Ask Mike: Conference Realignment; How Nutt Got Hired & the Arm Waving TV Girl


Q. Our first question is from Eddy Lynn who asks: What are the chances of both Connor Noland and Robert Moore coming back? I guess Moore is the surprise unnamed player you mentioned a couple of weeks ago who might return.

A. It all depends on the draft and how much each of them get offered. I think there’s a reasonable chance that Connor will come back. That would be huge. Robert clearly is thinking that he might improve his draft status by upping his hitting numbers next by a lot season.
I’m guessing that his outstanding skills as an infielder combined with his greatly improved hitting in the NCAA Tournament and College World Series will put in a good enough position that coming back would be too much of a risk.

Also DVH just got a commitment from a really good shortstop out of the portal. He’s got hot a hitting first baseman out of the JUCO ranks and Peyton Stovall is almost certainly going to move to second base which is his natural position. Yes, if Moore decides to stay he’ll be at second or at shortstop and DVH will adjust but my best guess is that Robert Moore is going.

Q. Hud Windom says: Last week you said DVH was mostly going the JUCO route to fill holes in his lineup for next season. But you also said there might be some more additions still to come out of the portal. Any new names pop up?

A. Two big ones over the weekend and another one earlier last week. Let’s take a look.

First there’s UC-Santa Barbara transfer Jordan Sprinkle. He’s the shortstop I mentioned. Sprinkle hit .286 with 11 doubles, four triples, three home runs and 35 RBIs. He stole 25 bases with 31 walks while striking out 46 times.

Those numbers don’t jump out at you but he was a .340 hitter with 7 home runs in 2021. DVH believes his numbers will jump back up with a culture change to Arkansas.

Also Sprinkle stole 51 bases in his 3 years at UC Santa Barbara.

From Kansas, Arkansas gets another shortstop. Tavian Josenberger. He’ll probably be moved to the outfield. He was the Jayhawks leadoff hitter and had a 23 game on-base streak at one point in 2022. He’s also a switch hitter who hits well from either side of the plate. Like Sprinkle, his numbers were better in 2021. DVH is clearly thinking that this young man will benefit from being in Arkansas’ system.

Also LHP Julian Bosnic has committed out of the portal from South Carolina. He had a really good 2021 season and was drafted in the 16th round of the MLB draft. 78 strikeouts in 50 innings. Opponents batted just .133 against him.

He sat out last season with arm surgery. Reminds me of Hagen Smith and it’s possible that he could end up as part of the weekend rotation for Arkansas in 2023.

All three of these guys are draftable. Sprinkle is the most likely to sign a pro contract but his mom has been all over Twitter talking about how happy he is to be a Razorback.

I think we’re talking about three players who transferred because they want to be a part of a team that can get to Omaha. One that draws big crowds at home.

And DVH may not be done. We’ll keep you updated.

Q. Mousetown says: So Matt Hobbs had a chance to go to LSU as pitching coach and turned it down and now Wes Johnson is leaving the Twins to take that job. Johnson may be the best pitching coach in baseball and LSU is going to use him to beat us. This is so wrong.

A. Johnson is viewed as one of the top hitting coaches in baseball, college or the major leagues. Getting him is a big plus for LSU. The question some fans are asking, did DVH know that Johnson was looking to go back to the college game? If so he could have encouraged Hobbs to take the LSU job and gone after Johnson before the 2022 season. But, he didn’t. In fact DVH said he’s lucky to have Hobbs and is glad that Hobbs likes Arkansas enough to turn down LSU.

But it is going to be interesting to see how much LSU improves under Johnson.

Q. Danny De Vore says: I thought it was crazy when the Big 10 stole two teams out of the Pac 12. Now suddenly teams are jumping conferences faster than I can count. It’s nuts. Is there an end to this?

A. The talk has calmed down over the last few days. At this moment only USC and UCLA are moving. It may stay that way for a couple of years. Or a lot could happen over the next few weeks. Nobody seems to know. Throw in NIL madness and the portal craziness and some fans are predicting doom and gloom. Trust me, it may take a few seasons but everything will settle down and fans of power five football will be happy. Whether it’s two huge conferences or three. There will be multiple divisions in those conferences. I’m guessing at least 64 teams will be included. Maybe 72. A new top division of college football. Mid major teams would be excluded. No Arkansas vs Louisiana Tech. Alabama vs Western Kentucky. Non conference games would be between schools of the new division only.

That would be football only, by the way, with it’s own playoff system. Basketball, baseball and other sports would probably continue to operate under the NCAA.

For football the new division could end up restructured based on geography. Here’s a cool idea. What if the old SWC ends up resurrected but better with Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech and Houston?

The point of this realignment is to create a top schedule of TV games every week. You get rid of the rent-a-win games. The ratings go up. The money goes up.

Q. Arkie redneck says: I keep hearing about how football recruiting is off the charts. Top five nationally. Best in the SEC. But I read an Internet article claiming that when the 2023 class is finally settled Arkansas will be where it always is. Top 30 nationally and tenth or below in the SEC. What’s up with that?

A. It is true that Arkansas’ high recruiting ranking right now is due in part to the total number of commitments. I don’t think they stay in the top 5 nationally and number one in the SEC. But there’s no question that this going to be the best Arkansas class in over a decade with seven 4 stars and maybe 5 more coming. Honestly what Sam Pittman and his staff are doing right now is amazing especially since they are not using specific NIL deals as a part of the recruiting process which is against the rules. There are going to be some schools that get burned on this. It’s coming.

Q. Edwardclutch wants to know: Have you heard anything regarding a timeline of when we will be able to buy replica football jerseys with the players names on the back?

A. It depends on the player in question. Before a jersey of a specific player can be marketed that player must sign an NIL deal. There were three athletes with such deals this past spring semester. Mary Haff from softball. Caden Wallace and Robert Moore from baseball. There will be some new names this fall. The athletic department did have those names available to me at this time.

To me this is the best use of the NIL decision by the Supreme Court. Athletes allow their name and number to be put and sold on merchandise. They get a royalty fee. It seems to me that it has taken too long to get this started. Hopefully by this fall we will see more of this.

Q. robs4516 says: Burks was obviously a big part of the passing game last year, preventing defenses from concentrating solely on our run game. With his absence, do you feel the pieces are in place (WR/TE) to allow that to happen this fall?

A. They’ve got the talent and they’ve got the numbers. Honestly KJ Jefferson should have more options than he did last season. The question is, can Arkansas stretch the field this fall the way it did with Treylon Burks. Jefferson had the best numbers in college football in passing plays over 30 yards. That had a lot to do with Burks. We could debate this forever but the bottom line is, we’re not going to know for sure until this team lines up to play.

I say yes, the passing game will be highly effective. So effective that teams will not be able to load up against the run to control Arkansas on the scoreboard. But that’s a guess. I don’t think those of us in the media got a very good look at the passing game last spring. That’s the reason why I’m not 100% certain.

Q. Tex Robinson says: I used to live in the Texas hill country. It was always a battle with the UT and A&M fans trying to out brag each other in the summers before football season started. Nice to know that nothing’s changed. You’re the expert on this. Which one is better at bragging?

A. Both fan bases are delusional but the Longhorns get help from the national media which always touts Texas in the summer as the comeback team of the year. They’re gonna win the Big 12. Maybe a national title. Blah. Blah. Blah.

The Aggies don’t get help from the national media so they have to rely on their own media. Honestly, the Aggies don’t have to brag. Their own media will do it for them. Here’s what both schools have in common: Being wrong with pie-in-the-sky preseason projections doesn’t bother them at all. The national media and the Aggie media just resets and does the same thing again the following season as if being wrong never happened.

And their fans never seem to mind.

Q. Rzback Asks: When does practice start?

A. I assume you mean football practice. That would be Friday August 5th. It will be here before you know it. If you’re counting that would be in 25 days.

Q. Bump Graves wants to know: Any word on how Barry Junior is doing at Illinois? Bielema was always about his two tight ends, run-run-run offense at Arkansas. That’s not what Lunney did at UTSA the last two years. Seems like an odd fit.

A. Based on an article I read last week it sounds like Lunney is combining some of the elements Bielema likes with a more uptempo attack. He even has a name for it. Temp-pro. The idea is to create multiple looks and try to confuse opposing defenders. They will line up with two tight ends at times and try to overpower you but they also might throw the ball out of that formation. They also might sell the pass out of a spread look but come with a run instead.

According to the guy who wrote the piece, the best thing Lunney has done is to win the players over to him as the offensive coordinator. He’s always had that ability. He’s not a pushover but he will take the time to explain and motivate as opposed to just yelling at players.

He wants to be a head coach. He took this job with that in mind. If he can get Illinois into the upper tier of the Big10 offensively he’ll get a head coaching job. He’s a great guy. All Razorback. I would love to see him back here when Sam Pittman retires.

Q. Alex4Hogs88 says: I’ve got a Mike Down Memory Lane question for you this week: What factors do you believe played a factor in Houston Nutt’s hiring in December of 1997? I’ve done some basic research but would love to hear your input.

A. One factor was John White, the U of A chancellor at the time. He was determined to strip away some of Frank Broyles power as AD so he announced after Danny Ford was fired that a hiring committee comprised of former Arkansas players would be formed to help Broyles in the hiring process.

Frank went after Tom Tuberville on his own and let the hiring committee interview other candidates. Tuberville was from Arkansas. Had had success at Ole Miss. Had recruiting ties all over the SEC. He was Frank’s guy.

They agreed to meet in secret in New York the week of the Heisman ceremonies. Tuberville agreed to take the job for $500,000 as I recall. But there was one hitch. Tuberville did not want to be interviewed by a committee.

While Frank was trying to get around that issue Tuberville called him back and said that Ole Miss was offering him more to stay. Like $750,000. Frank got wind of that, that Ole Miss boosters were prepared to keep offering Tuberville more to keep him from leaving. Frank wasn’t willing to get into a bidding war. By that time all of the committee members but one wanted Houston Nutt. Bill Montgomery felt like Arkansas would look bad hiring a coach with one year’s experience at a mid major D-1 school. But Frank decided to go with the majority vote of the committee and Nutt was hired.

Q. Finally this from Arky1967: Please tell the new lady on PTN to quit waiving her hands around so much when she speaks. Drives me crazy.

A. That would be Courtney Mims. Her dad is a basketball coach and she grew up watching basketball officials and coaches who wave their arms like crazy. The only people who wave their arms more would be the landing crew on aircraft carriers. I think it just became a part of what she does. Maybe she could wear some heavily weighted wrist bands to remind her that she is waving her arms in the air.

She promises to wave less in the future.

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