Red Zone Success, KJ Landing On His Head & Do We Care That The Refs Stuck It To ‘Bama?

By Mike Irwin
on 2022-10-17 19:22 PM

Q. Our first question is from s-gliles who asks: Why the continued Odom bashing? Chavis was hurt early against BYU and Clark who had been moved to safety because of all the injuries had to be moved back to cornerback. With all he has on his plate I think Barry Odom is doing about as good a job as anybody could expect.

A. I would not disagree with that. He’s got a cobbled together secondary. He has to take personnel into consideration when coming up with a defensive scheme. Points given up jumped up against Alabama and Mississippi State, two very good passing teams, but I have to say 14 of BYU’s 35 points were the result of two bad defensive holding calls. Arkansas did a great job of defending the deep ball on those two plays for nothing. BYU scored a legitimate 21 points on Arkansas. That’s not bad defense.

When it counted Arkansas got two huge defensive stops in the second half. Stops that allowed the offense to jump the lead to 17 points. So yes, the rip jobs I saw about Barry Odom on social media were over the top.

Q. Tracy McKnight says: Kudos to Hudson Clark. Led team in tackles, had an interception and fumble recovery. He seems to be target for a lot of criticism but the kid plays hard and stays around the ball. Glad he had some very good stats.

A. Yes. He made big plays when big plays had to be made. They moved him to safety. Had to move him back. He’s out there dealing with the injury situation and to me he’s adjusting and his play is getting better.

Q. Jack the BN says: You finally got what you wanted. We threw 40 passes against BYU compared to 23 last week. Not only did our passing yards go way up but Rocket had a career day. Plus we scored 35 more points than last week. Guess you were right.

A. First of all I need to point out that I wasn’t calling for Briles to dial up 40 passes. Frankly I was surprised by that. On the other hand he’s doing what Sam Pittman told him to do and the thing that impressed me was how much better the short, or possession passes, worked.

Honestly, at times it looked like Arkansas was going to an Air Raid Attack the way K.J. Jefferson was throwing the ball to the edges and the seven to eight yards a pop those passes were generating. When you can get first downs with passes that are basically running plays and you mix that with deep balls, the running game can become explosive, which we saw.

I think Sam Pittman has seen the light. I’m very encouraged by this change in the offense and I think it will make a big difference moving forward.

Q. Arkie Redneck asks: How about Matt Landers? I was afraid we were going to completely waste one of the most talented receivers I’ve seen at this school. Nice that they figured it out. He needs more catches.

A. I think I made that point after the A&M game. That was the low point to me. Arkansas only threw 19 passes in that game, not one to Landers. Yes, that’s a waste.
So again, I think that kind of thing is over. I credit Sam Pittman for realizing that the receivers on this team are too good to be marginalized.

Q.CyberMax on Twitter says: The $EC does not care about quality of officiating as long as Gumps and Auburn are on top. Horrible calls both ways from the SEC crew at BYU game. I’ll stop before going on a rant about the bias when we play AU.

A. I watched a lot of games on Saturday. Those questionable pass interference calls in the BYU game were just a part of the problem. I’m not trying to make anyone feel sorry for Alabama but the officiating in Knoxville was the difference in the game.

So my point is, all of you fans who think that Alabama is protected by SEC refs, you’re wrong. It’s not bias on the part of these SEC refs that is causing the problem. They’re making way too many mistakes and the league office needs to recognize that and figure out how to make the situation better.

Q. Roger Ballard says: KJ is a living, breathing battering ram. Just don’t do it when you don’t have to. Please try to not get hurt. You are too valuable !

A. I think he’s trying to be careful but he’s such a competitor sometimes he just crashes into players or tumbles onto his head. Hog fans are just gonna have to keep their fingers crossed.

The play where he broke free of three potential sacks and managed to get to ball to Trey Knox for a big first down, was flat impressive. However I don’t agree with K.J., who credited that to the work he does in the weight room. There may have been some strength involved in that breakaway but mostly it was footwork. He used his feet and his legs to get free of those BYU defenders.

It was a great bounce back game by K.J.. Sometimes sitting on the sidelines and watching is the best motivation you can get. He had gone backwards for two or three games before he got hurt against ‘Bama. Not terrible. He just wasn’t himself. BYU may have been his best game as a Razorback.

Q. A couple of fans used Twitter to take some shots at those who have been bashing Arkansas’ offensive coordinator.

Hognoxious says: Often during this season, we’ve heard a lot of “Fire Kendall Briles”. Try some facts:

Total offense & points under Briles –
2020: 391.5 ypg, 25.7 ppg
2021: 441.7 ypg, 30.9 ppg
2022: 488.6 ypg, 32.9 ppg


Never Yield responded with this:

Q. Ignore any nonsensical talk of Briles being a problem. The data clearly shows the man is good at his job.

To which Hognoxious posted:

Q. When reviewing reactions during a 52-35 win it’s obvious some need to go away.

What do you think , Mike?

A. If Twitter and Facebook are starting to get to you the best way to handle it, is with the facts. Facts are hard to refute. The offense has improved every year under Briles. The only criticism of Briles that I feel is valid is his tendency dial up those annoying trick plays that don’t work. It’s pretty obvious to me that a lot of the play calling that I have questioned this season has been on Sam Pittman not Kendal Briles. Pitt has said that.

Pittman turned Briles loose last week and I think he came up with a great game plan. Look at the way they dealt with the red zone problems.

On Tuesday Briles took the quarterbacks outside while the rest of the team worked indoors and had them rep run/pass options in the red zone, over and over.

In the second quarter on 3rd and 3 at the BYU 6 yard line, K.J. hit Trey Knox with a touchdown pass.

Later in the 2nd quarter on 1st and 4 from the BYU 4, Jefferson found Landers on a roll out pass.

Late in the 3rd quarter, 3rd and goal from the BYU 5, it was Jefferson to Landers again.

Three red zone successes in one game after four failures in the previous two games.

That is solving a problem. Briles deserves the credit for it.

Q. DWR wants to know: While Hornsby seems to have improved as a QB, he seems to be too light to survive as a runner in the SEC So should he, could he, add 20 lbs or more to his weight and still be successful?

A. First of all how much a player weighs doesn’t always relate to injuries. If it did then offensive linemen would be the least injured players on the team. To me K.J. ‘s size encourages him to go barreling into linebackers and D-tackles. If you watch Hornsby, he’s out to run away from those guys, not slam into them.

The strength and conditioning coaches know how much weight they can put on a player without slowing him down. If Malik could put on 10 points in the off-season with the same 40 time, fine. But I would not do anything to him which slows him down.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy asks: Since free agency isn’t an option, what are some things the staff might do to improve the defense during the bye week.

A. Let them rest. I hope some of those D-backs, like Miles Slusher, can get back on the field. Bumper Pool is another player who needs some time off. He’s been playing with an injured hip. So the answer is, I would not do a lot this week. Get these guys off their feet.

Q. BloodRedHog says: Rocket Sanders’ rushing yards so far look extremely good. If he continues at this pace, and plays two more years, could he finish as one of the best running backs at Arkansas?

A. If you compare Sanders to Darren Mc Fadden, he had 578 yards his freshman year, Mc Fadden had 1,113.

His sophomore season D-Mac piled up 1,647 yards. If he keeps his current pace Sanders could come close to 1,700 yards.

If Sanders got 1,800 yards as a junior he’d be about 500 yards behind D-Mac’s career total of 4,500 yards. So if he came back as a senior Sanders might break that record.
I don’t see him finishing second in the Heisman voting two years in a row. He doesn’t have McFadden’s speed. I don’t see Rocket having a 300 yard rushing game like D-Mac but could he compare with some of the other great backs at Arkansas? Sure, if he says healthy and if Sam Pittman continues to put really good offensive linemen in front of him.

Q. WLD3 says: During the field goal against BYU, #33 ran from the left end to the right end after the snap. I have never seen that before, is there a reason for this?

A. #33 is Isaiah Nichols. Sam Pittman did not have his normal Monday press conference because it’s a bye week so we’ll try to ask him next week.

Q. RazorAlex88 says: We appear to have a little problem hanging onto the football this season with (how many?) fumbles. I would say ball security (along with defense and regaining health obviously) should be a point to focus on during the bye week.

A. Through seven games Arkansas has fumbled 14 times. That’s an average of two a game. Last year, for the season, they averaged 1. 7 fumbles a game. Arkansas’ opponents have fumbled 18 times so far.

Also Chad Morris’ last Arkansas team only fumbled 12 times the entire season. That’s one per game and they won just two games.

Arkansas is in the top 50 in fewest fumbles lost so don’t think it’s a serious issue.

To me Sam Pittman has already dealt with that problem from Saturday. He put Sanders on the bench for a full quarter after his fumble and he came back to finish with a career rushing day of 175 yards.

Q. my3boneheads wants to know: What are your projections for end of the season record and bowl game? I said 8-4 before the season started and still think that is reasonable. Music City Bowl sounds reasonable but could see Vegas or Gator Bowl.

A. Don’t go by what I say. I’m terrible at projections but yours is reasonable. In some cases it’s about catching a team at the right time. Mississippi State played lights out against Arkansas. To me they went to Kentucky overconfident and played like they did against LSU.

LSU is up and down. You don’t know what you’ll get when you play them. Auburn can pull off an upset, like when they beat Missouri.

Ole Miss looks very good right now but under the right circumstances Arkansas could beat them. However the Hogs could also lose to Missouri if they don’t play well in that game.

Anything less than 9-4 and some fans are going to get mad but the truth is Arkansas is playing a tougher schedule this season. Especially the non conference games.

Q. austin.hogfan asks: What is your current SEC West football teams best to worst ranking based not only on their record but the trajectory the remainder of the year?

A. Again I’m not good at this but here goes.

I still think Alabama wins the West. They’ll beat Ole Miss and win the rest of their games too.

Ole Miss will lose to Alabama, Mississippi State and possibly Arkansas. That would be 5-3.

Arkansas will have to win out to finish 5-3 but I think it’s doable. The key is Ole Miss at home. Ole Miss will be coming off a loss to Alabama. The Rebel Black Bears will be bummed out. KJ will want revenge from last year. If that happens the Hogs and Rebels would tie for second. Because Ole Miss will lose to Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi State.

Mississippi State will lose to Alabama and Georgia but beat Ole Miss. They’ll end up in 4th place after a fast start.

LSU will lose to Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas, ending up 4-4 with Mississippi State.

The Aggies will lose to Ole Miss, Florida and LSU finishing at 3-5.

Auburn will lose the rest of its SEC games and go 1-7.

Q. Bobby Jackson on Facebook says: Can’t wait for basketball to start. Didn’t get to go to the Red -White game. How was it?

A. I liked it. It was a low scoring game. The Red won 64-59. But there were some eye popping offensive plays. Nick Smith Jr with a dizzying spin to the basket move and layup. Lot of nice assists on inside baskets. But there was some fierce defense being played and I like defense. The Red team had 7 blocked shots. Muss ended up saying that this will be a great perimeter shot blocking team because of Anthony Black who had three swats and Trevon Brazile who can go out on the floor and take out perimeter shots.

The students were gone and that limited the crowd somewhat. Barnhill was a little over half full. They played music during the game and I was told that Muss did it much the way football coaches do practice, to create a noise level to simulate a real game. Smart on Muss’ part because an intrasquad game is not going to generate the same kind of noise as when the Hogs are playing an actual opponent.

Next Monday is the first exhibition game so Hog basketball is coming up fast.

Q. bmg44 wants to know: Why do you believe Mike Anderson was not successful at Arkansas? And would you share a good Nolan Richardson story.

A. He was successful in terms of total wins vs losses. His problem was in the NCAA tournament. Most of the time his teams were one and done. They never got past the round of 32. At UAB and Missouri Mike went deep into the tournament. So what was the problem at at Arkansas?

Someone very close to him said that Mike considered NW Arkansas to be his home. He got too comfortable here. At Missouri and UAB it was about business. Here it was all about being home. The job he always wanted.

A Nolan story? The year before Mike lost his job there was a football banquet at the Town Center in Fayetteville. Mike was at the front table as was Nolan. So when it was Nolan’s time to speak he said some nice thing about Mike but he also turned and warned him in front of all those people that if he didn’t start winning NCAA Tournament games he’d be gone just line he (Nolan) was. Nolan said, When I was going to the Final 4 nobody was mad at me. When I started winning fewer NCAA Tournament games the boosters wanted my hide and Frank started listening to them.

Nolan was about about the plain, unvarnished truth. That’s what I always like about him. He never tried to throw smoke at me.

(Last updated: 2022-10-17 19:22 PM)