Spring duties 

Spring break brings with it a need for cleanup and restarts and whatnot. Therefore, prescriptions are set forth herewith for Arkansas athletics in general:

For Arkansas basketball, it's time for Mike Anderson to take a cue from Bret Bielema, and not Houston Nutt, in terms of dealing with his hired hands. The head coach's loyalty to assistants Melvin Watkins, T.J. Cleveland and Matt Zimmerman is admirable enough, but what has it yielded? One NCAA Tournament appearance, no Sweet 16s and a forgettable two-game NIT stint over a five-season sample. The program is grounded in neutral at best, and clearly Anderson is being given the latitude to rebuild, but things are getting discouraging. Jimmy Whitt ended his forgettable freshman year with a thud, and now is rumored to be on the way out, and like it or not, the prospect of Moses Kingsley's premature exit remains.

It's desperation time, to be quite frank. Nutt stayed beholden to mediocre staff members for far too long, then two losing seasons (2004-05) basically put him on the wrong end of an ultimatum that ended with Gus Malzahn's hiring as offensive coordinator. We all know how that ended, but to Anderson's credit, he seems to not be addled with Nutt's limitless bounty of petulance and wrong-headedness. That may mean that, yes, you have to fire your nephew (Cleveland, whose expression has not changed since 2012) or a couple of well-tenured right-hand men (Watkins has been alongside Anderson since 2007, and Zimmerman's allegiance goes back even more years). These are competent men who can and will coach elsewhere, and be successful, but the fit in Fayetteville is uncomfortable and threadbare at best.

Speaking of Arkansas football, where the support staff constantly evolves, housecleaning is less important than housekeeping. Bielema hit a minor jackpot when he secured former Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads as his new secondary coach, and the Reggie Mitchell hire from Kansas seems encouraging as well, but here's a long-term theory: Bump all these guys up 20 percent or so if the Hogs hit double digits in wins this fall. Even with so many proven commodities on their way to the NFL, the 2016 version of the Hogs still boasts an abundance of skill position and trench depth coming back, and Bielema's singular admission in his introduction to Hog fans in December 2012 was that he wanted to find a program where he had the financial flexibility to hire and retain great staff. So far, he's done an unfathomably good job of assembling a cohesive staff, but the lure of other jobs has kept the door revolving. Incentivize this enough, and it stands to reason the carousel's speed might taper.

On to baseball, which cruised nicely to a 15-3 start, then got dealt a bit of a dull whack to the gourd over the weekend in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks are, yet again, a Top 10 program with a wealth of talent, so there's no shame in dropping three close games on the road, per se, but the Hogs have been in the rare position of being completely unfamiliar with that kind of lost weekend. Last year, you might recall that the team tanked in the first two weekends, with five losses in six games to Vanderbilt and LSU, before rolling through the rest of SEC play with a 16-7 mark and seven straight series victories.

So the spring break assignment? Get the starting pitching confident again. The week off affords some rest, but maybe there's inherent beauty in getting swept right out of the gate. Baseball imparts its own unique demands on the team — no other sport plays 21 games in barely a month's time, after all — and midweek tuneups don't necessarily benefit the club at this juncture. What does help, however, is the fact that the schedule gets a lesser team to Baum Stadium than last year's one-two gauntlet of the Commodores and Bayou Tigers. Auburn comes in at 10-10, and fresh off two losses in three games to Texas A&M. The Aggies rolled up a dozen runs in each of the last two games of the series, and while the Tigers boast a fair offense, the pitching is unsteady at the moment.

Dominic Taccolini and Keaton McKinney have theoretically gotten their worst starts out of the way early, too. Both progressed last year as the season did, even with Taccolini battling injury late in the year. The staff still has great bullpen depth, and the lineup, though checked a bit by the Gamecocks, still looks dangerous.

Arkansas isn't in bad shape in any of the three anchor men's sports. Even the basketball program has some luster that can be rediscovered with a little elbow grease.


From the ArkTimes store


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • Arkansas Razorback 2017 football review, part 2

    Halfway through the Hogs' 2017 football season, which now will undoubtedly be played out in the memory of J. Frank Broyles, Pearls has the team sitting at 4-2, 1-2 after back-to-back road defeats against South Carolina and Alabama.
    • Aug 17, 2017
  • Frank Broyles dies

    A giant in University of Arkansas athletics remembered. By Beau Wilcox
    • Aug 17, 2017
  • Frank Broyles remembered

    John Franklin Broyles, officially speaking, had just shy of a half-century’s worth of public employment with the University of Arkansas (head coach from 1958 to 1976, and a 33-year tenure as athletic director that started in 1974 when he was still at the helm of the football program), but it’s abject folly to reduce his legacy to something quantitative.
    • Aug 14, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • Take yourself there: Mavis Staples coming to LR for Central High performance

    Gospel and R&B singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples, who has been inspiring fans with gospel-inflected freedom songs like "I'll Take You There" and "March Up Freedom's Highway" and the poignant "Oh What a Feeling" will come to Little Rock for the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High.
  • Klan's president

    Everything that Donald Trump does — make that everything that he says — is calculated to thrill his lustiest disciples. But he is discovering that what was brilliant for a politician is a miscalculation for a president, because it deepens the chasm between him and most Americans.
  • On Charlottesville

    Watching the Charlottesville spectacle from halfway across the country, I confess that my first instinct was to raillery. Vanilla ISIS, somebody called this mob of would-be Nazis. A parade of love-deprived nerds marching bravely out of their parents' basements carrying tiki torches from Home Depot.

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • Arkansas Razorback 2017 football review, part 2

    Halfway through the Hogs' 2017 football season, which now will undoubtedly be played out in the memory of J. Frank Broyles, Pearls has the team sitting at 4-2, 1-2 after back-to-back road defeats against South Carolina and Alabama.
    • Aug 17, 2017
  • Arkansas Razorback 2017 football review, part 2

    The second leg of the 2017 Arkansas football season is no picnic, metaphorically or otherwise.
    • Aug 10, 2017
  • Arkansas Razorback 2017 football review, part 1

    By the time you read this, Arkansas will have put in about a week's worth of gridiron prep for a 2017 season that has such an odd feel, what with the deflating close of 2016 a distant but still germane development and the cast of skill and special teams players looking substantially different.
    • Aug 3, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • The Fly's Eye

    Buckminster Fuller's work of genius at Crystal Bridges blends 'nature's geometry' with economy and environmentalism.

Most Recent Comments


© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation