PTN’s “Ask Mike” February 24th

Pig Trail Nation

Our first question is from Hogapalooza who asks: *Since you’ve covered DVH from day 1 as the Razorback Baseball HC. What are the biggest and most profound changes that you see in him w/ handling his team, recruiting, and talking to the media?

His recruiting is better. He’s less defensive with the media. He’s changed a lot with the way he handles his players and he admits it. He’s more laid back. A lot less likely to tear into them… especially in those outfield meetings after a loss. All of those changes appear to be positive since his program is top 10, top 5 these days.

Our next question is from Lanny who wants to know: Would you compare Musselman’s style to Eddie Sutton , Nolan or Mike Anderson? Also next season, what players are you expecting back to compliment the freshman?

No question it’s Eddie Sutton in terms of the man defense he plays almost exculsively. Also Sutton was really into pre game prep for each opponent but as we’ve seen Musselman takes that to another level. He’s like a football coach for basketball. Now….I expect to see Mason Jones, Isaiah Joe, Desi Sills and Reggie Chaney back plus guys like Connor Vanover and JD Notae who are sitting out this season.

Hoggle says: Everybody loves Sam Pittman. However, it seems like the great coaches aren’t necessarily “loved” – they are respected and maybe even a little feared. Does Pittman have another side than “lovable Sam”?

Sure. Ask some of the O-lineman who played for him here. They’ll tell you that he’s fully capable of jumping into your stuff if you’re not doing things right. Not sure yet how much of a tough guy he is around his staff but his assistant coaches were highly complimentary of him as a boss when we talked to them right after signing day. Truthfully it’s the position coaches who have to get onto the players most of the time. Frank Broyles…the best football coach ever at Arkansas almost never chewed players out. He had Wilson Mathews for that. Having seen Pitman’s assistants….I don’t think they’ll have any problem being respected. The early word from the players is that this staff is night and day different from the previous one… including the head coach. It was some of those same players who said after Chad Morris was fired that there wasn’t enough accountablity demanded by the coaches. Players like to be pushed as long at it doesn’t go over the top. It’s part of the process of getting better.

EngrHog is up next. He wants to know: Have you heard any details on what level of media access the new football staff will provide at practices, etc? What is your opinion on the trend of less media access? I hear a lot of discussion on how opening things up would allow the fan base to get to know the players better.

Not sure about how Pittman will handle media access in the fall but the word is… spring football practices will be a lot more open than we’ve seen the past two season. Look, the spring is a good time to use practices to generate interest in the program when you don’t have games to keep fans tuned in. I’ve heard that some of the spring scrimmages will be open to the fans. For many years that was the way things were done around here. In fact, Frank Broyles, Lou Holtz and Ken Hatfield allowed the media total access to their practices…even during the season. We started losing access in Houston Nutt’s last few years. I think that was starting to happen at a lot of places. But Chad Morris was the most restrictive coach I’ve been around. I’m convinced that he wanted as little of his team on view as possible because the coaching was a mess. Unfortunately for Morris, he couldn’t keep the actual games under wraps. At any rate I think we’re all going to enjoy spring football this year….which is coming up in about three weeks.

HotlantaHog says: I hear lots of buzz about Connor Vanover, obviously because the Hogs can use a big man. Why did he leave Cal and is he likely to start at Arkansas next year? Do you hear anything about how he is doing in practice?

Let’s start with why he was at Cal to begin with. Mike Anderson didn’t recruit him. So when Eric Musselman took over Vanover contacted him and coach Muss said, “Sure, I can use a seven foot… three inch guy that can shoot three pointers.” Vanover is not a conventional big man in terms of battling on the boards. Clogging up the middle. Power moves to the basket. He’s a shooter and a good one. Not only will he add a scoring punch but opponents are going to have to bring one of their bigs out away from the basket to cover him. That will open things up for Arkansas’ other big men and also the guards. I haven’t heard anything about him being a starter or coming off the bench. My guess is he will do some of both since coach Muss likes to juggle his starting lineups. Clearly they would like for him to get stronger while he’s sitting out. He was about 230 last fall. Just eyeballing him he doesn’t look like he’s bulked up much. Maybe by next fall he will have added 10 or 15 pounds.

Jumpty asks: Do you know why Reggie Chaney did not start or really play much against Florida? He has been playing really well lately. Was it a discipline issue? Or matchup?

He was playing more during that stretch when Isaiah Joe was out because Coach Muss tinkered with a 3 guards… two forwards line up. He had some good games offensively but the defense lacked quickness with two forwards. I also think Musselman wants more consistency from Chaney. He’s got more skills than he’s showing. We see flashes of it but he makes too many mistakes. Like coming off the bench early in the Missouri game on Saturday and throwing the ball away. We’re not talking about a discipline problem. I think its more about confidence and concentration. I think he’s making progress. It might be next year before he kicks into gear with some consistency. I think it will help him to have a couple of other bigs to work alongside of next year. 6-9 and 6-10 forwards that will draw defenders away from him. Make him more of a threat.

Jumpty with another question: Have you heard anything about the Morris assistants? I know a few of them landed jobs but most are unemployed. Does that speak to their coaching ability?

Joe Craddock…. Arkansas former offensive coordinator….landed a job at UAB last month as that school’s tight ends coach. John Chavis…Chad Morris’ defensive coordinator….was the subject of a rumor back in December that he was going to be the new defensive coordinator at Tulane. That never happened. Jack Curtis is still their DC and Chavis is not listed at any other position on Tulane’s staff. Until I hear different I’m assuming he retired. Dustin Fry.,,the former O-line coach here…his Wikipedia page has not been updated. Wikipedia is not always accurate but if he landed another coaching job it would probably be indicated there. Steve Caldwell….the former D-Line coach is at Tennessee working for AD Phil Fullmer. Caldwell has coached under Fullmer in the past. Jeff Traylor….Arkansas former running back coach…is the head coach at UT San Antonio. Barry Lunney Jr…..who played at Arkansas and coached tight ends for Brett Bielema and Chad Morris…is the associate head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Texas San Antonio. As for the rest…getting fired is a way of life for coaches especially on the college level. Your boss gets it you’re probably gone too. It’s not always the stigma that some think. But with this staff some of them might have to change careers.

Cave City Joe says: Counting recruits, grad transfers and walk-ons we have 35 new players coming in for 2020. How many do you think will actually get some playing time and do you think any will start besides the new kicker.

I think all five grad transfers will play. I’d be shocked if Phelipe Franks doesn’t start at quarterback. The same for Xavier Kelly, the D-Tackle transfer from Clemson. OU transfer Levi Draper…a linebacker…. has a shot at starting.The same for former Arkansas State defensive back Jerry Jacobs. As for the freshmen…. most will redshirt and that means playing some because of the four games that redshirts are allowed these days. Now….a lot of true freshmen have played over the past two years and most are good players so …to me… that will decrease the number of freshmen in the 2020 class that will play beyond redshirting. There might be four or five that the new staff decides to play this fall.

Iwastherein1969 is a track fan. He says: The men’s track and field program has taken a nose dive. Arkansas used to pull off the Triple Crown in collegiate track winning the 3 National Championships in one season. Now we can’t even win the SEC. The huge drop in status is based on what problem,?

Recruiting is a big part of it but I also think the winning culture than was at one time fueled by upperclassmen is not what it was. There were teams under John Mc Donnell that won national titles,…when they weren’t supposed to…. because the athletes just refused to let another team beat them. I also think John did a much better job of getting guys than can score big in multiple events than what we see today. I said many times back when John was coaching that I would not want to be the man who replaced him. Its never easy to take over from a legend. Now McDonnell retired in part because he felt disrespected by the AD at the time….Jeff Long. McDonnell did recommend his top assistant….Dick Booth…. for the job. Long ignored that sugggestion.. The coach Long hired…Chris Bucknam…. did a good job for a while. His teams won one national championship…were at the top or near the top in the SEC for a few years…. But the drop off lately…as you mentioned…has been noticable. Hunter Yuracheck is not the kind of AD to accept something like that. There are rumors that Bucknam is either going to retire or be replaced. But I’ve heard nothing firm on that. To My knowledge Yuracheck has not commented on the Men’s track situation.

UAGolfer1981 wants to know: Do you view the NCAA D1 Transfer Waiver Expansion as a plus or negative for our beloved Arkansas Razorbacks?

Well it has to be approved first but I think it will help all schools in certain situations and it’s going to hurt in some cases. Basically we’re talking about making it easier for a kid who… for whatever reason… wants to leave his school and find a new home…. because with that first transfer… he won’t have to sit out. a year. It also puts coaches who are in need of a specific kind of player in a position to be on the lookout for such a player and solve a problem immediately. As far as how it would affect Arkansas right now…it might help for a year or two while Pittman is trying to build up the quality of his roster. I don’t think it will hurt Arkansas much. Not as long as Pittman is the head coach. He’s fair. He’s a players coach. A guy you can talk to if you have an issue. Long term I’d say this rule change would help Arkansas more than it will hurt under this head coach.

parallaxpig asks: Do you think the new transfer rule will cause the smaller schools to become a farm system for the power five schools?

That’s a great question. With JUCO’s we see kids who have D-1 talent but not the grades use that route to eventually gain entrance to the D-1 level. And sometimes a transfer will do that. Like Rakeem Boyd going from A&M, to a JUCO to Arkansas. But now that process could help a kid that is a no star or a low star out of high school….to develop and blossom at a low major..maybe even an FCS school…. and then end up at a good power five school via a transfer.

I wouldn’t use the term “farm system” but I do think the proposed rule change would give coaches at power 5 schools another avenue to explore for recruiting purposes.

Sed76 wants to know: What do you think it will take to finally get over the hump in Arlington and finally win one of those nail biter games against Texas A&M? It’s almost comical how many ways the Hogs have found to lose that game the past 8 years. That’s the game I want to win more than any other.

It will take better recruiting, better coaching and some good luck to replace some of the bad luck we’ve all seen during that streak. I think Sam Pittman and his staff will break that streak sooner than later because they are good coaches and because the Aggies are due for some bad bounces of their own that game.

#hammerdown asks: Who on the baseball team do you predict will have the highest batting average? Who do you predict will have the most home runs?

I’ll go with Heston Kjerstad for home runs but Casey Martin and Breydon Webb also might do it. Top batting average? Kjerstad, Webb & Matt Goodheart could all be in the mix. But watch out for 17 year old freshman Robert Moore. After struggling a bit in the opening Moore bounced back with a vengence against Gonzaga. I’ve been told all along he can really hit even though his defense that’s been eye opener since the team’s first preseason workout in mid January.

Cowhog32 with a basketball question: What are you hearing about Baybe in practice and is he someone who is going to be able to contribute next year or is he just a practice body? Is he athletic or just a big body?

Okay baybe is the nickname for a young man who’s name is a-BAH-yum-Mee . EE-EE-oh-la . He’s a 6-9, 210 pound junior transfer from Stetson. I’m told he’s probably not a starter but will come off the bench next year.

Hawgphat wants to know: Is there any conceivable way in which Sam Pittman & Company can still sign RB Ebony Jackson?

The signing of Clemson grad transfer Xavier Kelly put Arkansas at its limit of 25 signees for the 2020 class. The only way they could sign Jackson or anybody else in this class would be if somebody currently signed was not eligible to enroll.

PorkSoda asks: With Isaiah Joe out, the basketball team has been struggling. What qualities that Isaiah Joe brings do you think the team is missing most?

This question was obviously posted last week before the Missouri game because we all saw the answer to that question last Saturday when Isaiah Joe came back after sitting out five games. Arkansas had lost all five of those games and….surprise surprise….the streak ended. So what did Joe bring to the table? 21 points to begin with. But having him on the floor changed the the way Missouri played defense. They were chasing Joe around on the perimeter trying to keep him from dropping in threes and while that was happening things opened up more for Jimmy Whitt Jr. to shoot his midrange jumper. He shot 50% from the floor and scored 14 points. And in trying to keep Joe from hitting a lot of threes, Missouri didn’t defend Desi Sills very well. He went 4 of 6 on three pointers and 6 of 8 on two pointers and oh…. by the way….after a slow start Joe ended up connecting on 6 threes. Joe also helped Arkansas play better defense without fouling as much. Missouri shot 44 free throws in their first game against Arkansas but just 20 on Saturday. Joe also had 3 assists and one steal. So the difference he made was dramatic.

Our final question comes from ARK Redneck who says: You said the Gonzaga series will tell us a lot more about the baseball team than the openingf series with Eastern Illinois. What more did you learn about this team over the long weekend?

The first thing we learned is that freshman Robert Moore is a lot more than just a great 2nd baseman. I guess he just needed a little time to adjust to college pitching because he went off against Gonzaga. Moore entered the series batting like .140. He’s now hitting close to .400.

The next thing we saw is that the Friday and Saturday starters…Connor Nolan and Patrick Wicklander…. are each 2-0. Wicklander has an ERA of zero. Noland is at 1.42 And the bullpen was good through the entire a four game stretch. The team ERA is just a little over 2.

At the plate Arkansas has a team batting average of .314. They’ve hit 11 home runs in 7 games. The defense was very good except for Casey Martin who is still struggling at times at shortstop. He made an unassisted double play to get Arkansas out of trouble early on in the Sunday game. But then he made a couple of errors that led to unearned runs later on. He just gets ahead of himself at times. But things are looking good heading into this weekend at Minutemaid Park in Houston. We’ll learn even more about this team because Arkansas will face Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor. OU is 7-2. The Sooners’ losses are to Virginia and Illinois State. The Longhorns are 8-0 with good hitting and good pitching. Might get a break with Baylor. The Bears are off to a 4-3 start. They lost two of three to ORU over the weekend. This note: These three games are not on regular TV or the ESPN APP on your computer. Astros dot com is where you’ll need to go on your computer .

Now …this invitation. Join our list of Hog fans asking questions here. Go to hogville.net on your computer. Sign up for Hogville which gets you free access to one of the largest fan boards in college athletics. You’ll get a user name and a password.Then you can then go to the Ask Mike forum and post your question.

That’s it for now. See you again next Monday.

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