Q: Let’s begin with our weekly COVID update.
A. Some good news this week in the SEC. All games were played. Florida and Vandy were back on the field after missing two weeks due to COVID. Florida had to postpone two games. Vandy had an open date one of those weeks so they’ve postponed just one game. The most high profile COVID case of the season is Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. He sat out the Boston College game on Saturday. Clemson won but was behind for a lot of the game. He will also be sidelined this weekend against Notre Dame. I’m still confident that the entire SEC season will be played. Less certain about the Big 10 and the Pac 12 which starts this weekend. They don’t have the postponement options the SEC built in by starting the season five weeks ago. I’m also still hopeful that we will have at least some bowl games and a national championship playoff. As I mentioned last week I’m worried about the size of the crowds for basketball season. It’s an indoor sport. There will probably be more restrictions and school like Arkansas really needs normal crowds. Most athletic departments operate on the money they bring in in a given academic year. There was a big shortfall this season with the limited football crowds. Right now it’s unclear what will happen with basketball and baseball crowds at the university of Arkansas. We need a vaccine.
Q. Our first question comes from parallaxpig who says: I saw where several long term athletic staff announced retirement. Most have been eligible to retire for several years. Just wandering if Covid generated money issues helped motivate some to retire now.
A. I’m told that’s exactly what happened. They were given generous retirement packages and took them because it might not be available if the revenue shortfalls continue. I was told that these people will not be replaced for now. We’re talking the secretary to the basketball head coach that goes back to Eddie Sutton. The football secretary that goes back to Lou Holtz. The sports information secretary that I’ve dealt with for almost 40 years. She is terrific at her job. One of the best turf management people in the business. The guy who is responsible for the beautiful grass at Reynolds Razorback Stadium and Baum-Walker. All of the practice fields. We need to get the fans back in the stands.
Q. The_Bionic_Pig says: Arkansas’ offense finally looked like the 2009 Baylor team under year one coach Art Briles against the #4 run defense nationally. Do you believe they take the same leap Baylor did in year two?
A. That was the bright spot for sure. The Razorbacks had 222 yards rushing to go with 239 yard passing. They had more yards total offense than the Aggies who has a really good defense. No question this offense is continuing to progress. Getting Rakeem Boyd back, looking like his old self was huge. Teylon Burks had another solid game and the tight ends were involved. I still think the other receivers need to be more of a factor. The difference in the game was those three times Arkansas was forced into a field goal attempt. It looked like Franks was having trouble spotting open receivers which lead to him being sacked three times. I don’t know about next year. That’s too far ahead for me to project especially since I don’t know who the quarterback will be but if this offense keeps improving this team is reaching the point where it can win maybe three or four more games this season. Five of or six wins would be a great start to the Pittman era.
Q. JHicks3636 says: Look into your crystal ball and tell me who quarterbacks the Hogs next year. Could Franks miraculously return? Will it be someone already on campus? Will it be an incoming Freshman? Will we get a top flight grad or other transfer? Just your best read of the tea leaves.
A. I wish I could say that Franks will return but I’m doubtful of that and I do worry about who would replace him next year. I look at the guys on campus and I don’t see them at his level and in year two under Sam Pittman they’re gonna need the same kind experience and leadership we see from Franks. I’ll continue to say that I believe they’ll look for another grad transfer if Franks leaves. That’s just me reading the tea leaves. I’ve heard nothing about that from those close to the coaches.
Q. BloodRedHog says: Our defense plays a good zone. A&M exposed that with good QB play when we failed to pressure Mond with 4 defensive linemen. Do you think our pass rush is our Achilles heel?
A. It’s tough with a three or four man rush but Arkansas blitzed some. They almost got to Kellen Mond several times but he was amazing. I’ve watched him get better. When you start for four years that’s gonna happen. He threw accurately under pressure. Made no mistakes. Plus he’s playing behind maybe the best offensive line in the SEC. A&M’s offense is very good but they played great in that game. I would not judge Arkansas defense what we saw on Saturday.
Q. PorkSoda says: From what I understand Jerry Jacobs opted out for the season and there may be other opt outs in the horizon. What is your take on the situation, and how Pittman is handling it?
A. I think they’ve had five. We’re getting late in the season for more players to opt out because of COVID. But certainly opting out could be used an a reason for leaving when actually it’s because of a lack of playing time. I’ve heard that there might be one more. It appears that’s what happened with Jacobs. It’s a lot easier to transfer these days and COVID makes it easier. There’s nothing the coaches can do about it. You don’t make somebody a starter or give them more playing time just because they might leave.
Q. Dr. Starcs says: Would love to hear your perspective on if fans are justified in believing that Yurachek is mostly a “yes man”?
A. This has to do with the announcement last week that next year the Arkansas-A&M football game will move back to Jerryworld in Arlington. Some Hog fans see that as another example of disrespect from the SEC. The Arkansas athletic department says it has nothing to do with that. They made the decision because if the game is played in Fayetteville next year it would push the end of he contract with Jerry Jones back to 2025 instead of 2024. I have no reason to not to believe that. But here’s the curious part to me. I has assumed that the game was moved to College Station this year because the SEC did not want off campus games while COVD was still an issue. So, I thought, why is the Florida-Georgia game still being played in Jacksonville this season? Well, the word I got from the University is that it was a decision by the two schools to move the game for safety reasons relating to COVID, Arkansas originally planned to move the game next year to Fayetteville but decided against it in order to avoid extending the length of the contract with Jerry Jones.
Q. CowHog32 asks: Why is everyone upset about playing the A&M game at Jerryworld next year. If Covid is still rampant next season I’m sure we can choose to play at home. As it currently stands when the contract is over we will get the first home game. We have plenty of slights that are legit to get upset about this,
A. If everything came down the way it was explained to me I would agree. This does not appear to be a case of the SEC pushing Arkansas around or Hunter Yurachek caving in. So unless new information comes out about this that would suggest otherwise I would agree with you.
Q. Twinky275 says: Not 100% sure but from what I understand the SEC allows visual annoyances by fans like the Aggies white flag of surrender. However audible distractions are prohibited. So why are cow bells allowed?
A. This is was compromise between the SEC and Mississippi State which argued that eliminating cowbells at football games in Starkville would break the school’s oldest tradition. The compromise was this: Fans can bring their cowbells to the game and ring them but only after a the ball is snapped and until each team lines up to run the next play or any time when play is stopped. If you’ve been to a game there you know that the fans there do a good job of self discipline on that. For a few seconds after a play the noise level is incredible but as soon as the offense lines up over the ball the bells stop the noise level in the stadium drops dramatically.
Q. Großer Kriegschwein wants to know: Why is the SEC not enforcing parity on stadium attendance? If Florida says “no restrictions on attendance” and Arkansas imposes 25%, the state governments are controlling revenue. How could revenue parity be achieved across the board in the conference?
A. You bring up an interesting point. The SEC decided not to get involved because COVID rates are different state to state. So they decided that state and local officials at the game site should determine attendance limitations. But it has created an imbalance. Not only does College Station have a louder game environment than Fayetteville but A&M makes more money off their games. The SEC could have taken the smallest allowed attendance and applied it to all schools but what if a state decided there should no fans at all? Then no team could have a home crowd. I don’t have an issue with the way this was done.
Q. Semper_a_Hog says: I saw some references to Hog fans mocking CSP’s claim that “our days of being embarrassed are over.” Personally, I think A&M is the 2nd best team in the SEC-West and we actually had a respectable showing against them. Can you talk the Hog fans off the ledge, or am I the crazy one?
A. I don’t think I have to talk anybody off the ledge. If a fan wants to react that way….well it’s the Internet. I agree with you. I’d like to see A&M play Georgia. I think it would be a really good game. The Aggies played almost mistake free football against Arkansas. The score could have been a lot worse. I like the way the Hogs made a late comeback to get the deficit to 11 points. Nothing to be embarrassed about.
Q. plumbhog wants to know: What is going on with Malik Chavis? Heard he was going to be out the first 3 weeks (sick) but he has yet to even appear on the sideline that I know of.
A. I’m not at the games but I’m told that he’s there. He’s not listed on the current depth chart so it sounds like he’s buried behind other players. I will say that this secondary, even if there were problems against the Aggies, has been doing a solid job this season. I
Q. Stu wants to know: So will Catalon be suspended any for the TN game or was the fact that the targeting was early in the TAMU game that there won’t be a need for additional suspension?
A. Catalon will be available for Tennessee game.
Q. Lanny asks: Could you tell us how Arkansas matches up against Tennessee this week?
A. In the preseason this was projected as one of Arkansas tougher games. But after a 2-0 start Tennessee has dropped three straight. Two of them were understandable. Georgia and Alabama roughed them up. But it’s that game three weeks ago that has people scratching their heads. A 34-7 loss to Kentucky. Their starting quarterback has thrown some picks lately. Was benched briefly. It will be interesting to see if Arkansas defense can force him into some turnovers. Tennessee has had an extra week to prepare for this game. We’ll see if they learned anything from the A&M game that could help them. As of today I think they are a one point favorite. Tennessee is middle of the pack and below in the major defensive categories so hopefully Arkansas’ offense take advantage of them. I like where this offense is right now.