PTN’s “Ask Mike” for July 6th

Pig Trail Nation

It is time once again for our weekly “Ask Mike” segment where our veteran analyst Mike Irwin answers your questions about Arkansas Athletics.

Q. Our first question comes from Razorback Redneck wants to know: Can you give is a COVID update as it applies to the team and the chances or not having a college football season.

A: There’s still no indication that I know of that players are getting sick. However this past week Kansas joined a small number of teams that have sent their players back home to isolate. I find that odd. Seems to me you’d want your players isolated close to the coaching staff where they can get excellent care from their staff of athletic trainers and doctors.

If I were their parents I would want them away from older family members. But because of this the Big 12 commissioner is now saying there is doubt that their teams will play this season. The word I’m hearing is the SEC plans to play. Even with no fans in the stands and even if its conference games only.

Governor Asa Hutchinson said that football is up to the people of Arkansas. If they wear masked in public and practice social distancing he thinks the COVID surge can head in the other direction. But if what we’re seeing now continues, there may not be football. I really think he was talking about high school football. I can’t imagine him canceling the Razorbacks season on his own.

However, I’m going to read something that was published last Friday:

Coronavirus deaths in the country have nearly reached a level where the virus will cease to qualify as an epidemic under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules, the federal agency reported on Friday:.

The CDC qualifies a disease outbreak as an “epidemic” if the number of deaths attributable to the disease exceeds a certain percentage of total deaths per week. That threshold for pneumonia, influenza and COVID-19 fluctuates slightly depending on the time of year, ranging from around 7% at the height of flu season to around 5% during less virulent months. The latest data show that the percentage of deaths in the country attributable to those factors… had as of the last week in June…. reached its lowest point since the end of last year, becoming “equal to the [current] epidemic threshold of 5.9%,” the CDC said.

Let this sink in. New York had a little over 400 new cases in a single day on Friday and 43 deaths. Florida had 13,000 new cases but just 34 deaths. This spike in cases comes at a time when a much higher percentage of those who test positive are not getting seriously ill than during the months of March and April. There is also increasing evidence to suggest that the real key is to get treatment from doctors as soon as you show symptoms. First get tested. If you test positive they have early treatments that greatly reduce the severity of those symptoms. There’s a lot of good news out there if you look.

Q. “robs4516” says: In discussing Coach Morris’ coordinators during last week’s Ask Mike, you brought up that John Chavis had a reputation of employing attacking defenses, however he failed to do that during his time at AR. The reasons that come to my mind are that 1) he was directed to scheme in that manner by the head coach, 2) he felt he didn’t have the talent/depth to be successful using said scheme, or 3) he really thought it was time to change his approach. Thoughts?

A. Since I was never in meetings between the two men I can’t say what effect Morris had but I was told several times that Chavis was worried that his secondary was not fast enough or experienced enough to handle the issues that can be created by heavy blitzing. The problem with that thinking is that the secondary was getting beat without safety, corner or linebacker blitzes. Also Arkansas employed five D-backs most of the time so it’s hard to understand why he wasn’t more aggressive. What ever the reason the longer he was at Arkansas the more passive or reactive his defense became. At some point his players lost faith in him which is the worst thing that can happen to a coach and his players.

Q. Lanny asks: After watching Eddie on Espn, can you share some insights about Eddie the fans didn’t know. I remember myself being royally upset when Eddie Sutton said he would crawl to Kentucky. That one statement upset alot of Razorback fans.

A. If you’ve ever been close to an alcoholic Eddie Sutton’s story is very familiar. He became a different person when he was drinking heavily. The first few years that I covered him he was one of he most impressive coaches I’d ever been around. But after his third season when Arkansas went 26-1 and he 78 Final Four team Eddie Sutton became a rock star in this state. The movers and shakers…especially in central Arkansas…wanted him at their parties. That’s when the trouble started. It not only affected him, as we saw in the documentary, it affected his family. The problem got worse after he went to Kentucky. The irony is he got sober after his second season there but ended up leaving because of a recruiting scandal that I’m convinced was the fault of boosters, not Eddie Sutton. Nonetheless he had a great second career at Oklahoma State and would have retired with no issues had he not gone back to drinking late in his time there. He was involved n a DUI car wreck and that was it. But here’s the thing. Arkansas fans and OSU fans forgave him for that because they understood the demon he was battling. I don’t think Kentucky fans ever did. They just looked at it as he messed with out basketball program and nobody does that. By saying in that documentary that leaving Arkansas was the worst mistake he ever made he gained back a lot fans that were still mad about that crawl to Kentucky statement. He never meant that. He was just too proud at the time to admit that he needed help. So he preferred that everybody believe that he left for Kentucky because it was a better job. In his mind it wasn’t.

Q. HangTenHog says: In our storied 1977 season, things fell into place (with the exception of the TX game). This question is about Broyles—how did he and Lou get along that season? Did Broyles, since it was the team he recruited, try to influence how Lou coached? I’ve often wondered how the AD felt with someone else getting the accolades (and the national coverage to go with it) and whether he felt that he could have done it himself if he hadn’t retired?

A. One of the biggest myths about Frank Broyles is that he was jealous of the success of coaches that came after him, I knew that man. It’s a stupid argument. He hired those coaches. Running the entire athletic department was his thing and he wasted Arkansas to be the best in every sport. That’s why they all got top facilities. Frank had no problems with Lou until about the 3rd year. That’s when Lou started getting crossways with a lot of the bigger boosters. I sat outside Frank’s office one day and listened to him try to calm down a booster that Lou had insulted. That situation got worse as time went by. Lou may have looked like a funny guy on his TV show but working around him for six years to me he was about as funny as a heart attack. The common theory about Lou is that he didn’t get enough sleep at night and it made him always on edge. Maybe. I always thought it was because Lou cut his teeth in coaching under Woody Hayes at Ohio State and Woody was really hard to get along with. Frank was all about pleasing the fans. They were the customers. he and his coaches and players were the employees. When it became obvious to Frank that Lou’s behavior wasn’t going to change he fired him.

Q. Mike_e wants to know: Does this staff anticipate running simultaneous practices for the different teams? ie 1st team, 2nd team, etc. I felt that this was a good effort in getting non-starters reps last year to gain depth but I also realize that spreading out the staff didn’t seem very successful judging by results. Also, how many of the foundational concepts from last year are the same? Does coach Briles’ offense rely on going to a precise spot or athletes making plays in an defined area?

A. These are good questions but as far as I know Sam Pittman has not been asked about any of this. The next time we have a Zoom with him I’ll try to remember to ask. We’re all going to start learning a lot about Briles’s system in just a few weeks. Be patient.

Q. WhenPigsFly says: Eric Musselman seems to be the total package as a basketball coach: Fans love him. Great x’s and o’s guy. Seems to be a good recruiter. Probably ahead of the curve on taking transfers. Why didn’t a major basketball school grab him up before we did? Was he perceived as mainly an “NBA guy”?

A. I think it was where he was coaching. Schools out west, unless they have big names like UCLA, sometimes get lost in the shuffle and so do their coaches. Let’s just say that coach Muss was flying under the radar screen. This fan base owes a huge debt of gratitude to Frank Noland, Connor Noland’s dad. he was living in Reno Nevada and knew coach Muss. As I understand it Musselman approached him. Noland then contacted a booster friend here in Arkansas named Mike Cormack and Cormack got the word to Hunter Yurachek. By the time Yurachek called Musselman he done his homework on the job which impressed Yurachek.

Q. Sed76 wants to know: If there had not been all the behind the scenes drama how do you think Mitch Mustain’s Razorback career would have went? I know quite a few fans don’t think he was all that good but I saw flashes of greatness during that winning streak with him as a starter.

A. Arkansas won 8 games with Mustain as the starter. A lot of that had to do with its running game. Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis were hard to stop. But Mustain had is moments too. In his second start on he road at Vanderbilt, the commodores gamer plan was to over play the running game and force this freshman QB to beat them with is arm, And he did. Those three running back barely had 100 yards rushing combined, But Mustain had a big day throwing to Marcus Monk and Ben Cleveland. Mustain also threw an early TD pass against number two Auburn in the face of a heavy blitz. D-Mac Had a huge day rushing but the first TD got Arkansas going. Mustain is still the last Arkansas QB t beat Alabama. Once again he defense targeted him and he didn’t have a good game except that he threw the winning TD pass in OT to Cleveland. So he definitely had some flashes of greatness as you put it. What a loot of people don’t’ know is that Mustain wanted to redshirt that year. He felt like he needed a year to adjust to the college game. If he had reshirted he would have not been in the middle of all that political stuff that happened. Basically that kid was a huge Razorback fan. The highest rated recruit from the state of Arkansas ever. The high school player of the year by Parade Magazine, USDA Today, Gatorade and he Atlanta TD Club. This state should have been proud of him. Instead he was accused of things he had nothing to do with and by he time he made the decision to leave he was totally burned out on his homestate and football. These days he lives in Arizona and only comes back occasionally to see his family which all lives in Arkansas. Gus Malzahn has offered to get him into college coaching but he said no, The last time I heard he was selling computer systems.

Q. Hogfanrjh says: The men’s basketball team has a strong possibility of having 5 native Arkansans on the court at the same time this upcoming year as we have 8 guys (assuming Joe comes back) who grew up in the natural state. How likely do you think we could actually see all “Arkansan” line up next season? I’m sure this has happened in the past, but any teams come to mind with a strong Arkansas presence, the triplets come to mind for me.

A I do think at times there will be five Arkansas kids on the floor at the same time. As for that being the permanent starting lineup I can’t say. There have certainly been other Arkansas teams in the past with a strong Arkansas high school presence but none with the potential of this one. If should be a season to remember.

Q.ReddieHog19 asks: What are your realistic expectations for this football and basketball season?

A. If the football team plays a full schedule I think five wins is doable. If its conference games only maybe two. Basketball, 25 wins I think is a realistic goal. I think they’ll make the NCAA Tournament and win a game or two. Two wins gets you to the Sweet 16. That would be great. You have to go all the way back to Nolan for that.

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