Ask Mike: Grading Week 1, WMS Woes & The Best Hog Coaching Staff Since Frank?

on 2023-09-04 19:26 PM

Q. Our first question is from Jerry Derrick who wants to know: What questions did Saturday answer for you? I loved the secondary play and our two transfer receivers are the real deal. But the running game was flat to me.

A. The passing game I was looking for was there. The receivers looked really good. Both quarterbacks threw the ball well. The secondary came up with four interceptions. That was a big deal to me.

The pass rush and run stop defense could have been better. I’m sure there will be an emphasis on that this week.

Pittman explained the running game issue. He said their defense was gear up to defend against the run, especially on the edge, which is why the passing game worked.

Q. Joe Luper says: Reference the W. Carolina game: According to what I’ve been reading I expected the defensive line to be amazing with some problems still in the secondary. I had that backwards. Do you agree?

A. Yes. A lot of fans were throwing darts at the secondary during camp. They were assuming that because most of the talk was about the D-line and all the depth there, there was a problem on the back end of the defense. This is not last year. There’s a new defensive coordinator and two new secondary coaches. They didn’t blitz a lot which put more pressure on the D-Line to get to the quarterback. I think those guys will be fine but it will be interesting to see how they look in game two. They did come up with two sacks and eight thrown for a loss plays.

Q. Pigsfeat asks: Could you give us your grade for OL, DL, secondary play and special teams?

A. I’d give the O-line a “B.” You had Brady Latham out at left guard. He’ll be back this week. Again some of the issues on the O-line was due to Western Carolina selling out to stop the run. They paid a price for that because it opened up Arkansas’ passing game. I do think the Razoerbacks will run the ball more this week.

I’d give the D-Line a “B” as well. It wasn’t as dominant as some fans had expected. But those guys did have two sacks and eight thrown for a loss plays. Again let’s see what happens this week.

Special teams get an “A.” Isaiah Sategna had two punt returns for 51 yards. Another long one was was called back on a block in the back. He also returned two kickoffs for 46 yards.

Max Fletcher averaged 49 yards a kick on 5 punts. That’s really good.

The punt coverage team allowed one yard on two punts. Western Carolina returned two kickoffs for an average of 18 yards. It was a really good day for special teams.

Q. Hog-lady-in-red says: I already love this team. Know why? Cause to me most games are won by receivers and defensive backs. The playmakers. And do we ever have ’em. Wow!

A. I lot of fans would probably disagree with that but not me. I love the passing game. To me if you have five or six receivers with size and speed who can make plays and a quarterback who can throw the ball you are going to win a lot of games. As far as the D-Backs, I agree with you on that too. If you have corners and safeties who not only can cover but who can come up with the ball that is huge. Four picks in that game by Arkansas. An interception solves a lot of problems. To me it’s demoralizes an offense when they are moving the ball and suddenly they don’t have the ball anymore.

Q. WVHogfan wants to know: What is it going to take for KJ to get recognition from ESPN that he is a top notch QB. He was not listed on Mel Kiper’s top 6 quarterbacks to be drafted in 2024….

….. and in a halftime discussion they listed top quarterback performances on Saturday and KJ was not mentioned, while others with lesser numbers were mentioned.

A. I would never worry about anything said on ESPN. Especially Kiper. KJ did get recognition on some other media outlets. The dolts at ESPN will start paying more attention to him if Arkansas continues to win games.

Q. Mike_e asks: I’m wondering when the law got passed that we had to have one of our best defenders get a targeting call early in the season? It seems to me that if you don’t know where you head is, and is going, you probably need to just sit down somewhere.

A. Some have said that Poo Paul’s helmet hit the guy’s shoulder pads first and then moved up, after impact, to his helmet. So it’s not targeting. Well, based on the rules, it is.

The bottom line, don’t lower your head or lead with your helmet. Tackle face up every time and you’ve got no problem.

Q. mousetown says: Thanks to the 4 games in one feature on youtube TV I was able to watch almost every SEC game live. Not all that impressed by Alabama or Georgia…..

……but the Aggies with Petrino calling plays is scary and Ole Miss looks completely rebuilt. Watch out for “Widdle Wayne” and his Rebs.

A. I think there’s a danger in just looking at scores. But since you saw the games I assume you’re not just reacting to the fact that Ole Miss and A&M had more lopsided wins than Bama or Georgia. I didn’t watch those two but I did see a lot of the A&M and Ole Miss games. I have to agree. Both looked really good on both sides of the ball. I think Arkansas will be a better football team this season but almost the entire SEC West looks better to me so far. You didn’t mention LSU but I’m not assuming that they’re gonna be down this season based on one loss to Florida State. I thought they looked really good in that game until midway through the 3rd quarter.

Q. Eddie Burk says: You media guys have been hyping Criswell since he transferred. Especially you. I was prepared to say it was a case of blowing smoke but watching him on that one TD drive was an eye opener. A big improvement over Hornsby.

A. It wasn’t just the media or me who were hyping Criswell. Sam Pittman started it on the second day of camp. After watching Criswell I’m thinking he’ll play some even if KJ avoids injuries. I loved the TD pass he threw. He was rolling left. Stopped. Reset his feet with a pass rush coming right at him and then threw a perfect pass to Davion Dozier.

Q. The_Bionic_Pig says: The way KJ 2 handed the ball to the ref immediately after that running touchdown should have been very familiar to the fanbase. Would you equate that to a tribute? #AlexCollins

A. Nobody asked him after the game but I’d say you’re on to something. Alex was known for always politely handing the ball to the nearest official after each touchdown that he scored. KJ did that after his first touchdown on Saturday. So I’d say yes, that was a very personal way of honoring the former Razorback.

Q. Razoralex88 says: Saw that Travis Williams was in the booth yesterday. The announcers mentioned something about how he would prefer to be on the sidelines……

….. I have a feeling T-Will is a sidelines guy and should make his way to the sidelines at some point. How do they determine who goes to sideline and who is in
the booth?

A. He has always been an on the sidelines coordinator but he made the decision himself to be in the booth for this game. It’s the first time he’s done that as a coordinator. Based on how the defense played I’d say he will remain there.

Q. Hotdogger says: First time in a long time I went to a War Memorial game. When we parked there was a 16 year old girl that had us park so close nobody could have gotten out of you wanted to leave early. We went ahead and left room between cars just in case.

They ran out of bottled water during half time. I brought an empty plastic bottle and stood in line at the water fountain to refill. But the game was great. How
many more games in Little Rock?

A. There are two more scheduled. UAPB in 2024 and Arkansas State in 2025. There’s a lot of speculation that Arkansas football games in Little Rock will end after that. As for as the parking problems, ticket scanning and concession stand issues, I attribute that to having games there once every 24 months. You try hosting 50,000 people once every other year and keeping them happy. Imagine opening a popular restaurant for one night every two years and the place is jammed. You get better at hosting crowds by doing it on a regular basis. That doesn’t happen with the current arrangement with WMS.

Q. J.J. Hog says: We sold out in 60s, 70, 80s regardless of who we played. Sometimes playing 4 games a year there. No wonder the games are going away if we can’t even sell out one game. What happened?

A. It’s all about who you play. Play LSU and the place is jammed. Play Western Carolina and it may be close to full but it’s not the same draw. It’s not economically feasible for Arkansas to play SEC games off campus in a 53,000 seat stadium. Even the Jerryworld game is going away because there is a drop in revenue over playing home and home.

War Memorial was a great help to this football program in the 60s, 70s, 80s & 90s. But times change. College football has changed.

Q. BloodRedHog says: Let’s rip off the band-aid and stop playing games at WMS after the Ark State game next year. At this point, the cons far outweigh the pros to give up a campus home game to play at a poorly maintained stadium.

A. The Arkansas State game is in two years, not next year, but I get what you mean. It sure sounds like a lot of Central Arkansas fans, who have supported keeping games there, have changed their minds.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy says: We’ve had some great coaching staff’s over the years, particularly during coach Broyles tenure. Johnny Majors and Barry Switzer on the same staff for instance…..

…..Is there a particular coaching staff that stands out more than others during your time covering the Razorbacks?

A. Yes. This one. They all can coach. They all can really recruit. Right now there are a lot of fans out there who are clueless about what Sam Pittman pulled off when he lost Kendall Briles and Barry Odom. Travis Williams and Dan Enos are a big upgrade. I think Pittman’s time at Georgia provided him with a road map of how to put a staff together.

Q. d.g. adams asks: If Coach Nutt had managed to stay out of the unpleasant entanglements (offensive coordinators, quarterbacks, telephone calls, etc.) could he have stayed long term as the Arkansas head coach? His record was surely good enough.

A. It’s possible. Nutt had an image problem as a below average play caller with some fans. They complained that he was too much about the running game. That’s where Malzhan entered the picture. Nutt could have avoided the issues you mentioned if he had stuck to his guns and refused to hire Malzahn as the offensive coordinator. They still would have had those three running backs in 2006 with either Casey Dick or Mitch Mustain as the quarterback. Take away all the controversy and that team could have won the national title. I’ll always believe that.

(Last updated: 2023-09-04 19:26 PM)