Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: Musings from time well-spent at the Little Rock Touchdown Club

Sitting across the table at Monday's Little Rock Touchdown Club was a long-time acquaintance who is a dyed-in-the-wool Arkansas Razorback fan.

He's a good guy, very smart and not much of a talker, but he said he didn't think Jalen Catalon was playing as well the past couple of games.

My guess was he was hurt.

Later that day, head coach Sam Pittman said Catalon was playing with a cast on his hand and had since the win over Texas A&M.

Coaches are caught between a rock and hard place when it comes to discussing injuries. First, there's HIPPA and then there's betting lines, which the NCAA is trying to avoid being involved with. Lastly, there's a lot of players who still play with pain but don't want anyone to know.

Butch Jones was the guest speaker at the LRTDC and the head coach of the Arkansas State Red Wolves did a nice job.

He left no doubt he has a plan.

He also made it clear he thinks the world of Layne Hatcher, who has basically played this year only if starter James Blackman, who arrived in Jonesboro from Florida State via the transfer portal, was hurt or lost his helmet.

In the season opener, Hatcher came in when Blackman's helmet was knocked off and threw four touchdown passes for the 40-21 win over Central Arkansas, the Red Wolves' lone win.

Blackman is now hurt and Hatcher who threw for more than 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns last season while splitting duties with Logan Bonner, will start against Louisiana-Lafayette on Thursday.

Bonner followed former head coach Blake Anderson to Utah State.

Anderson is 3-2, including a win over Power 5 Washington State.

Anderson left for emotional reasons. After his wife Wendy died, he said everywhere he went in Jonesboro reminded him of her and he needed a change of scenery.

Jones was hired from Alabama, where he had worked for three years as a consultant to Nick Saban.

Prior to that, he was a head coach at Tennessee, Cincinnati and Central Michigan.

He had a winning record everywhere he went, even at Tennessee where he led the Vols to three consecutive bowl wins but was fired after a 4-6 start during the 2017 season.

Jones gave the impression he was reflecting during those years at Alabama as well as helping the Tide win another national championship.

He shared his wisdom, insight and strategy.

Jones was emphatic Monday when he said in all his years of coaching he had never worked with a better administration than the one at ASU.

That was not surprising.

He also talked about Alabama's loss to Texas A&M and how Saban would turn that into an opportunity to teach.

Which is exactly what Pittman is doing with the Razorbacks as they prepare to face a very physical Auburn team.

Auburn and Arkansas are both 4-2 and both of their losses were to ranked teams. The Tigers fell to Penn State and Georgia, which moved into the No. 1 slot after Bama's loss.

The SEC has seven teams in The Associated Press top 25 and would have been eight but Auburn finished with 106 points and Texas with 108 for No. 25 in the poll.

Jones said he wanted to build a SEC quality team at ASU and that he knew how to to do.

He also said he would agree to be the state's B team until 2025 when ASU and Arkansas play for the first time.

One other thing that came to light on Monday was that Thursday is David Bazzel's birthday. Bazzel, co-host of The Show with No Name on 103.7 the Buzz, is the founder of the Little Rock Touchdown Club and a number of national honors, including the Broyles Award.

What was not mentioned was how old the former Razorback linebacker will be.

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