HOGS reeling, leaving after UK loss; notes
FAYETTEVILLE - Since Arkansas’ 24-20 loss Saturday at Kentucky, UA junior linebacker D’Vone McClure of Jacksonville has withdrawn from the team while true freshman cornerback Devin Bush said he’s entering the NCAA transfer portal.
McClure is raising a son and cited family obligations and academics as his pursuits now minus football, Arkansas coach Chad Morris said Monday.
“I spoke with him last night, yesterday afternoon, and again late last night.” Morris said Monday. “I think we all know his family situation with his son. As he shared with me, ‘Coach I want to step away from football, and I want to focus on my academics and focus on getting a job to help support my family.’ That was the way we left it at that time.”
First a freshman receiver for Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks in 2016 after playing four years of minor league baseball, McClure withdrew from football in 2017 but returned in 2018 under new coach Morris and played all 12 games at nickel back. He has played all six games for these 2-4 overall, 0-3 in the SEC Razorbacks at outside linebacker/nickel back and special teams. McClure has made 11 tackles with one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry.
Bush, of New Orleans, arrived in Fayetteville last January as a four-star rated December high school graduate. He has played on special teams in four games this season and compiled no statistics.
“After speaking with my parents and coaches," Bush said, "I’ve made the decision to officially enter the transfer portal. Thank you Coach Morris and the staff for all you have done.”
As for all remaining Hogs, they’ve got a major task Saturday, facing 11th-ranked Auburn (5–1, 2-1) at 11 a.m. at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. On Oct. 26, the Razorbacks visit No. 1 and reigning SEC champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
“It’s frustrating to come back in here after we keep putting ourselves in position to win games and we’re not stringing things together to finish it,” Morris said. “That’s our job as coaches. The only thing we can do is keep our heads down and go back to work.”
SEARCHING AT QB
And find a consistent quarterback.
So far among graduate transfers Ben Hicks via SMU and Nick Starkel via Texas A&M, Hicks started and struggled in the 20-13 victory over lower division underdog Portland State. After trailing 10-3 in the first half against Ole Miss, Starkel replaced Hicks and played through a 55-34 victory the next week over Colorado State. Starkel then passed for three TDs with five interceptions in the 31-24 loss to three-touchdown underdog San Jose State. Hicks came on for an injured Starkel against Texas A&M and played better than Starkel in the 31-27 loss. Starkel started Saturday night at Kentucky but struggled for three quarters. Hicks then entered the game and completed five of eight passes for 81 yards after Starkel had connected on just seven of 19 for 41 yards.
Morris will use this week’s practices to designate Saturday’s starter against Auburn.
“Nick and Ben will get the one (first-team) reps.” Morris said. “They were in here last night, and everybody was ready to get back, which was very encouraging. So, with those guys getting a share of the one reps this week, I think the whole thing is consistency as a team, consistency as an offense. That’s what we’re looking for in this.”
Redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones and true freshman KJ Jefferson, currently on schedule to redshirt, continue practicing at QB behind Starkel and Hicks but have not played.
BOYD, JACKSON OK
Junior running back Rakeem Boyd rushed 15 times for 134 yards and two TDs against Kentucky but injured his shoulder. Senior left tackle Colton Jackson missed the Kentucky game because of concussion protocol after missing the Sept. 21 game with San Jose State because of concussion protocol.
“Rakeem, I think is running the ball as effective as anybody in the conference,” Morris said. “I think his toughness speaks for itself, especially playing through the (shoulder) injury that he had last year. We anticipate him being fine this week and back out there.”
“I anticipate (Colton Jackson) playing this week and back into that starting rotation,” Morris said. “But it (concussion protocol) was something that’s been carrying on for a few weeks with him. We wanted to make sure he’s back fully healthy before he’s ready to go.”