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Arkansas Fight Panel Discussion: Talking Tretola, UAB, Mississippi State Prep, Recruiting, Petrino or FSU?

This week we're excited to welcome former Hog offensive lineman Grant Cook to our roundtable. Cook was a Hog from 2007-2011 and offers a bit of a different perspective as a former player. Thanks for joining us, Grant!

Wesley Hitt

1. What's your take on the Tretola play? Did it energize an otherwise boring game? Was it fun for recruiting? Was it wasteful to do against that opponent in that situation? What did you think? (Everyone's looking at Ryan...)

Ryan: It was awesome, except I think they should have had Cameron Jefferson catch the pass. That fat guy to fat guy connection would have broken everything, literally.

Grant Cook: I loved the play (obviously bias coming from an ex-offensive lineman). Now, would that play be used against an Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, etc. I don't think so. UAB was a perfect opponent for that play to be run against. Huge for recruiting, shows olinemen that Coach B wants us to have fun too. (Ryan - that play took all of 15 minutes to install, also it was practiced after practice, so it didn't take away from what actually needed to be worked on. Go ahead and take a sip of the koolaid.)

Adam P: It was FUN. That's all. Get outta here with the "wasted play" nonsense. The O-line never gets the love they deserve. This was another way BERT shows them that love and his recruitin' pitch on making them famous was beautiful.

Jamie: I loved it and Bieliema made it very clear why he did it with his halftime comments to SEC Network.  It was to impress offensive line recruits and loosen up the team.  Everyone, players, coaches and fans, needed that game Saturday, even that play to get back to winning and see all the growth we’ve been hearing about year over year.

Mitchell: I liked the play, especially after hearing Bielema's sound bite at halftime. I think it does a lot for recruiting when the coaching staff is fun and likes giving their guys opportunities to "become famous". The Razorbacks need to clear their heads and enjoy football after 3 devastating losses. Get the players back in the right mood for the last 4 games that will decide this season.

Mark: Awesome is my take. Yes, it energized. Yes, it was fun and possibly very significant for recruiting. And not wasteful. I was fine with it. I'd rather run it there with not much to lose than in a close game against better competition.

Josh: Many many coaches try to find a way to keep the attention of their players toward the middle of the season. Giving some guys the opportunity to make a play who normally are just involved in long snapping and blocking gives some extra energy to a game that was really difficult to stay interested in.

Trent: I tackled this on Sunday's FTR, but the tl;dr is essentially that BERT couldn't call it in any meaningful situation because Hogville would overwhelm the XNA control tower with banner laden Cessnas, so quit your whining and enjoy a fat guy getting to strike the Heisman pose.

Devan: You know, Lane Kiffin once said at Tennessee that any publicity for your football program is good publicity. I don't usually take much stock into what he has to say, but no one in the country would be talking about UAB-Arkansas if it wasn't for that play. Because of that play an Arkansas offensive lineman is going to be doing interviews on ESPN all day. So it wasn't wasteful, it was fun and Arkansas is getting a lot of good publicity out of it.

Scottie: When I saw Tretola drop back in the shotgun, I thought I was dreaming. It was great timing because you're not going to run that play in SEC games, obviously. Also, what better way is there to say to some 4* offensive linemen, "Come play for me. This could be you."

Adam F: I think it certainly energized the team, but it was also a brilliant move to call it against UAB. Arkansas is usually only in the news for a long SEC losing streak, so this was a way to get in the news in a blowout win. We earned some positive publicity. And for those complaining about wasting a great fake in a blowout game...LOL. That play would never work in an SEC game.

2. Much like the non conference games in September, Arkansas dispatched UAB pretty easily. Is it a sign that the team is back on track and can compete in these next few games in November like they did against A&M and Alabama, or is it just a case of the Hogs dominating an overmatched opponent and we shouldn't read too much into it?

Grant: I don't think we should read to much into this one. UAB was out-sized and out-strengthened. We did exactly what we were supposed to do. It was a good break for us after that stretch of games though, allowed us to feel what it was like to win again. I think we can beat two of the next four.

Jamie: I’m not sure that "Hogs dominating an overmatched opponent" isn’t a step in the right direction that we shouldn’t acknowledge.  We lost to Rutgers last year. This team obviously needs to prove it can close out conference opponents, but we needed to prove we could stay out of trap games like this vs. last year, but I wouldn’t say it proves we’re gonna beat Miss State Saturday.

Adam P: I can't read much into the UAB win. We're winning the games we're supposed to win (dominantly) and losing the games we're supposed to lose, albeit in mostly competitive games. This is when I wish Missouri was next and not the #1 team in the nation.

Adam F: When I saw the poor Underdog Dynasty guy said 42-27 was his pick (or the many message board pessimists that picked even closer scores), I just laughed. Folks need to get used to this in the Bret Bielema era: when Arkansas has a significant talent advantage, the game is going to be an ugly blowout. It's ugly football. The Hogs will shut down everything that poor inferior team is trying to do and make them feel like they're the worst team in the world. Bielema's something like 42-0 when favored by 10+ points.

Ryan: That team's coach from last year just left to go work for the devil after he swore he would never work for him again. Nothing to see here, move along.

Mitchell: Of course the Hogs will still compete in November. The Hogs had one quarter against Georgia where they were truly terrible. Most teams have a game like this. Hogs are still top 25 talent, still will compete in their remaining 4 contests, and will still win 6 games!

Mark: Obviously, it's a good sign that the Hogs are easily dispatching teams we're supposed to throttle, and leaving no doubt about the outcome early. That's what you want, and something we haven't always done in recent years. And a little confidence heading into Gauntlet #3 is a good thing.

Trent: You definitely can't go so far as transitive-property comparisons and the like, but the ease with which the Hogs took care of business has to inspire a little confidence. They won, they stayed healthy, they made it look easy, and they still came away with plenty to work on. Pretty much all you can ask for in a cupcake.

Devan: They're doing what they are supposed to be doing. They couldn't even blow out mediocre teams the past 2 years so there's definite progress being made. They're definitely on track, but its like a never ending 4x100 relay where a top ten team comes in and stops you in your tracks just when you think you're getting somewhere.

Scottie: Arkansas dominating an opponent it should have isn't something to read a into whole lot, but it was nice to get over the losing streak and sure some things up (MCFAIN!!!!, Alex Collins).

Josh: Just an over matched opponent, but with the key injuries that this team has it was good to have one of these now.

Robert: I'm really glad for the UAB game.  Usually November is when Arkansas has an easier schedule after a brutal October, but the hits just keep coming this year.  It was important to see that the bounce back at the end of the Georgia game was real.  This team is not hanging their heads.

3. Does it mean anything to you that UAB scored 34 points against Mississippi State earlier this year? That's the most the Bulldogs have given up all year.

Grant: Not at all, UAB treated the Mississippi St. game like the Super Bowl. Talking about it all Spring/Summer, even though Troy was first up on the schedule, they were going to try to shock the college football world by upsetting a SEC team. I speak this way from experience, when I was playing here we treated Alabama the same way. They were always the first conference opponent for us, we obviously looked at the school we had to play before them but they were just tune up games for Bama.

Josh: That's the most the Bulldogs have given up all year. It means one of two things, either the UAB offense was much better then, or Miss ST. has made some big improvements. I think the Cowbells have found their stride on D, we will see how they match up against the Arkansas personnel as opposed to what they have been seeing.

Jamie: Not anymore than the fact that Bama blew out A&M and we hung with both of them.

Trent: Fun stat time. Jeremiah Briscoe completed 33% of his passes against both Arkansas and Mississippi State. Against the Hogs, he completed six passes for 62 yards, for an average of about ten yards per completion.  Against the Bulldogs, he only completed five passes. BUT HE AVERAGED 47 YARDS PER COMPLETION. State gave up THREE touchdown passes of longer than 75 yards... I don't know about y'all, but the UAB offense I saw Saturday didn't exactly strike me as quick strike. It's certainly something to consider.

Adam P: That's one interesting factoid right there. However, I'm not going to read much into it. However, I do hope that same Mississippi State team shows up this Saturday.

Ryan: It was the second game of the season, so I don't think too much of it. Like I think the Hogs would play Auburn a lot closer now than they did at the beginning of the season. If State got another shot, they would win by a lot more.

Mark: Not really. Agree with Ryan on that, I guess. (Yikes, have I been infected?)

Mitchell: It just reemphasizes that MSU isn't invincible. This is a good football team, but it just takes the right combination of plays and mistakes to beat them.

Devan: Mississippi State can give up as many points as they like. Until someone figures out how to stop Prescott and that offense, they are going to score at will.

Scottie: Mississippi State is a different team than they were the second game of the season. But seeing Kentucky put up points on MSU's defense told me Arkansas should be able to have some success.

Adam F: Well, UAB's better quarterback played in that game, but it's still a little surprising that it was 26-20 at the half. I don't know that I'd look into that too much.

Robert: Mississippi State really doesn't have the defense that we normally expect out of a #1 team.  Similar to Auburn in 2010, they rely on outscoring their opponents.  Like everyone else, we will get our points against the Bulldogs, it's just a matter of stopping them.

4. Mississippi State has scored between 34 and 49 points in each game this year (average 42.3), but taking away the Southern Miss and South Alabama games, they've given up 34, 29, 31, 23, and 31 points in their other five games. However, they're undefeated, ranked #1 and have felt unstoppable much of the year, but does this feel like a typical "Arkansas vs #1 team" game to you? What do you expect on Saturday?

Grant: I think our defense has finally come alive this year. Stopping a Cam Newton-esk Dak Prescott will be a tall order. I think we will do exactly what we've done to stay in most big games this year, control the time of possession and see where it goes from there. Let Brandon take a few shots down field off the play action. We do have the biggest line in all of football, so let's "make them famous."

Josh: It does, but Miss St on D is not where my concern is right now, more interested in seeing how Arkansas can stop Prescott on offense. If it is a low scoring game I think the Hogs have a chance, but if its an A&M overtime, or last years game against the Cowbells, then the Hogs may be in trouble.

Trent: I WILL NEVER BE SCARED OF MISSISSIPPI STATE. But they're a damn good team. But we can be a damn good team, too. It's in there somewhere. I expect the winner to be in the 30s, and the loser to be in the 20s or lower 30s.

Jamie: Those cowbells are gonna be REALLY LOUD on Saturday night in Starkville.  This team isn’t used to playing as the #1 team in the nation and having that burden at home yet, but a mobile athletic QB like Prescott is a really tough matchup for this Arkansas team that has struggled tackling in space and covering in the secondary for longer than 2-Mississippi.  I expect this game to play out similar to the Auburn game.  We’ll score slow, and they’ll score quick.  It’s all about our defense, I’m not sure we’re deep enough to beat those kinds of teams just yet.

Adam P: It's tough to know what Arkansas team will show up due to our only "real" road game besides Auburn was Texas Tech. I've been waiting on the team to walk into an SEC game with a chip on their shoulder and just impose their will on another team. I thought this would happen against Georgia. Boy, that was a bad guess. I just don't know on this one. I just don't know...

Ryan: It's definitely weird, but Starkville ain't a place to mess with. I was at the 2010 game at Starkville and that was the loudest place I'd been outside of War Memorial. They ring those cow bells whenever they want. Now with that end zone closed off, it has to be even louder. When State is good, playing there at night is brutal. I think State wins by two touchdowns or more.

Mitchell: It really doesn't feel like the typical Ark VS #1 team, probably due to the fact that it's MSU. They're good, they're deserving, I just can't truly take them seriously yet until we play them I suppose. I feel like despite being ranked #1, they don't carry the same weight that LSU, Bama, or Auburn have when ranked #1. I think we'll go out there and play like we don't know the rankings.

Mark: It could never have a typical "Hogs vs. No. 1 team" feel because it's Mississippi State. Starkville and No. 1 in the same sentence is as far from typical as you can get. That said, MSU seems legit to me. But if we don't provide any help and can survive special teams without any game-changing plays, I'll roll with Brooks and our D making 'em work, at least. It's a free shot, although there is an expectation now (thankfully) for us to at least hang with most anybody.

Devan: No. It's Mississippi State. It could never feel like we're playing #1 down there. But Arkansas has never really played well in Starkville so it's even scarier than usual. I just hope for a competitive game. We should be past getting blown out at this point.

Scottie: It certainly doesn't have the feel of playing a top ranked Alabama team. I'm not selling Mississippi State short though. They would be my No. 1 in the CFB Playoff if the season were to end today. I expect MSU to win, but for Arkansas to put up a fight.

Adam F: Mississippi State is actually dead last in the SEC in total defense, giving up a staggering 439 yards per game. So, no, this doesn't feel like a typical game against a top team. Mississippi State's defense can be had. I don't know that the Hogs are built to do it (their primary problem is pass defense), but I feel like someone is going to take advantage of that defense.

Robert: It's so hard to take State seriously isn't it? It was just 2011 when we were ranked #6 and playing a 5-5 Mississippi State team.  If MSU hadn't played Kentucky and played poorly, Arkansas would have a better chance of catching them looking at Alabama. Mississippi State is a number one team that really has a lot to prove still.  I would be surprised if it's a blowout, but if Dan Mullen does a good job motivating, and the Hogs face early adversity, it could be a three score game pretty easily.

5. Shifting gears a bit, the big recruiting news this week is that with La'Michael Pettway's commitment, Arkansas has gone 10-for-10 on securing commitments from the in-state players they've offered. How big of a deal is that?

Grant: This is Coach B's biggest accomplishment since he's been at Arkansas. I think it shows the kind of guy he is and the type of coaches he has on his staff. I can't remember the last time this has happened. Well before I was committed to Arkansas in '07, three of the biggest recruits in Arkansas left (Lee Ziemba to Auburn, Kodi Burns to Auburn, Broderick Green to USC). Glad coach B can secure these in-state guys. In my opinion Arkansas players that stay here have a little more pride about playing for the Hogs.

Jamie: HUGE.  We’ve had porous borders to other SEC teams for far too long.  The in-state talent has gotten much better over the last few years and we’ve watched many of them walk right out the door (mostly to Bama).  These are quality recruits who had other great offers to go along with Hog letters, getting those kids to stay home is an absolute must.

Adam P: HUGE! It shows that even though we're still a laughing stock in a lot of ways, our in-state recruits still want to come here D-Mac style and turn the ship around. If people from your own state don't want to go there, it makes out-of-state recruits that come seem like last resorts.

Adam F: Huge. Arkansas' best teams have been loaded with in-state talents. It may sound cheesy, but you can't count out the heart of an Arkansas kid playing for his home state school. How many three-star (or lower) recruits turned it great careers? Jarius Wright, Dennis Johnson, Tyler Wilson, even current guys like Brooks Ellis and Alan Turner.

Scottie: It's huge. BERT has been able to gain commitments like a mad man despite the losing streak in conference. But I just hope they all qualify academically and make it to campus, or Arkansas folks will lose their minds.

Mark: It's huge. Because we went 10-for-10 with our in-state targets and because it's the second commit to decommit from Ole Miss and switch to us. Securing all the in-state recruits we target is huge for this program for all the reasons previously listed.

Doc: huge, Huge, HUGE, HUGE!

Mitchell: It's awesome that the people we are offering are committing. But I think it's more important to get the guys that will make an impact. I'm not talking about anyone in particular, but the focus needs to be on signing talent, not the best Arkansas players. That being said, I love how this class is shaping up. I think Bielema is as good a recruiter as any head coach in CFB. I wouldn't be upset to see a little more defensive talent on that list though...

Trent: In a state like Arkansas, you have to make hay while the sun shines. 2008 was one of those years. 2015 appears to be another. It turned out to be a huge deal in the case of the 2008 class. Let's hope this incoming class can produce similar success.

Devan: It's unbelievable what this staff has accomplished. Arkansas hasn't kept all of the players they have offered in state for at least the past 15 years. If they can do this coming off of a 3-9 year, I can't wait to see what they can do when they actually start winning some games. Just let Ryan know that I like my beer cold and my pizza in large quantities.

Josh: It is a big deal. Many would argue that Arkansas doesn't have any SEC quality players and recruiting here is a waste of time. That was closer to true 15 or so years ago, but the overall talent level has improved and you never know when one of those in state guys could turn in to a Colbi Hamilton, or Joe Adams.

Ryan: Let me know when all 10 of them are enrolled and on campus and I'll buy beer and pizza for everyone.

6. Thursday night, noted leader of men Bobby Petrino hosts noted national heroes Florida State in Louisville in an upset bid. Who are you cheering for and why?

Grant: I'm cheering on Coach Petrino. He made my college years hell, but they are times most Razorback fans and I will never forget. Go Cards!

Jamie: That’s a tough question.  The combination of the Petrino neck brace picture and the Dyer burning his Arkansas letter picture would light Hogville on fire all over again.  All that said, there’s just something slimy and sad about what’s going on in Tallahassee, and I don’t want any of them to benefit from any of it.  Go Cards!

Adam F: Can they both lose? I guess I'll cheer for Bobby. We knew what we were getting into when we hired him, and we took it anyway in order to get 21-5 out of it. I think we all know how things will end at Louisville, so the Cards might as well enjoy it. And I loathe Jimbo Fisher and FSU.

Mitchell: I'm cheering for Bobby to shock the world and beat Jameis so we can stop hearing about that criminal organization known as FSU. Then Bobby goes back to being public enemy #1.

Trent: I'll be cheering for Bobby Petrino. I want Florida State and Jameis Winston to go down hard. That said, should Louisville get blown out, I can't say I won't revel in Petrino's meltdown rage.

Scottie: I'll pull for anyone playing Florida State and that slimy program. I pulled for Notre Dame a few weeks ago, so I guess I can for Petrino this week. I need to go take a shower now to wash the filth off.

Mark: I guess I'll root for Louisville. I'd rather see FSU lose for several reasons including clearing the way for potentially 2 SEC teams in the playoff.

Ryan: I'm rooting for Petrino. Unlike most people, I recognize we sold our souls to the devil to make a BCS Bowl. I understand the contractual obligations involved with that and it is why we have suffered so long after his departure. I don't hold that against him.

Adam P: Ugh, I'll be pulling for the zebras.

Robert: I don't really care.  We're in the SEC and Petrino isn't. Our players make headlines for crazy trick plays, not for what they shout on campus.  I guess I just feel above worry about the ACC.