College Football Players Most Likely to Transfer This Offseason
Alabama is fortunate that Jalen Hurts decided to stick around for the entire 2018 season, but just about everyone is expecting him to graduate-transfer elsewhere this spring.
Hurts is the most noteworthy name of this bunch, but there are quite a few excellent players whose talent seems to be going to waste with their current schools—and it doesn't look like that's going to change any time soon.
As a result, there's a good chance you'll see them become "free agents" in the next few months.
Please note that none of this is based on inside information but rather entirely on projected depth charts. If these players love the schools they're at and are content with being backups, good for them. But if these players—most of whom were 4-star or 5-star recruits with a ton of potential—are looking for a path to a starting job, they need to consider transferring, because it isn't in the cards where they are now.
Players are listed in alphabetical order by last name.
Shane Buechele, QB, Texas
2018 Stats: 30-of-44, 273 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT (two games played)
It's hard to believe Shane Buechele hasn't already transferred out of Texas.
After attempting nearly every Longhorns pass as a freshman in 2016, Buechele had a ridiculously short leash under new head coach Tom Herman. He started the first game in 2017, throwing for 375 yards and two touchdowns and rushing in a third score. But Texas lost the game and he lost his job.
Buechele has made a few starts or long relief appearances since then, but only when Sam Ehlinger has been hurt.
Granted, Ehlinger has endured more than a few bumps and bruises over the past two years, so Texas' backup quarterback is going to be a strong candidate for playing time. But Buechele beat Notre Dame in his first game as a true freshman. He's not your average backup. And some team is going to gleefully sign him if and when he decides to transfer.
The new transfer/redshirt rules help his cause a lot, too. Because he only appeared in two games this season, he's able to count this as a redshirt year. That means he still has two years of eligibility. Aside from maybe Jalen Hurts, Buechele would be the most coveted transfer this offseason.
Tavien Feaster, RB, Clemson
2018 Stats: 71 carries, 409 yards, 6 TD
Three years ago, Tavien Feaster was almost a 5-star recruit. In 2016, there were 26 5-star guys in the 247Sports composite rankings, and he was No. 29. Disregarding the composite numbers and just looking at his ranking by the 247Sports recruiting analysts, Feaster was regarded as the No. 14 overall recruit and the No. 1 running back.
But at Clemson, he has been an afterthought since day one.
As a freshman, he was buried on the depth chart behind Wayne Gallman and C.J. Fuller. Deshaun Watson also rushed the ball a ton. In 2017, Kelly Bryant was Clemson's top rusher. Feaster had a dead-even split with Travis Etienne (107 carries each), but the latter was clearly the better option. This season, Etienne became the clear-cut stud in the backfield while Adam Choice and Lyn-J Dixon split the backup touches with Feaster.
If Feaster stays at Clemson, he's still going to be battling Dixon for the No. 2 spot on the RB depth chart. And considering Dixon averaged 9.6 yards per carry as a freshman compared to Feaster's mark of 5.8 as a junior, it seems like a battle the veteran is going to lose.
But if he transfers, he would have his pick of the litter. If he wants to stay close to home (Spartanburg), South Carolina could use the boost to its backfield and would give him more than six touches per game.
Justin Fields, QB, Georgia
2018 Stats: 27-of-39, 328 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT; 42 carries, 266 yards, 4 TD
One year ago, it was a heated debate as to whether Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields was the best recruit in the country. Lawrence backed up his ranking by thriving at Clemson, but Fields never got much of a chance to prove anything in his first season at Georgia.
The numbers look nice, but not after you remove the ones accumulated during blowouts. Georgia played six games decided by 20 points or fewer, in which Fields completed two of three pass attempts for 20 yards and rushed the ball 16 times for 26 yards, scoring no touchdowns.
For most true freshmen at programs competing for a national championship with a QB already in place, that's no big deal. Prior to replacing Jalen Hurts in the national championship game, Tua Tagovailoa only saw action in one game decided by fewer than 30 points as a true freshman, completing one pass for zero yards against Colorado State. Obviously, that didn't stop him from becoming a phenom this year.
Here's the thing, though: Jake Fromm is better than Hurts, and he isn't going anywhere. The true sophomore will be back next year and possibly in 2020, depending on what his draft stock looks like 13 months from now. So before finally getting a shot as a senior, Fields might spend another two years stuck in this role of primarily rushing the ball—and only in games that don't much matter.
Why waste valuable years of eligibility in that situation when he could transfer now, sit out next season and have three years left to shine elsewhere?
While we're on Georgia, James Cook might want to look into transferring, too. The freshman running back got even fewer carries (41) than Fields did, and Georgia's backfield situation is only going to get more convoluted with Zamir White—the top RB in the 2018 class—returning from a torn ACL. He'll join D'Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien on a depth chart currently devoid of seniors.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama
2018 Stats: 50-of-67, 755 yards, 8 TD, 2 INT; 34 carries, 167 yards, 2 TD
If we were ranking this list in order of players most likely to appear in Twitter/Google searches with "transfer" after their names, Jalen Hurts would be No. 1 by a country mile. Even though Alabama needed his heroics in the SEC Championship Game, Hurts has been the most inevitable graduate transfer of all time since the moment in Week 1 when it became clear that Tua Tagovailoa was the Crimson Tide QB of both the present and future.
Wherever Hurts lands, that new school will be hitting the dual-threat jackpot.
Dating back to 2000, there are only four quarterbacks who threw for at least 5,600 yards with a completion percentage of 63 or greater while rushing for at least 1,900 yards and accounting for at least 48 total touchdowns: Tim Tebow, J.T. Barrett, Dan Lefevour and Hurts. And Hurts got to those plateaus in roughly 2.2 seasons as opposed to the full four years the other guys had.
Alabama would probably try to block this since it's a division rival, but how great would it be if he landed at Mississippi State to replace the graduating Nick Fitzgerald? The Bulldogs do have Keytaon Thompson as the starter-in-waiting, but he hasn't shown enough over the past two seasons to justify Mississippi State saying "Thanks, but no thanks" to Hurts if he wanted to go there.
Dakereon Joyner, QB, South Carolina
2018 Stats: 1-of-2, 1 yard; 3 carries, 24 yards (one game)
If Jake Bentley forgoes his senior season and declares for the 2019 NFL draft, consider this suggestion officially rescinded. Even with just two career pass attempts, Dakereon Joyner would be the most experienced quarterback on South Carolina's roster. Ranked as the No. 19 QB in last year's class, Joyner would have a good shot at a starting job—and he would have four years of eligibility left, since this one won't count against him.
He wouldn't be a lock for the gig, though, because the Gamecocks have signed the No. 3 QB in the 2019 class, Ryan Hilinski. And while Joyner is a solid dual-threat QB, Hilinski is a pro-style guy, meaning the transition from Bentley would figure to go a lot smoother if they choose the incoming freshman. But Joyner would at least enter the offseason with a shot.
But if Bentley returns in 2019, it's hard to imagine Joyner sticking around. He wouldn't get to play much at all next season, and South Carolina would be using that year to groom Hilinski to take over in 2020.
It's not much unlike the situation that Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson were in at Clemson at the end of the 2017 season. With Kelly Bryant returning and the incoming Trevor Lawrence destined to become the starter before long, Cooper left in January and Johnson announced his intent to transfer in May. Whether it's closer to the former or the latter time frame, don't be surprised if Joyner is headed elsewhere this spring/summer.
Charles McClelland, RB, Cincinnati
2018 Stats: 62 carries, 483 yards, 4 TD
Going a bit off the beaten path for this one, but Charles McClelland appears to be at the wrong end of a backfield logjam in Cincinnati.
The Bearcats' star running back, Michael Warren II, is only a true sophomore, so he'll be back for at least one more year, if not two. He averaged better than 20 carries per game and should be expected to shoulder a heavy load moving forward.
Starting QB Desmond Ridder is a redshirt freshman who ranked second on the roster in rushing yards this season. He also isn't leaving any time soon. And true freshman Tavion Thomas was the second-highest-rated recruit in Luke Fickell's 2018 class, so big things are expected from Cincinnati's third-leading rusher for years to come, as well.
That means not only did McClelland have a tough time getting onto the field this season, but that's going to be the case for the foreseeable future. Perhaps he will look into taking his 7.8 yards per carry to a place where they would be put to better use.
Davis Mills, QB, Stanford
2018 Stats: 0-of-2; 1 carry, 5 yards (one game)
For Davis Mills, it's been one injury after another for the past 30 months or so.
During August of his senior year of high school, the No. 1 QB in the 2017 recruiting class suffered a knee injury that kept him out of action for most of the season. And he has never gotten back to being the guy that scouts and recruiting analysts fell in love with.
Mills was unable to partake in spring practices at Stanford, which doesn't allow early enrollment. He redshirted the 2017 season and reinjured his knee late in the year, requiring surgery. As a result, he missed 2018 spring practices, too, and never got a chance to bypass K.J. Costello on the Cardinal depth chart. He appeared in just one September game against UC Davis and was never heard from again.
Basically, all Stanford has seen of Mills in the past two years is his work as the scout team QB in 2017.
And at this point, it's hard to see Mills getting another shot at the starting job. Costello still has one year of eligibility remaining, after which Tanner McKee will be finished with his two-year LDS mission and ready to take the reins. Stanford also has Jack West, a 4-star recruit from the 2018 class who ranked second on the team in pass attempts this year. (Albeit with only five of them.)
If Mills had ever been healthy, it's probably a much different story. Given how last season played out, he almost certainly would've gotten some sort of chance to make an impact as a true freshman, perhaps keeping Costello from ever being cemented as the starter.
As is, it might be in his best interest to get a fresh start elsewhere.
Tanner Mordecai, QB, Oklahoma
2018 Stats: 2-of-4, 37 yards (two games)
The good news for Tanner Mordecai is that Kyler Murray will no longer be around to block his path to the field. The Heisman winner will instead be churning his way through baseball's minor leagues.
The bad news is the Sooners still have Austin Kendall, who gave Murray a run for his money in the battle for the starting job this past summer. The redshirt sophomore played well during garbage time of the season opener against Florida Atlantic, but Lincoln Riley didn't much need him again. He should immediately become the front-runner for the starting gig in 2019, though.
The worse news for Mordecai is that the Sooners have the No. 1 QB in the 2019 class, Spencer Rattler. This means Mordecai will likely remain No. 3 on the depth chart, and that's probably going to be the case through 2020 if he doesn't transfer elsewhere.
Rattler committed to Oklahoma just a few weeks after Mordecai did, so he's known for a while that this challenge was coming his way. Maybe he'll stick around through spring camp to try to prove that he deserves a crack at the starting job. But unless he clearly bypasses Kendall, he'll need to start looking elsewhere to get on the field.
Jack Sears, QB, USC
2018 Stats: 20-of-28, 235 yards, 2 TD (one game)
Jack Sears redshirted last season, and with good reason. Sam Darnold took almost every snap before becoming the No. 3 overall draft pick. But it looked like there was an opportunity for Sears to become "The Guy" for the Trojans as a redshirt freshman, just like Darnold two years ago.
However, Clay Helton snatched up JT Daniels and immediately handed him the reins as a true freshman. Even though the young QB—even younger than most freshmen, since he reclassified to begin his career a year earlier—endured some growing pains during the 5-7 campaign, Helton stuck by him all year.
Sears only got into the game against Arizona State because both Daniels and backup Matt Fink had suffered injuries the previous week. Were it not for that, Sears likely would not have seen the field for a second straight season.
Sears was rated the sixth-best QB in the 2017 class, slightly ahead of both Kellen Mond and Sam Ehlinger. He's too talented to be buried that far down a depth chart, but he's stuck on the bench at USC unless Daniels gets hurt again. It might be time to find out if any other school wants to put him to better use.
Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
Kerry Miller covers college football and men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.