Hog fans are taking a trip back to yesteryear for Saturday’s Razorback basketball game with Valparaiso at 7 p.m. in North Little Rock’s Simmons Bank Arena.
The game will not be televised nor streamed from the neutral-court venue that will no doubt be packed to the gills with Razorback fans.
Early Friday morning, some tickets were still available through the arena’s website, but the site warned stock was running low. So there might be a sellout at the 18,000-seat arena.
Next up for the Razorbacks
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21
Where: Simmons Bank Arena, North Little Rock
TV: None (radio only)
Dec. 29 – at Indiana
Jan. 4 – Texas A&M
Jan. 8 – at LSU
Jan. 11 – at Ole Miss
Jan. 15 – Vanderbilt
Jan. 18 – Kentucky
Jan. 22 – at Mississippi State
Jan. 25 – TCU
Jan. 29 – South Carolina
Feb. 1 – at Alabama
Feb. 4 – Auburn
Feb. 8 – at Missouri
Feb. 11 – at Tennessee
Feb. 15 – Mississippi State
Feb. 18 – at Florida
Feb. 22 – Missouri
Feb. 26 – Tennessee
Feb. 29 – at Georgia
March 4 – LSU
March 7 – at Texas A&M
The game will be broadcast on the radio with Chuck Barrett and Matt Zimmerman providing play-by-by and color commentary.
Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, I was lucky enough to attend four Razorback games in Little Rock and Pine Bluff as well as a couple of games in Memphis against Ole Miss and Memphis State.
Back in the Eddie Sutton era, tickets were way too hard to come by for games in Barnhill Arena to make a trip from West Memphis to Fayetteville if you didn’t have tickets in hand.
I didn’t see a game in Barnhill until I came to college in 1985, but from 1977 on I listened to just about every game that wasn’t televised, just imagining the plays as Paul Eels and later Mike Nail supplied the descriptions. Listening to those and other Razorback games with my family are among my most cherished childhood memories.
I’ll be tuned in Saturday evening to the game, listening with my 90-year-old dad, perhaps with a football game on the TV with sound muted in the background.
Watching Eric Musselman’s Hogs this year does take me back to my childhood. His insistence on playing man-to-man defense reminds me and I’m sure others of Eddie Sutton’s defensive style of play and the grittiness his players displayed.
Sutton had his “Three Ds” of discipline, dedication, and defense, and Musselman has his ‘Three Es” of effort, energy, and enthusiasm.
I’ll forever love Hawgball and 40 Minutes of Hell during the Nolan Richardson and Mike Anderson eras, but Musselman’s brand of ball is exciting, too, especially when you see guys like Desi Sills, Mason Jones, Isaiah Joe, Adrio Bailey, and Jimmy Whitt leave it all out on the floor like they have done in building a 9-1 record.
So far this has been an extremely fun Razorback team to watch. Saturday night I hope they are equally as fun to listen to.
Pittman taking on recruiting, staffing challenges
There’s no way to sugar coat it, the 2019-20 Razorback football recruiting haul isn’t going to be one for the history books.
With the early signing period coming to a close today, the Razorbacks are ranked 58th in the nation and 13th in the SEC by 24/7 Sports with a nine-member class.
The Razorbacks, of course, can add to this number Feb. 5, and no doubt they will. Arkansas can sign as many as 16 players to the nine it already had in hand, but expect it to be more like 8 to 12.
Pittman said the players he’s looking to sign are ones who can come in and vie for playing time quickly. Unfortunately, most of those will be signed during the early period.
Pittman added that he wouldn’t offer scholarships just to sign a full class. Plus with the way players move around these days, he wants to have a few spots free in case there are a few players who can help the Hogs become available through the transfer portal after spring practice.
The Hogs likely will move up in the national rankings and possibly even in the SEC rankings, depending on who Pittman and his staff can convince to sign on the dotted line.
The Razorbacks have needs all over the field, but one hopes they can add a quarterback or two that are the right fit, perhaps a freshman and maybe another with game experience.
The Hogs have three commitments to sign on Feb. 5, and Pittman said Wednesday that Arkansas has 10 athletes scheduled to visit on the first three recruiting weekends in January.
There is the possibility Arkansas could pick up another junior college signee or two before then. The mid-year juco transfer signing period opened Dec. 18 and runs until Jan. 15, but the recruiting dead period, which begins Saturday precludes much major activity.
So, no, this won’t be a banner recruiting year for the Hogs, but honestly we’ve known that since late September. All bets were off for this recruiting class when Arkansas lost to San Jose State, 31-24, on Sept. 21, and Arkansas commitments began to fall by the wayside quicker than autumn leaves on a blustery day.
While some of us still held out hope for a turnaround under Chad Morris, the dye was cast that day. His program wasn’t working and the losses kept getting worse until Arkansas athletics director finally gave him and the fans some relief by letting him go with three weeks and two games left in the season.
When Pittman took over as head coach Dec. 8, the Razorbacks had just three commitments and were ranked 128th in the nation in recruiting. Fifty-eighth doesn’t sound quite as bad now. The fact that he tripled that number for early signees is a testament to the recruiting ability of the first members of his staff and the relationships that had already forged on the recruiting trails.
This might not be a banner signing class for Arkansas, but Hog fans should be proud of the young men who showed their faith in Pittman, his staff members, and the Arkansas program by jumping into this rebuild with both feet. They are quality players, who have the opportunity to help the Hogs right away.
Pittman is still in the process of piecing his staff together. He made a home-run hire in former Missouri head coach Barry Odom as his defensive coordinator. With that pillar in place, he worked on interviewing offensive coordinator/quarterback coach prospects this week.
Former Florida State offensive coordinator Kendal Briles supposedly interviewed early this week as well as former Houston head coach and current Alabama offensive analyst Major Applewhite.
Popular consensus is that Applewhite, 41, will get the job. He fits the profile for the clues Pittman dropped in his Wednesday press conference as a former head coach and a coach who is still involved with bowl preparation, but until Arkansas announces a hire, nothing is set in stone.
Either would be a good choice, but I personally like the fact Applewhite has worked with Saban at Alabama twice, in 2007 as offensive coordinator and in his current role as analyst. Both have deep roots in Texas and should be a help in recruiting in the Lone Star State.
Arkansas confirmed the hiring of Sam Carter as Arkansas’ cornerbacks coach and Ron Rhoades as linebackers coach.
Carter rejoins Odom, whom he worked for at Missouri as a defensive quality control analyst.
Rhoades comes to the Razorbacks from Hutchinson County (Kan.) Community College, where he was the head coach for the past 14 years. Rhoades played linebacker for Pittman at Hutchinson when he was the head coach from 1992-93.
They join offensive line coach Brad Davis, who was Pittman’s first hire as Arkansas’ head coach from Missouri, and wide receivers coach Justin Stepp, whom Pittman retained from Morris’ staff.
Pittman has five more coaches to hire. One would think the new offensive coordinator might have a say on who will be hired to coach the running backs and tight ends.
A defensive line and safeties coach are still to be hired and possibly a defense end coach or a special teams coach might be added. However, there are many ways Pittman could go in dividing up coaching tasks with the five open spots.