Predicting College Football QBs Most Likely to Transfer Next
Although college football players don't get paid, there is still a big pile of cash on the line for those suffering under amateur status.
For many, it’s a deferred payment scheme—play well now, get drafted later and watch the money flow in.
It’s why so many players—especially those at skill positions where starting spots are limited—transfer schools during their college careers. It’s a growing trend that reflects two interwoven pillars of today’s game: coverage saturation and perceived financial potential.
In other words, if a guy really is as good as his hype—think star ratings, recruiting battles, overwhelming media attention—then why isn’t he in a starting role, auditioning for his place in the pros?
The position where this is most visible is at quarterback. Now, more players are switching schools and repositioning themselves to where they can cash in on the star power they garnered as high school recruits.
Here’s a look around the country at the young quarterbacks who may move next. The list ranges from highly touted guys stuck in a backup role to players who have already moved down in an effort to move back up.
Though all the situations are unique, they share one common denominator: In the blink of an eye, an injury or dip in performance changes everything.
Zach Kline, Butte College
Zach Kline was a 4-star recruit from Danville, California, ranked by Rivals as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2012. He initially signed with California, where he backed up Jared Goff last season.
Stats from his six games in 2013 included going 43-of-82 (52.4 percent) for 443 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. The bulk of his experience at Cal came in a 55-16 loss at then-No. 2 Oregon.
After the 2013 season, Kline showed interest in transferring to Oregon State but instead opted to enroll at Butte College in Oroville, California. Ironically, this is where Aaron Rodgers spent his first season in college ball before transferring to Cal.
Expect Kline to be back in action at an FBS school next fall.
Nathan Peterman, Tennessee
If Justin Worley can establish himself as the starter of an improved Tennessee squad, former 4-star prospect Nathan Peterman is destined to be the perennial backup. Or he could find another venue to showcase his skills as a big-time college starter.
Peterman was the No. 7 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2012, according to Rivals. He redshirted in his first season and participated in four games in 2013, including a start at Florida on Sept. 21. Peterman suffered a hand injury in the game against the Gators, ending both his season and his short stint as the starter.
Peterman never made it back into action in 2013, leaving his statistical resume with a limited 23 throws, 45 yards and two interceptions.
Worley got the nod again this season as the starter and performed well in the opener against Utah State, going 27-of-38 for 273 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions in a 38-7 win.
Though Peterman managed to play in one series late in the fourth quarter, he’s still the No. 2 guy with a talented, younger Joshua Dobbs waiting in the wings behind him.
Max Browne, USC
You have to wonder how long Max Browne of USC will settle for playing second fiddle to second-year starter Cody Kessler. Sure, Browne is one play away from being the starter, but even then, he’s still just the second guy in relief of the guy.
Browne came to the Trojans last year as a 5-star recruit, ranked by Rivals as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2013. Kessler, on the other hand, was a 4-star recruit in 2011, ranked No. 2 among pro-style QBs. Browne redshirted last season after Kessler secured the starting job.
The plot thickens with Kessler's shining performance in a 52-13 opening win for USC against Fresno State. Kessler went 25-of-37 for 394 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Browne did lead the Trojans’ offense in the fourth quarter, going 3-of-4 for 30 yards.
Ryan Burns, Stanford
Here’s the situation for Ryan Burns: He came to Stanford as a 4-star recruit last year, ranked the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the nation by Rivals. After redshirting last season, he’s currently listed as the No. 3 guy after starter Kevin Hogan (a junior) and backup Evan Crower (also a junior).
Waiting in the wings to challenge Burns after Hogan and Crower graduate, is Keller Chryst, a 4-star recruit who signed this year as the No. 2-ranked pro-style prospect for Rivals.
Burns did get in—after Hogan and Crower—for the final series of Stanford’s 45-0 win over FCS opponent UC-Davis last Saturday. He went 1-of-1 for 13 yards, recovered his own fumble and got sacked for a seven-yard loss.
Though he could get a shot, he’s not made any progress up the depth chart thus far. At some point, he’s got to wonder what his 4-star rating can get him somewhere else.
Cody Thomas, Oklahoma
When you’re the No. 2 or 3 quarterback at a powerhouse program, it’s never good news to read headlines like “OU Backup Quarterback Saga Continues.”
Is Cody Thomas really Trevor Knight’s backup, or is it Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield (who may or may not be eligible)? Or is it Justice Hansen or Blake Bell, who switched to tight end but is still taking “insurance” snaps at quarterback?
It’s the case of another highly touted prospect—Thomas was a 4-star recruit and the No. 7 pro-style quarterback in 2013 for Rivals—living on that long, gray line between potential glory and possible obscurity.
Oklahoma’s opener against Louisiana Tech didn’t make things any more clear as Knight played the entire game, going 19-of-34 for 253 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Cooper Bateman, Alabama
Alabama is another place—maybe the place—where you don’t want to be the No. 3 guy at any skill position.
Yes, being the No. 3 guy in Tuscaloosa means that there are two guys in front of you who are among the best 10 players in the nation at that position.
It’s probably harder to move up the depth chart at Alabama than it was for a Mid-American Conference team to make a BCS bowl.
Cooper Bateman is that quarterback for the Crimson Tide in 2014. He’s No. 3 behind either Jake Coker or Blake Sims.
But he’s also a former 4-star prospect and the No. 11 pro-style quarterback in 2013 according to Rivals.
The bottom line isn’t that Alabama doesn’t want him. It just may not have room for him. So it’s logical to think that another FBS program will have the desire, the need and the roster space for a quarterback like Bateman.
With Sims going the distance in Alabama’s opener against West Virginia, the situation becomes even more fraught for Bateman.
DaMarcus Smith, Butler Community College
As well traveled as anyone on this list, it’s realistic to think that DaMarcus Smith will be back on the move again, but not until after the 2014 season.
Smith started out as a 4-star prospect and was the No. 11 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2011, according to Rivals. He committed to Louisville, switched to UCF where he was ruled ineligible and then transferred to Western Kentucky for the 2013 season.
Smith played sparingly in five games for the Hilltoppers last year, going 2-of-5 for 33 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception.
He’s transferred to Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas, for the 2014 season. Smith will have two seasons of eligibility remaining and won’t have to sit out a season if he returns to the FBS next year.
Chad Kelly, East Mississippi Community College
Chad Kelly went from being the heir apparent at Clemson to being the starter at East Mississippi Community College in the blink of an eye.
Kelly was a 4-star prospect in 2012, ranked as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback by Rivals. He signed with Clemson, redshirted as a freshman and participated in five games in 2013. He was dismissed from the team this spring by Dabo Swinney for “conduct detrimental to the program.”
Kelly signed on with East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Mississippi, in April where he is set to start at quarterback this season.
Look for Kelly to resurface at the FBS level in 2015.
Aaron Bailey, Illinois
Aaron Bailey was the future of Illinois football until the Illini welcomed Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt into the fold.
Now Bailey, a 4-star recruit who garnered Rivals’ No. 9 rank among dual-threat quarterbacks in 2013, seems destined to wait for Lunt to either get yanked from the starter role or lose it to injury.
Bailey is currently listed as No. 3 on the depth chart after Lunt and senior Reilly O’Toole. What won’t help Bailey's case is that Lunt played well in a 28-17 Illinois win over FCS foe Youngstown State, going 24-of-38 for 285 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Tra’Von Chapman, Ashland
According to a piece published in June by Doug Haidet of the Ashland Times-Gazette, Chapman is no longer with Ashland, leaving with hopes of transferring to Akron.
Though Chapman’s trail stops there, don’t be surprised to hear his name again when he successfully transfers to an FBS program.
Kyle Allen, Texas A&M
It’s safe to say that Kenny Hill’s 511-yard debut performance will make it difficult for Kevin Sumlin—or anyone—to consider Kyle Allen for the starting quarterback role at Texas A&M.
It doesn’t help that Hill posted his numbers against Steve Spurrier and South Carolina on the road, which is not really the same as lighting it up against FCS opponent Weber State in the home opener.
Remember though, it’s Allen—not Hill—who has the better pedigree and higher expectations for career potential.
So while, yes, both Allen and Hill have four years left to succeed or fail, don’t expect Allen to wait around to get his shot.
Connor Brewer, Arizona
Connor Brewer has already transferred once—in 2013 when he moved from Texas to Arizona—but that doesn’t mean his moving days are done for good.
Brewer came to the Longhorns as a 4-star prospect, ranked No. 10 among pro-style quarterbacks in 2012 by Rivals. He redshirted as a freshman and then opted to transfer after he continued to slip down the depth chart in Austin.
After sitting out the 2013 season, Brewer has faced a stacked quarterback competition at Arizona and came into this season listed as the No. 4 guy in a tight race.
In the mix with Brewer are redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, redshirt senior Jesse Scroggins and redshirt junior Jerrard Randall. Scroggins and Randall are both transfers as well, coming to Arizona from USC and LSU, respectively, after each spending a season in the junior college ranks.
The Wildcats opted for Solomon in their opener with UNLV. He responded well, going 25-of-44 for 425 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions in his debut. Brewer did make a brief appearance on the final drive of the game—after Scroggins got in—running in for a three-yard touchdown to make the score 58-13.
This is another guy who may want to see what his 4-star rating can do elsewhere.
Kevin Olsen, Miami (Fla.)
Kevin Olsen came to Miami as a 4-star prospect in the class of 2013, ranked No. 12 by Rivals among pro-style quarterbacks. He redshirted as a freshman last season and actually laid claim to the starter spot this year after Ryan Williams suffered an ACL injury in the spring.
Everything changed when Olsen was suspended—for at least one game—due to a failed drug test, according to Susan Miller Degnan at the Miami Herald.
This opens the door for both BYU transfer Jake Heaps and 4-star recruit Brad Kaaya, who—according to Rivals—was the No. 8-ranked pro-style prospect in the class of 2014.
Kaaya got the nod in the opener against Louisville Monday night, going 17-of-29 for 174 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
If Olsen’s suspension is extended, and in the meantime Heaps and Kaaya perform well in tandem or separately, Olsen could slip back down the depth chart.
Though Miami wouldn’t want to lose him, Olsen has enough star power to be motivated to move to a program where he can be the clear starter.