Q. Our first question is from H.L McCamish who asks: Is Ole Miss getting better? Did we overlook them, or are we not that good? We just barely escaped with a series win over the last place team in the SEC.
A. Arkansas didn’t overlook Ole Miss but clearly you did. Their record right now has a lot to do with who they’ve played. Vandy and Florida accounted for six of their eight losses going into this past weekend. The other two came from A&M. Vandy may be the best team in the SEC right now. Florida has a better record than Arkansas. A&M is right behind Arkansas and third in the West. That’s a tough schedule especially since Ole Miss went on the road for two of those series. Ole Miss has a higher team batting average than Arkansas and a better fielding percentage. Arkansas has a better ERA. The point is, statistically they’re an even match and Ole Miss was playing at home. Also yes, their fans hate Arkansas as much as Arkansas fans hate Ole Miss. I expected it to be close.
The difference was Caleb Cali, who has been stepping up since he returned to the lineup at 3rd base. Cali hit an home run in game one, just missed another one with a shot off the wall in game two and hit his fifth home run of the season to open the scoring in game three. Cali also stole a base and ended up scoring on a wild pitch in game three after Ole Miss had tied the game. Finally he saved Arkansas a run with a quick reaction at 3rd nailing a Rebels batter trying to stretch a single into two bases. The next batter doubled and Ole Miss scored one run not two.
Is Ole Miss getting better? Well I don’t expect them to stay last in the the SEC. Their schedule gets easier and they might do what they did year. Get to the NCAA Tournament and catch fire.
Is Arkansas “not that good?” Well they’re first in the West but 5th overall. They could have easily lost their past two series but they didn’t. So give those guys credit.
The remaining schedule is a mix of tough and tougher.
Tennessee is here.
Georgia is there.
A&M is here.
Mississippi State is there.
South Carolina is here.
Arkansas closes out the regular season at Vanderbilt.
I’ll guess and say that Arkansas goes 11-7 in the remaining conference games.
That would be 19-11 in SEC play. Probably good for second in the West. Overall maybe 47-17. That would be good enough to host a regional as a 10 seed. But the Hogs would likely have to go on the road for a super regional.
What do they have to do to get back to Omaha? The hitting needs to pick up a bit. Gage Wood need to continue to improve. Brady Tygart needs to come back and be effective as a closer. Will McEntire has to be more consistent. Dylan Carter needs to continue to pitch well and the batting lineup needs to be more consistent.
Another question? Does this team have a dominant upperclassman leader like Connor Noland was last year?
Right now I’d say no but that could change.
Q. Mousetown says: After a miscommunication on a dropped pop up cost Arkansas a national championship in baseball I assumed DVH would never let that happen again. Like every practice would include communication drills between various position players….
…..Right fielder, 2nd baseman, catcher 1st baseman, etc. In game two of the Ole Miss series we had two of these things and both led to runs. It’s poor fundamentals and it keeps happening. Why????
A. Because even if you work on those situations a lot in practice it can still happen in a game. It’s a lot harder than it looks. Everybody is looking up. Maybe you can see your teammate or teammates slightly in your peripheral vision but not clearly. Even if everybody is communicating it’s noisy out there. Two guys, maybe three talking at the same time. There’s confusion and the next thing you know, the ball drops. It’s not uncommon in baseball. Happens at all levels. It’s not just an Arkansas thing.
I can tell you that DVH as really mad about it. Called the situation ridiculous. But guess what? Players don’t always respond in a game the way they do in practice.
Q. Hawgredneck says: Dave Van Horn has been using Hagan Smith as a reliever. Friday he started him against Ole Miss but pitched him too long. You could tell that he was struggling in the 6th……
….If he had gone to the bullpen I don’t think Ole Miss would have put up that five spot.
A. Maybe. Maybe not. The issue was, DVH had left in the bullpen. He’d already used Dylan Carter in game one the day before. How many innings can he go a second time out and be effective? You’re gonna bring in the freshmen Gage Wood to close out the game but how long does he go? The issue was complicated by the fact that Carter had pitched in relief of Hagan Smith in game one with a 9 run lead. He went two innings in that game with over 30 pitches. There’s been a suggestion that DVH should have gone with Austin Ledbetter and maybe one or two others to close out that game. That would have let Carter maybe go three innings in game three. But it’s a moot point because Wood went three full innings, something most us us did not expect. Arkansas won game three and the series.
Q. Valleyhog10 wants to know: What is your best guess as to whether Devo, Walsh, the Mitchell twins, Dunning and Ford return for the 2023/24 season?
A. Lets go over the entire scenario. We’ll start with players who won’t be back.
Kamani Johnson has used up his eligibility.
Nick Smith Jr. has declared for the NBA draft.
Ricky Council IV has also declared for the draft.
Makhel Mitchell has entered the transfer portal.
Devo Davis has entered the NBA draft pool but has indicated that he could return to the team depending on the feedback he gets during the draft evaluation process.
There are three Razorbacks who have not announced their plans. At the top of the list is Anthony Black. Almost all of the Hog media believes he’s going to declare for the draft either this week or next week but there are some posting online, claiming inside knowledge, indicating that he might come back or will come back. There’s growing speculation that Jordan Walsh is going to test the NBA waters. There are also rumors that he might transfer. Makhi Mitchell, some believe that he will stay or go depending on whether on not Eric Musselman brings in another big man out of the transfer portal.
Five current players have indicated that they are staying. Trevon Brazile, who sat out most of the season, made his announcement a couple of weeks ago. Jalen Graham followed that with his own decision to stay. That’s two tall forwards returning. There has been a lot of speculation about the other three freshmen since none of them played much this past season but in the last couple of days Joseph Pinion, Barry Dunning Jr. and Derrian Ford have each indicated that they will return.
New additions to the team include the two incoming five-star freshmen. Baye Fall, a Mc Donald’s All American 6-10 forward and Layden Blocker, a 6-2 point guard. In addition, a second point guard is coming in through the transfer portal, 6-1 Keyon Menifield from the University of Washington. Finally a big guard, 6-5 Tramon Mark, is transferring in from the University of Houston. Right now the number of incoming players equals the number that are leaving but it does appear that Muss plans to bring in more players out of the portal. Again, there are three current Razorbacks who haven’t made any announcement so we could see one, two or three more players out of the portal and it could be four, for a total of six, if Devo decides to leave.
TexHog188 asks: How hot is Coach Mike Neighbors’ seat going into this off season? There has been a lot of hype surrounding the program with the last two recruiting classes, but results have been disappointing to say the least…..
….. Everyone seems to like Coach, but is this a Mike Anderson situation where ultimately you have to be judged on your post season performance?
A. Being a nice guy can only carry you so far. The Arkansas women need to make some noise in the SEC next season and win an NCAA Tournament game. Show some progress.
I really thought this was going to be Neighbors’ breakout season here at Arkansas. It was a real disappointment. Keep in mind, that like with Anderson, Hunter Yurachek did not hire Mike Neighbors. He inherited him.
Q. s-giles asks: What is the number one thing you want to see in Saturday’s spring football game?
A. K. J. Jefferson running the pro style offense that Dan Enos brought in with him. With a new coordinator there hasn’t been a complete change. The RPO stuff that Kendall Briles used for three seasons at Arkansas is still there. In fact that’s pretty much what all of us in the media have been seeing in the practices we’ve watched. But we know from the players that Jefferson has been taking snaps under center and running a play action pass based offense. That’s a big change for both Jefferson and the running backs. The exchanges have to be timed perfectly. That only comes with repetition. It will be interesting to watch that in the spring game and see how it looks.
Q. Porked Tongue wants to know: Given salaries for coaches and other expenses that continue to increase for college football, do you think the TV and other revenues will offset it enough for tickets to remain somewhat affordable for the average Arkansas fan?
A. Hard to say what’s affordable. The prices will remain up there because there’s an arms race going on in the SEC. Money is needed for facilities, for coaches salaries, for NIL money. Ticket prices are based on demand. The only way they go down or maybe stay the same for two or three seasons is if the demand drops. That can happen in two ways. Number one, the team doesn’t win in whatever sport. Number two, and this is more likely, a growing number of fans decide they’d be fine with watching on their 4K or 8K giant TVs at home. Invite friends over. Have a backyard tailgate. Watch the game just like they were in a skybox. No driving in traffic two and from the game. No parking issues. No concession stand prices. No bathroom issues.
Q. PatBoat wants to know: With the depth in the WR room do you think it’s possible every guy scores a TD this year? What’s the number for different WR scores in a season?
A. There are 12 receivers on the roster, so no. If you go back and look over the past several seasons the number of receivers catching at least one TD pass is usually around four or five. Last season it was five. I’ll go with five this year. Let’s take a look.
Isaiah Sategna, who redshirted as a freshman. He’s a speed receiver who has been really impressive this spring. Isaac TeSlaa, tall Division II transfer with great hands who is also looking really good. Andrew Armstrong, the Texas A&M Commerce transfer who had over a thousand yards in catches last season, has also been impressive. Bryce Stephens caught a TD pass last season for Arkansas and Sam Mbake a sophomore with a lot of talent. That’s my list.
Q. Dr. Strangepork says: The world knows about JFB’s coaching tree (WHY ESPN hasn’t done a 30 for 30 about it is crazy!) – with the success of a lot of former staff members, who was the one(s) that you would have thought to have success but never really did in actuality?
A. Since we’re talking coaching trees I assume you mean an Arkansas assistant coach who didn’t have success as a head coach.
That’s easy. Lane Kiffin’s dad Monte Kiffin. When he left Arkansas after three seasons as the defensive coordinator under Lou Holtz I thought he was going to tear it up at North Carolina State. Maybe even come back as the head coach at Arkansas after Lou left. Instead Kiffin went 16-17 in three seasons there. His teams never went to a bowl game and he was fired.
Monte Kifffin ended up a career assistant coach, never staying in one job very long but he kept getting hired for good jobs. Look at the least of places where he worked as a defensive coordinator.
Nebraska and Arkansas. In the NFL at Buffalo, New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
Back at the college level at Tennessee & Southern Cal. Finally with the Dallas Cowboys.
He was also the linebackers coach for four NFL teams: Green Bay, Buffalo, Minnesota and the Jets.
It still surprises me that Kiffin didn’t win as a head coach.
Q. whippersnapper asks: What are 3-5 sporting events you haven’t witnessed in person you’d like to attend someday?
A. I don’t go to many live games these days. Watching on TV is a lot easier. So there aren’t three to five. Just two. I’d like to go to a national championship football game with Arkansas in it. I’ve been to national championship games in basketball and baseball and seen the NCAA Nationals in track. The rest of the sports I’d content to watch on TV even if a national championship was involved.
The only other sporting event I’d like to see in person would be the British Open at St. Andrews. The old course is the oldest golf course on the planet. Golf was invented as a game on that land. Sand traps came from the natural sand pits there. A stone bridge that crosses the creek that runs across the number one and number 18 fairways is over 500 years old. I’d like to see that. I’d like to watch golfers hit blind tee shots on 17. I like to see them hit shots out of the road hole bunker and make par.
That would be cool.