The NFL has a free-agent program that ensures the players' ability to market themselves to the highest bidder. While the salary cap prevents them from being overcompensated, free agency simultaneously guarantees that they can play as long as they are willing and able to play at the pro level.
What if college football had free agency? Say a player originally signed with Alabama, but the guy in front of him on the depth chart was going to keep him off the field for every year but the last one. What if those players could simply sell themselves to any team that could use their talent?
It would certainly make college football more competitive, and it would allow players to make life-changing decisions every step of their journey between national signing day and the moment they declare for the draft. (As opposed to just on national signing day.)
For the purposes of this article, all players will be treated the same. There will be no "restricted" or "unrestricted" label placed on anyone. Any player who isn't a starter on the depth chart (on offense or defense) or is a starter in a BCS non-AQ conference is eligible for free agency. The school that gives up the player listed will receive one extra slot for the 2014 class to make up for the player that left.
Also, the usual one-year waiting period for the transferred player will be waived. Any player that switches schools can play for the new school immediately.
*All conference standings are from ESPN.com
With Alabama's 2013 recruiting class, DeAndrew White's chances of seeing the field as a starter greatly shrank. He's a wide receiver, and Amari Cooper already came in 2012 and earned superstar status as a freshman.
The recruits are getting more and more talented, and some of the great players on the depth chart are getting lost in the shuffle. Fortunately, there's a place somewhere for White.
Florida State is replacing a star quarterback who fell just two games shy of a national championship last season, and the Seminoles could use all the help they can get. Everybody wins here. Alabama has an extra recruit to sign in 2014, White gets the chance to be a star on a great team and Florida State gets a stellar receiver who wouldn't see time at the more talent-loaded school.
Kyle Van Noy would fit right into TCU's top-notch defense, and he might push them over the edge to a Big 12 title.
Van Noy was solely responsible for awakening BYU in the bowl game this past season, and he scored two of the team's three touchdowns. Linebackers get excited when they score a touchdown in a career. This guy scored two in one game.
TCU's defense ranked 30th in the country last year, and that was mostly due to the Horned Frogs being in the Big 12 for their first season.
BYU is further away from contending for a national title than TCU is, and Van Noy would be making a great career move to take his lethal skill set to the Big 12.
If he pushed TCU over the hump for a share of a conference title, he would have a great chance of playing for a national title in 2013.
It's a long shot, but if Florida Gulf Coast can be in the Sweet 16, TCU can win a Big 12 title in its second year in the conference.
Sam Ukwuachu could help Tennessee rebuild its defense from the ground up. Granted, the Vols' line wasn't the worst part of the defense last season, but it still wasn't the best in the SEC, either.
Tennessee had a terrible (translated: ranked 107th) defense in 2012, and Ukwuachu is a much-needed dose of skill that the Vols could translate into a bowl game as early as December 2013.
Boise State had the nation's No. 8 scoring defense last season, and Ukwuachu was a Freshman All-American. He was clearly a big part of Boise's success in 2012, and he could help turn the Tennessee program around.
If he was on the squad that changed Tennessee's fortune, he would be a bigger star in Knoxville than he already is in Boise.
Texas Tech alternated between a lockdown defense and a Swiss-cheese defense last season. Darian Thompson would easily help the Red Raiders have more consistency in the secondary.
Thompson was another all-conference player from the Boise State Broncos in 2012, and he would be a valuable addition to the Texas Tech roster.
The Red Raiders were 92nd in scoring defense in 2012, and they would gladly take the all-conference player and let him fix that ranking. The Red Raiders' offense was 20th nationally, so all they need to do is buckle down on defense and let the offense win games.
Thompson would be the first step in locking down the field on defense.
While Central Michigan (74th) did finish behind Oklahoma (61st) in rushing yards per game, Tipton's transfer to Oklahoma would put the Sooners in great position to storm through the Big 12 in 2013.
Getting over the loss of Landry Jones is going to force Oklahoma to do things that it's not used to. That will be either losing games or running the ball for success while the new quarterback gets broken in.
Tipton had a lot to do with the Chippewas' 7-6 season that ended with a bowl win over Western Kentucky. If he were on the Sooners, they might have had enough clout to get by Kansas State and Notre Dame. The Kansas State loss was by only five points, so that would have been a win with Tipton on the roster.
Notre Dame is another story entirely, and Oklahoma got dominated badly in that game. Tipton may not have been enough to tip those scales. Either way, Oklahoma would have been the outright Big 12 champion with Tipton's efforts.
A conference title may not happen in 2013 with or without Tipton, but it would certainly be more probable with him on the field.
Oklahoma needs a quarterback, and Tyler Tettleton would benefit from consistent national exposure. One loss at Oklahoma won't get him off prime time like it did at Ohio in 2012.
Oklahoma loses Landry Jones this offseason, and the Sooners' 2012 performance didn't give their fans much hope that 2013 will be nearly as successful.
Tettleton went 228-of-367 for 2,844 yards, 18 touchdowns and just four interceptions. That four-interception stat looks even better when you take his 26 sacks into account.
If you put Tettleton behind a Big 12 offensive line, he'd set the conference's defenses on fire.
It doesn't look like Phillip Sims is going to play football in 2013, and the move to Colorado State would put him back under Jim McElwain. If anyone can talk some sense into Sims, it would be his old offensive coordinator from Alabama.
He knows exactly what Sims did to stay off the field in Tuscaloosa (other than not being as good as AJ McCarron), and he can coach Sims more in one year than any other coach could do with two. Plus, Colorado State would love a starting quarterback that could do the things Sims does.
He's a threat in the ground game, and he's an accurate passer if you can give him the same offensive coordinator for just two seasons. Seriously, he needs some consistency, even if he has to move more than 1,000 miles to get it.
Sims is better than his college career shows, but he's running out of time to prove that.
Blake Sims is the second Sims to be kept at No. 2 by AJ McCarron and his national championships. (Phillip Sims of Virginia was behind McCarron during the 2011 championship run.)
To make matters worse, Blake's got heavier competition than McCarron coming in with the 2013 signing class. He should go ahead and move to USC. USC needs an experienced quarterback with Sims' size while it trains its 2013 recruits.
Sure, he might get passed by a new recruit at USC in 2014 or so, but he would be an instant starter over Max Wittek this season. If he's looking for an opportunity to prove that he can be a difference-maker, then the better shot is at USC.
Pittsburgh needs a quarterback like Case McCoy, and McCoy would be elated to get out from under the shadow of his older brother.
Granted, a part of that shadow will fall on him no matter where he plays, but the shadow is strongest at the source. Case's older brother took Texas to a national championship game. Every time little McCoy doesn't do that, he knows deep within himself that he's disappointing the Texas crowd.
McCoy could do good things for Pittsburgh, and things aren't happening for him in Texas. It's time for him to go. He has a ton of potential, and it doesn't look like the Longhorns can tap into it.
Jordan Lynch would fit right into Georgia Tech's run-first killer offense that destroyed the USC Trojans in the Sun Bowl.
Lynch could push the Yellow Jackets right into national contention. They finished No. 4 in rushing and No. 119 in passing yards last season while Lynch was busy breaking records for both.
Lynch's unique talents would move Georgia Tech up the ACC like Johnny Manziel moved Texas A&M up the SEC. Lynch is a stellar athlete, and the Yellow Jackets' strength is their athleticism.
If Lynch had a good ACC offensive line in 2012, Northern Illinois would have beaten Florida State in the Orange Bowl. He would have the opportunity to win an Orange Bowl every season if he switched conferences.
Also, he would raise his draft stock immensely by being successful in a major conference.
Missouri needs all the help it can get. After the injury-riddled 2012 season, any proficient player is welcome. To buff up the Tigers' defense, Demarcus Lawrence would be a great start.
Lawrence was a First Team All-Mountain West defensive end, and the Tigers would jump right to the middle of the SEC with his talent and slightly fewer injuries.
Missouri could use a great all-around defensive end. The Tigers had issues stopping both the run and the pass last season, and Lawrence would definitely improve that situation immediately.
He can't fix the injury issues that occurred in 2012, but he can make sure that the offense doesn't have to do quite as much to win games in 2013.
Gunner Kiel is transferring, but the Florida State Seminoles will not be getting their hopes up. The Fighting Irish are joining the ACC this coming season, and that will likely prevent Kiel from joining the conference's ranks (even though Notre Dame will be a non-football member).
Under the free-agency rules that were established in the intro slide, the move to Florida State is perfectly legal. After watching EJ Manuel play in the Senior Bowl, the Seminoles would be overjoyed to see Kiel's name on the depth chart.
Kiel would also relish the opportunity to step immediately onto the field for a potential national contender.
Indiana lost four games last season by less than a touchdown apiece, and the Hoosiers finished with four wins. Considering quarterback Cameron Coffman's 15-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio, that's actually impressive.
Indiana doesn't need a Heisman winner under center to contend for the Big Ten title; the Hoosiers just need a viable quarterback with the ability to make better decisions than Coffman. That man is Matt Joeckel (All-American offensive lineman Luke Joeckel's brother).
An eight-win season for the Hoosiers is on the other side of this acquisition. That would be a huge plus for both Joeckel's resume and the Hoosiers' recruiting pitch.
Dee Hart came to Alabama as a tailback prospect. While the Tide are currently trying him out on defense, there are plenty of talented players at Alabama on that side of the ball, too. The odds of him breaking into a starting role are just as low there.
Although there is a higher injury rate for running backs than defenders, Hart would be playing in a less grueling conference if he switched to the UNC Tar Heels. On top of that, he'd have the size to be the next Giovani Bernard for the Heels.
With the ridiculous signing classes that Nick Saban puts together, the extra recruit in 2014 would be worth letting Hart go to North Carolina. Hart has spent far too much time at No. 2 or 3 on the depth chart. It's time to let him shine elsewhere.
Jeff Driskel didn't work out extremely well in 2012. In fact, Driskel led the nation's No. 118 passing attack. On the flip side of the coin, David Fales led San Jose State to the No. 6 spot in the same category.
Fales almost beat Stanford with a Western Athletic Conference roster around him, and he would be legendary with an SEC supporting cast. He would naturally go through some growing pains, but he would be a giant leap forward from Driskel.
Note to Florida staff: A giant leap forward from Driskel is a national championship.
Cody Fajardo had a statistically excellent season in 2012, and Nevada finished fifth in the Mountain West Conference in its inaugural year.
Arkansas loses Tyler Wilson to the draft this season, and they are again in transition to a new coach. Bearing in mind that no coach could do worse with Arkansas than John L. Smith did, it would be nice if the new coach didn't have the misfortune of arriving during a quarterback change as well.
If the Razorbacks had Fajardo under center, that would be a huge weight off the shoulders of everyone on the team.
Maryland and Alabama are the two schools whose names appear most on this list. Alabama appears a lot because there's just a nearly unfair amount of talent on the roster.
Maryland appears because the Terrapins finished 104th, 115th and 109th in the three major offensive categories. There isn't a single aspect of the offense that couldn't use an improvement or two.
The tight end position would be nicely boosted by Malcolm Faciane from Alabama. Faciane spent a lot of time backing up the secondary so far during his stint in Tuscaloosa, but Alabama's two great tight ends are gone now.
Faciane needed to move over to offense, but his competition is fierce. He's likely to play second fiddle to Jalston Fowler for the remainder of his career, even if they're on the field at the same time.
Faciane could use the actual on-field experience, and Maryland needs talented bodies on offense. It may sound idiotic to say that a defender from the SEC could outplay an offensive player in the ACC, but Maryland's stats speak for themselves.
Marcus Lattimore was a talented running back for South Carolina. (He's still talented, but he won't be playing for the Gamecocks anymore.) Trayion Durham is a talented running back for Kent State.
Durham has spent his time with the Golden Flashes building a solid reputation. If you put him behind the Gamecocks' offensive line and under Steve Spurrier's tutelage, Durham would easily fill the hole Lattimore left.
South Carolina has contended for the SEC in most of the seasons that Spurrier has coached. Durham (and Georgia's tougher schedule in 2013) would be the deciding factor that pushed the Gamecocks over the hump to a divisional title.
His 1,316 rushing yards from 2012 certainly hint that he could be the difference-maker.
West Virginia finished 117th in scoring defense last season, and a few linebackers would help stop that from happening again in 2013.
A prime candidate to beef up the Mountaineers' roster is First Team All-WAC linebacker Jake Doughty. He may not be the best defender in the nation, but he could immediately start for West Virginia.
West Virginia is already replacing a great quarterback in 2013, and that is going to take some time. Improving the defense should be priority No. 1 for the Mountaineers.
Doughty would do exactly that, and he might even teach the other linebackers a thing or two. That would improve the defense even further. With West Virginia's exposure in the Big 12, Doughty would raise his draft stock the entire time he was in the program as well.
Rakeem Cato had the most passing yards per game of any quarterback in the country last season. He threw for over 350 yards per game, and he tossed 37 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions.
Yes, there's room for improvement in the interception department, but Cato is exactly the type of passer that Syracuse would love to see step onto the field in place of Ryan Nassib.
A passer like Cato would make Syracuse an instant ACC title contender in 2013. The Orange will contend as-is, but nobody will be shocked if they don't take down a team like Clemson with Tajh Boyd in the backfield.
With Cato, Syracuse could hand Clemson and Boyd an upset to remember.
Again, Maryland had an atrocious offensive showing last season. Carr finished eighth in passing yards per game, and he had a 37-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
If Maryland is going to contend for conference or national titles on the football field, the Terrapins need to start trying to land a quarterback like Carr. They don't need a Tim Tebow (college version, of course) to win the ACC—they need to recruit someone like Carr or Ohio's Tyler Tettleton.
Carr would instantly make the ACC a much more interesting place, especially if the other changes on this list took place.
Mack Brown may or may not make it to the top of Florida's depth chart this spring, but he would most definitely be a starter for the Maryland Terrapins.
Maryland is hurting in every aspect of its offense, and Brown would be the go-to, every-down tailback that it needs. Brown is nothing of the sort for Florida.
Florida could do better than Brown with an extra recruit in 2014, and Maryland couldn't recruit a running back this hyped out of high school unless it won its division the season before. (Which it didn't in 2012.)
In 2012, Miami was a top-25 team in passing yards per game, but the Hurricanes finished a disappointing 83rd rushing.
The Hurricanes also need a defense, but they finished second in their division with the current defensive configuration. Improve the offense, and their recruiting pitch can be "all we need is a defense." They are far closer to having a complete offense than a complete defense.
Beau Blankenship had an astounding 1,604 yards on 312 carries last season. This means that he's proven himself as an every-down running back who can stay healthy all season long.
He threw in 182 receiving yards on 21 catches, too, so he also proved that he is a complete tailback that anyone in the country could use.
Miami needs to move forward as a program, and all the Hurricanes are missing on offense is a running back.
Kenny Bell is a great receiver for Alabama, and he has a knack for breaking off a long reception at a moment's notice. He averaged over 25 yards per catch in 2012, but he only had 17 catches.
He would be much more useful at Maryland, where a star receiver is still on the coaching staff's wish list. Bell would be an instant all-conference selection in his first season with the Terrapins.
He is the final piece of the offensive puzzle for Maryland (assuming all the previously mentioned deals went through), and the Terrapins would wreak havoc on the ACC with the four simple additions from this list.
Plus, with the recruits coming to Alabama in droves, Bell's name may not last too long on the depth chart.
Dri Archer finished 2012 only 10 yards short of a 2,000-offensive-yard season. Archer and previously mentioned Trayion Durham were a nasty tandem that tore apart opposing defenses all year.
Archer has earned more than his share of TV time while with the Golden Flashes, and it would behoove him to go over to Wisconsin. He might be able to help them get over the loss of Montee Ball to the NFL.
Wisconsin now needs a running back, and if the Badgers are going to compete for a Big Ten title in 2013, that running back has to be comparable to Ball. Nobody expects the Badgers to replace Ball immediately, but Archer would be an excellent patch for the hole Ball left.
Archer is one of the country's best tailbacks, hands-down. He would thrive in the Wisconsin offense.