Ask Mike: Portal Gains & Losses, The Impact of Loggains Departure and Is Pitt Getting Shot Down in DC Search?

on 2022-12-12 19:48 PM

Q. Our first question is from Larry Shaw who asks: What’s going on with all of these coaching rumors? Four different guys have been mentioned as the likely next DC and yet we still don’t have one. Are that many coaches turning the job down?

A. Probably not. We have what we’ve always had when there are staff changes. Names get thrown out there. Some in the media, but mostly fans, start, posting a name as the leading candidate and then move on to the next name when it pops up. It’s like nobody considers the fact that a name can be wrong or that a head coach like Sam Pittman can discuss the job with a coach without offering it.

This is what we live with when so many people want instant news. If there’s no real news somebody will give it to them anyway.

The whole Barry Odom to Tulsa story is a good example. He was the leading candidate. He has accepted the job except that he didn’t and before that could get processed he had another job.

Now let’s look at Odom’s replacement rumors. There have been four names mentioned as likely to get the job with nobody hired yet. Sunday the hot name was former Baylor DC Ron Roberts. A lot of Hog fans were angry with that choice because Roberts was fired after the regular season ended. But many believe head Coach Dave Aranda made Roberts a scapegoat for a bad season at Baylor to save his own job. Roberts had a proven record as a defensive coordinator. Hugh Freeze clearly saw that and hired him as Auburn’s new DC.

So see how crazy this gets. Arkansas fans don’t want a guy. Pittman does want him but Hugh Freeze gets him.

Q. LostinSwine wants to know: With Odom being one of the major candidates for the new Tulsa hire and then after that taking the UNLV job almost immediately, do you know if the decision to leave the U of A DC position was made before the season was over? Who do you think made this decision; Sam Or Odom ….or both.

A. Odom had previously said that he wanted to be a head coach again but it would have to be the right opportunity. Pittman had kept Odom at Arkansas by making him the highest paid assistant coach ever at Arkansas. So well paid that the both the Tulsa and the UNLV jobs paid less. He turned one down but accepted the other. I can only conclude that Odom saw things about that Vegas job that told him it was right for him.

No, he was not told to leave but Arkansas was always going to be a temporary stop for Odom. He stayed long enough to help his friend Sam Pittman get established as an SEC head coach and then he moved on.

Q. Stu wants to know: Do you think Pittman was caught off-guard with Odom accepting the UNLV HC gig after Odom turned down Tulsa?

A. Maybe a little bit. I think he knew that Odom was looking but it happened so fast after Odom turned down Tulsa that Pittman may have gotten a bit of a surprise. But I don’t think it was a shock.

Q. Slobberslob asks: With Odom gone and the way I understand it Scherer is as well, who do you think will coach defense at the Liberty Bowl? 10 practices doesn’t give a new guy much time to install a scheme or get to know the players well. I just don’t our guys want to lose to Kansas.

A. I could be wrong but Deke Adams, the D-Line coach seems like the obvious choice. There will be no scheme installed. They’ll keep doing what they were doing under Odom. There will be some adjustments for Kansas based on what they do offensively but that’s normal game planning stuff. There will be plenty of time for that. Ten practices is over twice what you have to get ready for an in-season opponent. Dominique Bowman could double up and coach both the cornerbacks and safeties. I could see Scherer sticking around until after the bowl game to coach the linebackers.

Q. sgiles want to know: Is Dowell Loggains gone to South Carolina or not? This is driving me crazy.

A. You can settle down. He’s gone. I’m told that Shane Beamer almost had Loggains hired several days ago but there was a pushback from some of the big boosters who didn’t like Loggains’ record as an OC in the NFL. This held things up but Beamer pushed it through and hired Loggains on Monday.

This is not good for Arkansas. Pittman will probably lose at least one of the Loggain’s 4-star tight end commitments. Plus current tight end Trey Knox hit the portal about an hour after the story broke on Loggains.

Q. robs4516 wants to know: Any word on why Ketron Jackson entered the portal? Seems like he would have been one of the top WR’s next season.

A. These days, with the portal being the way it is, most coaches are going to get at least one big surprise. Ketron was a surprise. The word is he wanted more touches. With Jadon Haselwood going pro and Pittman’s stated intent to move Ketron into the slot, he would have been a starter with more touches almost a certainty.

Perhaps he was frustrated because Arkansas is a run first team and he wanted to go to a school that throws the ball more than it runs the ball.

Q. About Jacolby Chriswell’s commitment out of the portal and complaints by some fans that Arkansas didn’t want him three years ago so why would they want him now….

Don Woods says: Amazing how many people comment without knowing any factual info. A great Arkansas talent from Morrilton. Only reason he didn’t come to UA out of high school was Morris’ lack of interest & assumption he would be behind Morris’ son.

A. That’s a factual response to some of the nonsense that you’ll find on the Internet. Pittman did want him but by the time he was hired Chriswell had already committed to North Carolina because Chad Morris didn’t show much interest in him.
The other complaints that you read is that if Chriswell didn’t win the job at North Carolina why would Arkansas want him?

The answer is, he played behind two outstanding quarterbacks there and he’s not coming here as a starter but as a replacement for Malik Hornsby, a quarterback who can step in if K. J. Jefferson is injured and Arkansas doesn’t automatically lose the game.

This, I think, is the best of Arkansas four portal commitments to date because we all saw how not having the right backup QB totally changed the 2022 season.

Q. Pigsfeat asks: Do you foresee the Hogs getting better players from the Portal than they are losing?

A. Yes because, as of now, only two players have entered the portal that Pittman wanted to keep and he’s already brought in three that look like they will make this a better team next season.

So how good will this portal class be? I can only evaluate where Pittman is right now. I would call it, so far so good. Chriswell for Malik Hornsby as a back up quarterback is a no brainer improvement.

The only big loss to the portal so far is Jackson. Pittman has countered that with the addition of Texas A&M-Commerce wide receiver Andrew Armstrong. This kid is 6-6, caught over a thousand yards in passes with 13 touchdowns this past season.

If you say….but Texas A&M Commerce?? Come on, that’s an FCS team. Well the NFL had 24 FCS players selected in this years draft including two first rounders. By all accounts this kid is really good. So I would say it’s an even trade for Jackson at least and maybe a plus.

The other portal commitment isn’t replacing someone who exited, at least nobody that Pittman wants to keep. But Joshua Braun, a 6-6, 335 offensive lineman from the University of Florida is a really good addition to the O-line.

What does Pittman still need? D-Backs, Linebackers and D-linemen and another receiver. He has at least four other known offers out there and there are probably more . Depending on how that goes this could be a really good portal class or maybe just a good class. Stay tuned.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy says: We’re about to hire a new DC and one of the requirements is that he be a outstanding recruiter. We know Coach Pittman can recruit. Since Coach Broyles, who are the best recruiting coaches we’ve had? And maybe one or two that weren’t as good?

A. I assume you mean head coaches. Let start with those who were not so good.

Lou Holtz had early success with Frank Broyles’ players and his staff was okay as recruiters but Holtz’ quirky personality was a net negative in recruiting.

Jack Crowe is a great example of an offensive coordinator who should have stayed an offensive coordinator. He was outstanding with x’s and o’s, not so good at relating to college athletes in large groups or one-on-one in recruiting.

Bobby Petrino. Shocker right? Well he got lucky his first year at Arkansas. He was able to land those great receivers from Warren mostly because of his reputation as a passing offense guru. As time went by his reputation as an all out dictator to his players started to bite him in recruiting. By the time he was fired the talent level was dropping.

Bret Bielema. A nice guy but he bragged on himself too much and that was a turnoff in recruiting. He also didn’t work at it the way he should have. Sam Pittman was the recruiter on that staff and when he left the recruiting dropped off.

Now let’s look at the good recruiters.

Danny Ford. He had some issues but recruiting was his thing. He’d go into a home and win the mom over right off the bat with his down home southern personality. Then he’d get the dad on his side the dad. With that 80% of the job was already done.

Houston Nutt took Arkansas to two SEC championship games. Danny Ford did it once. Nutt could recruit. His style was Frank Broyles-like. A lot of fans didn’t like his offense and his play calling but he got some great players to come including the best ever, Darren McFadden.

Ken Hatfield was another good recruiter. He limited himself somewhat because there were somen very good players that he passed on because of their reputations. He did not want to recruit problems, no matter how good the player. It didn’t hurt him much. Hatfield still has the best winning percentage in school history.

Oddly enough Chad Morris was a decent recruiter. He didn’t do anything else right but he did leave Sam Pittman and his staff with some good players.

Finally Pitman, IMO, is the best recruiting head coach since Frank Broyles. He uses the Danny Ford approach. Win the momma. Win the dad and he’s better than Ford at winning the kid.

Q. Arkie Redneck wants to know: How big an impact do you expect from the loss of Trevon Brazile?

A. So far so good. Arkansas passed its first big test without him, beating OU in Tulsa on Saturday.

Brazile was averaging 12 points and 6 rebounds a game.

Jordan Walsh played his best game as a Razorback with 12 points, 3 rebounds, a blocked shot and an assist.

Makhi Mitchell was solid in the paint. 10 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

Kamani Johnson added 5 point and 5 boards.

That’s 27 inside points and 14 rebounds. Those guys stepped up.

But look, Brazile is an outstanding player. He was off to a great start. So somewhere down the line I think not having him will probably cost Arkansas a game, maybe two. But having this much talent does make a difference. It minimizes injuries. And that’s the real difference Muss has made. The season doesn’t go south because he loses one of his best players.

Q. Mousetown says: You are very high on the women’s basketball team this season. I can see why. They’re off to a great start but I was surprised that they struggled against a 4-4 Arkansas State team.

A. I wasn’t surprised. The longer that undefeated streak continues the harder it is to keep it going. It starts to become a burden. Teams step up their game against you while you’re just trying to get a win.

Even though Hunter Yurachek’s decision to play in-state teams has paid off, in football and basketball, Arkansas State is going to be a dog fight IMO. They don’t like Arkansas. They don’t like this stuff about Arkansas being the only major in-state team and they will go to war in these games. But Arkansas passed the test. It wasn’t a nail biter in the end. Those ladies did their jobs.

Q. Finally H.L. McCamish says: I know you like to poke fun at Missouri’s head football coach. What is up with the claim that Missouri turned down a bowl matchup against their old Big 12 rival Kansas? Some saying Drinkwitz was afraid to play them.

A. There was a report that the Liberty Bowl was supposed to be Kansas and Missouri but Missouri said no so Arkansas agreed to play Kansas. Drinkwitz denied that. He said in a Tweet that Missouri wasn’t scared to play anybody but he didn’t offer any more details.

Those two teams are supposed to play in the regular season in 2025. Plus Dinky showed up waving a sign at the Kansas-Missouri basketball game in Columbia on Saturday. The place was full probably because Missouri was undefeated and Mizzou fans smelled an upset. They were wrong. Kansas destroyed the Tigers on their own homecourt.

I guess this Mizzou-Kansas thing used to be a really big deal. I say, bring Kansas into the SEC. Create a trophy for that game and let them be rivals again.

Arkansas fans will never accept Missouri as a rival. They look at them as more of a pest than anything else. A Mosquito can bite you and make you uncomfortable but other than swatting the thing you don’t give it much thought.

It looks like Texas and Oklahoma now plan to join the SEC in 2024. So the season after next Arkansas will have two real rivalry games. I really look forward to that.

(Last updated: 2022-12-12 19:48 PM)