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 is from “redleg” who asks: Now that the UA has begun playing all four in-state Division I schools in all sports except football, will we finally get a Razorbacks vs Red Wolves football game once the schedule permits, and don’t you think that game would be a perfect way to end every season the day after Thanksgiving in Little Rock?! Maybe someone (David Bazzel) could come up with a rivalry trophy made from Arkansas quartz to go to the winner!
A: It doesn’t matter what I think because it’s not up to me. I have shared some thoughts on what might happen if those two schools start playing in football. Most fans that I talk to think that Arkansas’ focus need to be on getting competitive in the SEC. It doesn’t need a rivalry game with a Sunbelt conference team. It is true that Arkansas doesn’t have a true SEC rival. They need to develop one and that would require much better football moving forward. But if we’re talking a non confernce rival a much better idea was suggested to me the other day. Once the Jerryworld game goes away get something going with Baylor or TCU in Arlington. Or revive the Oklahoma State series home and home. And please. No more trophy games. Two is enough. As far as Arkansas State in Little Rock, I’m told that will not happen. If Arkansas eventually plays Arkansas State it will be in Fayetteville
Q; “Lanny” says: I understand it’s hard to read the tea leaves about the upcoming season. Arkansas hasn’t had any practices with coach Pittman because of Covid 19. My question is, what must Arkansas focus on to be respected this season other than winning a SEC game.
A: Develop a real starting quarterback and put a defense on the field that goes after the opposing quarterback. Those two things, the ridiculous quarterback carousel that we’ve seen for 24 straight games and a defense that just sits there and waits to be attacked, is what drives Arkansas fans nuts.
Q: “myriad_rocker” wants to know: Do you have a favorite Razorback game moment during the last 10 years? Hard to believe it’s been that long already, but for me it was being in Little Rock and beating LSU to go to the Sugar Bowl.
A: That was a good one. Hard to beat. But I like the Arkansas-Alabama game from that same year. That was the loudest Razorback crowd I’ve ever heard. Arkansas lost late 24-20 but that game showed me just how bad Hog fans want to beat Alabama. In fact moving forward that has to be the longterm goal. Beat Alabama. If that happens Sam Pittman would become a legand in this state.
Q: “oldhawg” asks: If Felipe Franks is the starting quarterback next year (as expected), and has a successful year for the Razorbacks, what are the chances that he would apply for a medical hardship because of the 2019 season in which he played in only three games due to injury, and return to Arkansas for the 2021 season?
A: I guess it would depend on how successful. The way these things usually work if he felt he had a chance to improve his NFL draft stock by coming back he’d proably go for it. It’s certainly something to think about but the first order of business for him is to win the job and keep it. That’s something that hasn’t happened since Austin Allen was the quarterback and that was eight different starters ago.
Q: “Swine American” says: I saw your answer to my question last week about media and fan access or lack thereof to watch practice – not very satisfying so let me rephrase the question. Who should a fan call or write asking why you (the media) and us (the fans) can’t get in to film and/or watch some benign July or August pre season practice sessions? Years ago you could contact Rick Shaeffer and get an answer. Watching the video on the “official website” simply does not cut it. It looks like a cheap propaganda film. Remember, I and fans like me are on your side when it comes to access. You didn’t have to be Jim Lindsey to attend a Houston Nutt or Bobby Petrino practice. They won more than they lost. By contrast, Bret Bielema and Chad Morris kept practice so off limits that Area 51 access was easier. And let us not forget, they lost a whole lot more than they won.
A; You could contact the current SID Kyle Parkinson but I’m not sure there’s an answer to your question right now. They’re just hoping to have a normal August Camp and those us in the media don’t know If we’ll be there or not. Because of this virus I’m pretty sure they are going to severely limit who is at those practices. As we get closer to full scale practices they’ll let us know and we will pass that along. But it might be a year from now before we know what Sam Pittman’s permanent practice access policy will be
Q: “AlabamaHog” says: Coach Bielema is suing the Razorback Foundation for breach of contract. Do you think it will go to court? Do you think the Razorback Foundation has a chance to prevail or will there be an out of court settlement?
A: I’ve always believed that there will be a settlment. The Foundation issued a statement last week indicated that Bielema’s lawsuit was probably a reaction to a notice they gave him that they were going to go to court to get back the $4.5 million they’d already paid him. The entire issue revolves around whether or not he made an honest effort to get a similar paying job after he was terminated. That was a part of his buyout. The fact that he spent some time as a volunteer coach might not help his case. But I’m told that he says he expressed interest in other head coaching job but didn’t get considered. If it goes to court it will be heard in NWA. That also might help the Foundation. But again, I think the two sides will settle.
Q: “MuskogeeHogFan” says: Alabama lost 16 players to the NFL including their QB, 3 O-Linemen, 4 Receivers and 7 from their defense. LSU lost 14 including their QB and 4 O-Linemen. Auburn lost 4 O-Linemen and 4 DB’s. Miss State lost 14 including 3 O-Linemen, 2 LB’s and 3 DB’s. How do you think this may potentially effect the outcomes of their seasons and therefore, the possible outcome of the Hog’s season?
A. Interesting numbers. My guess is that LSU and Alabama recruit well eough that it’s not going to affect them against Arkansas. But Auburn and Mississippi State just might end up being winnable games. On paper Arkansas schedule appears to be brutal but when you look at those numbers there at least is some hope there. It’s one of the reasons pre season polls and pre season publications are often wrong. Because in too many cases they don’t take a close enought look at how a team might have changed from the previous season.
Q: “3Scoreand10” wants to know: If the players have some sort of protest in the stadium at game time, are the powers that be prepared if some fools in the stands start a counter protest? I pray it will not happen, but we do live in difficult times.
A: I doubt there would be any protest in the stadium. More likely they would attend other protests like the one a couple of weeks ago in downtown Fayetteville. Kneeling during the national anthem is not an issue in college football because the players don’t take the field until right before the kickoff. The flag has already been honored. Not sure what will happen with basketball this winter. As we know basketball players are on the court when the anthem is being played.
Q: “DeltaBoy” says: The Texas Governor Announced 50% capacity restriction for the forseeable future. How bad will revenue be if this stands?
A: Honestly, 50% capacity would be pretty typical for Arkansas these days. Hunter Yuracheck has alrady prepared a budget that will take a crowd of 30-35 thousand into consideration. SEC schoosl will be hurt less by all of the COVID related revenue shortfalls because of the league’s TV contract money which by far is the best in college football.
Q: “CowHog32” wants to know: Assuming college athletics returns to normal what do you see happening 1st, the football team winning 6 or more games & going bowling, basketball team making it to sweet 16 or baseball team winning the World Series?
A: It’s a tough call between Musselman’s guys going to the Sweet 16 with all the talent they will have this season along with his coaching and Van Horn’s guys winning the CWS. I don’t know that baseball will have the pitching to win it all next season but I definately think that basketaball could get to the second weekend of he NAA tournament.
Q: “oldfart” asks: Who was your favorite assistant football coach to interview and why?
A. That’s easy. Sam Pittman. Talking to him when was the O-line coach was like talking to some guy who’d been a good friend for years. He’s very informal. A straight shooter. There’s not much he won’t talk about and he doesn’t do all that “off the record” stuff. He’s always got a smile on his face. The kind of gu*y you’d like to have for a next door neighbor and from what little I’ve seen so far being a head coach has not changed him.
Q. Lanny is back with another question: Did Reggie Cheney entering the ransfer potral surprise you? What was the issue there.
A. I didn’t surprise me. There was word that he was gone before Mike Anderson was fired. He stayed when Muselman was hired but he never looked happy to me. He had some big games but expecially down he stretch he all but dissapeared. He also had some off the court issues. That might have been a factor. Once Arkansas went over the limit on scholarship you knew sombody was gone. Some said it was proof that Isaiah Joe was jumping to the NBA. But I think Joe will be back and Chaney leaving sort of indicates that.
Q: “Arkansas Redneck” says: Arkansas got commitments from three big time offensive players last week. A receiver, a quarterback and a running back. Which one wll have the biggest impact?
A: They’re all impressive but I’d go with A.J. Green, the running back out of Tulsa Union. First of all its perfect timing because Rakeem Boyd will be gone to the NFL in 2021. Look at Green’s offers: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, LSU, Michigan, Texas, Tennessee, Texas A&M. I mean the list is almost endless. For him to pick a team that is 4-20 over the last two years over those schools? How did Sam Pittman and his staff do that? Look at his video. He’s got Darren McFadden type speed with Felix Jones type moves.