Q. Okay let’s start things off with our weekly Covid-19 update.
A.The big change in the last week is the arrival on campus’ around the country of students for in-person classes. The first time we’ve had this since on a large scale since the shut down last March. Last week we talked about outbreaks among the student population at some schools and on some of the football teams. North Carolina quickly went to online classes only sending their students back off campus. The football team did not shut down. Vanderbilt has temporarily shut down its practices .
We know that a few students have tested positive here at the University of Arkansas. Classes start today. That number is probably going to go up. We don’t have any numbers on the student athletes at Arkansas but Sam Pittman indicated last Friday on the SEC Network that he’s already been planning for what he will do if there is an outbreak among his players. SEC teams are now testing three times a week so with that number he will quarantine any player that tests positive and keep on practicing. His coaches are working all of the 3rd and 4th string players with the idea that they might be needed if starters or backups test positive at any particular position. In other words, unless there were a major outbreak, Arkansas will keep on practicing and playing even with a manageable outbreak.
Full pads will go on starting today and Friday the team will have its first scrimmage. That’s where some have predicted the infections will occur. The players are wearing a new type mask that we talked about last week that will hopefully eliminate players breathing directly into teammate’s faces. But according to tracking data by the CDC infections are much less common outdoors and with three tests a week it would be rare for a player to make it on to the practice field with an undetected infection.
Q; Our first question this week comes from PorkSoda who asks: Are we gonna get some practice reports this year?
A. Absolutely. That started last week. So far we’ve had Zoom interviews with Sam Pittman, Rakeem Boyd, Bumper Pool, Busta Brown and Mike Woods. There will be more coming after today’s first practice. We were able to go to one practice last week. So there have been plenty of stories of the startup of August camp. However, get used to this. Because of COVID we’re probably not going to have the access we will have later on. I think most fans will understand that. All summer long and right up today the athletic department has been very helpful and cooperative with the media.
Q:BloodRedHog says: Winning four games in 2020 would be a home run for Coach Pittman.
If you could choose which four games the Hogs most likely win, what would they be?
A. Just a guess because until we start seeing games we’re not gonna know much about any SEC teams other than assumptions based on last year and what players are returning. I’d go with Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Missouri. Auburn is another possibility.
Q. porkbellys wants to know: Has anyone asked about the snap technique?
A, That’s one of the reasons I like this show. Fans always come up with a question we should have asked but haven’t. It was an issue last season. The next time we talk to coach Pittman we’ll ask but no that has not come up so far.
Q. hobhog says: Even if SEC and other conferences play football this fall, there is talk of granting an extra year of eligibility due to the Covid season being so uncertain/strange, and to keep teams from just playing players 4 games so they don’t burn a year. Shouldn’t this be determined before the first game is played?
A. It’s not talk. Last week the NCAA announced that all scholarship athletes will be granted an extra year even if they play or compete the entire season. If will be up to the coaches to determine what you’re asking but with Arkansas schedule containing almost no breaks and with the need to try to win as many games as possible I could see Sam Pittman having a hard time putting a true freshman into the game just to get them get experience under the red shirt rule. Now he wouldn’t have to. All true freshman will be true freshmen next year. But there’s a catch. If coaches go over the 85 scholarship limit how will their school pay for the extra scholarships? Money is going to be tight for while with the loss of ticket revenue. So honestly I don’t know how this is going to play out.
Q. WooooPig88 wants to know: We got that question last week and will probably get it a lot more. The answer is, only Eric Mussellman knows for sure. What we know is that he really likes it here. Like Nolan he could decide to stay even if he gets other offers. Or he might leave for and chance to coach at say Duke. On the other had who would want to follow coach K?
All I can say is it’s a nice problem to have and if coach Muss builds Arkansas into a top 10, top 5 program Hunter Yurachek will have an easy time finding a replacement.. And by the way you better worry about Yurachek. He’s the guy who is making good hires these days. I was told last week by somebody close to what’s going on within the athletic department that Yurachek initally took this job as a step up with no plans to stay long term but that he’s changed his mind about that. If that’s true he’d join a list of coaches and at least one AD who got here and decided to stay. Frank Broyles, Norm Debriyn, John McDonnell, Dave Van Horn. Lance Harter. Even though he just got here I think you’d have to dynamite Sam Pittman out of Northwest Arkansas. A lot of successful people come in from the outside and decide to stay.
Q.peakhog wants to know: With the Transfer Portal becoming a normal staple in College sports, name a former Razorback (any sport) that transferred out and went on to have an outstanding career? Mine choice would be Byron Irvin in basketball.
A. That’s a good pick. Byron Irvin of course transferred to Missouri when Eddie Sutton left for Kentucky. He want on to play in the NBA. But as far as a more recent transfer that had a big effect on Arkansas how about Ty Storey? When he can back in as the quarterback for Western Kentucky and just made Arkansas look silly I really believe that’s when Hunter Yurachek said, Chad Morris has to go. Storey had not looked that good under Morris who brought in Ben Hicks and Nick Starkel to replace him. He transferred Both of those guys struggled and Storey looked like a different player when he came in to play against his former team. Hogs fans owe Ty Storey a huge favor.
Q. BloodRedHog asks: Assuming CBS wants one of the SEC favorites for the season opening Saturday, what are the chances Georgia-Arkansas makes the national 2:30 broadcast?
A. Hard to say. Other choices would be Alabama-Missouri, LSU vs Mississippi State, Florida at Ole Miss. A&M-Vanderbilt. Each of those games look to be mismatches.The hook for the Arkansas game would be Sam Pittman’s ties to Georgia. That’s a good story line. So the Hogs just might land the high profile afternoon spot on opening weekend . If it’s a competitive game that would be a great start to the Sam Pittman era.
Q.deltaboy wants to know: Do you feel stronger about QB Franks being the Starter after this first week of practice?
A. I do. I’ve felt all along that the only thing that would keep him from being the starter is if that ankle injury was causing a problem. Clearly it is not. I’ve been impressed with Franks since the 2018 season. He’s got a strong arm and unlike Arkansas main two QBs from last year, he can run which gives him options that they didn’t have. Do yourself a favor if your not familiar with what he did at Florida. There’s a lot of YouTube video of his games at Florida. Watch that stuff. Dan Mullen doesn’t put bad quarterbacks on the field.
Q. Jumpty asks: Aside from the politics and the Malzahn situation, what was the biggest issue that really held Houston Nutt back from being great? He had several good seasons, but never got Arkansas to be considered a top program in the country.
A. Some would say it was his infatuation with the running game to the detriment of the passing game which is odd since he was a passing quarterback himself. Others say his insistence on being his own offensive coordinator and play caller held him back. Frank Broyles believed that. Nutt always said that calling plays was the closest thing to being a player that a coach experiences. Maybe he was living out his frustrations of not being a top college quarterback and not making it to the NFL. Nutt was a very good high school player. Whatever the reason I always thought it was a mistake for Nutt to turn down the Nebraska job, I think the fans would have loved him there and he would have a great fit there with his love for the running game.
Q. Alabamahog says: I saw a comment from an unnamed SEC coach who stated quote: Kendal Briles is a strange hire. They don’t have the bodies to run that system and he’s had chemistry issues on other staffs. That hire told a lot of us that Sam wasn’t alone in making the decisions.” Any insight regarding this assertion?
A. I’m not a fan of articles that quote unnamed coaches. If you don’t know who said it or why, you have no perspective on its accuracy. It sounds like bunk to me. The idea that Hunter Yuachek would hire Sam Pitman and then try to pull the string on staff hires because Pittman has no experience as a major college head coach is not believable. Sounds like to me somebody was jealous of the staff that Pittman hired including Briles. As far as Briles being hard to deal with I guess we’ll see how it works out but I’ve heard nothing but good things coming out the BAC about Pittman and his staff.
Q. liljo wants to know: Have you heard any talk among the coaches yet about Trelon Smith? Just from the very brief videos I’ve seen on HV, Boyd looks absolutely full-grown now and I think we all know he’ll be the featured back, but who do you think will be the primary back after that?
A. You’re right about Boyd. He’s poised to have a great season. I think we’ll see him reach his full potential under Briles who makes great use of the running game. Right now I’d say Smith is the number two guy after sitting out last year as a transfer. The Pittman and Boyd have said some good things about him in the last week.
Q. Roadhog82 asks: If the ACC or Big 12 were to cancel their season, would the SEC be likely to do the same? Personally, I don’t think our conference should be influenced by what another conference decides. Even if that means we are the only conference playing this year. What do you think?
A. I do think the SEC would be the last to go but if those two conferences were to bail out I think it would be tough to keep going. The good news is, and this could change, it’s looking good for the season opening weekend which is about a month away. I think it’s more likely that the Big 10 will change it’s position and open back up. The Pac 12? Who knows about those people? They might start back up if the Big 10 did. They might not.
Q. smtg94 wants to know: With only 20 thousand or so fans in the stand will they be able to pipe in calling the Hogs?
A. The last thing I heard was more like 16 thousand. Pipped in music would be allowed during stoppage of play. So they could add to the Hog call then. It certainly would help. I’ve never heard 16 thousand call he hogs at a football game but it’s going to be a strange experience. I haven’t asked but I’m pretty sure that the SEC will stick with its policy of no artificial noisemakers while the ball is in play.
Q. nuttless hog asks: In regards to the rescheduling this year, has there been an attempt to obtain information on who or how many were involve in this and what their explanation was for it? Or will it just stay hid behind a back door in the sec office somewhere
A. I don’t think the SEC office is subject to freedom of information but some hard working reporter will probably put together a story on it at some point. To me it’s no great mystery. The SEC office was out to protect the top four or five teams in the conference in the hopes that one or maybe two of them will make the National Championship playoffs.
Q. Our final question is from HangTenHog who wants to know: Think there will ever be an Arkansas villain that turns the stomach of Arkansas fans as much as Texas used to and still does for some of the more seasoned fans?
A. The younger fans probably think so but there’s never going to be a rivalry for Arkansas in the SEC that comes even close the the constant war Razorback fans had with Texas. Unless you lived it you don’t understand it. Top this day I still will watch a Texas game on TV just to pull for the other team no matter who that team is..