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Nick Starkel Ready for More at Arkansas

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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There are a number of factors that make Nick Starkel, as a transfer-prospect, fascinating.

In Nick Starkel's last start, the then-Texas A&M quarterback completed 42-of-63 passes for 499 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in a Belk Bowl showdown with Wake Forest. It was a record-setting performance for Starkel, who established multiple new marks and very nearly set a new single-game high for passing yards for the Aggies. The final game of his freshman season saw Starkel join an extremely exclusive club; he stands alongside Peyton Manning and Dak Prescott as the only SEC signal callers, ever, with at least 495 passing yards and four passing scores against a Power Five defense. 

History already in tow, Starkel, with Kellen Mond narrowly emerging as Texas A&M's starting quarterback last fall, recently became a highly-targeted graduate transfer. Starkel, leaving his home state but staying in division, will soon head to Arkansas after turning down interest from Florida State, among others. Immediately eligible with two years to play, he becomes a game-changer for Chad Morris and the Razorbacks and, potentially, a player capable of helping Arkansas challenge the status quo in the SEC West. Morris will have Starkel in Fayetteville for fall camp.

Starkel will step into a fluid quarterback situation with the Razorbacks, one where last season's leading passer Ty Storey has transferred to Western Kentucky and Cole Kelley, the team's second-leading passer the past two years, has moved on to Southeastern Louisiana. Back are Daulton Hyatt, John Stephen Jones and Connor Noland, a dual-sport athlete who is also a baseball standout. Noland started the final game of the 2018 season. Highly-touted recruit K.J. Jefferson may also figure into the mix. 

The arrival of veteran signal caller Ben Hicks from SMU was a key addition for Morris. It's a reunion for the quarterback and head coach as Hicks was recruited by Morris and started for two years during his previous tenure with the Mustangs. In a pair of seasons with the now-Arkansas head coach, Hicks threw for 6,499 yards, 52 touchdowns and 27 interceptions, adding 2,582 more yards and 19 more scores, with seven picks, under Sonny Dykes last fall. Hicks, who has been part of spring practice in Fayetteville, has considerable experience and impressive production on his resume.

More competition is coming to a growing quarterback room. 

There are a number of factors that make Starkel, as a transfer-prospect, fascinating. First and foremost: talent. Playing mostly in 2017, he completed nearly 61% of his passes in two years at Texas A&M, throwing for 1,962 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. Secondly, Starkel already knows the SEC well, specifically the SEC West. He has gone head-to-head against every team in the division except his former side and his future one. Starkel, as a freshman, scored against Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss, compiling multiple touchdowns in three of those games. Again, he has two seasons of eligibility remaining. 

Starkel is no stranger to the spotlight. He was effective, even as a redshirt freshman recovering from an injury suffered in game one at UCLA, starting in college football's toughest conference. The numbers back that up. A deep depth chart is nothing new for him, either. Through Starkel's tenure in College Station, he fought for playing time against the likes of Jake Hubenak, Trevor Knight and Mond. 

The road to Arkansas, for Starkel, has gone right through where the Razorbacks hope to go themselves. Interestingly, the final throws of Starkel's Texas A&M career were made against defending SEC Champion Alabama.

Looking ahead at the upcoming Arkansas schedule, Starkel has seen the first seven, and all but one, of the Razorbacks' league foes. Arkansas opens conference play with a week two contest at Ole Miss, an opponent Starkel, with 272 yards passing, helped the Aggies beat 31-24 in 2017. Later, a trip to "Jerry World" to face Texas A&M in Arlington could ultimately prove to be a pivotal game for Starkel and his new team alike.

After a difficult transition year, Arkansas is now starting to take shape under Morris. Competition and confidence are becoming more consistent themes throughout the roster, quarterback included. Having already won in the SEC, with a signature showing highlighting his profile, Starkel is part of Morris' program progression.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports