Horns Down, Golden Spikes Presentation and more in this week’s “Ask Mike”

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Q. Our first question is from Superhog1959 who wants to know: What was Bobby Petrino like to be around? How did he treat his players? His recruiting seemed to decline after year 2, how do you think that would effect the Hogs in future years, if he hadn’t had the accident? Was there any signs or rumors of his off field activities, that the media ignored?

A. Oddly enough there were no complaints from the media. He showed up for press conferences on time. He answered our questions without acting like a jerk even if some of the questions were somewhat critical of the coaches or players. The problem with Petrino was how he treated everybody else. He hated being in the Broyles Center. He didn’t like how people could walk down a stairway and be on the coaches floor. His office in particular was right next to the football museum. Fans were often milling around outside his office. There were kids running around making noise. Plus he didn’t want athletic department employees on that floor.

The current football operations center was built for that reason. It’s isolated. Hard to get to. There’s a big lobby but that’s the only place non football personnel could access without permission. The lockerroom, team meeting and training facilities rooms are, are underground, like bunker. I’ve been told that at some point in the future that whole place may end up being replaced with something more traditional. Locker rooms with windows. etc.

Petrino was hard on his players. Most of them accepted that because the team was winning. His recruiting was spotty. Didn’t have a friendly, salesman-like approach and that turned some recruits and their parents off. There are some indications that the program was headed for a drop off even if he had not been fired. Who knows if it would have been temporary?

Were there signs of his off the field activities? I don’t think any of us in the media knew about it. I’ve had people tell me that Jeff Long had to know but I don’t think he did. Petrino did such a good job of isolating his coaches and players that it was easier for him to pull that off. I know that my sources during those years were pretty much worthless. They kept saying, nobody really knows that guy and clearly that’s what he wanted.

Q. Boss Hawg asks: Why are specialists not counted in the recruiting rankings? Rankings show 15 recruits but only 14 count toward ranking. Obviously our 5* long snapper is not included.

A. That long snapper is included but these specialists are automatically given 2-star status by the various recruiting services. People who specifically rate these kickers and snappers may list them as three, four and five stars but that is not factored in, in overall class rankings.

Q. BloodRedHog wants to know: What’s the best won-loss record of any Arkansas head football coach in their second full season? Of these two won-loss records, which is more likely this football season:
4-8 or 8-4

A. You have to go all the way back to 1909 for the best second year record for an Arkansas head coach. Let’s take a look: Hugo Bezdek’s so called “Wild Band of Razorback Hogs,” immortalized with a statue and fountain at the northeast entrance of Reynolds Razorback stadium, were undefeated in year two under him. A perfect 7-0. Number two on the list, Ken Hatfield. His ’85 Hogs went 10-2. Frank Broyles is third at 9-3 in 1959.

I would not go with either 4-8 or 8-4 for Sam Pittman’s second season on the Hill. I land in the middle of those extremes at 6-6.

Q. robs4516 says: The offense had a lot of three and outs last season. How much of a difference do you think having so many players back, along with going through an actual spring practice will help in that regard?

A. Really if you take a look game by game the number of three and outs last season was not unusual.
Let’s look at it. The one that stands out is game one against Georgia. Eight one and outs. That’s bad. Maybe the best defense Arkansas faced all season. The lack of spring ball could have been a factor. But that number was cut in half the next week and then it dropped to three and then 1 in both the A&M and Tennessee games. It jumped to 4 against Florida, 3 vs LSU, 2 against Missouri and 3 against Alabama.

Will those numbers get better this fall? I think so. The key is not to end up second and long. I think you’ll see Arkansas run the ball a lot on first down. Second and four gives you more options. With a better run game you lessen the chances of a three and out.

Q. LZH says: As we get closer to fall camp, conditioning is going to continue to be a big deal. What coach had the best conditioned teams? Or, what team stands out to you as being in the best shape you’ve seen in Razorback uniforms?

A. I don’t think differences in conditioning vary a whole lot from team to team. A much bigger factor is depth. I don’t care how well conditioned a player is, at certain positions they need some time on the bench. D-line is the big one. If you want to put constant pressure on the quarterback you need depth. That was the issue last year. The entire defense started out like a house on fire last year but those starters wore down, especially on the D-line because they were on the field for too many snaps. That’s been a major emphasis in the off season. Develop more depth on the D-line.

Q. @mousetown wants to know: What’s the excuse for the way ESPN botched the naming of the Golden Spikes winner. There was a big build up but when it came time for the announcement it was like they shoved Kevin Kopps into the background.

A. That announcement was supposed to be a part of Baseball Tonight which was going to run before the Yankees and Red Sox game. That game got canceled because of COVID issues so ESPN ran SportsCenter instead. SportsCenter is about a lot more than just baseball so the producers that evening pushed the Golden Spikes announcement to the end of the program. That might not have been an issue but they wanted Kopps on camera when the announcement was made but they told him in advance so they could get him set up for that. It was done on campus and Hunter Yuracheck who was there thought it was being done live. It was actually taped to run later in SportsCenter. Yurachek tweeted out that he’d won. Hog fans were like, Are they not going to show the announcement? It was just one of those things that happened. Nothing intentional. The Yankees and Red Sox got canceled and things went from bad to worse after that.

Q T.L. Slaten on Facebook asks: How serious is the situation with Heston Kjerstad? I heard he’s got medical problems and hasn’t been able to workout or practice since he was drafted last year.

A. The Baltimore Orioles are being very cautious about what they’re saying about this situation. Kjerstad has Myocarditis which is an inflammation of the heart muscle that can cause an abnormal rhythm and can be a side effect of Covid-19. However, the Orioles did not indicate that Kjerstad had tested positive for the virus. He was placed on their camp reserve list last summer and spent several months recuperating. There was optimism that he could report for spring training but according to the team he had a setback and continues to sit out. The last statement put out by the Orioles was from General Manger Mike Elias about a month ago. He said Kjerstad might miss the entire baseball season. We’ll keep you updated as more information become available.

Q. Arkansas RedNeck says: I see where the kid from Oral Roberts went to Texas Tech. How much will that impact the basketball team this coming season?

A. Look, he’s really good and he’s versatile. He averaged almost 19 points per game and right at 10 rebounds. At 6-8, 225 he’s a physical power forward but he can also knock down the three ball. 46% from behind the arc. Are you kidding me? So yeah he would have made an already ridiculously talented Arkansas roster even better. But they’ve got some big guard/small forward types that are just as impressive. Stanley Umude, a grad transfer from South Dakota averaged almost 22 points per game and 7 boards a game and he’s three point shorter. Au’Diese Tony, he’s a senior transfer from Pitt. Another guard/forward type who averaged over 14 points per game and 6 rebounds. And then there’s Kamani Johnson, a 4th year junior who is more of an inside player. He averaged 11 points and 7 boards a game two years ago a Arkansas-Little Rock.

Throw in what’s coming back and Arkansas roster is stacked.

Q. Eddy Lynn asks: Did you see where Vanderbilt’s football players have no numbers. Is that some sort of politically correct nonsense that school is known for? How can they play without numbers?

A. They did that in the spring game and it was really confusing. Apparently the team’s new head coach, Clark Lea, wasn’t happy with the way some of his players were competing so he pulled all he numbers and told them they’d have to earn those numbers. It’s a coaching ploy that I’ve seen before. Who knows if it will work? As of right now on the team website they players still have no numbers but believe me they’ll have numbers by the season opener. They won’t be able to take the field without numbers.

Q. Armon Abbe says: I can’t stand the Longhorns and now they’ve given me another reason to hate them. I guess it’s going to be a penalty this season if opposing players flash the upside down hook ’em Horns sign in a game. What a bunch of crybabies.

A. That was announced at Big 12 Media Days last week. Big 12 Coordinator of Officials Greg Burks said if opponents flash that sign to a Texas player this season it will be a penalty. If they flash the fans it won’t. Look, this had to come from somebody in the athletic department at Texas. No way would the Big 12 make a rule like this unless there were complaints. It’s another reminder of what being in a conference with Texas is all about. They get their way. It’s one of the reasons why Arkansas left the SWC. I was talking to a Nebraska fan at the Fayetteville baseball regional. He said that’s why they left the Big 12. He said they might as well go ahead and rename the Big 12 the Big 1. It’s all about Texas and you’re right. They are crybabies. It will be interesting to see if if the Big 12 tries to enforce this rule in non-conference games. Like Arkansas-Texas coming up on September 11th. Not that it will matter because Sam Pittman doesn’t go in for that kind of stuff. I’m pretty sure he will tell his guys, No reverse Hook ’em.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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