Arkansas football: Why Hogs should go all in on Nick Starkel
Arkansas head coach Chad Morris on Monday named Nick Starkel as his starting quarterback for Saturday when the Razorbacks take on Colorado State. It was a decision long overdue and should be a permanent one.
OK, we all know how invested Morris was and is in Ben Hicks. They made history at SMU. Hicks is the Mustangs’ all-time leading passer with more than 9,000 passing yards. He threw for more than 2,500 yards in 3 consecutive seasons with Morris as his head coach.
Morris was able to pull Hicks away from SMU to be his quarterback at Arkansas. Of course he was going to give his former standout every opportunity to be that guy again at Arkansas. On paper, it seemed like a match made in Hog heaven.
But simply put, Hicks could not transfer what he did at SMU to the SEC. This is the SEC and not the AAC. The talent is far superior and the game is played at a much faster speed. A speed in which has become apparent that Hicks couldn’t process. At least not enough to be successful in his first few games.
The writing on the wall became apparent when Hicks threw for just 143 yards and no touchdowns against Portland State. He fared no better in one half against Ole Miss last week. In those 2 games, Hicks completed just 46.7 percent of his passes (21-for-45) for 241 yards and still no touchdowns.
In just one half against Ole Miss, Starkel found the end zone while completing 17-of-24 passes for 201 yards.
“We’ve all got to respond, that’s what this is about,” Morris said after the loss to Ole Miss.
Well, as much as Morris hoped for success from Hicks, who completed just 7-of-16 passes for 98 yards in the first half against the Rebels, he has responded. Naming Starkel the starting quarterback was the right move and really the only move if the Razorbacks are to salvage the season and compete for a bowl berth.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Starkel provided a spark in the second half on Saturday, now he has to be consistent for an entire game, 10 games to be exact.
Starkel’s arm strength and ability to read SEC defenses makes him the smart choice. Now he must continue to pick up Morris’ offense and the transformation will be complete.
Remember, Starkel was Texas A&M’s starting quarterback as a redshirt freshman to open the 2017 season. But he broke an ankle in the first game against UCLA and didn’t return until late October of that season. He played in 7 games that year, throwing for nearly 1,800 yards with a 60 percent completion average. He threw 14 TDs and 6 INTs and had a QB rating of 150.16.
He capped that season by throwing for 499 yards and 4 TDs in the Belk Bowl against Wake Forest.
It was only upon the arrival of Jimbo Fisher that the more mobile Kellen Mond supplanted Starkel as the Aggies’ starter in a quarterback duel that continued all the way up until the first week of the 2018 season.
Starkel can be considered a veteran quarterback. A veteran of the SEC no less. He just needed an opportunity.
“I just need a crumb. That’s all I’ve been saying,” Starkel said.
Moving forward he should be handed the entire cake. That should be Morris’ plans for the remainder of the season regardless of his loyalties to Hicks. Sure it’s a hard, tough decision. But it’s one that should be dealt with and the quicker the better if you plan on surviving in the SEC.
Morris has made the right move. It’s a move he surely wishes he didn’t have to make. But Morris was faced with a situation and he responded. Now it’s Starkel’s turn to respond. History shows he will.