PTN’s “Ask Mike” Segment 9-16-19

Pig Trail Nation

It is time once again for our weekly “Ask Mike” segment where veteran Pig Trail Nation reporter Mike Irwin answers your questions about Razorback Football. Arkansas is coming off a win over Colorado State to move to 2-1 on the season. Hog fans still have lots of questions surrounding the team.

Below is the questions and answers transcription for today’s segment.

Inhogswetrust asks: Mike, all fanbases get testy when their team is losing and shows their frustration. Do you think negative comments on social media about players and/or coaches has an effect on recruiting?

Mike Irwin: High school kids these days know all about social media. They’re use to negative comments. A much, much bigger issue than negative comments is the reason for those comments. Recruits know when you’re not winning. That’s what affects recruiting.

El Duderino says: Only kind of joking: Let’s say at the end of the season Morris is “encouraged” to make changes to his offensive staff. What are the odds Bobby Petrino gets a shot at the OC position? His LRTD club appearance seemed to be a bit of a campaign.

Mike Irwin: It looked orchestrated to me. Apparently Bobby is more popular in Little Rock than he is in Northwest Arkansas but I don’t think Hunter Yurachek or Chad Morris would want any part of that.

avatar asks:Can you be specific and tell us why you do not like Chad Morris?

Mike Irwin: If you’re asking why I don’t like him as a person that’s silly. I have no issues with him in that regard. Seems like a really nice guy. But I’m assuming you’re asking why I don’t like the coaching job he’s doing and like a lot of fans I’m split on that. Like really like his recruiting. He uses more of his staff than most. He’s very aggressive. Makes great use of social media. Really knows how to relate to high school coaches and has great ties in Texas. The issue I have with him right now is the problem he seems to have with identifying his starting quarterback. In one season and three games he’s had five different starters at that position and only one of those was because of injuries. That’s highly unusual. Now look, he did finally get the Starkel thing right and look what a difference we saw but like a lot of fans I’m wondering if they had gone with young man from the beginning…was the Ole Miss game winnable? Also you need to understand that it’s not my job to be pals with the head coach and questioning some of his decisions doesn’t mean I think he’s the wrong guy for the job. Morris is a work in progress at Arkansas. He and his staff have a tough, tough job to do but it’s looking a lot better today than it did last week.

Kevin wants to know: If the Hogs lose this weekend, can we start making this about basketball?

Mike Irwin: Obviously they didn’t lose but if you want to ask basketball questions that’s okay by me. The show is Ask Mike. Not Ask Mike about football.

CoastalHawg says:Mike, love the new segment. Wondering how you think the turnover with Morris compares with other recent Razorback coaching changes?

Mike Irwin: By turnover I assume you’re referring to all the players who left the program in or after the first season. Anytime a new head coach comes in…. some players are gonna leave….some on their own. Some not by their choice. The total number of players who actually left after year one is certainly unusual but I don’t think most fans have a problem with it. It was obvious that some weren’t buying into the new staff and some were just a bad fit for what Morris does offensively and John Chavis does on the defensive side. That huge turnover has created a reverse of what coaches want in terms of experienced players.Fifty-five underclassment on scholarship. Thirty upperclassmen. To me the frustration with most fans is not that this team is young. It’s that as of last week…14 games into Morris’s time on the job… the offense didn’t seem to fit the talent… It looked like it was…. in reverse on a side street…. instead of left lane, hammer down on the highway. Thankfully with the right quarterback and the right receivers we all finally saw what this offense is about. And that was Morris base offense. As Starkle and the rest of the guys grow into it maybe we’ll still see left lane hammer down this season. The defense is another story. There were some wholesale changes there and I still don’t see this headhunting, attacking the quarterback defense that John Chavis is known for.

hobhog observes:Starkel is obviously the QB of this team. Do you see a situation in the remaining 9 games where KJ Jefferson or Jones get any snaps before Hicks would?

Mike Irwin: I have asked myself that. It seems unlilkely. Clearly Morris and Craddock are higher on Hicks than a lot of the fans are. I still think he’s the guy that’s gonna come in if anything happens to Starkel. (knock on wood) For that reason they’ll want him to continue to get game reps whenever possible. There are some possible scenarios where we could see Jones and or Jefferson. This coming week if Arkansas were to get up big on San Jose State or in early November when Western Kentucky comes to town. But I would not assume that. There’s also the possibility of getting so far down against say…. Alabama or LSU that Morris would insert those guys into the lineup to get them some game reps in an unwinnable situation. But with Starkle at quarterback I think it’s more likely the coaches will keep the offense battling even Arkansas is down big.

PorkSoda says: Houston Nutt became a pretty controversial figure towards the end of his tenure, but love him or hate him, he was a character. You never knew what was next. Can you share a funny story you remember from the Nutt Era?

Mike Irwin: Here’s one about a so called Little League parent. The guy’s son had graduated high school early and was was going though spring ball. One of the first to do that. The dad was supposedly driving Nutt nuts with endless phone calls. How was his son doing? What were his chances of starting as a freshman? He’s not getting enough first team reps. I’m not sure you guys are coaching him right. Yadda, Yadda Yadda. Sometime after spring football was over I was in Nutt’s office shooting and on-camera interview about how things had gone with the Red White game. We finished the interview and were sitting there talking when his cell phone went off. He looked at his phone….rolled his eyes and showed me the name of the caller on the phone screen. It was the kid’s dad. So Nutt answers the phone and clearly he is annoyed. Very quickly he says, “I don’t know. Mike Irwin is here. Why don’t you ask him?” Nutt then starts to hand me his phone but as he does it I can clearly hear the kid’s dad going off at a hundred miles an hour. No way did I want to get involved in whatever that conversation was. So there was a standoff with Nutt trying to get me to take his phone and me waving him off furiously. Finally Nutt looked at me with the guy’s voice still echoing from the phone and he gives me this look like….now you know what it’s like to be me. Iguess it wasn’t funny at the time but it sure was later when I thought about it and no, I never talked to the kid’s dad. I didn’t get paid enough for that. Nutt did.

HotlantaHog says: Hi Mike, Assess the coaching staff — are they experienced and talented enough to help Morris to get Arkansas competitive in the SEC?

Mike Irwin: It’s looking better this week than it has in a while. The main questions… to me…. are with the two coordinators? Let’s start with John Chavis. No question he’s had a long a productive career in the SEC from Tennessee to LSU. It was at Texas A&M when some started to wonder if his best years were behind him. He’s insisted here at Arkansas that he’s not slowing down. he’s as enthusiastic as ever. To me he doen’t have the depth he needs to attack an opposing offense for most of the game. He’s trying to preserve his starters. Keep them from wearing down. So this defense is not as aggressive as he wants. Will he get talent and depth he needs? I’m not sure.

Now let’s look at Joe Craddock, the offensive coordinator…. easily the most controversial member of Morris staff. A lot of fans blame the indecision at quarterback him and they don’t like his play calling. They want Morris to take over that job. I haven’t heard a lot of that talk this week for obvious reasons. But after San Jose State on Saturday we’re back to SEC play. Can Starkel lead the Hogs past his former Texas A&M teammates? What about Kentucky? Mississippi State? Mizzou? Do they win those games. Seems to me Craddock’s future at Arkansas is wrapped up in having some success in the conference. Showing the fans some progress and success against SEC competition.

jbcarol asks: Mike, Did you perceive that the defense backslid a bit against the Rams or was it a case of that unit being on the field longer as we see in the time of possession disparity and the Hog offense executing faster scoring drives along with three and outs?

Mike Irwin: Not really because the defense got better in the 4th quarter. Chad Morris mentioned that Colorado State targeted the edge where all those true freshmen are having to play. Also Bumper Pool left this game with a sprained clavicle in the first half. That didn’t help. I’m still not sure about the defense but the good news is…. with an offense that can put up points….. this team has a better chance of overcoming defensive problems than it did a season ago.

sowmonella asks: Now that we have settled on QB 1 and our freshman receivers are getting more dynamic, what do you feel is the ceiling for the Hogs this year?

Mike Irwin: I think they’ll win more than two games. But I still need to see how this revived offense will look against the Aggies in two weeks. That will tell us a lot.I still think six wins is possible but the defense needs to get better.

Okay time for me to ask me a question: There were a few fans complaining on social media about Arkansas’ post game celebration in the locker room. The team released a video of it. To put it mildly, the players went bonkers along with chad Morris so here’s my question:

It’s expected that the players would celebrate but this looked like what guys typically do after beating Alabama or winning the SEC West. This was Colorado State. Was it over the top?

Who cares? It’s not your locker room. You didn’t play. These guys know that they face a huge rebuilding job. It’s a year round effort that never stops. Practice. The weight room. Conditioning. Film sessions. Team meetings. Position room meetings. You do all that and you win two games. You then read all the negativity on social media in the offseason. So you come back in year two and fans are saying….. nothing has changed. Well, something did change Saturday night. This team had an offense. This team won the 4th quarter. And you expect them to go, yeaaa. we won. okay lets go home now. To me if they wanted to throw a party…have at it. There’s been way too little celebrating for these guys. I’m glad they had fun. Also today Morris explained the dancing he did in the lockerroom. He said, It was important for them to see a lot of emotion from me.

A reminder…if you want me to answer your questions you need to post them in the “Ask Mike” forum at If you’re not a member sign up, make yourself a user name and have at it. You’ll also have access to one of the largest, most complete fan boards in college athletics.

That’s it for this week. See you again next Monday where we may be talking about another milestone. A two-game winning streak in football. See ya.

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