What Recent College Football History Tell Us About QBs Who Transfer

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterMarch 10, 2014

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Alabama is hoping for a seamless transition with Florida State transfer quarterback Jacob Coker, the likely heir apparent to AJ McCarron. 

Whoever lands Max Wittek—Texas is high on the list, according to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News—hopes the former USC quarterback can take the team's offense to a whole new level. 

Though there's no true free agency in college football, high-profile quarterback transfers can feel that way sometimes, especially if they're graduate students with immediate eligibility. Both Coker and Wittek fall into that category. 

Not coincidentally, the Tide and Longhorns constantly have high expectations. With plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, they could be a quarterback away from competing at a championship level. 

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

That's a lot of pressure for an incoming player expected to make an immediate impact. Recent examples of successful transfers like Russell Wilson (North Carolina State to Wisconsin) and Cam Newton (Florida to Auburn) can skew expectations, too. 

Wilson looked like he had played for the Badgers his entire career as he led the team to a Rose Bowl appearance in 2011-12. Newton won a Heisman and a national title with the Tigers in his only year on The Plains in 2010. 

Not every situation plays out that smoothly. In fact, it rarely works that way. 

Still, the desire for playing time and instant gratification has led to what appears to be an increase in quarterback transfers, according to Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated

That prevailing impatience among young quarterbacks coupled with more upperclassmen taking advantage of the NCAA's graduate transfer waiver (for example, former Wisconsin one-year wonder Russell Wilson) has turned college football's quarterback carousel into a virtual waiver wire. More than 20 quarterbacks have already transferred out of or into a BCS-conference program since the end of the season, and there will presumably be another round after depth charts come into focus in upcoming spring practices.

The reality, though, is that bringing in a transfer quarterback is far from a sure thing. 

Going back to 2009—or one recruiting cycle and a redshirt year from 2013—quarterback transfer stories are all over the map. Some went on to start elsewhere and have solid careers. Others transferred multiple times and never lived up to their potential. Others still are in the process of playing out their careers. 

Auburn has been on both sides of the process. 

Notable QB transfers -- 2012 Class
NameOriginal SchoolNew SchoolStatus
Gunner Kiel Notre DameCincinnatiCompeting to start
Zach Kline CalOregon StateJUCO
Connor BrewerTexasArizonaCompeting to start
Wes LuntOklahoma StateIllinoisCompeting to start
T.J. Millweard UCLAKansasCompeting to start

In addition to Newton, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall began his collegiate career elsewhere. In 2011, he signed with Georgia as a cornerback. This past season, following a stint at the JUCO level, Marshall led the Tigers to a BCS national championship appearance against Florida State. 

Yet, the Tigers have watched two other highly touted quarterbacks, Zeke Pike and Kiehl Frazier, depart the program during the past couple of years. Pike, who signed with Auburn in 2012 as a 4-star prospect, moved on to Louisville as a tight end. Frazier transferred to Division II Ouachita Baptist in January, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Notable QB Transfers -- 2011 Class
NameOriginal SchoolNew SchoolStatus
Kendal Thompson OklahomaUtahCompeting to start
Jacob Coker Florida StateAlabamaCompeting to start
Vad Lee Georgia TechJames MadisonCompeting to start
Brock Berglund KansasNorth TexasNo longer with team

Plenty of other quarterbacks have transferred down a level in pursuit of immediate playing time. Michael Eubank (Samford by way of Arizona State), Christian LeMay (Jacksonville State by way of Georgia) and Bryan Bennett (Southeastern Louisiana by way of Oregon) are just a few examples. 

Other quarterbacks were able to land starting jobs at other Division I schools, even if for a brief time. Jameill Showers, formerly of Texas A&M, transferred to UTEP after Johnny Manziel won the starting job for the Aggies in 2012. Showers was the Miners' starting quarterback last year before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury. 

Notable QB transfers -- 2010 Class
NameOriginal SchoolNew SchoolStatus
Rob BoldenPenn StateLSUMoved to WR
Barry Brunetti West VirginiaOle MissGraduated; split time with Bo Wallace
Phillip SimsAlabamaVirginiaWinston Salem State
Connor Wood TexasColoradoPlayed from 2012-13, but will not return to team.
Scotty Young Texas TechLouisiana TechThrew for 733 yards in 2013

Nick Montana originally signed with Washington in 2010. Buried on the depth chart, however, he spent a year in the JUCO ranks before transferring to Tulane. In his one season with the Green Wave, Montana threw for 1,717 yards while splitting time with Devin Powell.  

Zach Mettenberger, a one-time Georgia quarterback, was a two-year starter at LSU from 2012-13 who threw for 5,783 yards and 35 touchdowns. Ryan Mallett, who signed with Michigan in 2007, went on to a great career at Arkansas from 2009-10. 

Notable QB Transfers -- 2009 Class
NameOriginal SchoolNew SchoolStatus
Cody GreenNebraskaTulsaStarted entire 2012 season and part of 2013 season
Tate Forcier MichiganSan Jose StateLeft team
Zach Mettenberger GeorgiaLSUTwo-year starter
Tom Savage RutgersPittGraduated, starter for Panthers
Danny O'Brien MarylandWisconsinTransferred to Catawba College

Even Garrett Gilbert, the much-maligned former Texas quarterback, eventually found his place at SMU. Last season, he finished second in the nation in total offense, according to cfbstats.com

Success can be defined several different ways. Few quarterback transfers in recent years have worked out as well as Marshall, Newton and Wilson. Still, it's not all about championships or Heismans; some guys are simply looking for a second chance.

Jason Redmond/Associated Press

Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt (now at Illinois), Florida's Jacoby Brissett (now at North Carolina State) and Notre Dame's Gunner Kiel (now at Cincinnati) are among those players. Each will be in a position to compete for a starting job in 2014. 

Others are hoping to hang on to their starting jobs. Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps (originally from BYU) and West Virginia's Clint Trickett (originally from Florida State) started a majority of the '13 season, but will battle this offseason to keep those jobs. 

The road, no matter how new, is rarely easy for transfer quarterbacks. It doesn't mean a championship is on the horizon. It doesn't even mean playing time.

Coker and Wittek will receive no assurances as they suit up for their new teams next season.

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.