Long-Shot CFB Transfer Ideas for Big-Name QBs Who May Lose Key Position Battles
Though it's not a guarantee those who enter the transfer portal will wind up in a better situation, college football "free agency" is still the hip thing.
The days of players waiting two or three years to start their final two seasons at their originally desired college seems to be a thing of the past—at least for now. So while it's always fun to watch quarterback battles, it has a downside for the top teams.
Lately, they're watching promising prospects head elsewhere. Just ask Georgia about its 20/20 hindsight on Justin Fields leaving for Ohio State when he didn't beat out entrenched starter Jake Fromm. Jalen Hurts left Alabama and became a Heisman finalist at Oklahoma.
The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide did just fine with their other signal-callers, but they also endured watching super talents star elsewhere. It's part of the new era of college football.
This spring, several high-profile quarterback battles will kick off, and don't be surprised if the guys who don't win look elsewhere. From Big Ten rivals to other notable programs, major decisions must be made.
Here are some ideas for soft landing spots for guys who won't win their respective battles.
Jack Miller, Ohio State → Arizona
Everybody is going to be watching the race to replace Justin Fields at Ohio State, and the question of "who is going to start for the Buckeyes?" is arguably the biggest entering the season.
Coach Ryan Day has some exciting young options, but nobody has gotten the opportunity for a large sample. This spring will feature a healthy competition between freshmen CJ Stroud and Jack Miller, and throw in 5-star incoming freshman Kyle McCord, and it's going to be fun.
It's possible the Buckeyes land somebody from the transfer portal, but right now, it looks like Day is sticking with one of his youngsters.
Stroud seemed to win the backup job over Miller a season ago, and the pro-style quarterback from California—who was a late addition to the 2020 recruiting class—has a great skill set to be developed. He would be the most seamless transition in this offense from Fields.
With McCord looking the part too after his prep days at St. Joseph's in Philadelphia, that could mean Miller is the odd man out.
The way new Arizona Wildcats coach Jedd Fisch has developed quarterbacks in his past may wind up being intriguing as the program starts over. The state has produced several high-profile quarterback recruits in the past five years, and Miller is one of them, hailing from Scottsdale.
If things don't work out for him in Columbus, it would be wise for him to head home and be the man under Fisch. For now, though, Miller has to feel like he's firmly in the mix for the Buckeyes.
Joe Milton, Michigan → Florida State
There's no questioning Joe Milton's immense athletic ability. At 6'5", 243 pounds and possessing a big arm and good mobility, it's obvious why everybody is excited about his potential.
But he's never been able to put everything together for the Wolverines.
After winning the job to start the '20 season, Milton muddled around in mediocrity, eventually losing the gig to Cade McNamara. He only got the opportunity to play for the Wolverines in an abbreviated season when McNamara went out with an injury.
While Milton is the most physically gifted of the three quarterbacks expected to battle for the '21 starting job (along with incoming 5-star freshman J.J. McCarthy), he hasn't been able to hang onto the reins.
Maybe coach Jim Harbaugh decides to turn the page on Milton if the favorite doesn't shine again this spring, and if that's the case, the former Florida high school quarterback should do the same. He would have three years of eligibility remaining for wherever he goes.
Heading back to Florida wouldn't be a bad idea. While he could thrive in Dan Mullen's system at Florida, it's more likely the Gators are happy with the quarterbacks they have on campus. Instead, the Orlando native could head to Florida State, where the unknowns around McKenzie Milton are prevalent.
Milton could be a star at Florida State for at least a couple of seasons under coach Mike Norvell, and the Seminoles already have a transfer from one Milton...why not two? It would make a lot of sense for both parties.
Dylan Morris, Washington → Washington State
Dylan Morris won three of the four games he started for the Washington Huskies in 2020 after winning the wide-open quarterback battle to start the season. But he didn't exactly wow anybody in the process.
With coach Jimmy Lake's program needing a difference-maker under center to return to the form of just a few years ago, the Huskies have a star waiting in the wings with incoming freshman Sam Huard.
That last name is royalty in Seattle, with Sam's dad Damon and uncle Brock being former U-Dub stars who wound up starting games in the NFL. Though the younger Huard didn't play his senior year of high school, which makes things even more difficult, his talent is undeniable.
He has the acumen you'd expect growing up in a family full of elite quarterbacks, and in his two years of high school ball, he threw for 8,309 yards and 98 touchdowns. It may be an out-of-the-box pick, but Huard is going to be too talented for Lake to keep off the field, especially when he doesn't have an electric starter.
Morris is going to be a good college football player capable of starting a lot of games for somebody, and though he had his mind made up on the Huskies early in his recruiting process, it wouldn't be a big deal for him to pivot.
Apple State rival Washington State was one of his finalists, and with coach Nick Rolovich going out and getting Tennessee transfer Jarrett Guarantano this year, it shows he's not averse to adding competitors through the portal.
If Morris can't beat out the true freshman, he likely should move on, and Pullman would be a good destination. He could post big numbers under Rolovich.
Drew Pyne, Notre Dame → Rutgers
There's no question Drew Pyne loves the Fighting Irish.
The class of 2020 4-star signal-caller told Tom Loy of 247Sports back when he committed, "You choose Notre Dame for Notre Dame."
Pyne doesn't have ideal size to play the position, and though the 6'0" Connecticut native is a bit unconventional for the modern position, the Irish just ended the tenure of Ian Book, who developed from a similar prospect as Pyne to one of the sport's best winners and playmakers.
But Pyne has been passed over already to an extent. Coach Brian Kelly took a transfer in former Wisconsin starter Jack Coan, who is now the overwhelming favorite to win the starting job after Book headed to the NFL.
As a freshman in '20, Pyne was the third-string quarterback behind Book and Brendon Clark, and though he was a high-profile guy coming out of high school, it's tough to see a path to definitive playing time for him in South Bend.
After Coan, the Irish have an exciting incoming freshman in California dual-threat Tyler Buchner. Clark is still around too, and if Pyne can't win the job this spring or at least show extremely well, he may look to go elsewhere.
Landing somewhere in the Big Ten wouldn't be a bad idea. He could stay close to home, develop and have a quality career, much the way Phil Jurkovec is on his way to doing after leaving the Irish for the ACC's Boston College Eagles.
Pyne could fall somewhere like Greg Schiano's Rutgers Scarlet Knights. That program took strides forward in '20, and it could use a cornerstone quarterback like Pyne. Maybe if things don't go well, he could wind up in New Jersey.
Paul Tyson, Alabama → Texas
If there's a long shot on this list to transfer, it may be Alabama redshirt sophomore Paul Tyson.
He is legendary Crimson Tide coach Paul "Bear" Bryant's grandson, after all.
But Tyson is a 6'5", 228-pound pro-style quarterback from Trussville, Alabama, who has been waiting his turn, biding his time and developing. It's not unlike a Mac Jones situation, and Jones was a Heisman Trophy finalist under offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian this past year in his one season as a starter.
Tyson, however, probably would have a tough time sticking around if former 5-star quarterback Bryce Young—who is a class behind him—wins the starting job this spring or fall. The bloodlines run deep and strong, but this is a player who has a pro future to think about.
Yes, he has that potential, much like Jones.
So why wouldn't he head to play for the coach who developed the latter?
Texas is going to have no difficulty recruiting quarterbacks in the Sarkisian era, but the Longhorns don't have a definitive star to replace Sam Ehlinger in 2021. Casey Thompson looked excellent in the second half of the Alamo Bowl and is the odds-on favorite for the job.
Hudson Card is an underclassman who could compete, but neither he nor Thompson has the size or arm strength as a prototypical passer. Sarkisian has made a career out of developing quarterbacks, and Tyson is more along the line of the type of player with which he's worked.
If he doesn't win the job in Tuscaloosa this spring, perhaps he could head to Austin and start for the Horns in '21.
Follow Brad Shepard on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.