It is time once again for our weekly “Ask Mike” segment where our veteran analyst Mike Irwin answers your questions about Arkansas Athletics. Below are the topics and Mike’s answers to your questions.
Q. IAMHogholio says: With the status quo being 8 teams in the nation having a legitimate opportunity to reach the peak, I’m wondering if eight wins is our best expectation with six being the norm along with a minor bowl every year?
A. I assume you’re referring to teams that make the college football playoff as, “the peak.” The argument is being made these days that the same five or six teams keep rotating into the playoffs with maybe three or four having any shot at a national championship. My argument is, if you increase the number of playoff teams to eight you’re going to have more upsets and more teams getting involved.
But that’s a separate issue from how many wins Arkansas can expect. I still say, and have said this all along, the right head coach with the right staff will change things for Arkansas. They just haven’t had the right head coach in a long time. Maybe will be Sam Pittman. Frank was the right coach. Lou was, for a while. Hatfield was. Nutt was for a while. Petrino was for a brief time.
It can and will happen again. This fan base is too good and too committed for it not to happen.
Q. PatBoat asks: Do you ever see CJ O’Grady making the NFL?
A. He’s got the talent to play in the NFL. But he’s done so many things to hurt himself, it will be tough. The word is out on him. He would periodically get focused and apply himself but then he’d get in a jam with the coaches. And that was with two different head coaches and their staffs. At some point you run out of chances. I can’t say it won’t happen but he got a tryout with the Cowboys and nothing came of it.
Q.Razorboo wants to know: With the extra year of eligibility do you see any of the basketball grad transfers playing for the Hogs in 21-22?
A. It’s hard to say. They’ve got a new class coming in so it’s like we see in other sports like football and baseball. You can have more guys on scholarship but what does the budget allow? My guess is if Jalen Tate or Justin Smith wanted to come back coach Muss would welcome them back. I’ve asked around. Most people I’ve talked with don’t think they’ll be back but they admit they don’t know for sure. There’s always pressure on good seniors to turn pro. The money is good even if you don’t go to the NBA. But the clock is ticking on those guys. There’s only so many years they can pull good money playing overseas.
Q. peakhog asks: Any idea why the NCAA pulled the plug on our VIP “cutouts” for the upcoming indoor track meets? I know they’re still fighting to control the Athletes likeness but, now they want to control mine.
A. When any school hosts an NCAA event on its campus, that’s the NCAA’s event. They are in control of everything. They want the fan cutouts gone for that event. The people we talked to say it’s a space issue for the athletes. You put all those teams in one building, even one as big as the Tyson Center, and you need lots of room for those athletes. The NCAA could also be saying, we won’t have fan cutouts for any other team. We don’t want Arkansas to have any.
Q. Turning to women’s basketball, where does Chelsea Dungee rank among the all-time best players?
A. It’s always tough to compare athletes of different eras but I’d say that Dungee ranks up there with Betty Fiscus, Arkansas all time leading scorer. Fiscus finished with 2073 career points. Dungee is currently at 2004 points. Arkansas has four more regular season games left. If they play two SEC tournament games and one NCAA tournament game, which is conservative, she can break that record by averaging 10 points game in those seven games. She’s currently averaging 21.9 points per game. It looks like she’ll do it easily. So yeah, Dungee is right in there with Fiscus and maybe Christi Smith as the best to play at Arkansas.
Q. hobhog asks: Can you discuss the Hog baseball schedule? Not sure I have ever seen the SEC so stacked and then add in games in Arlington against top ranked teams for maybe the toughest schedule ever?
A. It’s brutal for sure. Going by D-1 baseball’s preseason poll, Arkansas will play 6 top 10 teams and 10 top 25 teams. Going by rankings Arkansas is set to play #1 Florida, # 3 Texas Tech, # 6 Ole Miss, # 7 Mississippi State, #9 Texas, #10 TCU, # 12 LSU, #18 South Carolina, #19 Tennessee and # 23 Auburn. Thankfully #4 Vanderbilt is not on Arkansas’ regular season schedule this year but every other ranked SEC team is.
Q. austin.hogfan says: We now are in second place overall in the SEC in basketball which anyone would have taken to start the year. How do you see this ending up record wise and what seed in the NCAA tourney in your favorite place Indianapolis?!
A. Looking ahead Arkansas has tough games coming up against Florida, LSU and Alabama. If they win just one of those games, beat A&M and South Carolina and win one SEC tournament game they would be 20-8 going into the NCAA Tournament, 12-7 in SEC games. That should easily be good enough for an 8 or 9 seed and that’s conservative. They could finish better than that.
Q. Superhog1959 says: In 2006 the Razorbacks had Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Payton Hillis, Marcus Monk, a 5 star QB named Mitch Mustain and a future NC winner as a offensive coordinator named Gus Malzahn.
The team started 10 and 1. Nutt pulled Mitch and appeared to take over the offense. We lost the last 3 games. Why and how did this happen?
A. Your numbers are a little off off. Arkansas did start 10-1 but was 7-1 when Nutt took over the offense and benched Mustain near the start of the South Carolina game. They finished 3-3 after the changes but did lose the last three.
Why did it happen? Several boosters were worried that John White would force Frank Broyles out as athletic director because of his age. He was in his early 80’s.
They were also worried that White would hire his own AD and change a lot of the fan friendly policies that Frank had in place. They wanted Houston Nutt to replace Frank because Nutt understood how things worked at Arkansas.
They didn’t tell Nutt about their plan but they did back him into a corner because of his two previous losing seasons. 0-4 and 05.
With Frank’s support they got Nutt to hire Malzahn as offensive coordinator. But their ultimate goal was to get Nutt to agree to become AD and give Gus the head coaching job.
At some point Nutt found out about this plan and he wanted no part of it. He wanted Malzahn out as offensive coordinator. How did Mustain get mixed up in this? Apparently he thought Mustain was in on the plan which was crazy. The kid decommitted when Malzahn was hired and only recommitted when they promised him that Malzahn would not be the quarterbacks coach but the receivers coach instead.
Nutt won out in the end. He used that 10 win season to demote Malzahn who left for Tulsa. He figured Mustain would stay but he left for USC not because Malzahn was gone but because his name had gotten kicked all over social media and a disruptive influence on the team which was also nonsense. This whole mess is a good example of how well meaning boosters can screw things up. It was less dramatic but the same thing happened 11 years later when some boosters got involved in trying to hire Malzahn as head coach and Arkansas ended up with Chad Morris.