Briles Has Two Backup QBs, A Baseball Twitter War & Will Muss Have Five Bigs On His Roster?


Q. Our first question is from Razorback Redneck who asks: What happened to our baseball team? They walked all over Florida in game one and then it was like they decided to take a nap the next two games.

A. Baseball is like that. The fact is, Florida’s game-one starter lost his cool and Arkansas took advantage of that. Also Connor Noland pitched his best game ever.
The next two games Florida pitched well but Arkansas did that thing where too many guys fail to deliver with multiple runners on base. Sixteen combined runners left on base on Friday and Saturday.

As for Arkansas pitchers, Florida can hit but, no question, Hagen Smith and Jaxon Wiggins didn’t have their best stuff. A lot of fans complained that that the umps squeezed them but I didn’t see that. There were a lot of close pitches but most of them were just outside the zone in my eye. I’m sure others would disagree.

Q. Piglet asks: Is it just me or does the Razorback baseball team look lost at the plate until 4 to 5 innings into a game? It seems like they let a lot of good pitches go by early in the game, get behind in the count, and end up striking out. They almost never score in the first innings.

A. That’s not unusual. A lot of teams need to bat around to get a feel for the starting pitcher. Tennessee doesn’t but what the Vols are doing right now is off the charts.
I don’t mind a slow start but I’ve seen Razorback teams in the past where when certain batters came to the plate with two on or the bases loaded, something good was going to happen.

The sky is not falling. They still lead the SEC West but at times I don’t see enough fire or energy from these guys. Maybe they lack a locker-room leader like Casey Opitz was last year.

Q. Ben Dyer wants to know: Have you seen the Twitter war that has erupted between Tennessee and Arkansas baseball fans? We don’t even play them this year. What’s going on?

A. They are not on the regular season schedule but they could meet in the SEC or NCAA post season. The Twitter war started with an online article in which Tennessee players were quoted as openly embracing the team’s bad boy image. They do a lot of trash talking and gesturing during games. The openly try to antagonize opposing players and their fans. That type of approach is what DVH was talking about in the preseason when he said there’s no place in the game for that.

This is Tony Vitello’s philosophy. A kind of “in your face, we’re gonna beat you” attitude. He uses it in recruiting and a lot of young players like that. They are at that age when they want to defy the world.

My own opinion is that it may work for a while but eventually it’s poison. You don’t want the entire SEC against you. Eventually it will bring you down.

What got Hog fans going was a Tennessee fan comparing Tennessee baseball to Alabama football. He posted something like, Do you think Alabama cares what other schools think of them? We don’t either.

It was a lame post. First of All Nick Saban does not recruit and coach with that philosophy. Secondly, Alabama has been winning national championships in football for 60 plus years. Tennessee doesn’t have one national title.

So I’m with Hog fans on this one. Vitello doesn’t need this approach. He can win big without it. Will he ever walk this stuff back? I have no idea.

Q. TL Slaten says: Connor Noland is all class. He pitched his butt off on Thursday without any of the annoying antics we saw from Florida’s hot shot starter. I love a player who goes out, does his thing and attracts no attention to himself.

A. The polar opposite of what I’ve been talking about. Connor Noland is a typical DVH player. He worked his tail for four years to get better and now he has arrived. But he does his talking with his pitching. He doesn’t need gestures or trash talking. He just takes the mound, gets the other guys out and walks back to the dugout.

Anyone who’s ever played baseball at any level has probably had a Hunter Barco on their team. A really talented player but his actions can be embarrassing. Thankfully DVH doesn’t recruit players like that.

Q. Hog fans are weighing in on what Robert Moore needs to do to get out of his batting slump. JonClaudeVanHam says: A ton of big swings trying to get out of it. An easier swing from Moore and he’s a doubles machine.

A. A lot of fans have been saying that, not just about Moore but certain other hitters on this team. On the other hand I’ve read fan discussions on Facebook where the opposite point has been made. Moore needs to swing for the fences. His home run numbers are down.

The only thing that matters is what he and Nate Thompson are doing to get him back to where he was a season ago. If I had to guess I think it will happen.

Q. Knot2brite has what he thinks is a better solution. He says: This is gonna be an unpopular opinion, but Bob Moore needs to sit an SEC game. He’s trying to do too much too soon too hard. If It was good enough for Slavens and Webb did it was good enough for Bob Moore.

A. I don’t think it’s reached the point for that kind of action to be to taken. It would be a lot harder to sit him because of the job he does at second base. If he were hitting under .200 maybe. You learn to never say never when you do what I do but I would be surprised to see DVH sit Robert Moore as some sort of motivation tactic.

Q. BloodRedHog wants to know: What is going on with our QB’s? Lucas Coley is transferring and Malik is a part-time receiver. Is Cade Fortin so good that Lucas thinks he is QB #4 now?

A. There were two basic versions of what happened circulating behind the scenes last week. One had Coley’s mom giving Kendal Briles an ultimatum of sorts. Give my son a reps at No. 2 QB or he’s gone. The other, to me, is a little more credible because it came from somebody in the media who talked to one of the coaches about the situation. He said Coley was getting 4th team reps because three other guys where out performing him. That would be KJ Jefferson, Malik Hornsby and Cade Fortin. So Coley decided to leave.

Supposedly Coley had has offers from four schools and some say Houston is a likely destination for him. I wish him well. I liked the kid and talked him up a lot last spring. But there’s no question, after watching him last Saturday, that Hornsby looks more more consistent and confident as a passer, even though he did throw one pick in team drills. I’ve said before that Fortin looks really smooth to me. He’s a tall, physical QB like Jefferson. He has been around he block. Has gotten meaningful starts at North Carolina and South Florida. He’s also got two seasons left and it would not shock me to see him win the job next year after Jefferson leaves.

Q. Regarding positive comments made by Kendal Briles about the quarterbacks after Saturday’s practice, Brian Reed says: I mean, I hope so. We’ve got like 1 QB now

Q. That might have been true last season. I don’t think it’s true now. I have to believe that Briles had some sleepless nights last season wondering what would happen if Jefferson suffered a significant injury. It wouldn’t good this coming season either but Briles now has a good backup plan from what I’ve seen. He should sleep just fine

Q. Taylor Anderson says: Thanks coach Briles and Odom for staying! Great time to be a razorback fan!!

A. No doubt he’s reacting to what both coordinators said on Saturday when asked why they passed on opportunities to leave after the Outback Bowl. Let’s look at what Briles said:

“The head football coach, Sam Pittman. Working for him. The University of Arkansas. State of Arkansas. It would have been really, really hard to look at KJ and tell him that I wasn’t going to be here. Raising a family here. There’s not a better place to do that.”

Barry Odom said: “The culture that Sam Pittman has every day in our working environment, you can’t beat it. We’ve got great administrative support. The fan base is the best I’ve ever seen. My family is real happy here. I’m having as much fun as I’ve ever had coaching, being here.”

What else can you say? If you’re a Hog fan, that’s some awesome stuff.

Q. Regarding a quote he referenced on last week’s Ask Mike from Mike Neighbors…

Dr. Starcs says: It was not a mischaracterization on my part, nor was it a comment he made at the sec tournament. This is his direct quote after the ncaa tournament blowout loss to Utah: “I’ll promise you, I wouldn’t trade two wins for the experience we had.”

A. Alyssa and I looked up quote and you are right. It was from the post game NCAA presser in Austin, not the SEC tournament. Actually our own Nick Petraccione asked that question. He told us to listen to the entire answer, not just that quote. When we listened to it we both had the same reaction. Neighbors wasn’t saying it was okay to lose because his players had fun. He was saying that if the only way to win was to keep his players in a box with workouts, scouting reports and other team meetings with no time away from that, he would rather lose.

Maybe some coaches still do that but it’s becoming much more common for coaches to make sure their players have a life away from studying, going to class, going to practice, traveling and playing games.

Look what Muss did in Buffalo and San Francisco. They spent time away from preparing for those games and they won.

I will also say what I said last week. The Arkansas women did not lose because of that.

This team needs physicality. They rely too much on three point shooting. Neighbors will have a true center next season. That will help. Jersey Wolfenbarger will be back in a traditional role for her. A tall perimeter wing who can shoot but go inside as well. I thought she also made a lot of progress with her defense. You don’t do that overnight.

There’s no question that the women’s team has to make a big jump next season but if they succeed or not I don’t think Neighbors philosophy of how he handles post season road trips will have anything to do with it.

Q. Razorboo asks: When players enter the transfer portal and commit to a new school what is the process they go through for acceptance? I assume they are looking based on their GPA and credits. I know schools like Stanford and Vandy have such high requirements does it put them at a disadvantage?

A. Most schools with higher admission standards have relaxed entrance requirements for athletes. Once enrolled as student athletes, NCAA standards take over. There is a minimum GPA requirement. More importantly, there is a universal academic progress road map that must be followed. There are defined steps all the way from year one through year four. If you don’t meet the standard you are ineligible to complete. You continue to go to class but you cannot be inside the athletic facilities until you meet the standards.

Athletes entering the portal have to meet those standards in order to be accepted by another school. If they do and the school wants them, they’re in.

Q. Razorboo has a related question: Coaches are employees of the university. What is the hiring process they go through for hiring and promotion? Ruta is the latest. Was his promotion approved by HY or some other process the athletic or school uses in situations like this?

A. New hires and promotions have to be approved by the University Board of Trustees. Usually that’s a rubber stamp situation. If it’s an assistant coach, the head coach offers the job, the AD usually approves it and the BOT gives final approval.

BOT members tend to scrutinize the hiring of head coaches a little more. I know, for instance, that they pushed back against one of Hunter Yurachek’s choices when Chad Morris was fired. That’s when he went after Sam Pittman and that hire was approved. That situation was unusual because the program was so down that successful, experienced head coaches that Yurachek was looking at were not interested. He felt like he could hire a qualified assistant head coach. The BOT was skeptical but went along with hiring Pittman and now Yurachek looks like a genius and he made them look good in the process.

Q. jbcarol wants to know: Is Eric Musselman wishing for time to fly by until November? Is he salivating over managing this much talent, especially at the “3”, “1” and “4”?

A. Muss is not one to get ahead of himself. He’s marking time until these guys all get on campus but he’s also coming up with a plan on how to use them. I promise you, putting a bunch of super talented guys on a roster is no guarantee of a championship team. We’ve seen that with Calipari. So the process of getting them onto the court for the first game this November will be step by step. He won’t rush it. It’s the fans who will be marking time. Not Muss.

Q. @mousetown says: After coaching last season with one player taller than 6-7 Muss has brought in two six-nine transfers and two six-ten guys. Does this man J-Will is gone? Do we have room for five bigs?

A. Nobody knows for sure. As I understand it, if Muss doesn’t bring in another transfer a current player has to leave. The player may or may not be Jaylin Williams. Yes, he has put his name into the draft. But unless he hires an agent or leaves his name in the draft past the withdrawal date, he can return. As for who would leave if Williams decides to come back, we’ll have to wait on that one. But rest assured there’s one guy who knows how this will play out and he’s the head coach.

Q. John says: I’d buy a ticket to watch this team practice. Partly because of their athleticism, & partly because I’ve got no idea how this team will look when the season starts. I’d suggest Muss puts on a Midnight Madness like Nolan used to do. Bet the Bud might be full for that.

A. Midnight Madness counts against the allowed number of preseason practices. Muss has been using the Red-White game in Barnhill to expose his team to the fans for the first time each season. I’m guessing he’ll do that again. If so, I’m pretty sure there will be standing room only for that game.

Q. Our final question is from Lanny who says: You’ve traveled all over the Old SWC and the SEC. Name the best and worst places for visiting fans not counting Arkansas because you’re probably biased on that.

A. I’m probably biased on this but I would say Texas Tech was the best for visiting fans when I covered Arkansas in the SWC years. I grew up out there. Lubbock was a friendly place, known for its hospitality. I’ve been told that in the last several years the students at Tech can be really hard to deal with for visiting fans so that may have changed.

The worst place for visiting fans in the SWC days would be a tie between Austin and College Station. The Texas fans were snobby. The Aggies fans were strange. Very strange.

The best place to visit in the SEC? I’d have to say Auburn. Auburn has some crazy, interfering boosters. They don’t treat their own head coaches well but Auburn, Alabama is a small town. Very friendly. I’ve never had a bad experience there and have not had any Arkansas fans say they were treated badly there.

The worst SEC destination for visiting fans? That’s easy: LSU. Some of the stuff that goes on outside that stadium on game days is nuts. I would advise any fan going to a game there, do not wear your school colors. Many years ago an Arkansas fan went into a tailgating area porta potty outside the stadium and some LSU fans turned it over with him in it.

One of our own KNWA video cameras was on a tripod on a sidewalk next to the stadium it was run over and destroyed by an LSU fan who drove his car up on that sidewalk.

I’m sure there are fans who would name different schools based on their own experiences. But those are the schools that made my list.

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