Santoro: Hotshot transfer QB? Pack has been down this road before

Nevada’s Shane Illingworth, shown playing against Boise State, is one of a number of transfer quarterbacks to play for the Wolf Pack since 2017.

Nevada’s Shane Illingworth, shown playing against Boise State, is one of a number of transfer quarterbacks to play for the Wolf Pack since 2017.
Nevada Appeal file

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Sports Fodder:

The Nevada Wolf Pack seems to have finally found a quarterback. Yes, we know, you've heard that one before. But this time it might be real.

The Pack received a commitment from former Florida State and Nebraska quarterback Chubba Purdy, the brother of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, this past week.

How can you not like a guy named Chubba who grew up with a possible Super Bowl quarterback? Chubba just might turn out to be the Wolf Pack’s best dual-threat quarterback since Cody Fajardo a decade ago.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder has been limited to just 16 games over the past four years (two each at Florida State and Nebraska) because of stiff competition and injuries. He’s completed 85-of-163 passes overall for 846 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions and has run for 315 yards and three scores.

Purdy, though, is a dynamic talent with both his arm and his legs. He stunned a Wisconsin crowd of 72,237 this past Nov. 18 with a 55-yard touchdown run and 58-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter of a 24-17 Nebraska overtime loss.

Purdy’s father Shawn, a former minor-league pitcher in the 1990s (he advanced as far as Triple-A with the San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves) gave his son Preston the nickname “Chubba” because he was a chubby 1-year-old.

Chubba, who will compete with returning quarterbacks Brendon Lewis, A.J. Bianco and Shane Illingworth at Nevada for playing time, has been attached to numerous programs since graduating from Perry High School in Gilbert, Ariz. He originally committed to Louisville out of high school but switched to Florida State before signing day. He transferred from Florida State to Nebraska for the 2022 season. He then committed to San Jose State just a week ago but switched to Nevada when San Jose State coach Brent Brennan left to become the head coach at Arizona.

The Wolf Pack should be thankful that Brennan didn’t take Purdy with him to Arizona, a natural fit for the well-traveled quarterback.


Purdy, though he does have a famous brother who is one victory away from the Super Bowl, isn’t the first highly recruited quarterback from a major program to come and save the day for the Pack.

The Pack, by the way, is still waiting to be saved.

Jay Norvell grabbed David Cornwell from Alabama in 2017 and Malik Henry from Florida State in 2019.

Cornwell never played at Alabama and lasted just a couple months at Nevada before quitting. He played one game for the Pack, completing 13-of-25 passes for 97 yards with three interceptions and no touchdowns in a blowout loss at Washington State.

Henry also never played at Florida State, but he got into three games for the Pack before getting kicked off the active roster in the middle of the 2019 season. He was 42-of-78 for 593 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions for the Pack.

Ken Wilson brought in Shane Illingworth in 2022 from Oklahoma State and Brendon Lewis from Colorado last year.

Illingworth played in seven games in two seasons for Oklahoma State, completing 69-of-120 passes for 939 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. Illingworth has played in seven games the last two years at Nevada, completing 99-of-172 passes for 936 yards, two scores and four interceptions.

Lewis played three seasons at Colorado, completing 119-of-304 passes for 1,727 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. He completed 131-of-236 passes for 1,313 yards and ran for 495 yards and four touchdowns last year as the Pack’s main starter, but with just two touchdowns and six interceptions.


New Pack football coach Jeff Choate has already brought in an impressive haul of talent from the transfer portal.

Among the players Choate has gotten commitments from recently are three from West Virginia (safeties Davis Mallinger and Keyshawn Cobb, wide receiver Cortez Braham), another safety from Texas (Kitan Crawford), a couple linebackers (Austin Harnetiaux from Washington and Kaden Johnson from Wisconsin), cornerback Nate Floyd from Texas Tech and Washington State offensive lineman Jakobus Seth.

The Pack roster, at least on paper, has been injected with a ton of talent and hope. But it’s a roster now predominantly a hodgepodge, random soup of transfer portal players left over from the Wilson era combined with Choate’s haul.

Get used to it, Pack fans. This is the new Wolf Pack in the transfer portal era.


Why would Purdy choose Nevada over San Jose State, where he could live with his brother Brock if he wanted to?

If he’s such a great talent, then why did he commit to two Mountain West schools with little NIL money when big-time programs are falling all over themselves trying to make quarterbacks into instant millionaires?

These are questions, if you are Nevada, you don’t ask. You just take all of that talent with open arms and hope for the best.

The upside with Purdy is, well, almost too good to be true. He’s got a strong arm, the ability to break open a game with his legs, a huge dose of competitiveness after growing up with Brock and a quarterback mind that has been groomed since he was a chubby 1-year-old.

He’s also, at 22-years old (just roughly 14 months younger than Brock), not wet-behind-the ears and won’t be awed by anything he sees in the Mountain West.

If the Purdy family can produce a quarterback that might be going to a Super Bowl next month, it can certainly produce a Mountain West champion.


Brock Purdy, though, needs to play a whole lot better this week against the Detroit Lions than he did last week against the Green Bay Packers if he wants to go to that Super Bowl in Las Vegas.

The 49ers should have lost to the Packers. Purdy wasn’t awful. He was also missing one of his most potent weapons in Deebo Samuel and it was a rainy, sloppy mess the entire game. But Purdy looked more like the last player taken in the draft two years ago than he did a guy who should be in a Super Bowl.

But there was Purdy, stepping up and leading the 49ers on a game-winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. Joe Montana would have been proud.

The 49ers, though, are fortunate Sunday’s game is in the Bay Area, where they are a touchdown favorite. If it doesn’t rain all day and Samuel is able to get back on the field the 49ers should be able to cover the spread. The 49ers’ defense should be able to remind Lions’ quarterback Jared Goff that he is Jared Goff.


The AFC title game has an epic quarterback matchup between the Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes.

Goff and Purdy need help from their teammates to win games. Jackson and Mahomes only need Jackson and Mahomes.

The Ravens, simply because the game is in Baltimore, are a field goal favorite. But never bet against Mahomes.

Jackson can run and drive defenses crazy and he knows how to make plays on occasion with his arm. And, yes, the Ravens are on a roll right now.

But Jackson will never be Mahomes. It is almost impossible to beat Mahomes in the playoffs. Jackson has accomplished next to nothing in the postseason.

There’s no doubt the Ravens have the ability to just come out and blow out the Chiefs. (The Chiefs don’t blow out anybody this year.) Jackson might be able to run around and mask all his flaws in the passing game. If that happens the game might be over by the middle of the third quarter. The Ravens are playing that well right now and they’ll be at home.

But don’t bet against Mahomes.


The Wolf Pack men’s basketball team needs to stop the bleeding. The current three-game losing streak has dropped the Pack down to No. 55 in the latest NET rankings, behind five other Mountain West teams.

Now, if you think the NCAA Tournament committee is going to take six Mountain West teams to the tournament in March, then there is nothing to be worried about.

But if the Pack, now 15-4 overall and 2-3 in the Mountain West, wants to take the decision out of the committee’s hands (always a good idea), then the losing has to stop.

The Pack has two more difficult games this week, at home against Colorado State on Wednesday and on the road at New Mexico on Sunday.

The Pack already has had its 15-1 run this year. It was a run built, for the most part, on playing mediocre-to-bad teams and getting all the calls at home from the officials.

The Pack has only beaten one team (TCU at No. 37) in the current Top 75 of the NET. Most of their wins have come against teams ranked 115 or worse.

Now, make no mistake, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what you should do in the non-conference portion of your schedule when it’s perfectly customary to schedule a bum-of-the-week parade to come to your building.

But now it’s time to prove that 15-1 wasn’t a complete fraud. It’s time to beat a Colorado State at home and maybe a New Mexico, Boise State or Utah State on the road and certainly a UNLV home and away.

It’s time to grow up.


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