Published: Thursday, August 19, 2021
FAYETTEVILLE — It is not uncommon to see a player make a leap in performance in the second year under a defensive coordinator or in a specific scheme.
In the Arkansas secondary, safety Joe Foucha is a prime candidate to do just that.
A New Orleans native, Foucha has been a reliable piece in the back end for the Razorbacks the last two seasons, totaling 147 tackles and three interceptions. An uptick in his play would give Arkansas one of the top 1-2 safety punches in the SEC.
And it could be beneficial for his draft prospects in 2022.
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“Last season I couldn’t really lift weights and I felt like that affected me being in the game,” Foucha said Thursday after the 12th practice of training camp. “But now that I’m 205 (pounds), my bench press went up, my squat went up, so I feel like that helped me on the practice side to be more physical and get ready for the games.
“I’m at my best that I’ve ever been.”
Arkansas second-year defensive coordinator Barry Odom has watched Foucha grow into a more consistent player since this time last year. He has coupled his athletic ability with a greater grasp of the details.
Foucha appears to have shaken the shoulder injury that plagued him in the past, too.
“He’s understanding where he fits in the scheme, how to play, the different variations with how we’re calling our coverage concepts in either man or zone,” Odom said. “For 12 practices, he has been as consistent and made as many plays as anybody on the field.”
Odom said Foucha has showcased improved burst, a credit to strength and conditioning coach Jamil Walker, as well as Foucha’s buy-in.
“He’s running extremely well,” Odom said. “He’s got great quickness, and he’s a very, very gifted player.”
Foucha has fallen in love with his role in the secondary. He feels more confident and comfortable in each move he makes.
The game has slowed down for him as well, which is critical for a player expected to assist in stopping the run and tracking playmakers in pass coverage.
“I know my job. I know what I have to do,” Foucha said. “I just feel like being in this defense you are going to make plays as long as your eyes are in the right spot.
“You are for sure going to make the right plays.”