SEC Tourney Talk, Hogs Hitting Woes & The Day Earl Fooled Monte


Q: Our first question, more of an observation, is from David Pearson who says: As awful as we were and as great as Tennessee shot the ball especially in the first half is actually encouraging to me that we only lost by 4 at Tennessee.

A. I would agree. Arkansas was coming off yet another gut check game at home against LSU. I knew they would have trouble getting back up for a road game at Tennessee on two days rest. Especially since the Vols had played a laugher at Georgia on Tuesday. I was at the baseball double header on Saturday. I was only able to see the first half of the Arkansas-Tennessee basketball game in the press box. Tennessee hit 9 of 11 threes in the first half which was insane since they were averaging only 8 per game.

Arkansas was down by 21 at the half. Cut it to 2 late and ended up losing by 4. I was really surprised when I heard that. I don’t think losing that game will hurt them. They’re a four instead of a three seed in Tampa meaning that they’ll probably have to beat Auburn to get to the championship game instead of Kentucky. Does it really matter?

Losing now clears them to reset and prepare for making a run in post season play.

Q. Mark M wants to know: Who outside of the top 4 seeds can win the conf. tournament?

A. I’d go with LSU. They are playing much better lately. LSU beat Alabama in overtime at home their last regular season game. As we know they probably should have beaten Arkansas in BWA. They certainly have the most talent of teams that are outside the top 4 seeds and maybe right up there with Auburn and Kentucky. The only other lower seeded teams that have a shot would be Alabama or Florida, two other unpredictable teams that sometimes play very well.

Q. About Arkansas’ bracket in the SEC Tournament Jerry Gandy says: Won’t beat LSU 3 times.

Q. And Johnny Balducci predicts: Oops, 1 and done…

Q. But Blake Robert Klomfas disagrees. He says: Would rather play LSU than Bama to be honest!

A. Obviously there’s also a possibility of facing Missouri if the Mizzou beats Ole Miss and LSU. None of that seems likely. I think it will be LSU and it wouldn’t be a disaster to lose to LSU. Might drop Arkansas from a four to a five seed in the NCAA’s but going home early gives them time to rest up. Get everybody 100% and it would send them into the NCAA Tournament hungry to make a run.

Q. WooPig348 says: There’s just no quit in this basketball team. They’ve shown it all year but it was highlighted in this week’s games, especially Tennessee. It’s one of the scrappiest, most resilient Arkansas teams that I can recall. What are your thoughts? Do they remind you of any past teams in that respect?

A. There were several like that under Eddie and Nolan but you only have to go back to last season for a comparison. Muss’ second team at Arkansas lost four of five games in early January and went 15-3 after that, going one game short of the Final Four, losing to the national champions in the Elite Eight. In that stretch of games Arkansas beat Auburn by 2 points, Kentucky at Kentucky by a point and both Texas Tech and ORU by two points in the NCAA Tournament. The 2021 Hogs played hard to the very end.

Q. Alex4Hogs88 says: We have encountered some salty fan bases on Twitter during our run of winning 14 of 16 games. Auburn was salty, Tennessee was salty, Kentucky was salty, and LSU was salty. Out of all those, who was the saltiest?

A. I’d go with Kentucky. They are Internet assassins. This year Tennessee fans are also really active. They were all over Twitter and Facebook the night Arkansas beat them in Bud Walton. Trying to claim that most of the charging calls that J-Will was getting against SEC opponents were bogus. Most of them were actually blocking fouls by him. they claimed. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the first time it happened against Tennessee in Knoxville J-Will was hit with a block. I pretty much predicted it would happen. Also Tennessee baseball fans hate DVH and Arkansas after the dust up between DVH and Tony Vitello last year.

The Hogs and Vols don’t play each other in the regular season in baseball. It could happen in the SEC tournament, the regionals, super regionals or College World Series.

The only way they would meet in the SEC basketball tournament would be if they both make it to championship game. They could hook up again in the NCAA tournament but that would be deep into it. I’d say the odds are pretty good that Arkansas-Tennessee basketball rivalry is done for this season.

Q. schmoov1 says: So excited about the progress we have seen in basketball over the last 3 years. Does Muss have what it takes to make us a destination for elite talent over the next several years like Coach K did for Duke for 40+ years? Is that even a thing for a coach to remain with a program that long anymore?

A. Yes I think his recruiting will get even better the longer he’s here and it’s amazing right now. But as far as how long he will be here, I don’t see him going anywhere else soon but there’s a basketball job open at a school where basketball is the main sport on campus. We’re talking Louisville and Muss has been named as one of the candidates. Who knows if he’s really interested? I think he’s got a great thing going at Arkansas. Pretty hard to believe he’d walk away from his number two recruiting class. But we’ll have to wait and see.

Q. BloodRedHog says: The Diamond Hogs have lost two opening series games in a row at home – against teams they should sweep. I think this will be a long season. I see issues with both hitting and pitching.

A. I keep reading all these comments on social media about Arkansas pitching. Right now the Hogs staff has an ERA of 2.83. Not bad at all. Eight different relievers with a combined 14 appearances currently have zero ERA’s.

Two of Arkansas three weekend starters have ERA’s of under three. A third, Connor Noland probably would have but he took a batted ball under his eye in game one against SE Louisiana. He had gone five innings with five strikeouts and had given up just one run. But he had trouble throwing strikes after that. Probably should have been taken out when it happened. That ended up being the one game this season where pitching was the main cause of a loss. SE Louisiana scored all 7 of its runs in the 6th.

Yes, Both Kole Ramage and Issac Bracken were bad in relief. They recorded just one out and were charged with four runs. But after that Austin Ledbetter and Evan Grey combined for three innings of shutout baseball.

Now let’s look at games two and three. Hagen Smith went 7 innings, gave up two hits, two runs and struck out 9. Zebulon Vermillion and Brady Tygart finished it off, giving up just one hit and no runs over the final two innings.

Game two, Jaxon Wiggins went six and a third, gave up just one run and 2 hits with 7 strikeouts. Even Taylor finished off the 7th with no damage and Ramage bounced back from that disastrous relief appearance in the Friday game and set the visitors down with no runs and one hit in the 8th. The 9th wasn’t played because Arkansas run ruled SE Louisiana with 8 combined runs in the 7th and 8th.

Look, pitching is not the problem right now.

Q. Razorback Redneck asks: Three weeks into the season what’s your assessment of the Hogs hitting problems? To me some people are over the top worried but others act like it’s no big deal. I feel like the answer is somewhere in between.

A. It sure looks like an issue right now. The numbers got better last week. The team batting average is up from around .220 to 257. They had two double digit run games so that’s somewhat encouraging. But they did that by teeing off on midweek pitching against Omaha and Southeastern Louisiana’s day three pitchers. In the midweek game Arkansas scored 13 runs against guys whose ERAs ranged from 3.48 to 7.71 to 11.35 to 81.

Day three against SE Louisiana Arkansas scored 10 runs against pitchers with ERA’s of 6.75, 9.53 and 20.25.

Now let’s look at the three losses. Game one against Illinois State, Arkansas got just 2 runs on 4 hits and struck out 9 times.

Against number 8 Stanford Arkansas was shut out on just 3 hits with 15 strikeouts.

Game one vs. SE Louisiana, Arkansas was limited to 3 runs with 8 hits and 8 strikeouts.

These guys have yet to prove that they can hit really good pitching and they will face really good pitching in the SEC.

So who is looking good? Michael Turner, Cayden Wallace, Robert Moore and Chris Lanzilli are all hitting over .300 with 28 combined RBI.

Zack Gregory, Brady Slavens, Jalen Battles, Payton Stovall and Braydon Webb need to get it in gear with averages ranging from .250 down to zero. I would put Jace Bohrofen in that group but he had a good weekend with six hits after going something like 0-17 before that. Webb only has 14 at bats but he has gone hitless so far.

Maybe it’s just a work in progress and there are at least some good signs but so far pitching has carried this team in 5 of its 7 wins.

Q. To football. TL Slaten wants to know: What did you think about Treylon Burks 40 time at the Combine? Will a 4.55 hurt him in the draft?

A. To know that I’d have to know the mind of the various teams looking at him. I will say that I think he’s faster than that. I will be surpised if he doesn’t end up with a better time on Pro Day at Arkansas. Of all the positions in football, straight line speed is probably more important at receiver but it’s not everything. Jerry Rice was a 4.7 40 guy and some think was the best of all time. Burks played against the best secondaries in college football and had no trouble getting open deep while scoring on the bomb. He’s also got huge hands and is a force catching the ball in a crowd and at 225 pounds he’s got the size to flat run over cornerbacks.

I think he’ll be fine. If his draft status drops some whoever drafts him is getting a quality receiver and a quality person. I think a lot of Hog fans would like to see him in Dallas or Kansas City.

Q. Lanny says: Even though Treylon Burks is gone I feel good about Arkansas WR group. Will we get to see that super fast freshman from Fayetteville this spring? He was a blur in HS games last fall.

A. Isaiah Sategna is not an early enrollee. He’s still at Fayetteville High school this spring competing in outdoor track. He put up a post last week on Twitter which showed him competing in what looked like the 110 hurdles. He said: “Had my first outdoor meet of the year. Ran 14.2 into a headwind which is the number one time in the nation. Ready to drop some great times this year!”
He’s going to be a part of an outstanding receivers room this fall including Jadon Haselwood, a high school five star. He’s a junior transfer from Oklahoma. There’s four star recruit Ketron Jackson Jr. Number 21 in the nation at receiver in the 2022 class. There are several more including redshirt senior Warren Thompson who was a key part of the team last season. Sategna is also a high school four star.

Q. @Mousetown wants to know: What’s the number one thing you will be watching when spring football starts?

A. Back up quarterback. That position needs to be developed to a point where there’s no danger of the season falling apart of KJ Jefferson gets hurt. Can Malik Hornsby improve as a passer? Will Lucas Coley jump ahead of him? What about the walkon transfer from South Florida? Cade Fortin started two games at North Carolina and played well before transferring to South Florida where an injury limited him. He’s a run pass QB like he others. He’s 6-3 and a little over 200 pounds.
It’s going to be interesting to see those three go at in this spring.

Q. HogT asks: Has there been any update or posturing from Texas and Oklahoma about coming to the SEC ahead of schedule? How much notice would there have to be to get them into the football schedule?

A.The two schools are officially set to join the SEC on July 1st of 2025.
However the Big 12 has offered Houston, Central Florida, BYU and Cincinnati membership in the Big 12 and those schools have accepted. The Big 12 hopes to have them start playing in 2023. If that happens I think we’ll have Texas and OU in the SEC by then. So it could be as soon as a a year from this fall.

Q. About crossover games in the SEC, TeddyBarnes says: Ole Miss has Vanderbilt as it’s permanent crossover game every year. They are not SEC competitive now and they won’t be under their current coach. This essentially gives Ole Miss a 1 game advantage over the Hogs before the season even begins. I’m sure Kiffin is laughing under his breath.

A. That’s one of the reasons I would like to see crossover games end. Create two 9 team divisions and have each team in a division play each other. Eight conference games. The schedule is the same for all teams. The only crossover would be post season games where the top two teams in each division combine in a two-game SEC playoff format.

Q. @sGiles says: My husband claims that the ’77 Hogs were the best Arkansas football team of all time but didn’t win the national championship. He said it was Earl Campbell’s fault and I should ask you because you saw it. So I’m asking, What did you see?

A. I saw Earl Campbell do something I’d not seen him do. He caught a screen pass in the 4th quarter of the 77 game in Fayetteville and ran about 30 yards to the Arkansas two yards line. Lane Kiffin’s daddy, Monte Kiffin had come up with a great game plan to defend against Campbell who was one of the greatest running backs in he history of college football. Arkansas kept him bottled up all day. But Campbell, who claimed his hands were like a pair of bricks, caught that screen pass and it allowed Texas to score its only TD of the game a play later and beat Arkansas 13-9. That was the Hogs only loss that year, so yes, your husband is right. Earl Campbell did cost Arkansas a national championship and yes, I did see it. I was standing in the north endzone about 12 yards away from where he ended up. The guy beside me, a photographer, said at the time, What the hell was that? He was just as surprised by the screen pass as I was. I guess everybody was.

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