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 comes from Blood Red Hog who says: Whoa… what happened at the end of game 3 between DVH and Tony Vitello? The conversation looked pretty heated.
A. Only they know for sure. Let me quote what each said afterward to the media. We’ll start with Van Horn:
“First off Tony is a really good guy and a really good coach. You know it could have been something that was going on during the game. Could have been something about recruiting. Could be about a lot of things. Probably pick one of all or all three. That is between me and Tony.”
“You know he had some things to say. Thought we did a good job and it was an excellent series and all that. Probably poor timing on my choice but brought up some off the field stuff that is really not a big issue. That is probably more than I should say about it. That is kind of what transpired.”
So it sounds like all these phone calls between them aren’t all this slap on the back stuff, you’re a good guy, I’m a good guy, is not the whole story.
They may be friends but friends argue. I will quote my co worker Tera Talmadge who said about the argument on the field. Mad DVH is the best DVH.
Q. @mousetown asks: Is there bad blood between Dave Van Horn and his former assistant Tony Vitello that no one was aware of?
A. I can only tell you what I’ve been told. Since I wasn’t there I can’t swear that this is accurate but supposedly Vitello has said some negative things about Arkansas to players both school are recruiting and Van Horn found out about it.
After the game Vitello alleged something like, Congratulations on beating us with players that I recruited for you. Van Horn came right back at him with the negative recruiting claim and they went at it.
I figure sooner or later Vitello will give his side of the story to his local media. I don’t think Van Horn will talk about the specifics.
Q. Loy Loaf Daniel asks: What did you think of DVH’s decision to use Wiggins as the 9th inning closer against Tennessee on Saturday?
A. He had a number of options. He made a decision and it didn’t work out. The bottom line on something like this, all of us, fans, media or whatever, we give our opinions after it’s happened. DVH had to decide before it happened.
For me it wasn’t that he didn’t go to Kopps. But the decision to go with Wiggins when Wiggins had not pitched in an SEC game in almost a month seemed odd. There were other pitchers he could have gone with but honestly, who cares? It all worked out in the end. DVH gets paid a make those decisions and this is a good example of why he makes a million dollars a year and the rest of us don’t.
Q. SED 76 says: I’ve been reliving the 1998 football season watching clips on Youtube. In the Mississippi State game it appears the Bulldogs’ game winning field was no good. It cost Arkansas a rematch against Tennessee in the SEC title game. Was the kick good or am I imagining things.
A. The angle is from behind the goal and the ball sails quite a bit higher than the right upright. It’s hard to know for sure whether the ball crosses over to the outside of that upright before or after it passed the crossbar. But I’ve always thought it was probably good.
Q. Light Hoss Harry says: I watch the Razorbacks on SECN and ESPN+. I have witnessed an extremely large number of SEC PR commercials, which brings the question, what the heck is wrong with the PR people in the SEC? With the 30-second SEC commercials you might presume Arkansas is in a different conference.
A. I’m glad somebody noticed that besides me. This has been going on as long as there’s been an SEC network.
Nobody working there making decisions is going to admit it but I think it has to do with Arkansas having the smallest TV market in the SEC. Somebody should remind those decision makers that it may be the smallest TV market in the SEC but there’s no competition in Arkansas in viewership between fans of rival schools. No Alabama/Auburn split or Mississippi/ Mississippi State. Florida/Florida State etc. Plus in several SEC states there are local pro sports teams that divide up the TV audience. Not so in Arkansas.
But it is what it is. I don’t think it will change.
Q: Robs4516 says: It’s easy to look at the variables surrounding the football team and think that they should be improved from Coach Pittman’s first season. But how do you see the rest of the conference teams on our schedule stacking up, improvement-wise?
A. Alabama lost a ton of talent. Maybe the Tide will be down a bit but don’t count on it. LSU should be better. Some say the same about A&M but I don’t think so. Ole Miss will probably be improved in year two under Kiffin. The same with Mike Leach and Mississippi State. In the SEC West you can’t count on catching a break. The Hogs will have to step it up over what they did last year and I think they will. There may be some drop off at quarterback and receiver but at every other position they should be stronger and deeper.
Q. Pat Johnston says: Last week you said the new image/likeness rule allowing athletes to get paid will actually curb cheating in recruiting while some are saying it will make it worse. Can You explain that again. I’m confused.
A. Just last week the University of Arkansas announced a new program called Flagship. “Flagship is an all-encompassing solution to enable Arkansas student-athletes to fully capitalize on the upcoming Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) legislation set to go into law in the Natural State on January 1, 2022.”
Athletes will be put through a course taught by the Walton School of Business to train them to negotiate with companies who are interested in using them in advertising their product or products. They can bring the two together. So if you are a booster interested in helping these athletes with the idea that they can help your business too, you can legally do this under NCAA rules and under state law. So why would they cheat? Why risk getting their school in trouble by offering deals while an athlete is being recruited when all they have to do is wait until that athlete is signed and on campus. There are always knuckleheads out there but if I’m a head coach I find out who they are and tell them to get with the on campus program or get out.
Q. peakhog is ticked off. He says: I was under the impression that SEC Schools could not show replays on the stadium video board while they’re being reviewed. We get nothing at Baum Walker but, they show em all at Rocky Top! What say you?
A. It’s up to each school. Arkansas will occasionally show a replay during a review but its up to the person operating the video board. At some schools, like Tennessee, apparently they show almost all reviews.
Q. Hoggle wants to know: What is motivating Hunter to play other in-state schools? Do you believe the potential damage (as Frank feared) to the idea of the “one-team state” is worth the risk?
A. I’ve always said there is no way to measure the impact of opening up competition with other in-state schools until it happens. So far there’s been no big issues. Arkansas has lost one of these in-state matchups. That was two years ago in baseball when Arkansas-Little Rock won at Baum Walker Stadium. The Hogs went to the College World Series after that and this year they’ve been number one in the nation for almost three months and have beaten UCA, Arkansas Little Rock, UAPB and Arkansas States and none of those games has been close. So no damage done in baseball.
Two years ago they beat Arkansas Little Rock in basketball. They tried to arranged a COVID replacement game with Arkansas State last season but Arkansas State didn’t want to play it.
But the biggie is still out there. Arkansas vs Arkansas State in football is coming up in five years. If they’d played over the past few years A-State would have had a good chance of winning. If Sam Pittman keeps improving his program I can’t see it being a problem five years from now but again, we won’t know until they play.
Q. J.M. Ferrell says: Cole Kelly was just named the top player in FCS football. What do you remember about him from his time at Arkansas and are you surprised by this?
A. A little bit. I knew he had more talent that what we saw under Chad Morris because what quarterback didn’t? His redshirt freshman year he came into a game in the 4th quarter at South Carolina when Arkansas was hopelessly behind. But in that one quarter he was 8 of 13 for 140 yards and a touchdown and I could see then that he had some skills. He started in loses to Alabama and Auburn and got his first win as a starter at Ole Miss throwing for 189 yards and three touchdowns. The next week he led Arkansas to a win over Coastal Carolina, throwing for 264 yards an a touchdown before Allen came back and finished the season.
The next year Kelley started the first game but Ty Storey quickly won that job with some Connor Noland and John Stephen Jones thrown in. Kelley left that mess in the dust and transferred to Southeast Louisiana. He played in every game as a backup QB in 2019. Set a school record for completion percentage at 74%. This season as the starter he threw for 2,662 yards and 18 touchdowns with just four picks. He ran for seven touchdowns and caught two touchdown passes.
Pretty amazing what Kelley did when he got away from Chad Morris.
Q. Lanny says: Mike Neighbors has three five-star basketball players coming in this season. Has that ever happened in any sport at this school?
A. Maybe in track and field. Certainly not in football or basketball, men or women’s. One of them is a true freshman. The other two are transfers. The amazing thing is, all three of them are local girls.
Jersey Wolfenbarger is a 6-5 combo guard out of Ft. Smith Northside who can score outside or in. One of the top players in the 2021 recruiting class.
Maryam Dauda, is a 6-4 post player from Bentonville who signed with Baylor but switched to Arkansas when head coach Kim Mulkey took the job at LSU. She a scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker who can run the floor like a guard.
Oregon State transfer Sasha Goforth, who was a five-star recruit out of Fayetteville High School two years ago, is coming in. She’s a 6-1 guard/forward who was the number seven rated player in the nation out of high school and was on the Pac12 All Freshman team last year.
There’s actually a 4th five star player, Elauna Eaton from Nettleton who came in last year. She’s been sitting out with a knee injury. Here’s what one recruiting service had to say about her:
Athletic left-handed guard with offensive firepower; crafty off the bounce, passes with flair, interior passer that produces results; deep range threat with elusive dribble-drive game; scores from deep, scores in traffic with feathery touch; impressive stock-riser in the class of 2020.
So get ready. The Arkansas women are stocked with top talent
Q. austin.hogfan asks: So is our basketball coaching staff better now than before? Will either stay around more than one year?
A. I can’t say how long these two new assistant coaches will be around but Gus Argenal worked under Eric Musselman at Nevada so that ought to, in his case, dispel the rumor that Muss is extremely hard to work for. If that was the case why is Argenal coming back to work for him again?
Keith Smart played for Musselman and coached on his staff at Golden State. They’ve known each other for 30 years so again he’s somebody that knows coach Muss inside and out and he’s coming to coach under him again.
Smart has been a head coach for three NBA teams. He fits right in with Muss’ recruiting pitch of selling players on the concept that Arkansas knows how to get them to the NBA.
Smart also hit a game winning shot at the buzzer to win a national championship at Indiana under Bobby Knight and he almost came to Arkansas after being recruited by Nolan Richardson. So there’s a lot of excitement with him coming in.
The thing about coach Muss, he recruits assistant coaches like most coaches recruit players. When he needs them he goes out and gets them.
Q. Arkansas RedNeck says: Some say that Jack Crowe was among the worst head football coaches ever at Arkansas. To me there’s no way he was even close to as bad as John L. Smith and Chad Morris. What do you say?
A. First of all even though he was an interim head coach, that title of “worst coach” belongs to John L. Smith hands down. Apparently John L. thought he was being hired as a comedian instead of a head football coach. He was the worst I’ve ever been around.
Jack Crowe easily wins any comparison with Chad Morris. First of all his teams won 9 games in two years. Morris won 4. In his second season Crowe had Arkansas on the way to winning a SWC title when Jason Allen tore up his knee on a cheap shot in the Baylor game. Arkansas did not have a decent backup QB so the season went downhill after that. The Razorbacks still went to a bowl game. The only way Chad Morris was going to a bowl game at Arkansas was if he bought a ticket.