College Football QBs Most Likely to Transfer Before 2016 Season Begins
There is no position in football more prestigious or pressure-packed than quarterback. Every offense’s success rises and falls with the play of its quarterback, with fans scrutinizing every move the signal-caller makes.
It’s also the most exclusive position on the field. Only one quarterback can play at any single moment, and if a team has two quarterbacks, it really has no quarterbacks. The pressure for a head coach and offensive coordinator to develop and stick with a quarterback is high, which in turn leads to roster turnover.
Quarterbacks are increasingly seeking out options to transfer, via the graduate-transfer option or otherwise, looking for a new opportunity. This offseason was no different, with the likes of Purdue’s Austin Appleby, Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Montana State’s Dakota Prukop leaving as graduate transfers. More are sure to follow before September. Here’s a look at quarterbacks who could transfer before the 2016 season begins.
Alabama QB Cooper Bateman
For the third consecutive year, Alabama is seeking a new starting quarterback. Last fall, Jake Coker emerged from a crowded field to secure the Crimson Tide quarterback role and lead the Tide to another national title under Nick Saban.
But Coker has graduated, leaving a void at the position again. Last fall, Cooper Bateman challenged strongly for the job and started against Ole Miss. But Coker supplanted him during that game. Bateman finished with 291 yards and one touchdown against two interceptions on the season, completing 71.2 percent of his passes.
This fall, Bateman will face off against redshirt freshman Blake Barnett, among others. If Barnett wins the role, he could keep it for several years. If Bateman finds that playing time will be scarce, he could easily follow the path of many Tide quarterbacks before him (including Alec Morris this offseason) and seek playing time elsewhere.
Florida QB Treon Harris
Treon Harris has had his share of opportunities as a Florida quarterback. He hasn’t necessarily capitalized on them, however. Harris was thrust into a starting role as a freshman in 2014 and then battled for the starting job before losing it to Will Grier last season.
When Grier received a yearlong NCAA suspension following a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, the role was Harris’ again. He started eight games, but the Gators offense struggled with him at the helm.
He never threw for more than 271 yards in a game, and he tossed nine touchdowns against six interceptions, completing 50.6 percent of his passes. Lowly Florida Atlantic took Florida to overtime before the Gators escaped 20-14, and they ended the season on a three-game losing streak while opponents outscored them 97-24.
This spring, Harris is expected to attempt a conversion to wide receiver, as Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel reported. Purdue transfer Austin Appleby and former Alabama quarterback Luke Del Rio will compete for the starting quarterback role. If Harris wants to play quarterback again, it’s clear that it won’t be at Florida.
LSU QB Anthony Jennings
Anthony Jennings was once LSU’s quarterback of the future. Jennings took the field late in his freshman season following Zach Mettenberger’s season-ending knee injury and served as the starter in 2014. But he hasn’t developed like LSU coaches and fans might have hoped.
He completed just 48.9 percent of his passes while throwing for 11 touchdowns against seven interceptions in 2014, and Brandon Harris supplanted him last fall. Harris appears to have the Tigers’ starting role locked down, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jennings make a move if he can’t gain on Harris during spring practice.
Oregon QB Jeff Lockie
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Oregon doesn’t trust Jeff Lockie as its starting quarterback. Lockie began his career by sitting behind Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, and he actually led to become the Ducks starter following spring practice.
But graduate transfer Vernon Adams quickly supplanted him—Adams joined the roster after preseason practice had already begun. Lockie started four games while Adams worked through a finger injury, throwing for five touchdowns against four interceptions with 580 yards and completing 61.6 percent of his passes.
But Oregon went just 2-2 in his starts. This offseason, coaches sent another message by accepting Montana State quarterback Dakota Prukop as a graduate transfer. It’s clear that Lockie won’t be “the man” at Oregon. He has already received his degree and would be wise to explore graduate-transfer options of his own this summer.
Michigan QB Shane Morris
It once appeared that Shane Morris was Michigan’s quarterback in waiting. Instead, he’s just done a bunch of waiting. Morris began as Devin Gardner’s backup and struggled behind Gardner in 2014. He completed just 14 of 40 passes for 128 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
Morris lost a quarterback battle to graduate transfer Jake Rudock last fall, and he agreed to redshirt to preserve a year of eligibility. He’ll be part of a crowded quarterback competition along with freshmen Zach Gentry, Alex Malzone and Brandon Peters, junior Wilton Speight and junior John O’Korn, a transfer from Houston.
O’Korn was the American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year in 2013 before transferring and is the favorite to win the role. Morris said before the Citrus Bowl that he’s committed to Michigan and Jim Harbaugh, per Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Morris said. “Michigan is where I committed to my sophomore year of high school, and I’m not planning on going anywhere.”
However, it’s worth noting that he will graduate next year. It’d be natural for Morris to follow Rudock’s example and leave Michigan if he isn’t the man in Harbaugh’s offense. It’ll be worth watching following spring practice.
Virginia Tech QB Brenden Motley
2016 will be a year of change for Virginia Tech. Frank Beamer, college football’s longest-tenured head coach, has retired, and Memphis’ Justin Fuente has replaced him. In addition, quarterback Michael Brewer has graduated, leaving the role open.
Junior Brenden Motley started six games last season when Brewer suffered a broken collarbone, and he had mixed results. He threw for 11 touchdowns with seven interceptions, totaling 1,155 passing yards, but the Hokies were 3-3 in Motley's starts.
Fuente signed dual-threat junior college quarterback Jerod Evans, whom he had targeted since he was at Memphis. He and sophomore Dwayne Lawson appear to be the future under center for Fuente. What does that mean for Motley? It could be an opportunity elsewhere.
Georgia QB Brice Ramsey
For the second consecutive season, Georgia will enter preseason with some uncertainty at quarterback. Last fall, Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert won a three-way battle with Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta, although he had mixed results throwing 12 touchdowns against two interceptions.
Ramsey served in a backup role, throwing for 249 yards and a touchdown against two interceptions. Bauta transferred to Colorado State for a reunion with former UGA offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, but Lambert and Ramsey will have a clean slate with new coach Kirby Smart.
However, highly touted freshman Jacob Eason is already on campus and will go through spring practice with the Bulldogs. He’s clearly the Dawgs’ quarterback of the future. Lambert might be the quarterback of the present. Where does that leave Ramsey? It would be no surprise if, following this spring, he followed Bauta’s path out of Athens for a new opportunity.
Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire
Last spring, Notre Dame faced a quarterback quandary. Everett Golson was the Fighting Irish’s established starter, but turnover troubles led to Malik Zaire pushing him hard. Zaire won the starting role, and Golson wound up at Florida State via graduate transfer.
This was expected to be Zaire’s team, and he excelled early on. But a broken ankle suffered at Virginia ended his season, with freshman DeShone Kizer pushed into the role. Kizer was solid, throwing for 2,884 yards with 21 touchdowns against 10 interceptions and rushing for 520 yards and 10 touchdowns, leading Notre Dame to a 10-win season and the Fiesta Bowl.
Now, Brian Kelly faces the too-much-of-a-good-thing quandary with Zaire expected to return healthy. Kizer won’t be giving up the starting role without a fight. Zaire will have to take it from him. If he fails to do that, he could look for greener pastures elsewhere.