Ask Mike: 11-23

Pig Trail Nation

Q: Let’s begin with our weekly COVID update.

A.the good news is, we played six of seven scheduled games on Saturday. There’s no indication as of today that any will be postponed this Saturday. Arkansas will play Missouri but Sam Pittman says his numbers for the game will not likely be any better than it was for the LSU game so that is not good news. The SEC office is expected to issue a revised schedule of games for December 5th. Here’s how that might affect Arkansas. The Razorbacks are supposed to play Alabama that Saturday. They may end up with an open date on the 5th so that Alabama can make up their game with LSU. If that happens then the Arkansas-Alabama game would be moved to December 12. Also basketball season starts this week. The Arkansas women and men will both open up on Wednesday at home. The women play ORU at 11 AM. The men will play Mississippi Valley State at 6:30. The crowd is limited to 4,000. Ole Miss becomes the first SEC team to cancel games. Because of COVID the Rebels will not play their first four scheduled games. They start play on December 7.

Q. Our first question this week comes from PorkSoda who asks: What underclassmen have gotten playing time this year that you expect to be difference makers next year?

A. We can begin with underclassmen who made a difference this year and they are all starters.

On Offense, Treylon Burks, a sophomore receiver. Brady Latham, the redshirt freshman left guard. Ricky Stromberg a sophomore center. Noah Gatlin, a red shirt sophomore right tackle and. Hudson Henry, a redshirt freshman tight end.

On defense there is Eric Gregory, a redshirt freshman defensive end. Ishiah Nichols, a redshirt sophomore defensive tackle. Hudson Clark, a freshman cornerback. Greg Brooks, a sophomore nickel back and Reid Bower a sophomore punter.

That’s 10 underclassmen, all starters, coming back next season. This is a really young football team this season. Three other junior starters will be returning for a total of 13 returning starters and keep in mind the seniors can come back because of COVID if they want to and they’re going to bring in a few grad transfers. That’s why this team should be a lot better next year.

Orlando Hog wants to know: Based on the DB play against LSU, will Odom go with a more seasoned DB or will he stick with a freshman DB?

A. I assume you’re asking about Hudson Clark. He’s been up an down this season. That’s what usually happens when a freshman is starting in the SEC. His backup is also a freshman and the backup at the other cornerback position is a redshirt freshman so look, this is a very young football team, especially at certain positions like cornerback. So I think Hudson Clark will remain the starter at the field corner position If he wasn’t the best option they have he wouldn’t be out there.

Q. parallaxpig says: Considering Marc Curles history with Arkansas, wouldn’t you think the SEC office would want to keep him away from an Arkansas game?

A. At one time Bobby Petrino supposedly had him banned from working Arkansas games. I guess that went away when Petrino did.
If I were him I’d ask not to do any Arkansas games because when there’s an issue or two or three like last Saturday and he’s involved Arkansas fans supposedly make his life miserable with voice message in his phone and emails and text messages. To me this is an SEC issue, not just a Mark Curles issue. The idea that you’ve got replay officials in the booth and back in Birmingham who can’t look at slo mo replays from multiple angles for four or five minutes and get a video review right is mind boggling. I’m mean the TV people are calling these reviews correctly after 30 seconds of watching a replay.
makes you wonder what is going on during these reviews.

Q. #hammerdown says: I asked a question last week asking which position coach has made the biggest improvement. Can we agree that Fountain is the worst? Our special teams have been bad. Do you believe he will be retained?

A. Certainly worst in terms of results. Special teams maye have gone backwards from last year. This week it was that partially blocked field goal attempt would would have sent the game into overtime. It might well have cost Arkansas the game. There has virtually been no punt returns this season. We’ve had multiple penalties on kickoff returns. Two blocked punts. One of them for a touchdown. Thew other for a safety. I know that Sam Pittman is really high on Scott Fountain who by all accounts did a really good job at Georgia. I’ve got no clue if Pittman will make a change there. My guess is when the season is over he will address these issues with us and maybe there’s an explantion we don’t know about.

Q. Jumpty asks: What are your thoughts on Kendall Briles play calling this year?

A. I think he’s trying to expand the playbook. Experimenting too much. Sometimes he seems to get away from what works. Like any kind or route you want with Treylon Burks. But the issue against LSU, trying to run the ball even though it wasn’t working, might have been Sam Pittman too. He said a halftime that Arkansas needed to run the ball more. Clearly what he meant was, Arkansas needed to run the ball more SUCCESSFULLY. I know Sam Pittman. He likes bully ball. Line up and push the other team around and I know that in a year or two he’s gonna have the kind of offensive line to make that happen. But right now there are times they’ve got to go with what’s working and lately that’s the deep passing game.

Q. King Kong wants to know: Would Arkansas get more league respect in the Big 12?

A. Probably. The Big 12 is considered to be the weakest of the Power Five conferences in football. It starts with having only 10 members in football. Arkansas would add some punch to the conference. If the Big 12 could also pick off a team from the Pac 12 or Big 10 they’d be set. So yeah I think they’d love to have Arkansas join up. Think about the rivalry possibilities with OU and OSU? But its not going to happen. Arkansas just needs to get better in football. They’ll get more rspect from the rest of the conference if they start being a factor in football. In most other sports they are highly competitive. They’re getting there in football.

Q.DeltaBoy asks: What’s the Deal with the Oline? They looked horrible in run blocking against LSU.

A;. The D-Line was already a strength of LSU’s defense. Their secondary has been their problem.. Think about it. They had three weeks to get ready to face Arkansas offense. Three weeks. They were prepared. They were also full strength for the first time in a month with all that time off they had. It was just bad timing for Arkansas. If LSU had played Bama the week before Arkansas like they were supposed to, that would have been a totally different situation. I said when the season started that COVID will decide some football games. This was one of them. Arkansas got COVID at wrong time and LSU was recovered from COVID at the right time to win this game.

Q. Some are saying that LSU faked COVID numbers in order not to play Alabama so they could have extra time to prepare for Arkansas. Any proof of that?

A. Not that I know of. The suspicion comes from the fact that LSU had an open date before playing Alabama. On the Monday before the Alabama game Ed Orgeron said his team was below the SEC minimum of 53 available players because of COVID. He then made a statement about LSU already preparing for Arkansas. To some he had just revealed his true motive for not playing Alabama. When LSU’s players began talking last week about the extra time they’d had to prepare for Arkansas and how the layoff had allowed the team to recvover from COVID issues and various player injuries the suspicions grew. When they predicted that it would make a big difference in the game and it turned out that it did, it seemed even more suspicious. But there is no way to prove any of this. How to you prove that a quarantined player didn’t really come in contact with another player that tested positive?

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