FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas safety Joe Foucha was voted as a captain along with quarterback KJ Jefferson, offensive tackle Myron Cunningham, linebacker Grant Morgan and safety Jalen Catalon by teammates Friday.
Coach Sam Pittman announced the captains after Saturday’s short mock game, and Foucha earned a hearty response from his teammates.
“This will make my fourth year here,” Foucha said Tuesday. “I’ve been here since 2018, and I’ve had a lot of ups and downs but I’ve overcome them.
“It was a blessing for my teammates to select me as a captain. I feel like I earned the right for them to, and it just shows how much respect the guys on the team have for me.”
Fellow captains Cunningham and Morgan talked up Foucha’s role and leadership.
“Joe brings a lot to the team,” Cunningham said. “He brings energy, excitement. He’s always jumping around and talking. He definitely brings that leadership factor. I’m personally very glad he got voted to be a captain this year.”
Added Morgan, “Whenever Joe first got here, he was wild and always on the ball. He was running around and always finding the ball. We were sitting there saying, ‘That is the little Honey Badger.’
“Like that’s what I watched growing up was [LSU’s] Tyrann Mathieu. So when we saw Joe, a kid from Louisiana, coming up here and getting the ball out of every single play, we were like, ‘This kid is special. This kid’s going to do something good here.’
“That really stands out when a team votes you team captain.”
Foucha, a native of New Orleans who rode out Hurricane Katrina with his family, said it was a different case this time with Hurricane Ida bearing down on southern Louisiana.
“Everyone’s OK,” Foucha said. “I made sure my family left just in time, because my mom, it was hard for me to get her to leave because we did stay down there for Katrina.
“I’m not there and most of my brothers don’t live in the house anymore. So that was one of my priorities was making sure she left New Orleans.”
The Razorbacks have cut back their “fastball starts” at the opening of practice to just the first two units and three plays each this week.
With the starters, Trelon Smith got to the edge for a solid gain on the first snap, then safety Joe Foucha broke up a KJ Jefferson pass over the middle intended for De’Vion Warren. On the third snap, Jefferson found Tyson Morris over the left side for a gain of about 12-14 yards.
Malik Hornsby scooped up a fumble on a missed mesh with Raheim “Rocket” Sanders to open the second rack. Hornsby hit H-back Dominique Johnson for a short gain on the second play. On the third snap, Hornsby dropped back, felt the pressure and scrambled to the outside.
Rice Coach Mike Bloomgren said he doesn’t plan to announce a quarterback starter between Wiley Green and Luke McCaffery prior to kickoff Saturday.
“I think I’ll tell you at like 1:02 if you text me,” Bloomgren joked with a reporter. “I’ll try to do it walking out the tunnel. We’re going to keep it under wraps as long as we can because I do think those guys present some different skill sets.”
Green has been in the system for three seasons, while McCaffrey — the son of NFL standout Ed McCaffrey and brother of Panthers star Christian McCaffrey — transferred in from Nebraska and has wowed the coaches with his huge arm and dual-threat talent.
“The people at Arkansas are going to see two quarterbacks this weekend because they both earned the right to do it,” Bloomgren said. “Also, they can do everything in our offense, but one of them is a little more dynamic when he’s running with the football.
“The difference in them right now is Wiley, this is Year 4 for Wiley Green in this system. Luke has been with us for a month and a half, two months. Luke has just closed the gap knowledge-wise so well. He’s just doing so many good things. They’re both so exciting.”
Coach Sam Pittman said he expected Rice to play “bully ball” and try to control the clock Saturday.
Rice Coach Mike Bloomgren liked the analogy.
“I appreciate Sam Pittman saying we play bully ball,” Bloomgren said. “It’s something we try to do. Like we live and breathe intellectual brutality around here.
“You talk about controlling the clock, I think we were second in time of possession in the nation last year at 36 minutes a game, and that’s something we take very seriously as well.”
Bishop on top
Redshirt junior LaDarrius Bishop is listed No. 1 at two spots for the Razorbacks. He’s a first-team cornerback and also a starter at kickoff returner.
Bishop, from Ashdown, played in all 10 games last season and started the finale against Alabama.
“We felt like he played really well last year against Alabama,” Coach Sam Pittman said. “He’s fast, he’s long, he’s the perfect size [6-0, 190 pounds] and speed for a corner.”
Pittman said Bishop played better in camp after the coaches stopped trying him at both cornerback spots.
“We kept him at one spot over there on one side, and it seemed to help him,” Pittman said.
Bishop is ahead of redshirt sophomore Hudson Clark, who started seven games at corner in 2020.
Rice will come to Fayetteville riding a pair of unsightly skids against SEC competition.
The Owls have lost their last 11 games against SEC teams dating to a 17-7 decision over LSU at Rice Stadium in 1980.
Additionally, Rice has lost its last 11 games away from home against SEC clubs dating to a 10-0 win over Florida in the 1960 Orange Bowl.
Not much difference
Brady Latham is listed as the starting left guard on the depth chart, but Coach Sam Pittman said it remains a close competition between Latham and Luke Jones.
“Brady at this point is probably a little more consistent than what Luke has been, but there’s not a whole lot of difference there,” Pittman said.
Pittman joked that the depth chart in Monday’s game notes came out because he felt sorry for media members “and decided to give it out a little bit earlier.”
“But I also did say that the final depth chart is not going to be given out until after Wednesday’s practice,” he said.
Latham, a redshirt sophomore, started all 10 games last season at left guard.
Rice has two players from Arkansas: Third-year quarterback JoVoni Johnson from Conway and true freshman running back Christian Francisco from Rogers.
Johnson played in four of five games last season, including two starts, and completed 27 of 37 passes for 225 yards and 1 touchdown. He also rushed 26 times for 83 yards.
Johnson started in Rice’s 20-0 victory at No. 15 Marshall and completed 10 of 14 passes for 86 yards. He is not listed on the Rice depth chart this week, but Coach Mike Bloomgren said there’s been no thought of changing positions for Johnson.
“You go back to the things he’s done with his feet throughout his career here, whether it’s simple plays like stick draw or just pulling the ball on the backside of the read option,” Bloomgren said. “Of course he made throws when he had to against Marshall. He has been a big-time player for us in a game that was a big deal to our program. Nobody’s throwing him out by any means.”
Francisco, who played quarterback at Rogers, moved to running back at Rice. He isn’t listed on the depth chart either, but Bloomgren said Francisco had a good preseason camp and is on the travel squad along with Johnson.