1. Before we get to Football, we need to talk about the decommitment of Reggie Perry, and then committing to Mississippi State. Losing a 5-star always sucks but Mike Anderson still has some good talent in the 2017 and 2018 class. How big of a loss is this for Anderson and the Hogs?
Derek Oxford: Obviously you don't enjoy losing a player of Perry's caliber, because now that class is going to drop in the rankings, but in the larger picture, it's not a monumental loss. He clearly believes he's a one-and-done talent and Mike has shown that he's not in the business of relying on that model to win. The class is still very strong with Henderson, Sills, Joe and I'm sure they'll add others to continue to compete at a high level.
Jamie Pilote: It's definitely a big loss. 5 stars get you over that 2nd round hump. Mike just can't catch the really big break. 2 or 3 things will go his way and the 1 big things will break the other. I don't blame Mike in this one though. This has shoe brand battle all over it. Who would've ever thought being a Nike school would've ever hurt us? Apex? Sure, but not Nike.
Robert Boyd: Well, it's frustrating to have the 5-star player you had committed go with the family connection after we had an in-state 5-star go to Kentucky despite having the family connection for us. You can't be mad about that as a fan if you used that reasoning to be upset with Kentucky and "Business Decision". It would be nice if the narrative of feeling like we have that 5-star here and then watching him flip or go somewhere else could just be wrong at least once. It's more of a blow to the feeling of the program and recruiting to me than what will actually happen on the court. But time will tell.
Josh Goforth: What a strange scenario, but my same opinion if Monk stands in this case. I can't blame a kid for going somewhere that he believes will set him up for the future. How Miss St fits that, ya got me but we will see.
Adam Peterson: It definitely hurts, but to me it's more about perception. Once again, another big name recruit/commit walks away from Mike Anderson and the Hogs. Not the best look to a lot of fans.
Eric Harris: I agree that it hurts the narrative more than the team itself. First, Anderson has proven to be a good player developer so the one-and-done hasn’t been his style. Second, he’s recruited the state of Arkansas really well in the 2017 and 2018 classes after swinging and missing in 2016. With that said it still sucks to not get him.
2. Alright now for football. Media days just passed and the Hogs were picked 4th in the West. Too low? Too high? Just right?
Derek Oxford: I'd say too high. I've got them going 6-6 (2-6), and I don't see 2-6 giving them anything better than a tie for fifth. They could certainly do better than that, that's just what I've got it in mid-July.
Jamie Pilote: It feels about right. There's probably a team picked ahead of us that will finish above and one below that will finish above but I'm not sure I can complain about being picked 4th.
Robert Boyd: We should be in front of the Mississippi Schools and Texas A&M. That's our rightful spot. We actually have finished ahead of Texas A&M once since they joined the conference, but still haven't beaten them since they joined. If we can shore up our running defense, then 4 might be a little too low.
Josh Goforth: That's likely about right, after such an ugly run at the end of the season the middle of the SEC West is not a bad place to be. One or two breaks and a big upset could put them over the top to compete with Bama/LSU.
Adam Peterson: I've gotta say just right. There should be a wide gap from the top and the bottom of the SEC this year from those that are reloading (Alabama/LSU) and those that are still stinking up the place from their dumpster fires (Ole Miss and Mississippi State). Once again, we should feel nice and snug right there in the middle, per usual.
Eric Harris: Fourth sounds about right, especially with the drama happening at Ole Miss. The tier in the middle of the West between the Hogs, Aggies, and Bulldogs will be interesting.
3. Fall camp is coming up soon at the end of the month. So let's take a couple of rapid fire questions on the football team.
-What position do you feel best about going into 2017? Which are you most worried about?
Derek Oxford: Feel best about Austin Allen at quarterback. Worried most about linebacker depth, especially with the move to the 3-4.
Jamie Pilote: Definitely QB. 3rd year starter that's not just experienced but is really good. For a team not loaded with 4-5 stars, QB is so important. LB. Always LB.
Robert Boyd: QB, Austin Allen. If I could ask Austin to take less big yardage sacks, that would be my only complaint, but everything else he does is great. Plus I feel pretty good about the backups.
LB. If Dre Greenlaw is healthy, I'm still worried about Linebacker. Hopefully the 3-4 helps out and LB won't be near the concern it was in 2016.
Josh Goforth: Best is QB. No doubt about it Austin Allen knocked over all expectations and took the offense to another level without consistent O-line play. Most worried about Linebacker, even with Greenlaw healthy the other middle spot is a huge question. Can Scoota Harris make the adjustments and checks to get out of a bad call, or cover a back out of the backfield? Not sure about that. It's gonna be fun to see if Rhoads turns up the pressure to force the offense into favorable checks.
Adam Peterson: Center with Frank Ragnow. If he can be a leader for the O-Line, maybe we can get back to what we THOUGHT Coach Bielema was trying to build a few years back. The entire defense worries me, per usual. With a new defense being put into place, there's just a lot of questions. I hope I'm wrong.
Eric Harris: This is going to sound really weird, but I’m going secondary. I think they did a lot of good things in 2016 and guys like Pulley and Liddell are set for big years. I’m worried about the D-Line depth. If Agim and/or Bijhon get hurt things get thin there real quick.
-What newcomer do you think will have the biggest impact on 2017?
Derek Oxford: Jeremy Patton at TE.
Jamie Pilote: David Williams. Getting a grad transfer with SEC carries after losing Rawleigh is really big.
Robert Boyd: Chevin Calloway. I think having a 4-star athlete coming in to deal with the 4th and 5th wide receivers on these spread offenses is going to pay dividends. If anyone in our secondary has to miss game time due to targeting or an injury, now we have some instant impact with Calloway and Montaric Brown.
Adam Peterson: I'll agree with Jamie and his choice of David Williams. God knows we need some help with Rawleigh out, but if he couldn't hang at South Carolina, can he hang with us? Stranger things have happened.
Eric Harris: I’m going Brandon Martin. I like his size and the extra opportunities he’ll get at WR set up for a big year for him.
-What game on the schedule will make or break the year?
Derek Oxford: Texas A&M. Lose that, and it's here we go again. Finally win that one, and you've got a chance to make some noise.
Jamie Pilote: It feels like it's always A&M right? Even though we haven't won it in awhile when you look at the schedule pre-season it always seems like that's the game that could aim the team in a really nice direction.
Robert Boyd: South Carolina. It's the week before Alabama. If we have some bad early season luck with TCU and Texas A&M, then we will really need this win. If we lose to South Carolina, then we might be waiting until the last Saturday in October to notch our first SEC win. The SEC East games are almost always must haves.
Josh Goforth: I'm sure everyone is saying Texas A&M, and that's certainly a big game but to me South Carolina sets up to be the make or break game in 2017. Going 0-2 in SEC play to A&M and South Carolina regardless of the outcome against TCU would be difficult to recover. Then the gauntlet of Alabama, Auburn, and Ole Miss would be much more tolerable with a W against South Carolina.
Adam Peterson: South Carolina, no question. If we can't beat the Gamecocks on their home field, I might have to watch with my hands over my eyes the following week at Alabama.
Eric Harris: Definitely going with South Carolina. Need to get a winnable road game to feel good going into the death zone of the 2017 schedule.
4. And lastly, what would you consider a successful season? Making a bowl game? 8 wins? Pulling a wild upset?
Derek Oxford: Making a bowl game is no longer an accomplishment in my mind. When you've got 5-7 teams making bowls because of their APR scores, it takes a lot of luster out of it. I think a 9-win season (8-4 plus the bowl) would be a success. 6-6 or 7-5 again would just be the bare minimum to get by, especially since you schedule three wins a year essentially.
Jamie Pilote: 8 wins pre bowl game. Not making a bowl would be awful but I'm not sure a trip to Shreveport is much better.
Robert Boyd: Last season, we had a real shot at 9 wins and we blew halftime leads in our last two games to settle on 7. In all honesty, we should be able to beat everyone on our schedule except Alabama, Auburn, and LSU. So 9 wins would be great, but I would feel like a successful season is 8 wins with a chance at a 9th in the bowl game. I'll take 6 wins if one of them is Alabama though.
Josh Goforth: Per my usual stance a successful season would be making a bowl and ending the season on an upward arc. Last season went the opposite direction and hopefully that has been corrected.
Adam Peterson: Successful and what I'll be happy with are two different things. He's got to get to 8 wins or the boo birds and calls for baby Bielema to find a new home for their 1-year old party will get louder and louder. 6 or 7 is my early season guess, but if none of those wins contain one from the state of Alabama, well, let the predictions of Gruden return!
Eric Harris: Gotta hit seven wins again or perception is going to be that we’re taking a step back. Combine that with a new QB in 2018 and Bielema could start to feel some pressure.