FAYETTEVILLE -- Defensive back D'Vone McClure could create an interesting story this season as an Arkansas Razorback.
The Jacksonville High School graduate and former minor-league baseball player in the Cleveland Indians' system is taking first-team snaps at nickel back. The 24-year-old sophomore who bounced from receiver and special-teams player to defense is prepared to contribute for the University of Arkansas.
McClure spoke this week about what it would mean to play a key role for the Razorbacks.
"It's a blessing, and I have to give all the glory to the man upstairs," McClure said. "It's something that I dreamed about. It sounds pretty cliche, but I did dream about it.
"It would just be an honor to me to go represent my city with my family name on the back of my jersey. I'm just going to keep doing what I do every day, control what I can control, master it and become dominant."
A Razorback baseball commitment in 2011, McClure passed on college after being selected in the fourth round of the MLB Draft by the Indians.
He played four seasons in the minors before enrolling at Arkansas. McClure played in five games in 2016 and sat out last year.
Coach Chad Morris identified McClure on Thursday as a defender who has turned heads.
"D'Vone McClure is another one who just shows up," Morris said. "He just keeps showing up in a live setting."
McClure is leading a pack of contenders at nickel -- in the absence of fellow Jacksonville product Kevin Richardson while he rehabilitates from foot surgery -- which includes Derrick Munson, Nate Dalton, Joe Foucha, Hayden Henry and others, with most of them cross-training at other positions.
Fan day set
The Razorbacks announced a fan day Aug. 25 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, which will feature autograph sessions with Coach Chad Morris and the players.
The free event will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., with parking available in lots 46, 56, 56B, 60, 72, 73, 73A and 74 in addition to the Stadium Drive and Meadow Street parking garages. Fans can enter the stadium through gates 1, 14 and 16 starting at 6 p.m. Junior Razorbacks members can enter at 5:45 p.m. at Gate 15S on the east side of the stadium.
Only bottled water will be allowed into the stadium. Concession stands will be open. A kids zone on the field will feature giant inflatables, and more activities will be held on the concourse.
The Razorbacks' depth at tight end will allow Grayson Gunter to work some as a detached pass catcher in the "5" receiver spot, which Chad Morris refers to as the "bigger bodied" slot.
"This is a young man I'm really excited about," Morris said. "This is a guy you'll see move around. He's very athletic. He'll be able to motion into the backfield. He's got great speed, exceptional hands."
Gunter has had torn labrum muscles in both shoulders, so he's just now catching up to his peers in upper-body training.
"About practice six or seven last year he made a play ... and it was almost like, 'Wow, there it is. There's the guy we thought he would be,' " tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. said. "He really ran with those opportunities in the spring."
Defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell, in his second stint with the Razorbacks, is happy to be back on staff with coordinator John Chavis. The pair worked together for 14 seasons at Tennessee (1995-2008), appearing in 13 bowl games and winning the 1998 national championship.
"It's been a lot of fun," Caldwell said. "We know each other's problems, I guess, or however you want to look at it. We know each other real well.
"We have the same moral values. We want the same things for our players. First, just to be good guys. We want them to know that we're good Christian men who happen to be football coaches. We want to have that kind of influence on our players."
The Razorbacks had some of their best defenses during Caldwell's previous tenure with the Hogs from 2010-12. The 2010 team -- featuring linemen Jake Bequette, Tenarius Wright and Chris Smith -- ranked second in the nation with 7.31 tackles for loss and 2.85 sacks per game.
The Arkansas football Twitter account posted a highlight-reel defensive play turned in Thursday by freshman defensive back Joe Foucha.
Defending on a fade route intended for Tobias Enlow while wearing light boxing mitts, Foucha got a hand in to disrupt the pass in the end zone as Enlow was on the brink of hauling it in for a touchdown.
Foucha pried the ball free and gained possession as he tip-toed the boundary. The play likely would have been reviewed as to whether it was an interception or a pass breakup.
Foucha flipped the ball over his shoulder after making the catch, leaned into a camera and said "With the gloves on."
'We before me'
The Razorbacks heard from motivational speaker Jon Gordon this week, who spoke about the power of team.
"It's the we before me concept, where you come together and put the team first," Gordon said in a video released by the UA. "That makes a great team great. We all want commitment, right? But we'll never have commitment without connection. The more connected you are to each other, the more committed you will be for each other.
"When you compete every day in practice, you're not competing against each other, you're competing for each other to make each other better in the process."
Count Jerry Palm of CBSsports.com among those who believe Arkansas will play in a bowl game in Chad Morris' first season.
Palm projects the Razorbacks will play Central Florida in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 22. He also projects Arkansas State University to face Ohio in the Dollar General Bowl on the same day.
Arkansas is among 11 SEC teams in Palm's bowl projections, which also include: Alabama-Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl; Georgia-Texas in the Sugar Bowl; Auburn-Michigan State in the Citrus Bowl; Florida-Purdue in the Outback Bowl; Texas A&M-Michigan in the Gator Bowl; Mississippi State-Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl; South Carolina-Virginia Tech in the Music City Bowl; Missouri-Florida State in the Belk Bowl; LSU-Oklahoma State in the Texas Bowl; and Vanderbilt-Duke in the Independence Bowl.
Strength and conditioning coach Trumain Carroll praised his predecessors in the weight room prior to camp.
"I'm not here to stand up and say that we built any of these players," Carroll said. "They had a great program before. Those coaches did an outstanding job of developing these guys. So all we did was simply come in and introduce some new training styles and try to enhance what was already built."
Ben Herbert, Arkansas' strength and conditioning coach the past five years under Bret Bielema, now holds the same position at Michigan.
Sports on 08/11/2018
Print Headline: DB ready to produce at age 24