As was the case last season, when several Owl starters transferred from West University, this season the Owls are set to lose several key players from the 2018 squad. Via various outlets, including the great Rice site The Roost and Twitter. As of December 7th, Houston Robert, Justin Bickham, Emmanuel Esukpa, and Jackson Tyner are all taking their diplomas and heading out.
Robert started five games this season at strong safety and eight games over his Rice career. He’s a rising senior from Baton Rouge. He eventually gave way to freshman Prudy Calderon this season. You’ll notice that the youth movement becomes a theme.
Emmanuel Esukpa looked like a world beater early this season, rushing for 100 yards in two of the first three Rice contests. Injuries limited Esukpa the rest of the season and eventually freshman Juma Otoviano. Esukpa came to Rice from Mansfield.
Quarterback Jackson Tyner was always there for Rice when they needed him. The rising senior from Edgewood started three games for the Owls over the last three years. When Tyner wasn’t starting, he was the first option off the bench. In the 2018 spring game, Tyner played practically every snap out of necessity. Bloomgren’s new regime never started Tyner, turning to grad transfer Shawn Stankavage, then true freshman Wiley Green.
Justin Bickham, a cornerback, started as a true freshman but redshirted his sophomore after an injury. He started eight games as a redshirt sophomore then ten games this season. Redshirt freshman TyRae Thornton replaced Bickham for the final three games at corner.
You can’t blame these guys for looking elsewhere. They have a Rice degree and now have a chance to be part of a better football circumstance. Calvin Anderson for example transferred to Texas for the 2018 season, he’s started for the Longhorns and will start the Sugar Bowl against Georgia.
J.T. Ibe transferred to South Carolina and spent the 2018 season competing in the SEC and starting five games in the SEC.
Best of luck to these Rice grads in whatever comes next.