Q. Alex4Hogs88 asks: What are your thoughts on Wes Johnson being hired on at LSU as their pitching coach? Does this spell trouble for our Razorbacks when we face off against LSU in the next couple years? What was he like as a coach when he was here in Fayetteville?
A. Somewhat surprising. When he left Arkansas the word I got was it wasn’t just about the money but to get away from the recruiting part of college baseball which took him away from his family even in the offseason. Now I’m hearing that Johnson found out that coaching on the major league level was even more demanding of his time so he waited for the right opportunity and took it. Depending on which article you read he either got a slight raise to take the LSU job or took a little bit less.
Yes, LSU will get better because Johnson is one of the best pitching coaches anywhere. He’s also a really nice guy. Easy to deal with and I figure he’ll end up a head coach sooner than later.
Q. Old Hog Soooie says: Watched a replay of OU laying down a bunt. The Ole Miss pitcher fielded the ball and hit the batter going to first. A run scored but the batter was declared out and the run scored negated. It was clear to me that he was running straight down base line. Don’t umpires have any leeway on these type call?
A. They do but most of the time when fans complain about this the replays show that the batter was running out of the running lane to the right of the foul line going to first. That lane is there for a reason, to allow a pitcher or catcher to throw up the line to first without hitting the runner.
Q. robs4516 wants to know: Any idea as to why the linebacker commit recently decided to reopen his recruitment?
A. You’d have to be him or close to him to know for sure but I did notice that his decommitment came right after Arkansas got another linebacker commit. I would not worry about it. The Arkansas staff is doing a good job of recruiting linebackers for the future. I’m also pretty sure that when Bumper Pool and Drew Sanders are gone after this season we’ll see Sam Pittman go after another grad transfer like Sanders who Arkansas got from Alabama after the 2021 season.
Q. little jo says: It is hard to remember an upcoming year where the expectations and excitement for both football and basketball were this high. Also, with the baseball team having just completed a great run, can you remember a time when there was this much excitement for all three programs at the same time?
A. No and you can add softball to the list because attendance numbers and TV ratings for college softball suggest that it’s about to become maybe the biggest sport on the women’s side. Courtney Deifel has been knocking it out of the park in recruiting the last two years. Soccer is right there along with gymnastics. I’ve never seen this kind of overall talent on campus. That’s one of the main reasons why Hunter Yurachek is the current SEC and national athletics director of the year.
Q. littlewheezy asks: With the success of the baseball team over the last decade, multiple trips to Omaha, conference titles, etc., at this point is a national championship the only thing left to win that will keep the fans engaged?
A. A small percentage of the fan base may look at it like that. I think the vast majority of fan were very happy with what Arkansas did in the NCAA Tournament. They won a regional and super regional against an 8 seed and 10 seed in the 64 team NCAA Tournament field. They beat the national 2 seed in Omaha and were the only team to win a game against Ole Miss once regional play started. Arkansas was 1-2 against the national champion. Oklahoma was 0-2. Even though the final poll had Arkansas number three in the nation and OU number two, I think you could make a legitimate argument that the Razorbacks were the second best team in college baseball when the season was over. They were 3-2 in Omaha. Only one other Arkansas team has done better than that and that was the 2018 Hogs who were a dropped pop up from winning the CWS.
So I think most fans feel good about the season.
Q. W_KY_Hog says: I’m excited about the upcoming football season. Recruiting seems to continue to get better. Barring any major injuries, the team could be really tough by the end of the year. How many wins do the Hogs need to keep momentum?
A. If they win nine games again I think the momentum will still be here. They don’t play Georgia and Alabama this year but their non conference schedule is tougher so nine will would be good. Ten would be great. Sooner or later that 16 year losing streak against Alabama has to end. Maybe this is the season.
Q. Lanny wants to know: What’s your opinion on USC & UCLA joining the big 10?
A. I don’t like it. But I don’t like a lot of things that are going on these days. I’m wondering if the ADs at both schools ran that by their fans or just did it in a surprise move. I don’t think the fans had any say in it. That’s part of the problem these days. We’ve got too many ADs who never coached. They’re all about TV money and TV ratings. I don’t think they worry much about the live gate crowds and the ability of their own fans to go on the road to games.
The SEC going after Texas and OU made sense because that move will create new rivalries within the SEC. Hog fans will be going to Norman and Sooner fans will be coming here. I wish the SEC would go ahead and offer Oklahoma State too. That would be another rivalry game with fans going back and forth to games.
But how many USC fans will travel to Penn State or Michigan? Are UCLA fans going to jump on a plane to Wisconsin and Ohio State? Will Big 10 fans flock to Southern California for games against UCLA and USC?
What about jet lag for the players? They’ll lose three hours traveling to some big 10 schools and and get it back all in a three day period.
Think about how silly it will be to fly your Volleyball team from Los Angeles to Rutgers, New Jersey. Or the tennis team.
I think we’re gonna end up with two really big conferences that will be split into divisions.
These changes will either be accepted by the fans or it will hurt college athletics. When you throw in the effects of NIL and where that’s going, I think there’s going to be a push back against this stuff by the fans with adjustments having to be made.
Q. ArkieRedneck asks: Did you see the video of an Aggie coach talking to recruits at their stadium and mentioning that boosters in the skyboxes will be giving them big NIL money? Isn’t that a violation?
A. I did. Based on what I heard there was no violation. The rule states that a specific NIL deal cannot be offered before an athlete signs with a school. You can say, Some very good NIL deals have been going to our current players. You can’t say, We’ll give you $500,000 minimum if you come here.
What this Aggie coach did was to point to the skyboxes at Kyle Field and say, Those people up there will be taking care of you if you come here. There was no mention of any specific deals in the clip I saw.
Q. T.L. Slaten says: I saw where John McDonnell was honored over the weekend in his hometown back in Ireland. Do they know a lot about him? His whole career as a coach was here in NW Arkansas.
A. Yes they do. They know because he recruited a lot of Irish athletes who came here and then went back to to become pro and Olympic athletes in international track and field. He also went back there himself from time to time to visit his birth family. But it was nice for some of his local friends to come up with the plaque to honor him in a busy shopping area downtown in the closest city to the farm where he grew up. I think John was smiling down on that ceremony with his wife, his son, two of his former athletes and a lot of his old friends there. He’s the best coach I ever knew. 43 national championships. Wow.
Q. sgiles asks: Has DVH made any more progress on filling the holes left by the departure of guys like, Turner, Moore, Battles, Wallace & Slavens? You said last week week that the pieces were going to start falling in place.
A. A lot of progress.
In left field, there’s Jared Wegner out of the portal from Creighton. A .343 batting average, 11 HR, 53 RBI, 49 games. Just 3 errors on the season. He’s a COVID senior.
Three others are JUCO transfers.
At 1st base, Caleb Cali. A Florida JUCO All American. .438 batting average. 17 HR. 22 doubles. 6 triples. 77 RBI. Just 23 K’s in 258 plate appearances. He’s 6-3, 240. A big target at first which will allow Peyton Stovall to move to second, his natural position, replacing Robert Moore.
At 3rd base, Ben McLaughlin, a JUCO golden glove winner. .411 batting average. 19 HR. 83 RBI in 60 games.
At catcher. Another big dude. Parker Rowland. 6-3, 220 lbs. An Oklahoma JUCO who batted .408 with 12 HR, 10 doubles and 78 RBI. This kid has a cannon for an arm. Very good at mowing down base runners.
Keep in mind that DVH also signed the number 5 recruiting class for 2020. There’s a couple of really very good shortstops in that group.
I don’t think they’re finished in the portal so it looks like DVH is getting the job done.