Q: Let’s begin with our weekly COVID update.
A. Six SEC games were played last week. Arkansas and Missouri was the only game that was postponed. Arkansas fell below the minimum number of available players so Missouri played Vanderbilt. Arkansas and Missouri will play this Saturday and hopefully the Hogs will complete their schedule by playing Alabama on the 12th of December. An announcement from the SEC on the full December 12th schedule of games will come this Friday. Sam Pittman said on Monday that Arkansas’ Sunday COVID tests came out great and that, as of now, he expects his team to be close to full strength on Saturday.
The SEC basketball season started last week. Three teams had to delay the start of their season because of COVID. Florida, Ole Miss and Tennessee are on hold. The Arkansas men played twice. Won both games and are currently atop the SEC standing as the only unbeaten conference team. The Arkansas women are 3-1.
I’m concerned about the ability to play a complete SEC season. Right now basketball doesn’t have the wiggle room in its schedule for postponing and playing games later that football has had. It might become necessary to move the conference tournament back and move the NCAA tournament back a week to two as well. We’ll see.
Q. Our first question is from Austin.hogfan who says: Assuming we get our players back from Covid and injuries, and with the way the LSU game went, I see this Hog team fired up and playing its best game of the year and beating Missouri handily. Tell me why I am wrong.
A. The “beating Missouri handily part may be where you’re wrong. Missouri has been getting better and better each week. They are at full strength for the first time this season. They’re coming off a 41-0 blowout of Vanderbilt which got Derek Mason fired. I’m not saying Arkansas can’t win but it will take a complete game to do it. The run game can’t be like it was against LSU. The receivers are going to have to do a better job of getting open. It will be a real challenge.
Q: swmohogfan says; I hope both of the coordinators stay but I’m sure they will get some interest for other jobs. If Odom takes a HC job, who do see as some potential candidates?
A. Barry Odom has already been mentioned in connection with the Vanderbilt job. I don’t think he’ll take it. Vandy is a graveyard for head coaches. Odom’s resume reads too much like Will Muschamp’s for South Carolina to go after him. Great defensive coordinator. Got fired as a head coach. If Odom were to leave Muschamp is available and. Derek Mason is also a former defensive coordinator with a good reputation who might get a look. At Sanford he was a finalist for the Broyles award as the top assistant coach in the nation. But I don’t think Odom is leaving.
Q. MuskogeeHogFan asks: Should the SEC Review Team be involved only when asked for a “further review” of a play by either the on-field officiating crew or one of the teams playing? Or should they be able to insert themselves into any play on the field in the absence of a request from field-level?
A. Theoretically they can get involved in any review but I don’t think they’re doing it often enough. Not in the booth and not back in Birmingham. They seemed to be very reluctant to reverse a ruling on the field. This whole process needs to be reviewed and the end of the season. The various AD’s should demand it. The process is broken as far as I’m concerned. It’s not much better than no review at all.
Q: ReddieHog19 says: I heard this past weekend that Houston Nutt was originally supposed to take over for Frank Broyles as AD before him and Broyles had their falling out. Is this true?
A. The story is a lot more complicated than that. The plan was devised by some boosters who were afraid that Chancellor John White was going to force Broyles to retire. They were afraid f that happened White would hire an outsider who knew nothing about Arkansas traditions and would be out to remake the entire athletic department. Ironically that’s exactly what happened. Their plan was to bring in Gus Malzahn as offensive coordinator. Let Arkansas have a few really good seasons and then convince Nutt to become the AD with Broyles staying on as AD emeritus to help Nutt out for a few years. They believed that Nutt had the ability to unite Hogs fans like Broyles had done for years. The problem with the plan was that they never discussed it with Nutt or Broyles. They were hoping to do it at the appropriate time. Nutt did find out about it and wanted no part of it. I think that’s the big reason why he had issues with Malzahn who I think did know about the plan. I’m not sure if Frank knew about it but he did eventually turn on Malzahn and he was actually supportive of Nutt when John White finally did force Frank to retire.
Q: Gotdatwood wants to know: What did you think of Brandon Allen’s performance as the starting quarterback for the Bengals?
A; He was 17 of 29 passing for 136 yards and a touchdown with one pick. He was sacked twice. He did get ’em in a position to have a chance to win late but he was sacked and fumbled. That was it. It was a very difficult spot to be in. As a practice squad player he was also kept separated from the other quarterbacks just in case they needed him in a COVID situation. That wasn’t the reason he got the start. He beat out the backup when Joe Burrow was lost for the year. But that’s not the way you prepare a quarterback to be ready to start a game. The good news is, he gets another start this weekend against the Dolphins. After the game he said learned from that game and will do a better job this weekend. Good luck to Brandon.
Q. Lanny asks: Do you think Pittman will be SEC coach of the year?
A. He’s got a shot at it. Arkansas needs to beat Missouri and at least play Alabama a decent game. It’s a bit of an uphill fight to do both but we’ll see,
Q: FredHogfan says: I know that COVID has affected the players, coaches and fans. How has it changed the media’s job?
A. It’s a mixture of good and bad. It has eliminated travel time to and from press conferences and games for a lot of us. The press box at football and press row for basketball is severely restricted. A lot of us in our office or in our homes interview coaches and players through Zoom. That part of it is convenient and saves time. But it’s also eliminated any in-person contact with coaches and players. I haven’t seen Sam Pittman in person in over eight months. Sometimes the job doesn’t seem real. It’s like a video game. Virtual reporting. I’m more ready for this stuff to end.
Q. CowHog32 wants to know: What is up with the horrible camera angle at Missouri home games? I’ve noticed this for years and can hardly watch their home games because of it. I watch livestream high school football games with better camera set ups. Can the SEC not do something about this?
A. The photo deck at Mizzou’s stadium sits at a weird angle. Their whole set up is odd. A press box that is separated into small sections. The entire stadium sits at the bottom of a ravine. Fans have to walk down to get in there and walk back up out of the ravine to get back to their cars. Missouri is flat odd to me. Seems more like a Big 10 school to me. I’m glad I’m not making the trip there on Saturday. As for the camera angle, good luck with that. My guess is it would take too much money to create a camera platform at the right angle and the SEC is not going to force the issue.
Q. Tusked asks: Do you think Chad Morris will go after the Vanderbilt job?
A. If Gus fires him he’d probably look at it but I don’t think Mizzou will go in that direction. They will probably try to hire a coach who has won at a non power five school. Interestingly Bret Bielema has apparently had several interviews. Southern Miss is a school that had been mentioned. I would think Vandy would look at Bielema before somebody like Chad Morris but I doubt Vandy is gonna get an upgrade over Derek Mason. He really did a decent job there considering the school. Took ’em to two bowl games. Beat Tennessee three years in a row. But losing 12 straight doomed him. Vandy is a private school and they don’t release details of contracts so nobody seems to know what kind of buyout he’s getting but it’s probably not huge. I really think there will be fewer coaches fired this year because of revenue shortfalls. Most school cannot afford to shell out buyout money right now which really makes what South Carolina did seem almost irresponsible. They’re gonna have to pay Muschamp over 13 million dollars minus what ever he makes if he takes another job.
Q. Okay, now for some basketball questions. Arkansas Redneck wants to know: What is the biggest surprise so far in the first two games?
A. No question. It’s Connor Vanover. In game one, a high scoring contest, he lit up the scoreboard. Eight of 11 from the floor. Four of five from three point range. Scored 23 points. Against North Texas, in a defensive battle, he came up big defensively with 16 rebounds and six blocked shots. He’s a much more complete player than he was when he got here. Eric Musselman really made the most of Vanover’s redshirt year. And Look, he lost practice time in the offseason due to an illness. He’s got the better part of three seasons left here. He’s really gonna help this basketball team for a long time.
Q. greenEGnHAWGS asks: Has there been a year that has had such a huge roster turnover for the Razorbacks? Outside of Sills, I struggle identifying who is who sometimes.
Can Coach Muss keep all those guys happy?
A. Well there’s no dead weight on this team and there is speculation if he goes with seven or eight players most nights he’s going to lose some of these guys at the end of the season. I think that’s wrong. Different player will have a bigger role in different games. I think he used just eight players against North Texas because of the defense that needed to be played. Also if this is a normal season players are going to be sidelined with injuries or maybe COVID. That deep deep bench is gonna come in handy this season. Fans need to let the season play out more before they start speculating about who is not playing.
Q. Here’s a baseball question. ladybackfan wants to know: Have you heard anything about attendance for baseball this year? Do you think they will reduce it because of Corona.
A. It’s too early for that. I wouldn’t expect anything on baseball seating until January. But until we get widespread use of the various vaccines I don’t expect the great reduced attendance we’ve seen for football and basketball to change. For what I’m reading the two of the vaccines will start being distributed in a couple of weeks but it might be summer before it’s available to anybody that wants it. Nothing has been said about this but I would not be surprised if poof of vaccination doesn’t become mandatory if you want to attend an athletic even where the size of the crowd is not restricted.