The Air Raid Comes to the Hill, Pittman as a Pugilist & Was KJ Ticked Off After Saturday’s Scrimmage?

By Mike Irwin
on 2023-08-14 16:28 PM

Q. Our first question is from Sgiles who says: Last week you were warning everybody not to get too excited about the offense and too depressed about the defense based on what little we were seeing out of the first week of practice…..

….Now it looks like you’ve got a different job to do. Convince all the offensive line haters that what happened in the scrimmage doesn’t mean the offense is falling apart. Right?

A. You’re not going to stop that. I call that reading the headline and not looking at the story. The secondary wasn’t that bad before the scrimmage and the offensive line was not that bad in the scrimmage. For context Sam Pittman gave us some numbers from that scrimmage. Not total offense or total passing or running yards but a look at the defensive numbers and there were many TFL’s and a few sacks. But just one turnover by the offense and some big plays in the passing game and running game. The offense got off to a slow start but bounced back.

Look, the depth in the D-line is impressive. To me if they didn’t dominate a bit it would be a bad look.

Q. H. McCamish asks: Is it just me or did KJ seem like he was either depressed or maybe angry in the press conference after the scrimmage? Something seemed off. Is he off to a bad start?

A. He’s almost always dead serious at pressers even after a win. I think he goes into press conferences with his game face on. But like you I did notice that he seemed to be ticked off. He did admit that the offense needs to improve by next Saturday and I’d be surprised if KJ and the offense don’t look better overall in scrimmage number two.

Q. Hawgredneck says: Coach Pittman keeps mentioning Jacolby Criswell. Like almost every day. Is he that good or is this just being intentionally thrown out there to motivate Jefferson? Does he really need motivation?

A. I think his praise of Criswell is legit. He’s looked good to me. So has the freshmen Malachi Singleton. There’s just a much better situation at QB behind Jefferson this season. I don’t think KJ needs any motivation. He’s been a little bit inconsistent but I don’t think it would be good for him to come out on fire the first week or so and drop off after that. Better to do it the other way around.

Q. mousetown wants to know: Are we cursed? Haven’t played a game and we’ve already lost a key player for the season. There’s some sort of conspiracy going on. That’s what I think.

A. There’s been no official confirmation but Alyssa was told at practice this morning that Mbake is out for the season. He put up a photo on Instagram showing his leg all wrapped up and posted about being back in 2024. He seemed to have a good attitude about it. If there’s any good news about that, receiver is maybe the deepest position on the team. We’ll be talking about Mbake a lot this time next year. BTW, I don’t believe in curses.

Q. LR Tackett says: Mike Leach may be gone but I’ve been told that Dan Enos will include some elements of the Air Raid offense in Arkansas offense this season. Is that true? I would love to see that.

A. It is true. In fact they were working on some of that in Monday’s practice. The quarterbacks were turning laterally and throwing to receivers or running backs in the backfield with lots of blocking on the edge. Essentially it’s an addition to the running game and this team sets up really well for it. You’ve got big, quick backs like Rocket and Dominique who can be a mismatch against cornerbacks especially with the tight ends and bigger receivers Arkansas has doing the blocking. There’s been some good give and take between offense and defense in those drills.

Q. Pigsfeat says: University ADs are seeking help from government officials concerning NIL. What do you think is going to happen with NIL?

A. I think there is eventually going to be an end to this nuttiness. NIL won’t go away but it can be regulated. Anybody that say is can’t doesn’t understand the Supreme court ruling that started all of this. The rule that you can’t use NIL’s to recruit will stand up in court. The NCAA has already announced that it’s going to start enforcing that rule. So do it. Start with Tennessee. That’s the school backed by a state law that says NIL recruiting is legal. As I keep saying, this is not about the law. It’s never been illegal to give money to players to get them to come to your school. It’s against the rules. It’s not illegal for me to take a golf ball I hit into the woods and move it to the fairway. But it’s against the rules of golf and in a local tournament or scramble I would be penalized for doing it.

Nobody is saying players can get NIL money. You just can’t use it in the recruiting process according to current NCAA rules, which a lot of schools are violating.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy says: “Fall camp” begins completely different now as opposed to several years back. I remember there was standards the players had to meet when reporting, such as a timed run…..

….Which coaches were the strictest on that and what if they weren’t in great shape? Understandably, this is rarely an issue now.

A. Football was not year ’round back then. Players went home for the summer or were on their own as far as room and board and working out until the fall semester started.

Staying in shape was voluntary. No staff members could be involved. Coaches gave preseason conditioning tests before August Camp started. Those who failed, usually the big linemen, had to do extra conditioning until they could pass the test.

I don’t recall any coaches generally being being more strict or less strict. There was one incident between the QB coach and a freshman QB under Houston Nutt. The player failed the conditioning test which was unheard of for a QB. The QB coach went off on him and the player quit school. Nutt was mad at the coach, Joe Ferguson, who eventually resigned. But that was an isolated incident.

Q. Fudge Scott wants to know: Did you see the Johnny Manziel special and if so what do you think? Did he change some minds about the way he threw away his football career?

A. I did not watch it. I have no idea how it will impact the average fan. I have no interest in players like Manziel who squander their talent.

He had more interest in partying than working at his craft. It’s his life. He can do what he wants but what I love about college football are the players who always work to get better. They go the extra mile. Working on their own. Staying in shape. Avoiding distractions. If you can put together a team full of those guys you can beat teams with more talented but less dedicated players like Manziel. I hope that’s what Sam Pittman has with the 2023 Razorbacks. There are some signs of that as we approach the season.

Q. Lanny says: I saw this thing on Facebook where the college football coaches were ranked on their ability to win a fight. I know you’re not a fan of Drinkwitz at Missouri but they had him ranked pretty high.

A. The media were talking about that before Saturday’s scrimmage. We all agreed that it was silly but everybody seemed to have an opinion on where rankings were wrong. To me Sam Pittman at number two was ranked too high. The guy is 60 years old. Fighting is for younger people. Eli Drinkwitz was too high. Ranked ahead of some coaches who could probably clean his clock. Again it was silly but stuff like that generates clicks which is the the point of it.

Q. Eddy Lynn asks: What’s the biggest difference between preseason practices today and when you first started like a hundred years ago?

A. Very Funny. The biggest difference is no two-a-days. Two-a-days were actually dangerous because coaches did not fully understand the medical issues involved in working players in the August heat. Two practices a day don’t give the body proper time to recover from the stress that heat and humidity puts on even well conditioned athletes. When you get two or three days into that regimen injuries start to pop up. Also in those days it was not unheard of for athletes to die from heat exhaustion. Some of you fans remember those days. This is one issue the NCAA got right. Two-a-days were eventually eliminated. There was a lot of complaining when it first happened but that was a good change. The other difference is what we’ve already talked about. Players work all through the summer now with strength and conditioning coaches. When camp starts they are in much better shape than in the so called good ole days.

(Last updated: 2023-08-14 16:28 PM)