Third-year quarterback leans on experience in heavily-contested starting battle

The freezing temperatures and harsh winds of a New England winter have officially begun to turn to sunny days on the quad and a warm spring breeze at the University of Rhode Island.

With this, the likes of basketball, indoor track and other winter sports have begun to turn into baseball and softball games, but for URI Football Head Coach Jim Fleming and third-year quarterback Devin Farrell, it is spring football season.

In Farrell’s final two seasons at Milton High School in his home state of Georgia, Farrell led the team to a combined 24-3 record over his two full-time starting campaigns, including a state title appearance. The 27-game stretch saw him throw for 3,969 yards and rush for 1,529 more, with 53 total touchdowns.

When URI’s annual Blue versus White game kicked off on April 13, Farrell, the transfer from Virginia Tech, got the starting nod.

“It was me, Hunter [Helms] and our coach,” Farrell said. “We flipped a coin to see who goes with the first group… I chose heads.”

The call saw Farrell head out to lead the first-team offense, in what would be his first in-game action following a 2023 fall season which saw him go two-for-three through the air for 59-yards and a touchdown. Farrell added an additional 31 yards on five carries in his six games as a backup to long-time starter Kasim Hill (‘23) this season.

Hill’s departure has left a void in URI’s starting lineup at one of the most pivotal positions in football, which had been secure for the previous four seasons. This raised the question of who will lead the offense in week one next season.

“What I was looking for was a competitive situation at the quarterback spot,” Fleming said. “We got three guys that all have playing ability, to play and start at this level.”

Farrell showcased his ability as a starter, completing eight passes for 135 yards and a touchdown for Team Blue, and added 31 yards on the ground on eight carries.

“This spring, the game was slower for me out there,” Farrell said. “My reads are quicker, I’m getting the ball out faster.”

With the game getting slower and the reads getting faster, Farrell continues to elevate his game, according to Farrell, and can bring some of the success that made him so highly touted before he came to URI.

But Farrell is no longer an acclaimed high school quarterback with a near-perfect record or a Power Five football commit at Virginia Tech. Instead, Farrell is competing for a starting position in a crowded QB room with another Power Five transfer in Helms.

“We got a really good competitive situation between him and Hunter,” Fleming said.

The tribulations of competition are only fueling his desire to command the offense next season and building character along the way, according to Farrell.

His current competition echoes his time in his second year of high school, where he won over the reins to the offense mid-season.

“It’s definitely a test of patience, I’m learning patience throughout this whole process,” Farrell said. “It’s helping me become the person I want to be.”

It’s yet to be determined if that person will be the Rams’ signal caller on Aug. 31, when URI faces the College of Holy Cross in their 2024 season opener. Farrell, though, remains fixed on a bigger goal.

“Going forward the only thing on my mind is winning, whatever I can do to help the team win, I don’t have any personal goals,” Farrell said. “We haven’t made it to the playoffs [since 1985], that’s the first thing.”

The mounting competition hasn’t made for an easy decision for Fleming as the team approaches the fall, but Farrell said it has made sights on ending the near four-decade-long playoff seem ever more attainable.