Will COVID affect the Outback Bowl? Changes coming to Bud Walton Arena & How Will Muss’ Injury Affect the Hoop Hogs?

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This & More on This Week's Ask Mike

Q. Our first question this week comes from Austin.hogfan who says: Our defense should be able to keep them (Penn St.) to 3-4 scores. The big question remains, can we overcome Burks not playing? How do you think we will approach this?

A. First, I think Arkansas will run the ball a lot in this game. I’ll explain that in answer to another question coming up. As far as throwing it, in the practices we’ve seen it looks like KJ Jefferson is going to spread his passes around to multiple receivers. Warren Thompson, who is closer to Burks style than any of other receivers will be targeted lot I think. I also think this is a dress rehearsal for him for next season when it looks like he may become their go to receiver. Keep in mind that he and Kendal Briles go back to their time at Florida State. D’Vion Warren and Tyson Morris will be more active in this game and I think we may see Jaquayln Crawford and Ketron Jackson in limited roles and the three tight ends will be in the mix in the passing game.

Q. lakecityhog asks: could you give us any kind of an update on the status of Arkansas and recruiting the Portal? I am sure that we are looking for at least 1 linebacker and at least one D-lineman, you hearing any good news???

A. As always when it comes to recruiting I ask Otis Kirk. He’s our Pig Trail Nation recruiting guru. He also does it for Hogville.net., one of the best fan boards in the country. Otis says Arkansas coaches want to bring in a defensive back, at least one linebacker and maybe a pass rusher. That could be either a defensive end or an interior lineman. Left tackle is possible but with Jalen St. John pulling his name out of the portal Otis says that’s not likely. There was some talk of bringing in a quarterback with the ACL injury to Kade Renfroe but there’s a QB with a scholarship offer to a power five school who appears to be willing to walk on at Arkansas so that would give them plenty of depth at quarterback.

Otis feels good about the coaches’ chances of getting what they need out of the portal.

Q. Steven Welch doesn’t like Arkansas’ depth chart for the Outback Bowl. He says: (We) Should be showing (Bumper) Pool some love and start him if they want him to stay. Second in SEC in tackles and does not start.

A. Arkansas basically has three starting linebackers at two positions: Grant Morgan, Hayden Henry and Bumper Pool. They rotate and pretty much have equal playing time. Pool actually has more total tackles than the other two. So he’s gotten plenty of reps this season whether he started or not.

My guess is, Sam Pittman is starting Morgan and Henry because this is their last game as Razorbacks. Pool has accepted an invitation to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl but he can come back as long as he doesn’t play in that game. Sam Pittman has said that he’s going to try to convince Pool to come back. It’s a conversation they will have after the Outback Bowl. I don’t think Pool not starting in the Outback bowl will affect his decision. He’s not the kind of player that would make a big deal out of Morgan and Henry starting ahead of him in that game.

Q. Referring to Army’s win over Missouri in the Armed Forces Bowl @RazorsEdge56 says: I would bet Dan Mullen, wherever he is, if watching, cheered loudly after pulling the knife out of his back he got from that 2 faced Harry Highschool frat boy dork.

Q. And Robert Wilson says: I actually stood and cheered.

A. There were a lot of comments like this. Most of them clearly don’t like Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz who has popped off several times about Arkansas since taking the Missouri job. There are also fans who are still angry that the SEC has tried to make a rivalry game out of Arkansas and Missouri by taking the traditional day after Thanksgiving game with LSU always and plugging Missouri into that slot.

I must admit that I enjoyed watching Army win too.

Q. @mousetown asks: Without Tre Williams how can Arkansas get any pressure on the quarterback?

A. It’s going to be a challenge. Sophomore Jashaud Stewart takes over for Williams at defensive end. He’s played in all 12 games but look at the difference in stats.

Williams has 28 tackles. Stewart just 7.
Williams has 15 throws for loss plays. Stewart has none.
Williams has 6 sacks. Stewart has none.
And Williams has 6 quarterback hurries to one for Stewart.

Williams has gotten most of the reps so that’s one reason for the difference in stats but the experience level is what Arkansas will miss.

So what’s the answer? Well, according to Sam Pittman, it will come from the other side at the jack end position where Zach Robinson will play an increased role in the pass rush.

His numbers are good. Twenty-eight total tackles. Five and a half thrown for losses. Two and a half sacks. A quarterback hurry and one forced fumble.

Also I expect Barry Odom to rotate players more in this game to keep them fresh on the field and look for Arkansas to blitz more to counteract the loss of Tre Williams.

Q. To basketball where Razorback Redneck is wondering about that players-only meeting before the Elon game. He says: Good that the team got back in the win column but if you need a players-only meeting to beat a 3-9 basketball team you’ve got a problem.

A. I don’t think they had that meeting specifically for Elon. It was about turning things around before SEC play starts. It was about figuring out what was wrong with the offense and why the defense was so bad against Oklahoma and Hofstra

For the first few minutes of the game the defense looked a lot like what we saw in those two games. Elon was hitting threes and getting some easy back door layups.

But after the second time out things changed. Arkansas rebounded better. Did a much better job of contesting three pointers and shut down points in the paint. Just showed a lot more energy on defense. They also worked the ball inside more, resulting in a bunch of foul shots. Twenty-three shots from line to just nine for Elon. The bench was more involved.

Yes the competition was not as good but you could clearly see a difference in the effort they were putting in vs. what I saw in the first few minutes of the game.

So what came out of that players meeting? Well according to Trey Wade and Kamani Johnson, all the players had input in the meeting. They agreed that they had to solve the problems together in whatever roles they ended up with.

Intreresting that Devo Davis had just one point. He shot no two’s or three’s but he had six boards and six assists.

JD Notae had 15 points compared to 20 against Hofstra but he went from to six turnovers to one. Those two guys looked like they were playing team basketball. Smarter basketball.

Maybe that team meeting won’t mean anything in their SEC road game at Mississippi State Wednesday night at 8. We’ll see. The Bulldogs are 7-1 at home. Minnesota beat ’em by five earlier this month. Minnesota is 10-1. Mississippi State is 9-3 overall. Their other two losses are to Louisville and Colorado State. I’d say they are not as good as Oklahoma but better than Hofstra.

Q. Lanny wants to know: Does Arkansas’ basketball struggles have anything to do with Musselman’s injury? Probably not but they did start to have problems right after he was hurt when Trey Wade fell on his shoulder in practice.

A. I hope not because he needs surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder and apparently he’s going to wait until the season is over even though he says he’s in a lot of pain. So if the losses are tied to his injury I’d say they are in real trouble. But seriously, they are 3-2 since he was hurt so I don’t think that’s it. Some have also pointed out that the injury didn’t keep him from going nuts in the Oklahoma game and getting tossed. But looking at the video he was flailing his right arm around but the left arm was pretty much motionless. He’s said it really hurts so to me the issue is, can he wait until after the season is over? If he has to miss an SEC game or two because of surgery, that might be a problem.

Q. Blaine Quarles has this comment about a new 180 million dollar basketball area being built by the city of Waco for Baylor: A 7,500 seat arena lol…..That’s normal for a midweek game at Baum Stadium. That’s just throwing away money for Baylor but ok then.

A. That’s the trend these days. A smaller arena with higher ticket prices. Some say the atmosphere is better. I don’t agree with that but a place like the Pavilion at Ole Miss, which seats 9,500, can get pretty loud. Interesting that it was built seven years ago at about half the $180 million the new facility in Waco is going to cost. Fewer seats. Double the cost. Construction costs are getting crazy these days. Keep in mind that Bud Walton Arena, which seats almost three times as many as Baylor’s new facility, was six times less expensive to build. Frank got a bargain with BWA.

Q. A dramatic rise in construction costs has Tim Hyde concerned. He asks: Isn’t UA spending $100m in renovations to BWA? What are they doing with that massive of an investment? Is there a link somewhere?

A. A far as I know no dollar amount has been made public. In September Hunter Yurachek went before the Board of Trustees and said a survey was being conducted on the need for premium seating. He said the early indication was positive toward that. The rumor is, he’s going to add luxury boxes where the upper deck is, reducing the capacity. Again that’s the trend. It’s all about money. To me if they do that it will take away BWA’s greatest asset. Crowds of close to 20,000 for big SEC games which is something to behold.

Arkansas has the 4th largest on-campus basketball arena. Changes could drop it into the 20’s or 30’s, smaller than facilities at South Carolina and Missouri.

I really like Yurachek. He’s a 100% improvement over Jeff Long. But too many of Jeff Long’s people are still around and I’m told that he’s listening to them. Follow the trend. Fewer seats but more revenue from higher dollar seating.

If they want to make functional changes to But Walton; widen the concourse, open it up with glass windows to the outside instead of brick, make the museum bigger, make the entrances larger to better accommodate fans all leaving at one time after games are over, modernize the exterior look, great.

But leave the seating capacity alone.

Q. Back to football: Tim Goff wants to know: Has Penn State lost players to the draft or transfer portal also?

A. The two players we know about are both linebackers. Brandon Smith and Ellis Brooks. Together they combined for 181 tackles this season so that’s a big loss. Sort of like if Arkansas lost Bumper Pool and Hayden Henry for this game.

If it stays like that then each team will have lost two starters for the Outback Bowl. There are rumors that Penn State could also end up losing both of its expected first round draft choices on the defensive line plus its top receiver who has over 1,000 yards in catches and 12 touchdowns. He’s their version of Treylon Burks. We’ll learn more about this situation as the teams arrive in Tampa starting Sunday night but it may be Tuesday, when Penn State has an open practice for the media for 15 or 20 minutes, before we know for sure who is playing for the Nittany Lions and who is not.

Q. Armon Abbe is worried. He asks: With all this COVID stuff ramping up again are we gonna end up with another bowl game cancelled. That would be two in two years and that’s nuts.

A. The issue boils down to what each school does if a player or players tests positive within a week of the game. The SEC protocol was supposed be, only players who show symptoms are to be tested. No mass testing of players without symptoms. But Texas A&M was the first team that opted out of a bowl and the Aggies did just that. They had some players with symptoms who tested positive so they tested everybody and boom, they ended up with not enough players to play Wake Forest in the Gator Bowl. Just like with TCU last year, there are rumors that the Aggies didn’t want to play this game. It wasn’t a big deal to their players who felt like they should be in a New Year’s Day Bowl so they might not play up to their ability. That’s a rumor. No way to verify it.

I’m assuming that Arkansas will not do this. If a player is showing COVID symptoms he will be tested and it stops there. Players not showing symptoms will not be tested.

I have no idea what Penn State will do but a few nervous Hog fans on Facebook are already claiming they’re hearing that Penn State is going to cancel. Fans who bought plane tickets and made hotel reservations are hoping that if Penn State does cancel it happens in time for them to get their money back.

I have seen nothing to indicate that the game will not be played. Both teams are now in Tampa but until Arkansas and Penn State line up for the opening kickoff I’m not going to assume anything.

Q. Reacting to a tweet by Miami QB Deriq King indicating that Kendal Briles is considering joining the Hurricanes staff, HelpDaHogs wants to know: Could he be leaving for Miami?

A. This has been a rumor for a while and King is certainly in a position to know and I don’t think he would have tweeted that if there weren’t something to it. I refer back to Sam Pittman who said two weeks ago that switching agents had a lot to do with getting more money for his assistant coaches. Also Hunter Yurachek told the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette that he wants to make sure that Pittman’s staff doesn’t leave because they feel like they are underpaid.

I fully expect to see Briles with a salary upgrade. It remains to be seen if that will keep him at Arkansas.

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