Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Our picks for the 2020 HOGSPY Awards
Arkansas second baseman Robert Moore runs the bases after hitting a home run during a game against Gonzaga on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Fayetteville.
Throughout this week on social media and the Razorbacks' official website, Arkansas will recognize and honor the top athletes, teams and moments from the last year during the 9th annual HOGSPY Awards.
With that in mind, Matt Jones and Scottie Bordelon selected their own winners in eight categories.
Nominees: Treylon Burks (Football), Jeremy Farr (Track & Field), Robert Moore (Baseball), Myles Richter (Cross Country)
Matt Jones' pick: Robert Moore
Even though he was 17, Moore looked as prepared for the college game as any freshman who has come through Arkansas’ program. He was on pace for a freshman All-America season at the time of the shutdown, batting .311 with 17 RBI through 16 games. As much as the bat, his instincts stood out defensively and on the bases. Everyone remembers the glove flip play against Gonzaga, but his first-to-third move on a walk the following day was indicative of a heady player.
Scottie Bordelon’s pick: Treylon Burks
Burks was one of the few true bright spots on Arkansas’ football team in 2019 and his play planted optimism in the minds of Razorbacks fans. He was worth the price of admission just returning punts. He was electrifying. Burks did not catch a touchdown pass during his freshman season, but he did lead the team in receiving yards and finish second in all-purpose yards behind Rakeem Boyd. After landing on the All-SEC Freshman Team, a lot will be expected of Burks in years to come, but I believe he’s prepared to meet those expectations.
Nominees: Makayla Daniels (Basketball), Daszay Freeman (Track & Field), Jillian Gillen (Volleyball), Kajal Mistry (Golf), Anna Podojil (Soccer)
Matt Jones’ pick: Anna Podojil
Not only was Podojil the best female freshman on campus, she might have been the Razorbacks’ best female athlete the past year. Her 2.26 shots per goal scored was best among the SEC’s top goal scorers and her five game winners were second-most in the conference. Podojil has a background with U.S. Soccer and if her freshman season is any indication, she should be in the mix for national teams in the future.
Scottie Bordelon’s pick: Anna Podojil
There are a number of terrific freshmen to choose from, but Podojil was the choice for me based on her impact on Colby Hale’s team. She led all freshmen nationally in points with 35 and second with 14 goals. Podojil won award after award - United Soccer Coaches All-American, first-team All-SEC, SEC freshman of the year, All-SEC Tournament team - and finished with a hat trick in conference play.
Nominees: Katie Izzo wins two individual titles at SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships (Feb. 28-29); Kiara Williams’ game-winning free throws vs. Texas A&M at SEC Tournament (March 6); Mason Jones’ game-winning 3-pointer at Georgia Tech (Nov. 25); Robert Moore’s glove flip vs. Gonzaga (Feb. 22); Softball walks off Kansas in both games of doubleheader (March 10)
Matt Jones’ pick: Mason Jones at Georgia Tech
It’s hard to compare Katie Izzo’s long-distance dominance against the excitement of a game winner like Mason Jones had in Atlanta. It feels like Izzo’s time of 15:48.34 in the 5,000 would fit better in a “best performance” category. But there wasn’t a more exhilarating moment than when Jones launched a prayer from about 25 feet to give the Razorbacks a 62-61 win at Georgia Tech. Last-second game winners have been rare at Arkansas in recent years, adding to the excitement of Jones’ shot.
It’s worth noting this list is lacking two great individual plays from last fall: Cheyenne O’Grady’s 62-yard touchdown when he broke tackle attempts by five Colorado State players, and Parker Goins’ 30-plus-yard goal at Texas A&M to help the soccer team clinch the SEC West championship.
Scottie Bordelon’s pick: Mason Jones at Georgia Tech
This was, in my opinion, the No. 1 play of Eric Musselman’s first season at Arkansas and is when we saw Jones begin his ascent as one of the best players in the SEC. He had a knack for making tough shots and this shot was as challenging as they come. He wanted the ball at the end of games. As Musselman said not long after Jones' game winner, some players shy away from that moment, but he never did.
Nominees: Cameron Griffith (Track & Field), Mason Jones (Basketball), Heston Kjerstad (Baseball), Julian Perico (Golf), Alex Reco (Tennis), Matt Young (Cross Country)
Matt Jones’ pick: Mason Jones
If the baseball season were allowed to finish, I think Heston Kjerstad would have had a season on par with Andrew Benintendi’s national player of the year numbers in 2015. But with an incomplete baseball season, Mason Jones is the clear winner here. Opposing defenses keyed on him and he played one-third of the SEC season without Isaiah Joe, which makes his 22-point scoring average all the more amazing. It was one of the great offensive seasons for any player in any sport in Arkansas sports history.
Scottie Bordelon’s pick: Mason Jones
Unexpectedly, Jones put together one of the best seasons in program history. I felt as if he would make a nice jump from sophomore to junior season like a lot of players do, but no one saw this coming. Jones was an All-American honorable mention, Associated Press co-SEC player of the year and the first Arkansas player to win the SEC scoring title. He had such an unbelievable season that he opened up professional opportunities that may not have been available to him even six months ago.
Nominees: Sophia Carter (Gymnastics), Anna Hopkin (Swimming & Diving), Katie Izzo (Cross Country, Track & Field), Alexis Tolefree (Basketball), Hayley VanFossen (Soccer)
Matt Jones’ pick: Katie Izzo
Three years after suffering a broken leg that could have ended her running career, Izzo put together one of the Razorbacks’ great cross country seasons. A year after finishing 82nd at the NCAA meet, her third-place finish anchored Arkansas’ national champion team. Izzo continued to run well indoors with conference championships in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters. She likely would have challenged for an individual national title had the championship meet not been called off. An honorable mention here is deserved for Hayley VanFossen, a back-line enforcer whose role in Arkansas’ program-record 13 shutouts was somewhat overlooked.
Scottie Bordelon’s pick: Katie Izzo
Izzo was named SEC indoor runner of the year and won the 3,000 meter and 5,000 meter runs at the SEC indoor championships. She broke a 30-year-old SEC indoor 5,000-meter record and also ran the second-fastest winning time in the 3,000. She was featured on the December 2019 cover of Hawgs Illustrated, too, after leading Arkansas’ women’s cross country team to a national title.
Comeback Player of the Year
Nominees: Caleb Bolden (Baseball), Parker Goins (Soccer), Abby Gray (Women’s Cross Country, Track & Field), Mary Haff (Softball), Bailey Lovett (Gymnastics)
Matt Jones’ pick: Parker Goins
Similar to Heston Kjerstad and the best male player category, I think a full baseball season might have proven Caleb Bolden most worthy. He was off to a great start (2 runs and 15 strikeouts in 16 innings) after Tommy John surgery, and he didn’t start pitching to live hitters until late January. Goins was back on the field for the Razorbacks less than 10 months after her ACL injury and put together the best season of her college career with 10 goals and 9 assists. Goins’ passing was responsible for many of Anna Podojil’s goals, and she had a number of the team's most timely goals of the year.
Scottie Bordelon’s pick: Parker Goins
Goins had a strong season for the Razorbacks soccer team after tearing her ACL the season before. Goins finished second on the team in points and goals and was tied for second in assists. She placed in the top five in the SEC in points and goals.
Male Team of the Year
Nominees: Baseball, Basketball, Golf, Indoor Track & Field
Matt Jones’ pick: Basketball
With such a short bench, few people could have predicted 20 wins in Eric Musselman’s first season, and the argument could be made that the Razorbacks could have approached 25 wins with a full SEC Tournament and NIT.
Scottie Bordelon’s pick: Basketball
What an exciting first year it was under Eric Musselman. I feel like this group had a lot more in the tank when the season was called off during the SEC Tournament. The Razorbacks certainly had their headscratching moments last season, but their personality, collective effort and never-quit attitude made them a lot of fun to watch. I predicted Arkansas to win 18 games last season. This team exceeded the expectations of a lot of people.
Female Team of the Year
Nominees: Basketball, Cross Country, Golf, Soccer, Indoor Track & Field
Matt Jones’ pick: Soccer
It’s hard to pick against a national champion team like cross country, but we have come to expect that kind of national challenge from Lance Harter’s teams. The soccer season came as a little bit more of a surprise. The Razorbacks, predicted by coaches to finish sixth in the SEC, won their first conference championship, beat a No. 1 team for the first time and probably should have been a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. It was easily the best season in the program’s history.
Scottie Bordelon’s pick: Cross Country
Led by Katie Izzo and three other All-Americans, Arkansas won its first NCAA cross country title, completing the triple crown of NCAA championships. Izzo was the SEC individual champion and Taylor Werner was named SEC runner of the year while Lance Harter earned SEC coach of the year honors. The Razorbacks won the SEC title for the seventh straight year. I can't pick against that.
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