Utah quarterback Brett Elliott has opted to pass on his senior season with the Utes.
The former starter, who lost his position as a result of an injury and the rapid development of Alex Smith, is transferring to Division III Linfield College near his home in Oregon.
"It was a hard decision," Elliott said. "I have no ill feelings. It's kind of a unique situation."
Because of semester rules that govern Division III athletics, Elliott has been told he'll have two years of eligibility at the school — just what a guy in search of playing time wanted to hear. He plans to enroll in February.
"I talked to him at length about it, and I'll be honest with you, I don't know if I can disagree with him," Ute coach Urban Meyer said. "You have to know Brett Elliott. Brett Elliott cares about one thing, and that's playing. I respect that."
Elliott started eight consecutive games for Utah before getting injured on a failed two-point conversion late in Utah's 28-26 loss at Texas A&M on Sept. 6. He fractured his wrist on the play and was sidelined for four weeks. By the time it healed, Smith had established himself as the starter. Elliott never played again.
Though they competed for the starting job, Smith and Elliott remained friends and even roomed together on the road. Elliott is hopeful his former teammates understand his quest for playing time and wishes them the best of luck in the future.
"It's hard to leave," he said. "(Utah is) an awesome program that is going up and up."
Elliott's departure, coupled with the loss of senior Lance Rice, leaves the Utes thin at quarterback. Meyer said a newcomer will have to become the backup next season.
"That puts us in pretty dire straits at quarterback depth-wise," Meyer said. "We basically have one quarterback now. I've never heard of that before."
The situation failed to sway Elliott's decision, however.
"It's going to hurt our football team, and I tried to take that approach," Meyer said. "He's a broken chinstrap away from playing in front of 50,000 people. That appeals to a lot of people but doesn't appeal to him. He just wants to play."
Elliott, who was 4-4 as a starter at Utah, said he was real nervous about telling Meyer and quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen of his desire to leave and seek a release from the program. Though he considered the possibility for several weeks, a final decision wasn't made until this week.
The former Oregon high school player of the year is flying to Salt Lake Sunday to collect his belongings and begin the process of moving. Elliott completed 159 of 280 passes for 1,833 yards and 12 touchdowns in his career with the Utes.