to come here and if he doesn’t Arkansas will only have two point guards. Keyon Menifield, a transfer from Washington with three years of eligibility remaining and Layden Blocker, an incoming 5-star true freshman. With what happened last season it’s a no brainer that Muss wants options at point guard. Ellis is a true 5th year senior. This guy has been around the block. Plus I would not assume just yet that Muss is not gonna bring in a center.
Q. H.L. McCamish asks: Name me your two all time favorites Razorbacks.
A. I would pick two football players with two completely different personalities. I liked Joe Ferguson because he had a no nonsense tough-as-nails personality. I did not cover him when he was a player. I covered him as the quarterbacks coach at Arkansas under Houston Nutt. He would tell everybody on camera exactly what he thought. He did not play games. The man also beat cancer twice because, as somebody who knows him said, he was tougher than cancer.
I have tons of respect for that man. I’ve got a special ordered pair of Nike shoes that have his Arkansas number 11 on the sides.
The other ex player is Matt Jones. Matt was a free spirit. He was not somebody you controlled. So how does that square with Joe Ferguson? I put it this way. if you’re a jockey you do not pull back on Secretariat’s reigns. You point him and say, go. Matt Jones is a once in every 30 years type talent.
But the thing I liked best about him was that he was at his best when he was improvising. When a play broke down, he could fix it.
I don’t think Houston Nutt could ever figure him out, get inside his head. I also believe that with with the right coaching staff Jones could have been a successful NFL quarterback.
Could Joe Ferguson have successfully coach Matt Jones? Probably not because they were so different. So who could have gotten the most out of him? Maybe David Cutcliffe, a former head coach at Ole Miss and Duke and a successful quarterbacks coach at Tennessee. I had a parent of a recruit once tell me that Cutcliffe was a master at coaching quarterbacks with unusual personalities.