FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Rafe Peavey’s seemingly abrupt transfer Tuesday was met with some surprise. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that the redshirt sophomore seemed like a sure bet to end up as Arkansas’ No. 2 quarterback this season behind starter Austin Allen.
And only 20 days ago — when Arkansas opened fall camp — the prevailing attitude when it came to the Hogs’ crowded quarterback room could be summed up in one glass-half-full question at a news conference.
“What is the secret to keeping five quarterbacks happy, and nobody transfers? That’s been a little unusual,” a reporter asked coach Bret Bielema on August 4.
But the truth is, at least one of the young Arkansas quarterbacks — whether it was Peavey, Ty Storey, Ricky Town or even true freshman Cole Kelley — was always likely to transfer at some point.
Heck, Town already has transferred, from USC to Arkansas a year ago this month.
Quarterbacks aren’t like other football players. The second- or third- or fourth or maybe even fifth-best running back, receiver, linebacker and cornerback on any given team might have a reasonable shot at playing some role, even if it’s on special teams. Or maybe those players can change positions to get a better opportunity for playing time.
Signal callers, meanwhile, don’t usually have those same opportunities.
(Yes, Damon “Duwop” Mitchell has switched from quarterback to receiver to running back during his time in Fayetteville, but that isn’t the norm. Quarterbacks are usually either unwilling or unable to make such a change.)
Despite a summer back surgery, Peavey entered fall camp as the No. 2 guy, with Storey third and Town fourth. Kelley jumped into the fray earlier this month and quickly made a big impression on Bielema and offensive coordinator Dan Enos with his big arm, and before you knew it, the Lafayette, La., product was actually in the discussion to be Allen’s primary backup.
The Hogs’ first scrimmage provided a little more clarity when Storey effectively ran the second-team offense, completing all five of his pass attempts for 62 yards and a touchdown.
From around that point forward, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Peavey, who received precisely zero snaps in the Razorbacks’ second scrimmage last Saturday as Storey and Kelley split second-team reps.
And don’t be surprised if another one of Arkansas’ young quarterbacks eventually transfers, too.
Should Kelley one day surpass Storey on the depth chart and become Allen’s heir apparent, Storey could very well choose to look elsewhere.
Or if 2017 quarterback commit Daulton Hyatt shows up and blazes up the depth chart, maybe Kelley decides to look elsewhere.
Town, who is pretty clearly sitting in fourth place right now and has already transferred once, might choose to explore an FCS or Division II school after this season to avoid losing a year of eligibility.
The point is, quarterbacks transfer all the time at this level. The days of quarterbacks patiently waiting his turn, or falling down the depth chart behind younger guys and trying to fight his way back up, are gone.
If a Division I quarterback begins to feel like he’s going to end up buried on the depth chart and still believes he can play, it’s often in his best interest to transfer and get in a new system as quickly as possible.
Just look at Arkansas’ schedule. It includes three opponents with projected starting quarterbacks who have voluntarily transferred at some point during their careers.
Kenny Hill left Texas A&M for TCU when he fell behind Kyle Allen on the depth chart in 2014.
Trevor Knight graduated from Oklahoma and transferred to Texas A&M after losing his job to Baker Mayfield, who transferred himself from Texas Tech to OU.
Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio transferred twice — he was with Alabama and Oregon State previously — before winning the Gators’ preseason quarterback battle.
And just to be clear: There’s not a single thing wrong with any of these quarterbacks transferring. Peavey has every right to do what’s best for him. Maybe he’ll become a star at SMU.
But the idea that somehow Arkansas would be able to retain all five of its scholarship quarterbacks — and then add a sixth next year with Hyatt — never made much sense.
Someone was going to leave eventually.
That’s simply the college football world we live in today.