PTN’S “Ask Mike” Segment: 9-21-20

Local Sports

Q: Let’s begin with our weekly COVID update.

A. The good news is we’re now almost a month into the college football season, something a lot of folks said would never happen. We’ve had a few games postponed. Some cancellations. But most teams have played. Last week we had a question about minimum protocols for SEC teams to play a game. At that time there were none. Now there are some. SEC schools will have to have a minimum of 53 scholarship players available. One quarterback. Seven offensive linemen. Four defensive linemen. A school can appeal if it wants to play anyway but he feeling is this is a way out for teams in this situation. Also even it a school meets those minimum standards it can still ask to have an upcoming game postponed or cancelled.

Arkansas has not released any COVID numbers or quarantine numbers in weeks but Hunter Yuracheck did say last Friday that if Arkansas had been playing games in each of the last three weeks there would have been no issue meeting those protocols. Once again he praised the leadership of Sam Pittman, his staff and the players in keeping this football program relatively COVID free.

Now we get to the nitty gritty. We are inside the window and have been since early last week where if a player tests positive or is quarantined they’re not playing on Saturday. Also Sam Pittman said that any player quarantined or coming off testing positive from two weeks ago must be back at practice by this Wednesday to be able to play. So there are still some hurdles to clear including a test last Friday, one today, one on Wednesday and one the day before the Georgia game.

Q. Okay our first question comes from Twinky275 who says: The cutouts for VIP football went like hot cakes. Sold out 6 hrs after posting. Getting a regular football one. Any chance on basketball ones. Or more VIP football ones – since high demand. Also Can we get each of y’alls – Mike, Alyssa, D.J., Tera, predictions for the game? I say Hogs by 3.

A. The front row cutouts are sold out but you can still get one for $50 on other rows. It’s too late to order for the Georgia game but there’s time to get an order filled for the next home game on October 17th against Ole Miss.

No decision about crowd cutouts has been made for basketball because crowd restrictions, if there are any, have not been announced.
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As for predicting the outcome of the Georgia game, we will make our predictions but not here. That will come on our Gameday show Saturday morning at 10 am on KARK and KNWA.

Q. Semper_a_Hog says: On some of the video highlights of the offensive and defensive line drills, I’ve noticed the offensive linemen seem to push the defender away and keep a separation, where in past years I recall them grabbing the defender at first contact.. Can you give any insight into some of the technique changes we can expect in the trenches?

A. The only other thing I recall is something Sam Pittman stressed back when the was the O-line coach here under Bret Bielema. That is strain until the whistle. Don’t give up on a play before it’s over. Several of the players have said that this is one of the biggest differences with this coaching staff.

Q. SED76 asks: Based on what you have seen and heard what is your gut feeling about the Georgia game? Do we play a competitive game or suffer a demoralizing beat down. This team and fan base desperately need something to give us hope this 3 year plus nightmare is coming to an end.

A. I don’t have a gut feeling about the score of the game. I do think that this bunch will be more competitive. They will also be better coached. How could they not be? The standards of the last four seasons is as bad as it gets at this school. There’s nowhere to go but up.

Q. The_Bionic_Pig wants to know: 1. Who was faster Darren McFadden or Basil Shabbazz?

And 2. Who had the best arm talent arm Joe Ferguson or Ryan Mallett?

A. Probably Shabbazz. He was also a track guy. But Gary Anderson was probably faster than both of them. He ran one race on the Arkansas track team and John McDonnell said Anderson was the fastest starting football player he’d ever seen. He said that Anderson was one of those athletes who was as fast as he needed to be. As far as McFadden, he was a straight line runner. If he spotted a hole he went from point A to point B with almost no deviation. He was also plenty fast. The point is track speed is not always an indicator of success in football.

The other question, Joe Ferguson started in the NFL for almost two decades. No way did Mallett measure up to that standard. From an NFL standpoint Ferguson is the best Arkansas quarterback of all time. He’s also one of my favorites. A no nonsense football player with a ton of talent.

Q. BloodRedHog says: ASU was forced to reschedule its game with UCA due to a COVID outbreak. With only one open date per SEC team, how could the SEC manage rescheduling of games?
Would an SEC team enduring an outbreak have to forfeit a game if no rescheduling option was available?

A. The last regular season game for each team is December 5th. The following Saturday is reserved for teams that need to play a game that was postponed. So really SEC teams have the option of rescheduling as least two games. Their open date and on December 12. The SEC has shown that it will find a way to solve problems. So I don’t see any forfeits.

Q. littlehog98 asks: Do you think that Arkansas will win games that they shouldn’t have won because of COVID-19?

A. It’s certainly possible. It’s possible they could lose a game because of COVID too. Or they might win a game in spite of COVID like Arkansas State did two weeks ago. COVID is the new X factor this season.

Q. DeltaBoy wants to know: Do you share Grant Morgan’s confidence in the LB corps over last years group?

A. Grant Morgan is supposed to have confidence in the linebackers. He’s the senior leader in that room but right now that looks to be the weak link on the defense. There’s a lack of speed there. Pass coverage is the issue. I keep hearing that Georgia is going to an air raid type offense. If so the linebackers are going to need some help from the D-line and the secondary.

Q. austin.hogfan asks: Do you think our special teams could be good enough to keep us in the game with Georgia?

A. In a close game it could make a difference. A.J, Reed, the grad transfer kicker from Duke has been opening some eyes. He’s highly accurate from 50 yards in. George Caratan, a transfer punter from Michigan has been booming the ball. Sam Pittman has been bragging on special teams coach Scott Fountain since the day he was hired. I’m anxious to see the changes he makes.

But I still think this games boils down to how well Arkansas matches up against a tough Georgia defense. We’re gonna find out in a hurry if the O line has really improved. Kendal Briles’ play calling and Feleipe Franks as a quarterback will all be tested along with Rakeem Boyd.

The good news is Franks played against that defense in 2018 was a part of the prep for it in 2017 and 2019.
Also Sam Pittman saw that defense every day in practice for four seasons. He knows what Kirby Smart likes to do.

Q. Hawgphat wants to know: Based upon your perception of the work ethic being expended by both the football staff and the players, how do you project the Hogs’ likelihood of being able to remain competitive for the entire four quarters of games this season?

A. That’s the big question everybody wants to know. Is this going to be a second half team? Going all the way back to Bret Bielema’s last two teams far too often the second half has been a disaster. I think you’ll see a big difference. I think this bunch will play hard for these coaches the entire game but until we all see it there has to be a question about that.

Q. Mo_Better_Hogs says: We know the SEC likes to protect their top horses. What will happen if Covid starts affecting several teams later this season? Will the SEC treat games differently based on who is in them?

A. That’s a good question. Even though there is a specific protocol for cancelling a game teams can ask for a postponement even if they are on the positive side of those protocols. My guess is, if Alabama wants a postponement they’ll get it. The same for LSU, Georgia and Florida. Arkansas, Missouri and Vanderbilt? Who knows?

Q. porkbellys says: For years it has seemed like our defenders were glued to blockers. Have they been working on disengaging, please say yes!

A. Okay I’ll say yes. If you’ve watched some of the video from practice you’ve seen D-Line coach Derrick LeBlanc working on that with his guys. They do it a lot. But guess what? They worked on it under Kenny Ingram last year. Working on it and doing it in a game are two different things. Hopefully we’ll get good results under Le Blanc.

Q. peakhog asks: Some tech questions for SEC games. Will they be using those worthless electronic whistles that are hard to hear and will limited camera positions have an impact on replay angles?

A. Those whistles were mandated by the NCAA. It’s not working out. Players are having trouble hearing them. Some have pointed out that it’s dangerous. I haven heard anything about that rule being changed but if the refs are tested for COVID before games, and they are, there would seem to be no problem with them blowing a traditional whistle. This looks like overkill on the part of the NCAA. What a shock. hopefully this will get resolved soon. Make the electronic whistles louder or go back to the traditional whistle.

As for the camera placements, there will be no changes for the broadcast crews. Local TV stations are restricted to the stands but there will be the normal number of camera angles for TV replays.

Q. BloodRedHog is back with another question: As of today do we know with certainty if any of our projected starters will miss the Georgia game due to a positive COVID test?

A. No. It’s been the policy of the athletic department not to mention COVID or quarantine numbers. The only player that we know that missed practice time was Grant Morgan and that’s because he mentioned in a Zoom interview that he had been quarantined at one point. He did not say if he had tested positive. If any starters are missing come game time if it’s mentioned at all it would probably be right before the game begins but that’s a guess.

Q. RiverValleyHog55 wants to know: What is Sam Pittman’s pregame speech to focus and rally the troops for The Battle of Georgia?

A. Pittman never reveals to us what he says to the team. He’s very private about his locker room. The only way we’d ever know something like that is if the TV cameras were there when he addressed the team before the game. My guess is, whatever he says there will be a YES SIRRRR thrown in. That’s his trademark.

Q. Finally we got a question last week about block chili and Paul Eells cheese dip. You can buy block chili at just about any grocery store but we needed the recipe for the cheese dip. Boss Hog on Hogville has provided it for us.

Here are the ingredients:

1 lb. of ground beef
1 box of block chili (Famous, Four Star, or Ziegler’s brand)
1 lb. of Velveeta
1 can of Rotel
1 half pint of whipping cream

Here are your cooking instructions:

Brown and season beef. Add block chili and heat thoroughly. Cube the Velveeta and add to chili & beef. Stir until melted. Add rotel and heat until thoroughly hot. Remove from heat and stir in whipping cream. Enjoy with your favorite chips.

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