Ask Mike: Hogs’ Pitching Woes, Free Throw Issues vs. ‘Bama & is Courtney Clay Travis Jr.?

By Mike Irwin
on 2023-02-27 18:43 PM

Q. Our first question if from Clayton Luper who asks: What’s your take on Alabama coach Nate Oats’ failure to act in any meaningful way into what was obviously a very serious situation with his basketball program?

A. It’s the classic defense offered by a few coaches. Hey, my guy is not charged with a crime. I let the legal system do its job and it has spoken.

The problem is obvious to anyone who doesn’t believe in winning at all costs. There are rules of behavior for athletes, rules that are designed to keep them from doing things that reflect poorly on the team. When Brandon Miller got a text message from a teammate at the time, asking him to bring the guy’s gun, which was in Miller’s car, to a location where there was some trouble brewing, Miller should have arrived without the gun made every effort to calm his teammate down and try to get him to leave the scene.

If he had done that, his former teammate would still be on the team, not removed from the team after being charged as an accessory to murder. This is what Nate Oates failed to act on. If he had called Miller in, reminded him of how he had failed in his responsibility as a member of the team and suspended him for a few games to emphasize that responsibility, none of this push back would be happening. In fact Oats would be used an an example of a coach who placed doing the right thing over winning games.

Instead he is the opposite of that. A guy who tries to convince the public that he is very sorry for what happened to the murdered mother, while is actions suggest otherwise.

It only got worse with the video before the Arkansas game where Miller participates in a symbolic police pat down. That shows that Miller doesn’t care, his teammates don’t care and by continuing to do nothing of substance Oats shows that he doesn’t care.

The fact that no one at the school is doing anything about this suggests that they are as tone deaf as Oats and his players.

Q. Slatey Bravins wants to know: Do you think Hog fans are over reacting to the Brandon Miller situation. How many of us would be defending Miller just like Alabama fans if Miller played for us?

A. No question some of them, mostly on the Internet where attacking other teams while defending your own players, no matter what, is common. But I think most Arkansas fans go along with the player suspensions that we’ve seen over the years. They seem to understand that there has to be accountability. What we’re seeing from a lot Alabama fans right now is unusual. I’m not there. I don’t read all their fan boards or see what they say in local TV interviews but so far I’ve seen nothing to indicate that there’s a pushback against Oats’ handling of this situation.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy says: With the current goings on at Alabama, I’m reminded of the stand Lou Holtz took on the dormitory incident prior to the 78 Orange bowl. Was there second guessing among UA administrators or Coach Broyles about Lou’s decision?

A. No, not at all. In fact Holtz handled that situation so quickly that the people above him didn’t have to get involved and believe me, the AD, chancellor and board of trustees members love it when a coach is that decisive. It takes the heat off of them.

If you look at that situation or what happened to Bobby Petrino, you see historically how discipline is handled at Arkansas.

It had been a long time since an Arkansas football coach was riding the high that Petrino was on. Thirty wins the previous three seasons. He had it rolling, yet the AD didn’t just suspend him. He was fired. The result was one of the most difficult 10 year periods in the history of Razorback football. But the right thing was done.

Q. RazorAlex88 says: I am encouraged that our Head Hogs (Sam Pittman, Muss, DVH, and others) seem to have a strong morality compass. I would not be surprised to see if Alabama gets handed some kind of sanctions with how poorly they are handling their crapstorm of a situation.

A. I agree that Arkansas has a long history of getting ahead of disciplinary issues with its athletes but I don’t see the NCAA or the SEC getting involved in this Alabama situation. It’s up to officials at that school to do the right thing and right now, they seen to be completely ignoring something that would have been dealt with almost immediately at most other schools.

Q. Lanny asks: Did you think Arkansas was going to beat Alabama? I didn’t. Winning a game like that at home or on a neutral site is not the same as beating a team that good on their own homecourt. Still we almost pulled it off but once again bad free throw shooting cost us a game. What’s the answer?

A. No, I did not think Arkansas was going to win that game but the fact that it was winnable and it didn’t happen because of some continuing problems is frustrating. Inconsistent free throw shooting doesn’t look like it’s going away. Muss has said his guys have to continue to work on it. Come in after practice, anytime that they have extra time work on it. I knew a high school coach who used to run his guys to get them tired and them make the shoot free throws. Most of us are familiar with drills where players shoot free throws and every time there’s a miss everybody runs. That’s designed to make them hit free throws under pressure. I’m not sure what Musselman does but he doesn’t need any advice from me.

Q. 10yrsofhell asks: With the way Devo plays defense and if he continues to improve his shooting from the 3 point line, does he have a shot at making an NBA roster?

A. His only issue is consistency. If he can consistently duplicate the way he played against Alabama he has a shot. If I had to guess I’d say he will end up as one of those G League guys who plays some in NBA games but is not a permanent roster player. I could be wrong about that. It’s about how much he continues to develop.

Q. WVHOGFAN on Hogville asks: What is it with ESPN? It seems like every game the Hogs play is delayed for whoever plays before them. We don’t get to see a whole game. Last weeks Georgia game they told us to go to ESPN2 and it wasn’t even showing the game. They need some help. Can you make a suggestion?

A. They’re trying to get as many games televised as possible which fans like. It gets your favorite team on TV more often, but in order to do it you have to shorten the space between games. I actually think they have a good system. If you pay 10 bucks a month for the ESPN app you can see your favorite teams from the beginning of the game even if there is a delayed start because the previous game runs long.

The problem you mentioned with the Georgia game was a technical glitch. Somebody dropped the ball in starting or possibly directing its streaming to the right indicated game on ESPN 3. I have not see that before.

Q. whippersnapper asks: When the time comes do see Mike Anderson retiring in Arkansas like Nolan did?

A. I actually recently talked to somebody about that who is very close to Mike . He doesn’t rule out a return to NW Arkansas by Mike but thinks it’s more likely that he and his wife will end up in Tulsa. His hometown of Birmingham is also a possibility.

I’d love to see him come back here. He’s a class act but would you come back to a place that fired you? Most coaches would not.

Q. mousetown wants to know: Aren’t you just a little bit worried about the baseball Hogs? They are 5-2 but in those two losses they were outscored 30-9. I don’t care what DVH says or you say, this team has a pitching problem.

A. DVH said after Sundays game that he’s got some guys who are pitching well plus some older guys who are not pitching well and some freshmen who are struggling.

Let’s look at it.

Friday starter Hagen Smith. You could not ask for anything better. In two starts, nine innings of pitching, his ERA is zero and he has 14 K.

Reliever Koty Frank. He’s worked seven and a third innings of relief. An ERA of 1.23. He’s not a big strikeout guy. He just gets people out. He doesn’t do things to hurt himself. One walk so far. One wild pitch.

Short reliever Brady Tygart. A ERA 1.93 in 4.2 innings of work. 8 K. No wild pitches.

Sunday starter Hunter Hollan. An ERA of 2.79 in 9.2 innings of work. 9 K, 4 walks.

Those are good numbers. Arkansas is 3-0 with those guys.

Now lets look at some problems.

Will McEntire, your Saturday starter. Had two rough outings. That’s why his ERA is high. He’s given up 11 hits in 6.2 innings. His pitches have been up in the zone too often. However, he got the win last Saturday and his pitches were down more. McEntire went four and two thirds, gave up just two hits and one run, a very encouraging sign. If he keeps that up, DVH has three quality starters, a long reliever and a closer.

But what else does he need and how do they stack up so far? Zack Morris. Last year he was one of Arkansas’ better relievers, 3-0 on the season with a 3.21 ERA. Teams hit .230 against him. This year, Like McEntire, hitters have been teeing off on Morris. Ten hits in five and a third innings of work. He’s not wild. In fact he’s issued no wild pitches and has just two walks so far. But teams have scored nine runs off of 10 hits from him. They need to get him going.

Cody Adcock. A JUCO transfer with below average numbers coming in who pitched well in one inning of relief against Oklahoma St. but blew up against Eastern Illinois. He does have six strikeouts in 3.2 innings.

There are several freshmen who have all struggled but one of them is interesting. Gage Wood from Batesville was highly rated out of high school. DVH likes him. Here’s what I like about him. In two full innings for work he’s given up just one hit with five strikeouts. Hitters are batting just .143 against him.

Here’s what I don’t like. Four walks, two wild pitches and he’s hit a batter. That’s why his ERA is so high. Clearly that’s nerves. I think he will settle down and will help this team this season.

How many of the others will come around? That’s what DVH is trying to find out before SEC play starts. That’s why Arkansas has given up so many runs in those two losses. He’s putting some young guys on the mound to see how they respond in difficult situations.

Q. Edwardclutch asks: Any idea on what the plan for defense would have been had Odom not left for UNLV? As bad as the secondary was something was going to have change.

A. I think they felt like most of the issues were related to the unsual number of injuries suffered in the secondary early in the season. If you look at some of the games late in the season you can see a clear improvement by the secondary. Especially in the LSU and Ole Miss games. They also had a plan to bring in extra help for the secondary through the portal and that plan is continuing with new defensive coordinator Travis Williams.

I don’t think Odom was going to be asked to leave by Pittman but the hiring of Williams will bring a new system to the defense. The fans have been asking for an attacking, four man front. Now they’re going to get it.

Q. WVHogfan says: My son is a D-2 football official. In his meetings, no stoppage of clock after first downs and starting the clock after incomplete passes is not being proposed to speed up the game but to reduce the number of offensive plays to cut down on injuries. What is your opinion?

A. I like the idea of shortening the length of games to reduce injuries a lot better than the idea of making fans with a short attention span happy. We discussed this last week with baseball. If you’ve got ants in your pants to the point where you can’t commit to watch a game because you have to be doing other things or you quickly lose focus, turn it off and watch the highlights later.

Q. BlakeTaylor1112 says: The Razorback Track team has won yet another SEC Championship. I was wondering what is your favorite memory of retiring Head Coach Lance Harter.

A. My favorite memory of him is of something John McDonnell said to me about him maybe a year after Harter arrived at Arkansas. I asked him what he thought about Harter and John just gave him a ringing endorsement. He sort of predicted what was going to happen to the Women’s Track program in the coming years. And he was right of course.

Harter is one of those coaches who wins at the highest level but it never affects how he treats people. He never acts like he’s under any pressure at all. He’s a walking, talking PR machine for the U. of A., for women’s athletics and for his own program and it’s genuine. One of the nicest coaches I’ve ever met at any level.


(Last updated: 2023-02-27 18:43 PM)