Q. Our first question is from BloodRedHog who says: What the heck Joe Foucha? We lost a defensive team captain to the portal? Do we know why?
A. There’s been a lot speculation about that, most of it pure rumor. The Internet fans went crazy over it. Some said it was because Foucha is from Louisiana, the new LSU staff bought him with NIL money. I’m told that is not true.
There was a lot of chatter on social media that Foucha had issues with cornerbacks coach Sam Carter. Supposedly some of the guys, not just Foucha, didn’t like the way he dealt with them. There was open spculation on Hogville that maybe Carter needed to go.
It got interesting at that point because safety Jalen Catalon got on Twitter and defended Carter, saying that he, Catalon, would not be coming back next season if Carter needed to be replaced.
Look, as a fan you either believe in Sam Pittman or you don’t. If you do then ask yourself why would he have a coach on his staff that players didn’t want to play for? What he would do is have a coach who is as tough as nails, is demanding and that’s the main reason why the secondary got better. If a player or players want to leave because they don’t get that, then they should go.
keep in mind that Mike Woods was a starter last year and he hit the portal for Oklahoma. That decision never made any sense to me and it still doesn’t. He had an average final year there and I don’t think he’s in better position for the NFL draft because of it. These transfers don’t all make sense but it’s what happens when they have an unrestricted ability to take a hike just because they feel like it. Get used to it.
The answer to this is, your coaching staff, in this case Arkansas, is going to have to work the portal the other way. Go get guys to replace guys who left.
Q. PigDaddyKane wants to know: What’s going on with the transfers from our secondary?
Q. John with a similar question: What’s going on with all these guys ( Foucha & Brooks mainly) hitting the portal? Is there staff problems, attitude problems, NIL offers from elsewhere? Rumor in Brooks thread in MMQB says maybe 2 or 3 coaches may go. What gives? Is it sour up there or is Pittman moving guys on so he can replace them with better?
A. Okay this is a good example of what I’ve already addressed. Two or three coaches are out supposedly because staff problems? Not true. Sam Brooks is also in the portal and that’s half of the starting secondary. I go back to Catalon who said I would not have come back if there were these kinds of issues. Bumper Pool announced on Friday that he’s coming back. That would not happen if the speculation of coaching issues was on target. Catalon and Myles Slusher will replace Foucha and Brooks. The secondary will be fine.
Q. Alex4Hogs88 says: I am starting to get really concerned about the mass exodus of defensive players. I’m hoping we get things sorted out and bring in upgrades in those positions from the signing class/transfer portal.
A. There are two significant transfers. Foucha and Brooks. It’s entirely possible that neither would have ended up starting next season. What we’re mostly talking about here is players who were encouraged to leave. Around twelve of them. I predict that that by signing day next month all of this stuff will be resolved and the freak out by some fans will stop.
Q. LZH says: This NIL deal seems to already be out of hand. Have you heard anything about some type of regulation or at least some sort of guidelines? As of this week, it’s even more like the wild, wild, west and only getting worse.
A. There currently two regulations. (1) NIL deals cannot be offered or discussed until after a player signs an LOI. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this rule could easily be abused. That’s where enforcement comes into play. Coaches are going to have to turn other coaches in and there needs to be proof.
The other rule (2) is that NIL money cannot be tied to athletic performance, i.e. a player cannot get bonus money for achieving certain athletic goals during the season. Extra money for extra touchdowns or whatever.
Those familiar with what’s going on believe that the NCAA is sitting back and taking notes. Within a couple of years there will be legislation to deal with what are considered abuses.
As I said earlier Hog fans are freaking out over this claiming that Arkansas is getting left in the dust with NIL. I’m told by those inside the program that as of right now there is virtually no evidence that Arkansas is losing players because of NIL. It’s a rumor that some fans have gone wild with and it’s 100% speculation with no evidence to back it up.
Q. Mizzouman asks: Has/will the NIL rule hurt/help the Razorbacks in future recruiting?
A. Only time will tell but Arkansas is about to sign one of its best classes in years. To me that is evidence that Sam Pittman and his staff are doing okay right now handling NIL issues.
Q. BloodRedHog is back with another NIL issue. He says: Hunter Yurachek tweeted about Arkansas’ $1 million NIL program and the fact it isn’t to be used as a recruiting tool. The rumor is Texas A&M arranged $30m in NIL deals to land its current recruiting class. Does Hunter understand he is fighting a losing battle?
A. You misunderstood what Yurachek was saying. He’s saying that under NCAA rules coaches cannot mention or offer specific NIL deals to recruits. NIL deals can only be offered after a player signs his letter of intent. So he’s saying that Arkansas will not use specifics of its NIL program to get players to sign.
I’m told that there are concerns by the NCAA that this rule has been violated by some schools and investigations are underway.
The A&M story is a rumor but there seems to be little doubt that the Aggies have amassed a big NIL war chest and it helped them land the number one class in the country. The 30 million dollar number is probably inflated but I have been told that Arkansas is going to have to get it’s 1 million dollar number up quite a bit. But I’m also told that KJ Jefferson has had several big NIL offers to leave and he hasn’t even considered them. Money is not the bottom line with with every player.
It’s going to be interesting to see how some of these five-star high school players work out when they were offered in the one million dollar range. How are their less well paid teammates going to react to them? How will they interact with their coaches?
I don’t believe that you flat out can buy a national championship with huge money to recruits. The Aggies are trying to do that. I say they will fail. We’ll see.
Q. Cody Bird says: I have heard that a rule is in place that prohibits the Hogs’ student athletes from making NIL deals with university sponsors like Walmart, Tyson, JB Hunt, etc. Is this true? If so is it a rule set by UA or the NCAA? If set by UA can they change for NIL purposes?
A. There is some confusion over that and here’s where it comes from.
The Flagship program, which was put in place by Arkansas’s athletic department to facilitate NIL deals for its student athletes, contains this guideline: NIL AGREEMENTS CANNOT CONFLICT WITH AN AGREEMENT OF THE UA UNLESS SPECIFIC PERMISSION IS GIVEN.
So for instance, a Razorback athlete can not make a deal to represent Coke products without permission from the university since the university already has an agreement with Pepsi.
A shoe deal with Converse would conflict with the team’s deal with Nike.
This clause is not going to impact very many NIL deals and where it does the Flagship program is in place to help get that athlete a similar deal that is acceptable.
There is no such conflict with Walmart, Tyson & J.B. Hunt. There is a current U of A athlete that has an NIL with Sam’s Club
Q. Slobberslob says: No, it’s not too early to ask, opening up the season with Cincinnati and then BYU thrown in later, is 9-4 a reasonable Christmas wish for 2022?
A. A lot of fans keep asking me, What’s going on with the schedule under Pittman? It’s like every year it’s brutal. The answer for next year is, these games are scheduled several years in advance. There was no way of knowing when Cincinnati was scheduled that it would be be coming off a 13-1 season with an appearance in the national championship playoff. No way of knowing that BYU would go 10-3 with five wins over power five teams the year before it played Arkansas.
How about Missouri State and Bobby Petrino? They were 8-4 this past season and lost of Oklahoma State by a touchdown. Rounding out the non conference schedule is Liberty University which went 8-5 with a 13 point loss to Ole Miss.
Arkansas does replace Georgia at Athens with South Carolina in Fayetteville. Even though it’s not a sure fire win I’ll take that trade any day.
But to answer the question, K.J. Jefferson and all three of the young running backs are back with an O-line that looks good and some really talented receivers coming in. On defense they have Bumper Pool and Jalen Catalon back, the two best players on that side of the ball. So I’d say nine wins looks a lot more reasonable that it did last year at this time.
Q. Team Otis is thinking higher than that. He wants to know: Will next year’s football team do better than 9-4?
A. You asking this from a guy who said this team would win a maximum of eight games this past season but six was more likely. I was off a bit. So I will acknowledge that 10 wins is possible but with the schedule they’re playing nine is more realistic. Hope I’m wrong again.
Q: Tarrell Morrison wants to know: What did Stetson Bennett mean when he told Finebaum, “They’re not going to change up and go all Arkansas on us. They’re not going to do that. They’re going to be Alabama.”
A. I don’t think he was insulting Arkansas. He was probably making reference to the fact that Arkansas changed it’s pass coverage and pass rush toward the end of the season for LSU, Alabama and Penn State. Bennett is clearly saying, we don’t expect Alabama’s defense to throw any curveballs at us. They will play us straight up.
Q. To basketball where lamont7906 asks: Why is Muss not having more players move without the ball? Both Lykes and Jaxon Robinson should be learning to play without the ball. They are too stationary unless they have the ball.
A. It’s not just Lykes and Robinson who do that. They all do. It’s not constant. It comes and goes. I honestly believe that these guys have short attention spans. They go back and forth from focused to unfocused. The A&M game was a good example. They came out and jumped up by 11. They were playing defense. They were hitting shots. Then they weren’t and ended up down by three at the half.
They came out hot again. Went from three down to up by one. Then the slide started. Turnovers. No ball movement on offense. Missed shots. Defensive breakdowns resulting in a lot of fouls and a lot of Aggie three pointers. The deficit grew to 17 before they came back to cut the A&M lead to one point late. But they couldn’t get any closer.
So what’s the answer? Beats me. Maybe it’s time for Muss to bring in a psychologist.
Q. Walt wants to know: Do you think the bball warmup is a distraction to this generation of player? While I liked the idea of bringing it back in honor Coach’s father, maybe this group needs more time on fundamentals and team chemistry, not juggling basketballs etc.
A. They’ve stopped doing that. That was something Muss thought would entertain the fans back when they were winning games. The only way to entertain the fans right now is to win instead of lose.
Q. gmarv54 asks: Do you see any similarities between this years basketball team and last years team???
A. Honestly none. They don’t have an effective point guard like Jalen Tate. They don’t have a scorer/rebounder/defender under the basket like Justin Smith. They don’t have a high school one and done performer like Moses Moody. They don’t play up tempo because they don’t run the break well enough and they don’t have clutch players who step up and win close games.
If they don’t turn this around they are headed for a losing season at or near the bottom of the SEC. In the 46 seasons I’ve covered Razorback basketball there have never been back-to-back seasons like this one could turn out to be. From the Elite Eight to a team that may not make the NCAA tournament.
Q. We’ll finish with a football question. PatBoat wants to know: Who was Arkansas most feared player in games and in practice from a fight-tuff hitting standpoint?
A. I’d name two players and I was not around to watch either one of them play in person. The first is Billy Ray Smith Sr.. He played during the Bowden Wyatt years and was one of the famous 25 Little Pigs. Not so named because they were actually little but because they got down to 25 scholarship players that season and still won the SWC.
Billy Ray Smith Sr. was a golden gloves boxer and according to some of the old timers I talked with, he was as tough as they come.
The other Razorback that fits that description was Loyd Phillips. He played on the national championship team and never lost to Texas as a player. Arkansas beat them all three years that Phillips played. He was an all American defensive tackle and his exploits on Dickson Street, sometimes involving fisticuffs, is the stuff of legends.
The interesting thing about Loyd Philips, after football, he turned into one of the nicest, most likable people you’d ever want to meet. He was a long time school administrator who was greatly respected by the teachers and students he worked alongside of.