The Hogs in Europe, A Breakout by the Receivers & Could Saban Take Drinkwitz in a Fight?

By Mike Irwin
on 2022-08-15 18:45 PM

Q. Our first question is from Revolution who asks: After seeing the basketball team play in Europe, what’s your thoughts on expectations for this coming season? And who do you think is likely to be the MVP of this team? How does that player’s potential compare with other Hog greats – Corliss, Moncrief, Robertson?

A. It’s obviously a very talented team with eight or nine players that may end up in the regular rotation. One thing that hurt them a little bit was that Coach Musselman played everybody including the non scholarship guys. There was so much in and out on the court that you’d see great chemistry and explosiveness with one group but then substitutions would take place and there would be a drop off. Right now this bunch is at its best in transition. Off steals and rebounds their full court passing is, at times, amazing. Guys playing way above the rim on the receiving end of those passes. But when you play that way, attacking with tempo, you will get turnovers. European players tend to come at you with very disciplined defense.

In games two and three, at times, Arkansas man defense broke down. Not badly, but the veteran pros of Catalan Elite in Spain were very savvy and managed to get open many times both on the perimeter and inside. The Italian team, Orange1 Basket Bassano, consisted of younger players but taller and very athletic. They also beat Arkansas man’ defense several times.

In the end both games weren’t that close but maybe closer than some Hog fans wanted since Kentucky beat the Bahamas National select team 118-56 and Auburn beat an Israel under 20 team 117-56.

But you really can’t compare scores without knowing the quality of he competition.

Arkansas was also dealing with travel issues. Game three they arrived just in time to play. There’s also a big difference in style of play in Europe. It’s a very physical game with a lot of contact. In game three Jordan Walsh drove from behind the arc toward the left side of the lane and he was stopped in his tracks by a kid that basically smacked him hard in the ribs. It was called a foul, but a non shooting foul. The teams from Spain and Italy got away with a lot.

Overall Arkansas was impressive and the best thing is, this bunch now has about two months to watch video of how they played and let the coaches show them what they need to work on.

The MVP was no surprise. Nick Smith Jr. is indeed a one and done type player. He does it all. Shoots threes, runs the point, a great assist guard who also breaks to the rim and flushes the ball off the dribble. He can get inside and set himself up to be on the receiving end of an ally oop pass. He can create his own shot in a crowd, rebound and lay it back up and he’s an excellent defender.

He will compare very favorably to guys like Corliss, Moncrief, Robertson and several others.

Q. Webb Scott says: Muss is known for his very detailed scouting reports. Did he say that one of this players gave him a scouting report on one of the European teams they played? If so that’s amazing.

A. He sent each of the players game video of upcoming opponents to study. He was somewhat surprised when Barry Dunning Jr., the freshman guard out of Mobile, Alabama not only did his homework by watching the video but afterward he sent Muss a detailed scouting report based on what he’d see from the video. Muss said he’d never had a player do that before and he was impressed.

Maybe the young man will end up coaching basketball after his playing career is over.

Q. teamOTIS says: Bonjour Mike! The basketball team is in Spain. Do you wish you were there with them? If not Spain, where what country would you want to go to cover the Hogs?

A. Yes, that would have been fun. Where’s besides Spain? Well they are known for golf way more than basketball in Scotland but I’d love to go there. That’s where my ancestors came from. Highlanders.

They do have a Scottish national team that plays in International competition and there is a pro team, the Glasgow (Glaz-go) Rocks, that competes in the British Basketball League. If Muss ever schedules them, I’m in for a trip with a side visit to St. Andrews to play golf on the Old Course.

Q. Eddy Lynn asks: What was the biggest thing that came out of Saturday’s first Fall Camp scrimmage on the Hill?

A. I would say the passing game. K.J. Jefferson had a huge day throwing the ball and Matt Landers, the transfer from Toledo by way of the University of Georgia, stepped up big time with a 60 yard catch and a 50 yard touchdown reception. Warren Thompson, the one returning veteran in the group, caught a 40 yard touchdown pass. Jadon Hazelwood had a 25 yard catch from Jefferson and the three freshmen receivers Isaiah Sategna, Sam Bakke and Quincy McAdoo all stepped up.

Sam Pittman ended up saying that what he thought was a questionable position going into camp, now looks like a strength. He seemed happiest about Thompson, telling reporters, “If he plays like that once the season starts we’re going to do some damage with our passing game.”

Q. Lanny says: All this hype about Malik Hornsby being a huge weapon at receiver this year and it sounds like he’s the backup QB and that’s it. What happened to the hottest story of the spring?

A. What I just talked about. There are so many good receivers emerging right now that Sam Pittman admitted that it may be harder to get Hornsby reps. To me that’s not a bad thing because Malik is looking really good at quarterback right now. His passing is light years ahead of where it was last year at this time. To have a backup QB who can step up if Jefferson gets injured is huge. If that had happened last year Arkansas would have been in deep trouble. I’ve spent a lot of time watching Hornsby over the last week and I think he has a real shot at being the starting QB next season if KJ goes pro. Also I do think the receiver option is there in a special situation. I just don’t think we’ll se a lot of it.

Q. Jeff Spicoli wants to know: Who would you guess starts in the secondary?

A. It’s a battle with five guys in the mix. Miles Slusher is a likely starter. He took over for Jalen Catalon at safety after Catalon suffered a season ending injury. He did a very good job but with Catalon back Slusher working at cornerback. At 6-3 he’s got the height to battle tall wide receivers and he’s also got the speed to do it.

Hudson Clark is battling. He started in Pittman’s first season and had some big picks. Started seven games as a walk on. He dropped off some last season, down to just four starts. But he’s having a good fall camp right now.

Dwight McGlothern is a good possibility. He’s a transfer from LSU where he started six games last season. Had a pick for a touchdown, broke up a lot of passes and forced a fumble.

LaDarrius Bishop is in the mix as a tall veteran who started nine games last season.

Malik Chavis had two starts last year.

From those five guys we’ll likely end up with two starters and the other three playing a lot.

Q. mousetown says: I heard you say on Phil Elson’s radio show that Coach Pittman restricts how much access you media guys have to the assistant coaches. Is there a reason for this. Did he get burned by an assistant in a media interview?

A. No, he’s not doing it because got burned by one of his coaches and he’s not mad at the media. The simple answer is, that’s what Kirby Smart does and Pittman makes no secret of the fact that he uses a lot of what he learned working under Smart at Georgia. Smart, in turn, got is attitude about assistant coaches and the media from working under Nick Saban and Saban is a control freak.

If there’s one thing I could change about Pittman it would be this policy. Assistant coaches can relate information about players to the media in ways that a head coach can’t. They are much closer to the players in their room than the head coach. Friday we got a great story from linebacker’s coach Michael Scherer about Bumper Pool. Some of the stuff he said we were hearing for the first time. It was really good stuff. The kind of story that the fans eat up.

I just think when when you greatly limit reporters access to your staff you have giving up some really good publicity. Frank Broyles was all over this kind of reporting because he was convinced that it sold tickets and it helped recruiting.

Q. Arkie Redneck says: I really like seeing all these assistant coaches and their comments after practice. Good stuff coming from Pittman’s staff. What’s the best bit of info you’ve gotten from them so far and who said it?

A. The story I mentioned from Scherer. In answering a question about Bumper Pool he suddenly started talking about the fact that in his first year as the linebacker coach he replaced Pool with Hayden Henry as a starter. We all knew this but because the two rotated and got almost equal reps it wasn’t a big deal to Pool. He never acted like it bothered him.

But Scherer said that Pool pretty much spent the whole season mad at him which he, Scherer, liked because it was good motivation for Pool.

He also talked about how his plan for Pool worked because Henry was a hot-out-of-the-gate guy and could mostly be counted on to make some big plays on the first defensive possession or two. Pool would be watching and getting amped up. As Scherer put it, I’d put him at that point and it was like letting loose a caged animal.”

He also said that Pool never complained about his situation. One of the reporters then asked Scherer how he knew that Pool was mad at him if he didn’t complain. Scherer basically said that he played football himself and he would have been furious if this had been done to him. He also said he can read is players like a book because he’s around them so much.

Stories like this one are just begging to be told but it would have never become public had we not had access to Scherer.

Q. H McCamish says: I keep reading that there are battles at several positions for who makes the Razorbacks starting lineup. Where are the biggest battles going on right now?

A. According to Sam Pittman it’s at cornerback. You’ve got those five guys we mentioned as possible starters and they’re all competing hard. But there are some others who will get playing time. Keuan (Key won) Parker and Kahri Johnson. Parker redshirted last season but he was rated the number two player in Oklahoma his senior year and Johnson has played 14 games over his first two years and has started a game.

That cornerbacks room has really changed under Barry Odom’s time as defensive coordinator. They’ve got some serious talent and good depth.

Q. tophawg19 asks: Why the worry over Texas in the SEC by some fans? Over the last 6 meetings we are 4 and 2. Since 1990 we are 6 and 4. We have won the last two by scores of 31 to 7 and 40 to 21. We have come a long way from the SWC days where we had to fear Texas. I think Sam has hit on the Pattern to knock off Bama soon.

A. I agree totally. I worry a lot more about Oklahoma than Texas. The Longhorns have been underacheiving for years. There’s something about that campus that turns five-star high school players into overrated college players. They keep firing coaches but their coaches were all sucessful before they got to Texas. If I was an up and coming college coach I would not touch that Texas job.

Q. sgiles wants to know: Did Cal blow up Kentucky football with his public comment about Kentucky being a basketball school not a football school? Seems like the other SEC coaches are going to use that in recuiting against Mark Stoops and his staff? Should Cal be fired for that?

I think Kentucky football will be fine. Even though what Cal said is true he should not have said it. Stoops came out of it looking good. Cal is the one who stepped in it but he’s so arrogant and into himself that he probably doesn’t care.

Should he be fired? If I were Kentucky’s AD I’d pull him aside after the season and say, please go get another job. I don’t want to have to fire you but you need us more than we need you and you are hurting us. You’re not worth what we’re paying you so find another school to pay you.

BigHoggard says: I remember the SWC kind of hindered us in our recruiting footprint and when we entered the SEC we began doing much better. If the SEC does go to the pod system and the Razorbacks do end up in a pod with OK; TX and A&M do you think that could hinder us in recruiting once again?

Q. It may have taken Arkansas some time to expand its recruiting into the SEC area after 1992 but Texas has always been important to Arkansas’ recruiting and still is. I also don’t think Arkansas is going to end up with a Texas team as a permanent opponent. Oklahoma, yes. Texas and A&M, no.

Also, whatever plan they adopt, there will be multiple rotating opponents every year. Probably five. With that much rotation Arkansas will be playing teams like Alabama, Georgia, Florida and LSU a lot. I don’t expect Pittman to lose his recruiting ability in those states. They will play Texas and Texas A&M on a fairly consistent basis and that will help them recruit in Texas too.

Q. Ann Marie says: I love your thoughts on Twitter. Some clueless SEC Internet guy ranked the 14 SEC football coaches and how they would do in a fight. He had Leach and Saban last and you posted that both of them could lick Drinkwitz. I agree. Old guys can be tricky.

A. Let’s face it, the whole, who win a fight debate is silly because they’re not going to fight. But I don’t see Dinkwitz as a tough guy. Saban may be old but I figure he’d fight dirty to gain an edge. And Leach
he probably secretly knows Kung Fu or whatever. I would not mess with him.

(Last updated: 2022-08-15 18:45 PM)