As the old saying goes: if at first you don’t succeed, try a second graduate transfer quarterback.
This offseason, Arkansas head coach Chad Morris added a pair of experienced players under center — SMU’s Ben Hicks (HERE) and Texas A&M’s Nick Starkel (HERE). Hicks, who was recruited and coached by Morris at SMU before the latter took the Arkansas gig, won the starting job coming out of summer camp, but struggled mightily in two starts (46.7 completion percentage, zero touchdowns) as the Razorbacks began the 2019 campaign 1-1 — and that lone win was by seven over FCS Portland State.
In the second half of the 31-17 loss to Ole Miss in Week 2, Starkel replaced Hicks and played relatively well, completing 17-of-24 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. Monday, Morris announced that Starkel will get the starting nod in this Saturday’s game against Colorado State.
“We felt like coming out of the half, it wasn’t so much what Ben did or didn’t do, it’s what Nick did,” Morris said. “We were looking for a spark, something to get our offense moving, create some momentum, create some yards, give an opportunity for some big plays.
“That was our decision going into it and Nick will be our starter.”
Starkel was the Aggies’ starter to open the 2017 season, but suffered a broken ankle in that game that sidelined him for nearly two months. It turned out to not be a season-ending injury as Starkel returned to start the last four games of Kevin Sumlin‘s final season in College Station, a late-season stint that included a career-high 499-yard effort in a Belk Bowl loss to Wake Forest.
Entering the 2018 offseason as the incumbent, but with a new head coach in Jimbo Fisher in place, Starkel lost the starting job to Kellen Mond and played in just five games last season — the first four of the regular season plus the bowl game. In those appearances, the redshirt sophomore completed 15-of-22 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.