Ask Mike: NIL/Player Issues, OC Search & Can Transfers Love the Helmet?

By Mike Irwin
on 2023-11-27 18:15 PM

Q. Our first question is from little wheezy who asks: Now that the season is over, what was the problem with the locker room? Was it mostly to do with NIL drama?

A. Some of it was NIL related. It’s a new challenge for coaches. Some players are gonna resent other players who are making big bucks. But there’s a way to overcome that. A head coach has make it clear in no uncertain terms that being on this team is about one thing: That Razorback on your uniform, what it means to the fans and what it has to mean to you. If you don’t get it you won’t play and you will be gone when the season is over.

There were too many players on this team who did not get that. Players who get it do not embarrass their own fans that way. Can you imagine what it was like for the fans to sit their own their own stadium and see Missouri fans celebrating like they were in Columbia? Frank Broyles would have fired Sam Pittman on the spot.

Q Sherlock.Hawg says: I understand that Sam will be retained but I hope there is a legit plan behind it. I hope this isn’t some crazy experiment to avoid a buyout. I don’t know if better NIL is going to do it.

A. The plan as I understand it is to take all that buyout money and spend it on offering better NlL deals to get better players. I get that. But A&M is proof that it takes more than throwing money around to win big. There’s a reason why the Aggies couldn’t buy Kirby Smart for $15 million a year for 10 years. Some things aren’t for sale.

Players that Sam Pittman brings out of the portal or signs in the early period in a couple of weeks with this new supply of buyout money, need to be quickly be told, you are now part of the Razorback Family and you need to get that. Buyout money may have brought you here but the only thing that will get you onto the field and keep you there is winning football games. Instead of being their pal Sam Pittman needs to take a cue from Nick Saban who lets his players have it whenever they’re not getting the job done, no matter who they are. Every assistant coach on the staff needs to have that same attitude. You have an off the field problem, I’m all ears. But when it comes to football you do your job or sit the bench.

Q. robs4516 says: I’ve read some comments about CSP playing favorites. What are your thoughts about that?

A. The only thing I’ve heard about that was in regard to the distribution of NIL money. It was too imbalanced. KJ and Rocket were getting a lot. There was a big drop off after that. Rhett Lashley, a former Shiloh Christian quarterback under Malzahn who is now the head coach at SMU with a 9 win season, recently got a big NIL contribution from a booster in Dallas. He spread it equally among all of the offensive linemen. That’s common sense stuff and it paid off.

Q. Sow’sEar wants to know: Any way the boosters all of a sudden come up with the buyout after watching Missouri dominate us at home?

A. A lot of fans continue to believe it will happen. But again, I’ve been told that just about everybody surrounding the athletic department, the AD, the BOT, boosters or whoever, agree that it’s better to try to get the program back on track by offering that money in NIL deals to players who can come in and turn the team around with better talent.

Q. CAR TigerPig asks: With Sam scoffing at the question about momentum in the after game presser, what do you think about attendance next year?
There is no way I am going to miss watching this train-wreck until it falls completely off the tracks!

A. I am sure that Hunter Yurachek and Sam Pittman like the sound of that. They want you back in the seats to view a turnaround next season. But the real problem for both of them is to convince season ticket holders to renew their tickets based of the hire of a new offensive coordinator and any other staff changes. This applies to players brought in through the portal and players signed out of high school, plus the retention of key current players.

They’re counting on the media to hype this stuff up and I don’t think it’s going to happen. My position will be, I don’t care who comes in here until we see this team winning games next season I’m not going to hype anything.

Q. Dr. Starcs says: There’s lots of talk about boosters and the powers that be making decisions on the hill. Who are these people? Can we know their names? Why does it always seem so vague and mysterious anytime they’re mentioned?

A. I can only speak for myself. If I reveal something a booster told me I’m not going to give his name or he won’t likely ever tell me anything again.
As for the names of some of the boosters, Johnny Tyson is one. Gary George is one. There’s nothing mysterious about who they are. The real decision maker is Hunter Yurachek. I’m sure others offer input into his decisions. Members of the BOT and some of the boosters. But Yurachek is the bottom line. These people are not anonymous.

Q. Raxzoralex88 says: It could potentially get uglier next season. I just hate to see Sam be painted as a villain when we already have some villains that we deal with presently (that blasted team up north… and that JERK of a coach they have…)

A. I understand how you feel but unless there is a dramatic turnaround there’s no way to avoid that. It’s comes with the territory if you’re a head coach.

Q. Pigsfeat wants to know: What is your reaction to Drink’s comment about being America’s Team?

A. That’s a pop off type bold statement from a coach who’s having is first big season at Missouri. Comments like that have a way of biting you in the butt. My idea of a great coach is Nick Saban. He wins every year and he never pops off.

Q. Swine American asks: Why can’t the powers that be on the hill get it through their thick skulls the incredible pain the rank and file fan base feel when we watch one of our native sons brings a superior coached team to Reynolds Razorback Stadium and kicks our backsides all over the field? P.S. – Sam Pittman is not a native son. Remember Houston Nutt and Ken Hatfield.

A. You lost me on that one. Drinkwitz was never interested in the Arkansas job. Frank Broyles was not an Arkansas native. He did pretty well. In other sports, Eddie Sutton, Nolan Richardson, Dave Van Horn and John Mc Donnell were not born in Arkansas. In fact, including Lance Harter and Chris Bucknam, all five national championship coaches at this school were from out of state.

Q. Navy John says: Another negative in college sports is permissible gambling. I believe gambling will definitely affect some games. I saw fans do that in Fayetteville as they wanted the team to not score anymore points because of the point spread. What do you think?

A. I don’t gamble so I’m probably not the best person to ask but I have a hard time seeing how the gambling habits of fans would affect a team. Players are a totally different story. I hope that’s not happening with them anywhere.

Q. Seebs says: You’ve witnessed the rise and fall of more Arkansas teams than most of us. What is your take on why this team burned to the ground so hot? The future is untrodden ground for Arkansas as it is more than replacing a coach or recruiting its how to navigate NIL personalities, NIL amounts and retaining depth. This is all so new both the media and the coaches. Help we fans that do not understand the nuance.

A. Its not as difficult as it seems. You have to use common sense on NIL. Spread it around more and the guys who end up with bigger deals make sure they don’t go around showing off their bucks around teammates.

Also every player needs to know that getting money is not an excuse for screwing around. Give them the Nick Saban treatment. Here’s your money now earn it.

Q. hoss cartrack says: I see that for some reason Ryan Day is on the hot seat in Ohio State…probably for losing three in a row to Michigan. Any chance we could get him if he leaves?

A. That was making the rounds on the Internet. Supposedly he was going to A&M. That didn’t happen. He’s not going anywhere.

Q. OngoGoblogian says: All of this seems fixable to me with an appropriate NIL boost and the right hire for offensive coordinator. Are you of the same mind, or is this a bigger rebuild than anticipated heading into next season?

A. Maybe the OC hire, if it’s UNLV OC Brennan Marion could produce a quicker fix. His Go Go offense is really different. A two-back formation run out of the shotgun with the backs to one side of the QB. It’s described as a triple option spread. There’s running and throwing and its supposedly tough to prepare for in a week. It’s kind of an advanced version of Kendal Briles tempo RPO offense Pittman used for three seasons. So if you hire an innovative coordinator and sell him to a bunch of guys in the portal maybe you can make this team a lot more effective on the offensive side in one season. But it looks like a lot of teams are interested in Marion. He may get some head coaching offers.

I’ve heard he’s out. I’ve heard he in. Welcome to my world.

Georgia Tech’s OC was supposedly in the mix. Some are saying that he turned the job down. I’ve even heard that fired Houston head coach Dana Holgerson could be in the mix. Then there is the Jim Chaney rumor. He was the first OC here under Bret Bielema. That would not be a popular hire.

Q. Chief Mac says: How did Pittman and Kennedy fail so badly, given Pittman’s OL coaching pedigree? Was this a case of trusting Kennedy 100% on talent evaluation, as well as not interfering mid season when it was apparent the OL wasn’t improving?

A. It has to be on Pittman. With his background you can’t convince me that he didn’t misevaluate some players and fail to see that they developed properly.
It’s a head scratcher how that happened but it did happen.

Q.HogT asks: Would you say the Oline issues are talent or coaching. Watching the Missouri game it looked like they were trying to send a message to the coaching staff about Kennedy.

A. There’s a guy who posts on the Internet who has gotten a lot of things right lately who says in the players exit meetings with Pittman which start Monday that the O linemen are going to threaten to transfer if Pittman doesn’t bring in a new O-line coach. I normally don’t pay any attention to anonymous tweets like that but again, this person, whoever it is, is usually right about the things that are posted. Threads like that usually backfire. If this is true I guess it would depend on how many of the 20 or so O-linemen say this to Pittman. Redshirt junior Joshua Braun, a Florida transfer, did not sound like he was considering leaving the team after the Missouri game.

(Last updated: 2023-11-27 18:15 PM)