Why you should care
Because transfers are reshaping the sport each year.
If this unpredictable college football season had a name, it’d be “The Year of the Transfer.” By launching the transfer portal two years ago, the NCAA suddenly allowed athletes to publicly weigh their transfer options without fear of retribution (from the NCAA or an angry coach) by simply submitting their names. In the age of player empowerment, even the criminally under-compensated college athletes now have more rights than ever before.
It’s paid off handsomely for three of the four teams in the College Football Playoff that were led by transfer quarterbacks who left other Top 10 programs: LSU (Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow), Oklahoma (Jalen Hurts) and Ohio State (Justin Fields).
Suffice it to say, college football has turned into a high-stakes game of musical chairs. So how do you make sure you have a seat at the end?
“The most important offer a coach can make is an immediate chance to start and an opportunity to make the NFL,” says ESPN analyst Trevor Matich, pointing to Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew as a prime example. Minshew was an All-American last season after transferring from East Carolina. “He was supposed to be a graduate assistant at Alabama before Mike Leach said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come set some NCAA passing records at Washington State?’”
So who’s the next Burrow or Minshew? Here are …
OZY’s Top Five Transfers to Watch in 2020
- Jake Bentley, Utah. A three-year starter at South Carolina before suffering a foot injury in this season opener this fall and losing his job to freshman Ryan Hilinski, Bentley (7,527 passing yards, 55 touchdowns and 32 interceptions in the vaunted SEC) was a hot commodity as soon as he hit the portal in November. Now, on a Utah team that came within one game of making the playoff this season, he’ll be in a position to thrive. Bentley is less mobile than Utah senior QB Tyler Huntley, but he is certainly a better NFL prospect. In the weaker Pac-12, Matich expects Bentley to thrive: “[Kyle] Whittingham runs a great program and always has a huge offensive line that keeps the quarterback upright,” he says. “Plus, the Pac-12 is more wide open than a lot of other conferences.”
- Jack Allison, TBD. A blue-chip pro-style QB prospect out of Florida in high school, the 6-foot-5 Allison originally signed with Miami when the Hurricanes were still coached by Al Golden. He redshirted in 2016, then transferred to West Virginia in 2017. Deemed the heir apparent to Will Grier (now with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers) last season, Allison started in West Virginia’s bowl game last December. But after coach Dana Holgorsen left for Houston this season, Allison lost the starting job to Austin Kendall. “He’s a great teammate,” WVU coach Neal Brown told reporters in November. “But he wants to go play.” Allison should get the chance soon. He’s a prime candidate for a transfer to LSU, where he would look to follow Burrow’s massive footsteps.
- Jamie Newman, TBD. Following the decision of Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm to turn pro, attention in Athens has turned toward a player whom many college football fans know little about. A redshirt junior, Newman graduated from Wake Forest this winter and will be immediately eligible to play for a new team next fall after entering the transfer portal. In his first full season as the Demon Deacons’ signal caller, the dual-threat quarterback threw for 2,868 yards and 26 touchdowns with 11 interceptions in 2019. He also rushed for six scores. According Fox Sports reporter Bruce Feldman, Newman has narrowed his list to Oregon, Georgia, Washington, Miami and Maryland.
- Anthony Brown, TBD. The redshirt junior played well this year for Boston College before suffering a season-ending knee injury in mid-October. Prior to that, he’d started 18 straight games. Brown’s mid-December decision to transfer came less than two weeks after head coach Steve Addazio was fired. The quarterback logged 4,738 yards, 40 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in completing nearly 55 percent of his 680 pass attempts across parts of three seasons. He also ran for 421 yards and four touchdowns. As a graduate transfer, he’ll be immediately eligible to play wherever he ends up.
- Feleipe Franks, TBD. A top class of 2016 prospect from Crawfordville, Florida, Franks left the Florida Gators in early December, announcing his intention to either transfer elsewhere or enter the NFL Draft. Franks started in 2017 and struggled in his first year in a bad offense, then split time with Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire. In 2018, he was benched for Kyle Trask but regained the job and finished the final four games of the season with a 8-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Franks started the first three games in 2019 before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Kentucky. After 4,593 yards and 38 touchdowns in Gainesville, he could use a change in scenery. At 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, he’s an athletic specimen but not ready to be anything other than a late NFL draft pick. Watch for Franks to be a difference-maker for a Power 5 program next season.
Five More to Watch
- K.J. Costello, TBD. The graduate transfer threw for 5,113 yards and 43 touchdowns at Stanford in 2017 and 2018 before injuries hobbled his 2019 campaign.
- Peyton Powell, Rutgers QB. The Baylor transfer had said he was going to Utah … but rather than play behind Bentley, he was lured to New Jersey by coach Greg Schiano in a signing day coup.
- Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech RB. Herbert produced big numbers on a bad Kansas team.
- Mustapha Muhammad, Houston TE. The five-star Michigan transfer is headed home to Houston and should be a playmaker in Holgorsen’s offense.
- Jack Sears, San Diego State QB. Sears threw two touchdowns against Arizona State in his only college game in October 2018, before losing the USC starting job. He’ll be eligible to play immediately for the Aztecs as they try to contend in the Mountain West.