Rice running back Emmanuel Esukpa will graduate from the university and pursue a graduate transfer, the junior posted on his Twitter account.
Esukpa started his season with strong performances against Prairie View A&M, Houston and Hawaii. In those three games, he posted 358 yards on 66 carries with two touchdowns. However, Esukpa dealt with injuries for much of the 2018 season and could never get back into rhythm after missing five games.
The junior posted 122 carries for 461 yards, and three touchdowns, but finished averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. After the strong start, Esukpa averaged a brutal 1.8 yards per rush attempt in his final four appearances, including 10 carries for 18 yards in the Owls’ loss to UTEP. He ran for 778 yards and six touchdowns in a Rice uniform.
In addition to Esukpa, electric running back Austin Walter graduates. He led the program with 1,089 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns. However, Esukpa’s departure should open the door for Arlington Martin freshman Juma Otoviano to get more touches heading forward. Otoviano posted 224 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in the season-ending win over Ole Dominion on Nov. 24.
Esukpa is the third Rice player to announce their transfer from the program. Quarterback Jackson Tyner will leave as a grad transfer, and safety Houston Robert leaves as a traditional transfer.
The Owls also had a mass exodus after David Bailiff was fired in 2017. Offensive tackle Calvin Anderson (Texas), defensive back JT Ibe (South Carolina), defensive lineman Preston Gordon (Texas Tech) and defensive back V.J. Banks (Colorado State) were all entrenched starters that grad transferred before the 2018 season.