It's been a interesting rise on the Arkansas depth chart for former U.S. Army All-American and Iowa quarterback-turned-linebacker A.J. Derby and some of it happened without even taking a snap over the summer.
Derby (6-5, 240), who had offers from Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Miami, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Stanford and Wisconsin before signing with Iowa out of high school, has been elevated from a fourth-string walk on signal caller starting spring practice to currently being starter Brandon Allen's back-up.
"I feel very, very blessed," Derby said. "I am as happy as I could be and I love this staff. I feel like it is the best fit for me. I love the staff and I love the players around me."
He moved up when senior Brandon Mitchell transferred to North Carolina State and Taylor Reed, who he beat out in the spring, left for UCA.
Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said Tuesday that Derby was looking much better than he did in the spring.
"This is exactly why I came here," Derby said. "I am very excited to be in this position and I have just got to keep working. Brandon and I worked hard over the summer and we both are just going to do everything we can to help this team win."
Derby signed with Iowa after a standout high school career in which he passed for 1,820 yards, rushed for 752 yards and also averaged 40.8 yards punting his senior season while leading Iowa City to a state title.
He played nine games as a redshirt freshman back-up quarterback at Iowa - completing 3-of-6 passes for 30 yards - before being moved to linebacker after a two-game suspension due to being arrested for criminal mischief and public intoxication.
Derby still wanted to be a quarterback and chose to transfer to Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College where he passed for 1,936 yards with 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season as a sophomore.
"I wanted to play quarterback and just thought I needed a fresh start," Derby said. "I feel like it all worked out this way for a reason."
Derby then had a scholarship offers from Houston and Akron, but chose to walk on at Arkansas and compete for the starting job with the knowledge that Razorback Tyler Wilson was headed to the NFL.
"I just felt like it was a great opportunity for me and that's certainly how it has worked out," Derby said.
Derby said he made it a point this summer to put in extra time on and off the field and that's why he seems have made a progression from the spring.
"It's just my knowledge of the game and working on my fundamentals every single day and trying to be the best quarterback I can be," Derby said. "I have felt good out there so far.
"I worked on velocity and my footwork to get my legs more involved in it," Derby added. "I also dove into the playbook to get more comfortable with it when I am back there. When you do that, you just throw the ball so much better."
Derby has enjoyed being around Chaney.
"Coach Chaney is awesome," Derby said. "He is a great guy, always has a lot of energy and is a lot of fun to be around. At the same time, he coaches you hard."
He also does not think the Arkansas offense will simply be ground-and-pound.
"We have a lot of explosive possibilities in this offense with the guys we had in the spring and the young guys coming in," Derby said. "We have the ability to throw the ball down the field to go along with our run game. It is mix-and-match. I think it is going to be great."
One would think that Derby might get a scholarship now that he is the back-up quarterback.
"I haven't even really thought of that to be honest with you," Derby said. "I don't think of myself as being different than any other guy."
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