When senior safety Joe Foucha made a plethora of exciting plays in the Outback Bowl, Arkansas fans probably hadn’t anticipated that his big push would be his last as a pig.
Foucha’s interception and second-half sack helped the Hogs shutout against Penn State in the second half of the 24-10 victory. He emerged as a contributor at the end of Chad Morris’ fatal run, and then really made the round for the outnumbered 2020 squad.
Despite Foucha’s laudatory words for the coaches and the program, he is one of several guys coming out of Fayetteville. Notably, Treylon Burks, Tre Williams and Montaric Brown are linked with the NFL Draft. But a slew of regular contributors have also come out, like kickoff specialist Vito Cavalruso, hooker Trelon Smith, Foucha, cornerback Greg Brooks, Jr. and backup quarterback Malik Hornsby as of today.
It is, we believe, the new Wild West of college sports. The transfer portal, coupled with the Name Image Likeness (NIL) tsunami which took over as soon as it was legally legitimized, has considerably changed the landscape.
What does this mean, however? Coaching recruitment strategies are arguably the most affected aspect of team building and, certainly now, player retention.
So far, Sam Pittman’s philosophy seems to be about filling positions of need (Eureka!) And building depth (ALAS!). For the 2022 prelude to continue the momentum of the 2021 postlude, every unexpected defection at Foucha hurts, but also offers a chance to improve.
So for every Foucha-type start, the Hogs staff just have one chance to narrow down the list further. With the return of Myles Slusher and Jalen Catalon, the Hogs’ defensive backfield still appears.
Departure of Foucha Offset with Arrival of Myles Rowser
Myles Rowser was a solid commitment to his home state, the Michigan Wolverines, but the 22-year prospect passed to Arkansas with a firm verbal last spring. The four-star safety consensus with a solid frame (6’0 “190 pounds) and a desire to strike was the only future Razorback who chose not to sign on the first day of signing in December. Instead, he waits the traditional National Day of the signing on February 2.
In the meantime, the Detroit prep product is potentially likely to be courted again by Michigan. When the Wolverines failed in 2020, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s professional status seemed in jeopardy, but his team rebounded to win the Big Ten and a berth in the national semifinals this season.
For what it’s worth, the 247 Sports Bras still believe Rowser is sticking around. Of course, while fans don’t like to see Foucha move on, it does open up more playing time for Myles Rowser. And this is a good thing. Rowser’s overall impact on this class and secondary is huge.
It’s the new culture of varsity athletics, like it or not. Foucha’s serve here is essentially flawless, thankfully: he suffered under Chad Morris for two years before becoming a mainstay of Barry Odom’s defense in 2020-21.
Greg Brooks’ accomplishments were also strong. His pick of six at the start of the 2020 Mississippi State Upheaval helped the Hogs secure their first SEC victory in nearly three full years.
And sometimes it is the most difficult thing to accept or understand. Why, we might think, would a guy with three or four solid years here decide to shut down college life elsewhere?
Perhaps this is in fact a sign that Arkansas is cultivating the necessary depth? !
The Razorback secondary survives the purge
Even though Foucha, Brooks and Brown got away, Odom has a pretty salty defense background returning in 2022. The return of tackling machine Bumper Pool, which announced its return for a fifth year today, is huge. The Razorbacks badly needed his leadership and consistency in a body of linebackers largely unproven elsewhere.
Myles Slusher’s security, on the other hand, really developed when Catalon fell. The two form an exceptional return safety core that Rowser should complement very well.
Around the corner, Brown was flanked with talent by Simeon Blair and Hudson Clark, and seasoned cohorts like LaDarrius Bishop, Malik Chavis and Jayden Johnson are also returning.
For as many grunts as any of us could do right now, given the sudden chaos NIL and the Portal have caused, Arkansas’ football roster is in the best shape possible as well. Trelon Smith decided to take off, of course, but with the embarrassment of riches in Hog’s backfield right now, that made sense, too.
Arkansas cannot make a 9 to 4 year excuse for complacency. Pittman, as famous for his talent for recruiting as anything else, also seems quite opposed to this. This has been a problem in the past. Houston Nutt, Bobby Petrino and Bret Bielema have all managed to win at times thanks to mostly marginal recruiting.
But consistency escaped them all, which is why the latest Top 20 Rivals class the Hogs boasted of was 2009, led by eventual five star high roller Darius Winston.
Pittman’s 2022 class sits at No.19, with the potential for it to increase slightly. And while some of those outgoing Arkansas football transfers clearly believe there is greener pastures, Pittman also got two of the highest-rated incoming transfers in program history.
Landon Jackson and Jadon Haselwood, in fact, could jump in immediately where Williams and Burks, respectively, made waves in 2021.
The departures are still somewhat unsettling. Then again, the whole context of college football has changed dramatically, almost overnight. If Pittman can tackle these challenges, signing Rowser while preserving a healthy core, then these defections could be seen through a very different lens in no time.
Bumper Pool talks about Arkansas football and his decision to come back here: