Age of the Transfer Quarterback
Flashback to 2016, the night of the College Football Playoff semifinals. Jalen Hurts and Kelly Bryant are the marque match-up as these two quarterbacks go under center for Alabama and Clemson, Part 3.
Hurts and the Tide won that night easily 24-6, and the very next game Tua Tagavoila replaced Jalen Hurts at halftime of the National Championship. The world as we knew it in college football will never be the same.
Maybe that wasn’t the exact moment when then the NCAA transfer portal became necessary, but it was certainly the moment we all became aware of the possibilities.
Fast forward an entire season and Jalen Hurts is now in Norman, Oklahoma as the soon-to-be starting quarterback of the Sooners. Kelly Bryant’s new dorm address is in Columbia, Missouri dressed in Tigers colors as he joins the SEC. Times are changing in the NCAA, and so are the jerseys of so many quarterbacks.
There are two ways to successfully transfer school with immediate eligibility for the following season: The first is the Jalen Hurts route. You graduate college, sometimes early, and then are free to pursue a graduate year at the school of your choosing.
The second is a little more complicated, and takes a carefully laid out plan, as a player can transfer and have immediate eligibility if he has played in 4 or less games the previous season and the NCAA agrees that the decision was “due to documented mitigating circumstances that are outside the student-athlete’s control and directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student-athlete.”
Of the 29 players to enter the transfer portal since the start of last academic year, 19 have been successful in getting immediate eligibility. It’s a risk student-athletes take, and not just for their playing career, as the University is able to withdraw a current player’s scholarship if they enter the transfer portal.
The names listed below have successfully cleared the eligibility requirements, with the exception of the future Miami quarterback who is waiting on the NCAA’s ruling. They will be fortunate enough to gain scholarships at another institution.
Jalen Hurts is aiming to be not only the third straight Oklahoma quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy, but the third straight transfer student to do so. He never had to worry about gaining transfer eligibility as he already graduated from the University of Alabama. The former SEC offensive player of the year went 26-2 as a starter and led the team to a 3-1 playoff record, having multiple powerhouse schools pitching him on joining their teams. He played in all but two games in 2018 as a backup, and even in a limited role he showed the poise of a leader patiently waiting for his moment.
When he lines up for his first Big-12 snaps he will have one of the best centers in the country, Creed Humphrey, snapping him the ball, and superstar CeeDee Lamb pulling down his passes. He will also have the ESPN 300 #1 and #3 freshman receivers to play with. Hurts will have a big year for Lincoln Riley, and while he might not be the 3rd straight Heisman winning quarterback for Oklahoma, he should have the Sooners competing for the Big-12 crown and beyond.
Ohio State had to wait almost a month for record-breaking quarterback Dwayne Haskins to announce his decision to turn pro, and they almost missed out on Justin Fields because of it.
What a way for Ryan Day to begin his tenure as the head coach of the Buckeyes now that he has brought in one of the most highly sought-after players in recruiting history.
Fields went to Georgia last summer knowing that reigning starter Jake Fromm had just brought the Bulldogs to the national championship as a true freshman, and he ended up sitting on the bench most of the season as his back up because of it. Now the 6’3, 221-pound dual threat quarterback with blazing speed and a power arm takes on the Big-10 behind a massive offensive line and talent at every skill position.
While Lincoln Riley is getting twelve games of Jalen Hurts this fall, Day could get as much as three years with Fields. This isn’t just a homerun for a first-time head coach, it’s a grand slam that takes the Ohio State University from the 6th place finish they had in 2018 to what should be a CFP birth when it’s all said and done.
Missouri was the earliest winner of this transfer era, as former Clemson starter Kelly Bryant left the ACC just a month into the season and was in Columbia almost immediately.
While the Tigers still have a long way to go to be relevant in SEC competition, this move was more about Bryant’s future than it is about winning a conference title. Bryant needs a year in a quarterback friendly system with a coach who can groom him for the next level. That is what he has here in Derek Dooley’s system, one that showcased Drew Lock as a sure-fire NFL passer.
Bryant showed his dual-threat style of play under Dabo Swiney at Clemson, but now in an Air-Raid style of offense, Bryant is going to let is all go from the pocket in a sink or swim season for him. Missouri has a NCAA postseason ban this year, so even more so this year is about Kelly Bryant proving he is worthy of a Sunday contract.
Miami is taking a risk, although with their current roster of quarterbacks it’s a risk worth taking, as they have brought in former Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell to play quarterback in 2019 for the Hurricanes. The risk is that the NCAA has still yet to announce their ruling on his immediate eligibility, but when he does eventually suit up, Miami will be getting a signal caller with play-making ability that will star in Dan Enos’ offense.
The 1st-year Miami offensive coordinator is bringing with him the offense that shined last year in Tuscaloosa and had Tua Tagavolia as the nation’s most efficient passer. While no one expects Martell to come in and put up the numbers that Enos experienced last season with his Heisman runner-up quarterback, Martell should be able to shine in a system that sets passers up with quick and easy reads, paired with a strong running attack and a play-action scheme that could trick even the most studious of a linebacker.
Very quietly, Washington may have just secured themselves another Pac-12 title through last summer’s transfer system. Jacob Eason was the 2nd highest ranked quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class and he went on to start at Georgia almost immediately.
That didn’t last long as true freshman Jake Fromm took over, and left Eason with a hard decision. In 2017 the transfer rules were that a player had to sit out an entire year before being eligible at a new school. Eason saw that Fromm was the ‘Dawgs quarterback for the future and with Washington entering the final year with Jake Browning, he packed his bags and moved on to be a Husky.
While he technically isn’t a 2018 transfer, this is the first year he is eligible, and he should take over under center immediately. He has a strong arm, is entering the season healthy and motivated, and is stepping into an offense that will set him up for success. Expect him to be in the hunt for the nation’s passing yards title this fall.
Trevor Lawrence won the starting job at Clemson, along with a National Championship, and in doing so kicked Kelly Bryant and Hunter Johnson to the curb. A 5-star recruit, Johnson was the first one to leave the Tigers and had to sit out the whole 2018 season.
Now with eligibility in his pocket, Johnson will be a redshirt-Sophomore in a Pat Fitzgerald offense that just showcased Clayton Thorson as an overachieving strong-armed quarterback who excelled in the right system and threw for over 10,000 yards. This is a really underrated move that no one is talking about, but we should be. With two almost guaranteed out of conference wins against UNLV and UMass, and home games against Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa and Purdue, this could be a big year for Northwestern and a reason for Wildcat fans to be counting down days until opening kickoff.
This time last year we were talking about Brandon Wimbush leading the Fighting Irish and Shane Buchele starring for the Longhorns, and oh my have things changed. After starting 12-games for Notre Dame in 2017, Wimbush was replaced early on in 2018 by Ian Book, forcing the once-starter to pack his pads for UCF. After a freshman year where he hurled 21 touchdowns, Buchele sat on the pine as he watched Sam Ehlinger take over for Texas, and now finds himself moving on to SMU. Both quarterbacks were once the star at big-time Universities and now find themselves outside the Power-5 conference in the AAC. Wimbush is a place holder while McKensie Milton recovers from ACL surgery, and he should be able to lead the Golden Knights to a promising campaign. Buchele leaves the Longhorns with 4,600 career yards and 29 touchdowns in his pocket but will be taking over an offense that was just 6th in AAC scoring last fall
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