FAYETTEVILLE — Rather than returning to Arkansas football for a sixth season, Reid Bauer will enter the transfer portal and use his final year of eligibility elsewhere, he announced Tuesday.
A multi-year starter at punter, the Texas native has also served as the Razorbacks’ holder for field goals and extra points the last two seasons.
“I have been living out my childhood dream these past 5 years and cannot believe how fast those years flew by,” Bauer wrote in a statement shared via Twitter. “I will forever cherish the memories I have made with all of my teammates, especially all the specialists that I have played with.”
While not particularly surprising, the timing of his announcement means he will not be with the team for the yet-to-be-announced bowl game. He is the fifth player in the two-deep who has decided to leave since the end of the regular season and will not play in the postseason.
Stromberg and wide receiver Jadon Haselwood are beginning their professional careers, while backup quarterback Malik Hornsby and defensive back Khari Johnson have announced their intentions to enter the portal like Bauer.
That doesn’t include wide receiver Warren Thompson or defensive back Myles Slusher, who quit the team over the final two weeks of the regular season.
Other portal departures since the start of fall camp have been reserves: wide receiver Jaquayln Crawford, defensive tackle Taylor Lewis, running backs Javion Hunt and James Jointer Jr., defensive backs Chase Lowery and Jacorrei Turner, tight end Erin Outley and defensive end Eric Thomas Jr.
Reid Bauer with the Razorbacks
Many Arkansas football fans will remember Reid Bauer for the two fakes he successfully pulled off during last year’s magical 9-win season capped by a win in the Outback Bowl.
The plays happened in back-to-back weeks late in 2021. First, in a win over LSU, he took off for a 23-yard run to turn a 53-yard field goal attempt into a 27-yarder. The following week, Bauer connected with Blake Kern for a 32-yard touchdown pass on another fake field goal in a tight loss at Alabama.
Thanks to those highlights and his consistency holding for Cam Little’s kicks, he won the 2021 Peter Mortell Holder of the Year award.
However, what shouldn’t go unnoticed about Bauer’s tenure with the Razorbacks is just how unusual it was in modern college football in the age of the transfer portal.
A walk-on from Magnolia, Texas, who joined high school teammate Mike Woods in Fayetteville, Bauer beat out the returning starter and scholarship punter Blake Johnson as a true freshman in 2018.
Still, for the next season, Arkansas brought in Sam Loy as a transfer from Colorado who had actually earned some accolades at Vanderbilt, where he began his career. Loy won the job in 2019 and Bauer ended up redshirting.
Rather than transfer, Bauer stuck out the entire season. He also remained at Arkansas through the coaching change from Chad Morris to Sam Pittman and entered a three-man battle between Loy and George Caratan, a transfer from Michigan who was hand-picked by the new staff.
Caratan opened 2020 as the starter and was backed up by Loy, but a few games into the season, the Razorbacks found themselves going back to the third-teamer, Bauer.
Last season, Bauer and Loy battled it out for the starting job once again. Despite Sam Pittman telling reporters that Loy was leading the race in fall camp, it was Bauer who eventually won and all he did was average 43.3 yards per punt — the 10th-best mark in UA history.
With Loy out of eligibility, Bauer would have been the logical front-runner to start this season, but the Razorbacks used a scholarship to sign a talented punter from Australia in Max Fletcher.
When he lost the battle in fall camp, Bauer had another chance to leave the program, but once again stuck around and — lo and behold — Arkansas ended up turning to him when Fletcher struggled in the first few games of the season.
It was a bit of an up-and-down season for Bauer, who had some consistency issues, but he still ended the season with a 44.6-yard average on 23 punts, nine of which were pinned inside the 20. That average would rank fifth on the UA single-season list, but he didn’t have enough attempts to qualify.
Bauer’s career 42.01-yard average is seventh all-time in UA history, just ahead of Sam Irwin-Hill’s 41.96-yard average. He also ends his career with the sixth-most punts (179) and punt yards (7,519) in school history.
Considering all he went through to reach those totals, a strong case could be made for Bauer as the most loyal Razorback player ever to transfer (in football, basketball and baseball, at least). Others you could make an argument for that title include the likes of Houston Nutt and Desi Sills.
Nutt and Sills were both in-state products who chose to stay home and play for Arkansas. Nutt eventually transferred to Oklahoma State, but made his way back to Fayetteville as an assistant and, eventually, head coach. Sills stuck it out through a coaching change and even returned for a second season under Eric Musselman despite not starting down the stretch his sophomore year.
What it Means for Arkansas Football
Despite his name being sprinkled throughout the record book, Reid Bauer’s departure wasn’t completely surprising. The fact that Arkansas had two punters on scholarship in 2022 was pretty unique and it wasn’t likely that would continue for a second straight year.
Even though he struggled as a true freshman, Max Fletcher is probably viewed as the future at the position and the Razorbacks are putting all of their eggs in that basket.
With a full year in the U.S. under his belt, the hope is that Fletcher be able to improve his consistency, as several of his punts failed to even go 30 yards. That led to an abysmal 37.6-yard average.
However, there were some signs of encouragement, such as 12 of his 32 punts being pinned inside the 20 and 11 being fair caught for no return. In his last appearance, all four of Fletcher’s punts pinned Ole Miss inside the 20 — including a beauty that was downed at the 4.
The bowl game will be his first chance to be the unquestioned starter and could be an indicator of whether or not he was able to build on that performance.
It’s also worth noting that Fletcher and Bauer seemed to get along great despite competing for the same job, so perhaps he learned some from his time as a backup.
“(From) the day I got here, no matter what it was, you were always the first person to help me out, and there is no way I would be in this moment if it wasn’t for you,” Fletcher wrote in a tweet to Bauer. “I’m so grateful for what you have done for me over the past few months. Go be great.”
The only other punter on Arkansas’ roster is redshirt freshman Patrick Foley, a walk-on from Omaha, Neb., but it’s worth noting that starting placekicker Cam Little is listed as a kicker/punter and could also handle those duties if needed.
It won’t be discussed as much, but the biggest question in Bauer’s absence will be who takes over as the holder for kicks. Fletcher will presumably fill in because special teams coordinator Scott Fountain likes his punters to have that role.
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