State of the Hogs: SEC, SEC, SEC

SEC just fine for Hogs ... and some thoughts on Collin Kuhn and James McCann.

Arkansas to the Big 12 Conference? I think not.

I remember the old Southwest Conference days. I remember the visitor's section when Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor were on the field. Except for the every other year treat of watching the Aggie band, it was a bad deal.

Compare the way Texas and Texas A&M travel to the way Georgia and Florida traveled to Fayetteville the last two years and you have another reason not to leave the SEC.

The huge financial cut the SEC sends member schools is part of the grand equation for not moving anywhere. But the way SEC teams travel is another huge key. I think Ole Miss and Mississippi State travel better than any of the Texas schools.

Some argue that Arkansas would have greater exposure for recruiting in Texas if it jumps to the Big 12. Really? How many times would the Hogs play in Texas? None of those games are in Dallas. Playing in Lubbock or Waco doesn't help Dallas recruiting. You figure they are going to Texas or Texas A&M every other year.

No, the Hogs are just fine now playing every year in Dallas for the Southwest Classic. It's as much exposure as they would get with one trip to Austin or College Station each season.

I did an informal poll on our premium message board at HawgsIllustrated.com. What should the Hogs do? It was unanimous — stay put in the SEC.

Some anti-Texas came out in several messages. Don't ever go to a league where the Longhorns hold a vote at the table. They are not to be trusted. Remember, they were to come to the SEC 19 years ago and balked.

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There is as much talent on this Arkansas baseball team as I've ever seen. Zack Cox is a top eight pick in the upcoming major league draft. Andy Wilkins, Brett Eibner and Drew Smyly are going to be high picks, too. All are probably gone.

There's one more potential high draftee that most wouldn't have guessed before the start of the season. Collin Kuhn, perhaps in a mini slump, will also be draft eligible since he's a third-year sophomore. He'll have a tough decision because he could be draft eligible again the next season, too. So he's going to have leverage both this season and next if he's drafted.

Kuhn could go as high as the 10th round. He's got a lot of tools. He can play all three outfield spots. He's got speed and power. He's hit most of the year and been a wonderful leadoff man.

"We want him to come back," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "But it will come down to the money."

One other factor is graduation. Kuhn will be 26 hours away from his degree when this semester ends.

"I think his mother wants him to come back," Van Horn said. "That's why I try to get close to the moms when I'm recruiting. I might call the house knowing the kid is away playing somewhere that night, just hoping the mom answers the phone."

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The Hogs don't have to worry about sophomore catcher James McCann for at least one more year.

But he's likely to be a high draft choice when he finishes his junior season. He's as good behind the plate as the Hogs have had. He's got the arm and a potent bat. Chris Curry, assistant coach in charge of catchers, has done a wonderful job with McCann learning to block the ball. Often you see pitchers throw their breaking ball in the dirt with a two-strike count, but not when there is a runner on third. McCann is that good at smothering those pitches and it gives hurlers on the UA staff confidence to turn that one loose.

It's obvious how much the UA brain trust believes in McCann. After calling pitches from the dugout, pitching coach Dave Jorn turned those duties over to McCann behind the plate this year. I like it because it speeds up the game. But the coaches like it because McCann gives them a better picture.

"He sees things we can't see from the dugout," said Curry, who caught at the Triple A level in pro ball. "He can tell what a batter's doing just before the pitch ... where he's standing, his feet. Plus, James knows the hitters just the same as we do. He's been around the league once and he doesn't forget anything.

"Remember, he scored 30 on the ACT. He's been a 4.0 student all of his life. He goes through that scouting report and doesn't ever miss anything. It is like having one of (the coaches) behind the plate.

"Coach Jorn calls the running game — pickoffs and pitchouts — but the rest is left to James. We can visit with him between innings or give him some things to look for, but he doesn't need much.

"The scouts absolutely love him. In pro ball, the catchers call the game. The pitchers want that from their catchers. They don't want to have to think about that part of the game and just concentrate on the mechanics and location. The scouts know what James brings to the table in the way he can call a game. He's going to go high when he's eligible."


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