Q: Let’s begin with our weekly COVID update.
A. Not a big change from last week. It looks like Florida will be back playing this weekend after sitting out the last two weeks. Their game with LSU was postponed two Saturday’s ago and reset for December 12th. Their game with Missouri was replaced by Kentucky vs Missouri this past Saturday with the Florida- Missouri game slated for this weekend. Also Florida coach Dan Mullen is back after testing positive for COVID and being quarantined. He said today that his symptoms were mild.
Vanderbilt’s game against Ole Miss on Saturday is still up in the air. They haven’t played in two weeks. One game was postponed to December 12. The Missouri game was moved to this Saturday. If that game gets postponed it’s going to take some really creative scheduling to get it played. I haven’t seen any announcement for them today.
Looking head to basketball season, with COVID back on the rise in many states some think basketball is in doubt but others say with only 13 scholarships and most players on campuses since the middle of last summer a lot of players have already tested positive and are long since out of quarantine so the playing of basketball is not in question. It’s the fans that may not be there with projections of COID case going back up in the winter months. That would be a big financial blow to a lot of schools who are desperate for normal live gate revenues. It looks like a vaccine may be the only hope for that.
Some conferences are pushing for a football model of conference games only.
Q. Okay, our first question this week comes from GrandyHog who asks: What makes you think Arkansas would be treated better in the Big 12 than the Southeastern Conference? I remember the Razorbacks were treated poorly by the Southwest Conference with deference given to the University of Texas.
A. If you watched last week I said that Arkansas is not leaving the SEC and most Hog fans don’t what that anyway. The real answer is to get better and you will get more respect. But I will continue to speak out on the fact that schools don’t get equal treatment in this league and the influence in Birmingham, where the SEC office is located, is skewed toward Alabama and to a lesser extent Auburn. You mentioned Texas. Yes, in the SWC Texas got what it wanted. But in the SEC there are four of five schools with that kind of clout. This is not going to change unless the commissioner changes his attitude or there’s a new commissioner. That’s not likely going to change.
Q: hobhog says: It looks like we could have an impact in the SEC West but would it not be worth playing some of the backup QBs in meaningful games to prepare for next years more “normal” schedule? Franks most likely gone, so going into 2021 with inexperienced QB doesn’t excite me.
A. Unless Arkansas has some blowout games good or bad I don’t see that as practical. Sam Pittman even mentioned on Thursday that he didn’t use the open date week to get more reps for the guys who haven’t been playing this season.
Feleipe Franks is a level above the other quarterbacks. Coach Pittman is not going to jeopardize a possible win just to get a backup QB some experience. When it comes the QBs behind him I’m not too excited about them. It’s possible one of them could step up and be really good by next year. But we’ll see what the coaches do when the season is over and if Franks announces that he’s going pro. I made some people mad last week when I suggested that they might want to consider another grad transfer. Obviously what I say has nothing to do with that. Coach Pittman and coach Briles will decide when Franks announces what he’s going to do.
Q. EngrHog wants to know: How much do a team’s offensive and defensive coordinators typically communicate with each other? Could they help scheme for the opposing team by identifying their strengths and weaknesses? Curious if an experienced Odom could assist Briles as he continues to develop the offense.
A. I doubt there’s any of that during games but during the week in staff meetings? Sure. But for the most part I don’t think that Barry Odom is saying to Kendal Briles, ‘Let me help you kid. You could use it’. That would be insulting.
Q. Hawg in Ohio asks: I was wondering what happens if an SEC team misses 2 games like Florida? LSU, Vandy and Missouri have already missed one game with a make-up date set for Saturday December 12. Is there another week set aside for those unfortunate enough to miss 2 games?
A. If you need to reschedule a second game the SEC will reshuffle the schedule like with Florida this past weekend. As I mentioned they plugged in Kentucky to play Missouri last Saturday and rescheduled Florida and Missouri for this weekend. As a result of that other changes were made. The SEC office has gotten very creative so far, when needed.
Q. Porksoda wants to know: What is your favorite Pittman story?
A. It’s one he himself told in his first press conference. He was a high school player in Grove, Oklahoma. He’d always wanted to be a Razorback. Lou Holtz invited him over for a camp where he would evaluated by the coaching staff. The campers were staying on campus in a dorm. One night they decided to sneak
out and go to Dickson Street. They got caught and Lou kicked them out of the camp and sent them home.
He thought he’d blown his only chance to be a Razorback but as it turned out he got to be the O-line coach at Arkansas years later. He then blew that connection when he left for Georgia. He didn’t say it but it was over a dispute with Bret Bielema. But he got a third chance at being a Razorback when he became the head coach and he promised he’s not going to blow that one.
Q. oldfart says: I heard a comment after that fantastic catch of Burks that he had the biggest hands in college football. any idea what size they are?
A. He’s a ten and a half. That means it’s ten and a half inches from his thumb to his pinky. I believe he has the second biggest hands in the FBS. The third if he were in the NFL. The last I heard he’s wearing the biggest size glove made and it’s still too small.
Q. #hammerdown says: The Oline has improved considerably this year. Pass blocking is much better. However, it seems that we are still having trouble opening holes for the running game. What has to happen for the Oline to become much improved at run blocking? Is it a strength and weight issue or a technique issue?
A. It’s been forever since we got to talk to Kendal Briles so I would be interested in his take on your question. No question that some of it has been who they are playing. It’s still the toughest schedule in college football. Plus Georgia and Mississippi State, two teams that shut down Arkansas running game are both really good at stopping the run. This past week they had 150 yards rushing against Ole Miss which is not good at stopping the run. So again, I think it has more to do with who they are playing.
Q. Hawgphat wants to know: Do you perceive a possible danger of Hog fans getting too hyped with unrealistic expectations? Is it premature and without sufficient justification? I’m a bit leery of this tremendous burst of hope that is being exhibited. I share it; but it nibbles at me a bit.
A. I promise you, you’re not the only fan worried about this. It comes from all the disappointment of the previous four seasons and probably going back more, to that motorcycle accident.. When I look at the schedule ahead it seems like things change every week. Missouri is looking better and better and that’s a road game. With a new quarterback LSU looked like LSU again, just destroying a good South Carolina team on Saturday. The schedule is tough. Look at it this way, no matter what happens the rest of the way this coaching staff is clearly 180 degrees from the previous two. So enjoy the rest of the week. Don’t worry about it and just maybe that eight-game Aggie winning streak against the Hogs will be the next streak to be broken.
Q: ATLHogFan says: Field officials do the best they can – and we know their names, where they graduates, etc. What we don’t know is who reviews these calls. Given Aubie calls for two weeks – wouldn’t it make sense in the spirit of transparency to know who is making these review decisions and their resume?
A. I’m not sure it would. Emailing these people or calling them if you had their phone number probably wouldn’t change anything. Some think they’re protecting certain teams. Others think they are just covering for officials mistakes. And still others think that the review people are just making honest mistakes themselves. This whole Auburn thing is very strange. There were two possible fumbles late in the Ole Miss game. One was briefly reviewed. The other was never reviewed. The game was on the line. The people in the booth should have called for a review. Why didn’t they? Lane Kiffin went off on them. It will be interesting to see the SEC office’s comment on that.
Q. nc-hogg says: If I remember correctly Dennis Johnson was one heck of a blocker. I remember when a DE broke through the OL on his right side and he flipped the DE over his shoulder. Can’t remember which game but our RB’s need to learn to block like him.
A. It would be nice but Dennis Johnson was no ordinary running back. He was built like a tank. About as strong and as tough as they come. He reminds me of a guy I played with back in the stone age. Billy Jack was his name. He was Billy Jack before the movie Billy Jack. One day in practice he wasn’t his usual self. We found out later he had been stabbed in a fight the previous evening and eventually had to go to the hospital. But at practice he’d simply put some tape over his wound and dressed out. I’m not saying Dennis Johnson got into knife fights but there aren’t too many running backs who can flip a defensive end like that and Johnson did suffer a rupture in his small intestines in a game one time on a hard tackle and had to have surgery.
Q. nuttless hog asks: Is there one centralized replay booth in Birmingham that reviews all games or is there separate ones for games? Also is it the same officials week to week that’s making these bad decisions?
A. There is a booth at each game but there’s also replay room at the SEC office in Birmingham which is supposed to review any difficult or questionable calls. I did a check on the crew for the Auburn-Ole Miss game and the Auburn-Arkansas game. There was a completely separate crew for each game. Also the crew for the Arkansas-Auburn game sat out the next week. The SEC apparently didn’t call it a suspension. Those guys just sort of quietly got put into time out for a week.
Q. Austin hogfan says: So the Hogs open at 15 point underdogs. Before the past couple of games we probably would have been 28 point underdogs. I doubt we get as many turnovers though expect our defense to hold them to 31 points, but can our offense score 4 touchdowns?!
A. Four of the last eight Arkansas losses in this series were 7 points or less. Arkansas defense has a history of breaking down late in those games. I think it will be different this time. I think Barry Odom’s guys will go after Kellan Mond. Sack him. Force turnovers. The streak ends at eight games as Arkansas moves above .500 on the season at 3-2.
Q. Delta Boy wants to know: Can we expect to win 3 more games this season?
A. Before this past weekend I thought LSU and Missouri were winnable games. They still could be but Missouri has now won two straight. Beating both LSU and Kentucky. And LSU just slaughtered South Carolina behind a new quarterback after South Carolina had knocked off Auburn. So those game will be tough. The key is beating A&M this weekend. I think it will be hard to get three more wins without winning that game.