Q. Our first question is about the big news of the week. J.D. Noate is leaving the Hogs’ basketball team to go pro.

Dana Webb wants to know: How will Notae’s decision affect next year’s team? We have the # 2 recruiting class coming in but in the NCAA Tournament it’s been proven that 5-star rookies need teammates who’ve been to the dance before.

A. You make a good point and now we know why Missouri transfer big forward Trevon Brazile has already signed with Arkansas. They are also in the mix for the top big man in the portal, Fardaws Aimaq, out of Utah Valley St. . Several other experienced guards have been mentioned as Arkansas targets. Plus, as of right now, small forward Au’Diese Toney has not said he’s moving on. He’s Arkansas best defender. Guard Devo Davis will be back. He’s got 8 NCAA tournament games under his belt so yes, Musselman understands the need to mix some veterans in with this number two recruiting class.

Q: Arkansas sophomore Guard K. K. Robinson hit the transfer portal last week. Bobby Hitt says:
Watched him in high school. He was always one of the best guards on the court. I always thought he would get more playing time. I would never question Muss though. He will get an opportunity with a power 5 school I believe.

A. I agree. K. K. actually had a great debut with the Hogs two seasons ago but he fractured a foot in early January of 2021 and missed the rest of the season. That injury set him back and he didn’t do a lot when he got playing time this season. A fresh start at a different school could be just what he needs because, you’re right, he’s a very talented player.

Q. Oliver Palmer says: You mentioned several times that Coach Muss needed to land a point guard for next season. Watching the McDonalds All American game it looked like to me that he’s got three of them coming in.

A. That was the surprise I got when I watched that game. Anthony Black, the 6-7 guard out of Duncanville, Texas is the only one listed as a point guard. That kid is an amazing ball handler and distributor of the ball. A big point guard who can shoot. Then there’s 6-3 combo guard Nick Smith who is Arkansas’ highest rated recruit. Yes, he is a shooting guard but he can definitely play the point. The big surprise was Jordan Walsh, a 6-7 small forward who can absolutely run an offense. He’s a rim rocker, who can shoot but his ball handling and passing skills will blow you away. Arkansas need players who can generate assists. Assists create high percentage shots which are essential to competing for a national title.

Q. Dr. Starcs asks: What are your thoughts on Mike Neighbors comments about preferring the experience over winning two tournament games? I can’t imagine Muss or any other successful coach making a statement like that especially after getting blown out for the second straight year.

A. I’m not sure that’s exactly what he said. But I will point this out: Coaching women is not the same as coaching men. Nolan Richardson coached professional women for a season. He said his system and how he coaches did not in any way translate to the women’s game. Ask Jimmy Dykes about that.

Mike Neighbors is an experienced college basketball coach on the women’s side. I think he knows what he’s doing and his statement reflects that fact. If you want to criticize his NCAA Tournament record go ahead, but their problems over the past two seasons have been more about injuries than whether or not he places too much emphasis on his girls having fun while they play the game.

Q. To baseball where H. McCamish says: I guess I’m being a bad fan but I was really disappointed in Arkansas losing game three against MSU. They played so well in the first two games but came up short at the plate in some key situations in game three and it cost them. What do you think?

A. Nothing wrong with that. You’re right, they played their best baseball of the season in games one and two and it wasn’t bad in game three until they got into some RBI situations late and could not get anything going. DVH finally ran out of bullpen options and had to go to with Kole Rammage for two innings. His history this season shows that he’s good for one inning, not two and indeed, he gave up two runs in the top of the 12th and that was the difference in the game.

Part of the issue is this team is being compared to last year’s team and they’re not as good as they were in 2021. That team stayed number one in the country for almost the entire regular season. I also think that a lot of Hog fans have a nervous eye on Tennessee. Those guys are just destroying their opponents. 9-0 in SEC play. They just swept Vanderbilt on the road and the ‘Dores were in second place in the East. Arkansas had a chance for a three game lead in the West but being up by two after three weeks is not bad. However, no question, losing that sweep took some of the edge off of an otherwise great weekend of baseball at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Q. Joco says: I’m at the Friday Miss St. game and have to say I’m disappointed.16 boxes have little to no one. The new open air boxes in right field are empty. Hog Heaven behind home plate has 15 people. Hog pen full. Home plate and sections behind the third base dugout 1/3 full. Hopefully late arriving.

A. I was there. It was a later arriving crowd. But even after the game got going it was not what you’d expect for a Friday night game against a traditional SEC West Opponent. Some of that was Mississippi State. They got off to a slow start.

Also I think some Razorback fans are still trying to figure this team out. They are ranked high nationally. They entered the weekend first in the West. But even Dave Van Horn has admitted as late at last week that his guys are playing good baseball but not tearing it up. He probably had Tennessee in mind when he said that.

But there’s no question that some long time ticket holders dropped their seats with the new ticket and parking policies. They feel disrespected by the university and supposedly these new ticker holders pick and choose the games they come to.

However, The crowd was much better for the Saturday game and there was a good Sunday crowd. Packed stadiums usually don’t happen until the weather warms up into the 70’s and 80’s. So before I come to any conclusions about all of this I want to see the whole season play out.

Q. Razors85 makes this point about the empty seats on Friday: Tried to get tickets for this weekend for 4. Nothing going Friday or Saturday… Ended up with Hog pen on Sunday. The right field area would only let you get 1 ticket
Secondary market is ridiculous. $50+ for the outfield baselines. Dugouts to home were 150-200 each.

A. Look I’m not out there trying to buy tickets but this is the story all over Facebook from Hogs fans. Unless you know somebody who is willing to sell you tickets at face value when they are going to miss a game, it can cost a lot to get into a weekend game because the place is sold out.

Q. Other traditional SEC West baseball powers have even bigger issues according to PorkRyan who says: Watched the last two LSU games and it’s 50% at best behind home plate. Seems to be a problem everywhere.

A. I don’t think it’s a problem everywhere. I think it’s a problem at SEC schools who have big stadiums but are struggling right now. LSU is a good example of that and it’s what some Arkansas fans are warning about. The athletic department had better hope that the Hogs keep winning at a high level because there are a bunch of fair weather season ticket holders who are not going to show up if the team is struggling, these fan say. Again, the only way to know if they are right is to have it happen. Hopefully with DVH’s coaching and recruiting, it won’t happen.

Q. LR Tackett says: Tennessee is smoking the competition so far. If they keep this up they will run away with the SEC title and would seem to be headed for a CWS championship.. But what about this illegal bat stuff? Is Vitello a cheater?

A. To provide some background on that situation, in the Friday game Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin asked the umps to examine a Tennessee bat after Jordan Beck had hit the first home run of the game. They looked at it and ruled Beck out. Here was the official explanation for that:

“In pre-series bat testing, a sticker with the logo of the opposing team is placed on legal bats. There was a sticker on the bat in question, but it was not an appropriate sticker on the bat. It was a sticker from a midweek game. Therefore the bat was deemed illegal.”

But there was more to it than that. Apparently Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin had already discussed an alleged issue with Tennessee bats in conversations with the SEC office earlier in the week. He explained that with this statement:

“It has been part of what has been going around during the course of the week in terms of the SEC and us talking about it,” Corbin said. “It has been out there. It just made sense to do that.”

That suggests to me that Corbin suspected that Tennessee had been using illegal bats and that’s why they’ve been hitting so many home runs. Perhaps the SEC office was concerned as well.

Then there is Vitello’s reaction to this. I can understand him questioning the ruling and asking the umps to explain it. But after their explanation he tried to get the bat back and that fueled speculation by non Tennessee fans that he had something to hide.

After getting really angry when it happened, after the game, which Tennessee won, he appeared to mock the bat controversy as a crazy conspiracy theory when he said this:

“I don’t even know that Jordan Beck should be at the University of Tennessee,” Vitello said. “He forged his transcript. He is actually a 35-year-old man named Mike Honcho. He just shows up to practice every day and he is a good kid, so we put him in the lineup.”

I’m not sure that’s gonna play well with the SEC office but this is an uproar about nothing if that bat is ruled legal.

Q.BloodRedHog asks: If Malik is successful at another position, do you think Cade or Lucas assumes the backup QB position?

A. To be clear catching the ball out of the slot as a receiver does not mean that Hornsby is moving to receiver. They’ve got some plays where Hornsby switches with K.J. Jefferson and Jefferson becomes a slot receiver.

As far as another player moving past Hornsby as the backup quarterback, both of the players you mentioned are in the mix but the big surprise is Cade Fortin. He’s a walk-on transfer from South Florida with a lot of game experience and Sam Pittman has mentioned being really impressed with what he’s done in team situations so far.

Q. robs4516 says: I read a quote from Rocket Sanders recently saying he had to sit out practice after absorbing a helmet-to-helmet hit. Since a targeting call can have such a big impact on the course of a game, do you know what the coaches do to emphasize avoiding targeting in practice?

A. The main thing they do in the spring is to put green jerseys on their starters. That means no heavy contact. Apparently somebody didn’t get the message on that with Sanders. The linemen wear special helmets in practice with heavy padding over the helmet but really, common sense is the main safety measure. Don’t go helmet to helmet with one of your teammates.

Q. About quarterback Kane Archer from Greenwood who visited Arkansas last week, Gardner Toni Snow Earnest wants to know: How old is this guy 14 or 15 years old? (Class of) 2026.

A. He’s 14. and finished his 8th grade season last fall. Why offer him? Well 2026 is obviously a long way off but he’s currently rated as the top QB in that class as of now and currently has offers from Missouri, Michigan and Arkansas. Pittman made a smart move in welcoming the kid in for an unofficial visit. Who knows? In four years the Hogs might just have the number one QB in the nation in their backyard.

Q. Referring to a civil rights lawsuit filed by the Nation Collegiate Players Association against Division I schools, Kevin says: I wish they understood the fight is with the NFL & NBA. They are the ones setting the rules that they have to go to college. Make those leagues finance minor leagues. Everything should be run like baseball. If you think you’re good enough, then go the pro’s when you want.

A. I read this lawsuit differently from you. It looks like they’re trying to get the courts to rule that college athletes have to be made paid employees of the universities they attend. Some fans think something like this is worse than NIL and would ruin college athletics. I don’t see that at all. By making scholarship athletes paid employees the NCAA could impose salary caps on each school just like the NFL. It would eliminate the bidding for players that comes with NIL money. These athletes would be part time employees since they are limited to 20 hours a week of participation in athletics. With a salary cap, reasonable compensation might be $20,000 a year with tuition, room and board thrown in.

The best thing about making these athletes university employees, is that they no longer would control their NIL. If you go to work for a company that company has a right to use your skills which includes your name and image to make money. That’s what businesses do across this country.

We’ll have to see how this lawsuit plays out but with a proper plan by the NCAA I could see this as a much better way to compensate athletes monetarily than through NIL programs.

Q. RadHogNo.1 asks: Now that it’s okay for schools to sell players jerseys what player is Mike Irwin picking?

A. Because I’m in the media and cover the various teams at the university I will not be purchasing any players jerseys for myself. However I do have a couple of grandsons who would like to have one. After checking I’ll be going with Jaylin Williams and Connor Nolan, for them. My two grand daughters would like a Jersey Wolfenbarger jersey. So that’s three River Valley athletes. Maybe my wife’s influence is at work. She’s a River Valley girl herself.