Ask Mike: Misleading Practice Video, Mike’s Scary College FB Realignment Forecast & How Does KJ Get Into the Heisman Conversation?

By Mike Irwin
on 2023-08-07 16:04 PM

Q. Fall camp is here. Let’s drive right in. “The Hawk” Hawkins says: Everybody is assuming that KJ Jefferson will have his best year ever. Maybe a Heisman candidate. What are your impressions of him after the first few practices?

A. I thought his passing was just a tad off on Friday and Saturday. Nothing concerning. Just not on fire. Sunday morning he was on. Looking really sharp. That continued in Monday’s practice Saturday’s scrimmage will be big. It’s closed. We won’t see it but hopefully they will post some stats that we can look at. One of the few good things about the schedule this season is the three straight non conference games before that brutal SEC schedule starts. This team is running a new offense this season with a new offensive coordinator. Those three games will allow Jefferson and his teammates to get comfortable with what they are doing.

Q. GhostofArkylove asks: For the love of all that is Holy, can UA and local media PLEASE get KJ in the Heisman conversation ?

A. To a certain extent the sports information people at the U of A can help but publicity coming out of northwest Arkansas is not going to put him into the Heisman discussion. Arkansas will have to win string of SEC games to get Jefferson noticed by Heisman voters across the country. For Jefferson to win the award Arkansas would have to get into the college football playoffs and finished with no more than one loss and even that might not be enough. That will be almost impossible.

Q. Donna Jo says: It looks like portal transfers are grabbing the headlines in the first few days of practice. Do you still think the biggest get was the backup QB from North Carolina? I mean the kid wasn’t even a starter there and won’t be here.

A. I can’t tell you the last time Same Pittman came up to me in practice and mentioned a player. He did that Sunday morning. He made sure that I knew he was excited about his backup QB. To me Pittman came out of the 2022 season convinced that two things really hurt this football team. One of them was a lack of size and conditioning and the the other was not having a backup quarterback that Arkansas could win a game with. Not only that but having a backup who was such a completely different type of quarterback that two different game plans had to be worked on each week.

Hopefully this team will have a healthy KJ Jefferson all season long. But if something does happen the I don’t think the result will be an automatic loss.

Q. Hawgredneck asks: What do you think about the new strength coach? He sure is getting lots of attention. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a press conference with a strength coach before.

A. That Ben Sowders post practice presser on Friday was pure genius. He didn’t not get up in front of us and say, hey, we’re bigger and faster. He gave us numbers. I’d never heard speed mentioned in terms of miles per hour but I like it better than the same ole 40 times. There’s something about the mental image of a linebacker like Poo Paul topping out at almost 22 miles per hour.

I found that entire interview fascinating. I’m planning to watch the whole thing over again when I get the time. We’ve got it on our website. Check it out.

Q. Hotdogger says: I’m hoping that the secondary has improved significantly. Do you have any idea? About the same? Some improvement? A big change for the better?

A. In the brief conversation I had with Sam Pitman Sunday morning I mentioned the 2 on 2 battles between receivers and D-backs and how tough it is to come to any conclusions based on a five minute drill. What happens after we leave? What about the stuff we don’t see? He laughed and said that when he joins us in his after practice pressers he’s not always sure of what he’s saying. Sometimes things look a lot different after he’s reviewed all the video from that day’s practice.

Here’s what I would say about the secondary. They’ve got a tough job to do. Arkansas QB room is looking really good. All of those guys are throwing the ball well. Plus the receivers have been impressive. That is a deep room right now. You’ve got Isaiah Sategna who’s fast with good hands. Remember Sam Mbake from last year? A promising freshman receiver they moved to the secondary because of all the injuries? We’ll he’s a receiver again and looking really good. Then there are the three portal transfers. Andrew Armstrong, Isaac Te’Slaa and Tyrone Broden. They go 6-4, 6-6 and 6-7. They are fast, run precise routes and they have really good hands.

Still the secondary has had its moments against those guys. The Baylor transfer they call Snaxx? That young man is really good. I like the new defensive staff and they way they work with the D-Backs. But it’s going to take actual games to know just how much improved this secondary is. The main thing right now is, those guys are healthy. This time a year ago the injuries had already started.

Q. Mousetown says: I read an Internet story last week claiming that the NFL media has a lot more access to the coaches and players than the media on the college level has with their teams. Seems like to me that it would be the other way around. Is that true and if it is what’s going on?

A. I can’t speak for the NFL media because that’s not me. I’ve been told that the NFL has an image problem these days among the fans and the owners know it. They want the media on their side so they are catering to them.

I think what’s going with colleges coaches is the Internet and social media. Sam Pittman lets us shoot 20 minutes of practice and watch for 10 more minutes. We, the Razorback media, post our stories with video and the next thing you know Internet fans, who are already convinced that Arkansas secondary is horrible, look at a small sample of video with our comments and use it to bash players and coaches.

This doesn’t exactly encourage coaches to give us more access.

My position on the Internet hasn’t changed. I don’t attack those people. I don’t get into arguments with them. They can believe what they want. Ultimately the season will be decided by wins and losses, not by what’s being said by fans watching practice clips.

Also there are plenty of fans who react positively to the stuff they see posted on practices. And as always I point out that the social media fan base is not even close to the size of the total fan base. As hard as it may be for some to get this, a lot of people go to games, read traditional newspaper and TV reports and never look at Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and so on.

So don’t freak out.

Q. Pigsfeat asks: Are you expecting a great, good or disappointing season for our Hogs? Hope springs eternal for every football program this time of year.

A. Cautiously optimistic. I don’t believe special teams coordinator Scott Fountain was blowing smoke when he said this is he most talented team Arkansas has had under Sam Pittman. But the rest of the SEC is not standing still. It’s that stretch of LSU on the road, the Aggies at Jerryworld, at Ole Miss and at Alabama that concerns me. That’s a tough, tough stretch of games. This team has to stay basically healthy during that stretch. As we saw last season, injuries determine a lot.

Q. JJHog wants to know: Why would the SEC add two more strong teams? We just beat each other up. Why do we schedule tough non conference schools? I like the goal to get to the top 12 and make the playoffs….

It’s hard enough with an SEC schedule plus tough non conference opponents. What’s your guess on the future ? 4 teams in a pod system?

A. I’ve explained this before. I’ll keep explaining it. It’s all about TV money. The TV networks don’t sign huge contracts with various conferences because they’re nice guys and they want to help college football. They are spending money to make money. They make money by putting TV commercials inside their games These days there are a lot of ads. And if they want to charge more for those ads the ratings have to be high. A game between Alabama and Michigan will draw much high ratings than Alabama vs Middle Tennessee State. So those type games are going away.

As far as the immediate future for the SEC starting in 2025, I think we’ll see one permanent opponent with the rest rotating so that in every two-year cycle every SEC team plays every other SEC team.

I’m guessing but I think Arkansas’ permanent opponent will be Missouri.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy says: Conference realignment. Conferences possibly going out of business. Where are we headed? Can you see the SEC picking up a couple more major players such as FSU, Clemson or North Carolina?

A. SEC Commissioner Roy Sankey said just a couple of weeks ago that the SEC is not interested in adding any more teams right now. But if there is a similar break away effort in the ACC to what we’ve just seen in the Pac 12, I think Sankey will change his mind in a hurry. The SEC did not want any Pac 12 teams.

The same is not true of the ACC. The SEC is not going to sit still and let top ACC teams like Clemson and Florida State go to the Big 10 and take what’s left for themselves.

Q. Virgil Nix asks: Do you think all this new realignment is the beginning of the end of old rivalries and the start of new ones?

A. Right now the one big rivalry scheduled to end is OU vs OSU. The Bedlam series.

The top rivalry in the Pac 12 has been USC-UCLA and since both are going to the Big 10, that rivalry will continue.

In the SEC the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry resumes. It will be interesting to see if they become permanent opponents or if Texas and OU become permanent opponents but if not those rivalrys will continue too on an every other year basis.

It’s the long term implications of all of this that fans of a lot so called safe schools will be dealing with in the future. Keep in mind, if the goal of the TV people is to put the highest rated matchups on their schedules each season they not going to stop with eliminating the mid majors and lower profile power five schools like Washington State or Oregon St. How long will Vanderbilt be safe? Mississippi State? Baylor? What if, in 25 years, these conferences have been reduced to one 32 team conference? Just like the NFL. Every game is big. The money flows for those schools. What happens to everybody else? Do they become a part of a new Division II of former Division I schools?

Q. RazorAlex88 says: I was reading an interesting article about Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson and how Bobby P used Tyler Wilson to be a thorn in Ryan Mallett’s side that pushed him. Genius move looking back at it…..

…..I’m curious about if Jacolby Criswell will be in a similar role as Tyler Wilson and pushing KJ to be better and better.

A. Not even remotely the same. Sam Pittman and Dan Enos do not use Bobby Petrino’s coaching style. That worked for Petrino because Tyler Wilson did not have a big ego and emotionally he was as tough as they come. Also the portal wasn’t back then what it is today. You treat a backup up QB the way Petrino treated Tyler Wilson and you’re not likely going to keep them.

I’m not saying that Enos is soft but you’d have to be around Petrino back in those days to see how old school that was. Basically you can’t do that these days. I’m pretty sure he won’t be coaching his QBs at A&M the way he did Tyler Wilson here.

Q. Eddy Lynn wants to know: Are they doing something different with these football players interviews this season? Like maybe using Broadcast Journalism professor to work with them. I’ve been extremely impressed with what I’ve seen so far both at Media Days and in these after practice press conferences.

A. Nothing different this season. For a while now, Danyelle Musselman, who worked at ESPN, has been helping prepare athletes in multiple sports for TV interviews. Also Kyle Parkinson, the school’s SID and the main SID for football does a great job of prepping the football players for the questions they are likely going to be asked.

Finally I think it’s part of the recruiting process as well. Coaches want top quality athletes but hey also want well spoken athletes who represent the university well.

(Last updated: 2023-08-07 16:04 PM)