If nothing else, this off-season we have learned that the quarterback carousel in college football spins just as fast—if not faster--than the coaching carousel. And, we have also learned, it spins with more interesting results.
Because once a quarterback domino falls, it can have a huge impact on a lot of schools in a relatively short amount of time. Just follow me on this:
**--Last May Hunter Johnson, a former five-star quarterback and Mr. Football in the state of Indiana, looked up and saw junior Kelly Bryant and true freshman Trevor Lawrence ahead of him on the Clemson depth chart. He transferred to Northwestern in June, sat out the 2018 season, and should be the starter this Fall.
**--Bryant, who led the Tigers to the ACC championship and the College Football Playoff in 2017, loses his job to Lawrence after the fourth game of the 2018 season. Bryant transfers to Missouri, where he could be the starter this season.
**--After Bryant’s departure, all Lawrence, a true freshman, did was lead Clemson to a 15-0 record and CFP national championship
Let’s try another one:
**--Georgia freshman quarterback Justin Fields, rated the nation’s top player in the 2018 signing class, could not beat out sophomore Jake Fromm and played relatively little during the season. On the day before National Signing Day (Dec. 19) word leaks out that Fields was transferring to Ohio State. Fields and his attorney will petition for a waiver to make him immediately eligible to play. He’ll get it.
**--Four star quarterback Dwan Mathis, who had committed to Ohio State and expected to compete for the starting job, got wind of Fields’s decision and instead signed with Georgia on national signing day.
**--Tate Martell, the backup to Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, said during Rose Bowl Media Day that he expected to be the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes in 2019 because of his experience advantage over Fields.
“Why would I leave for a person who hasn’t put a single second into this program yet?” he asked of those listening and scribbling in Pasadena.
On Jan. 10 Martell announced he was transferring to Miami.
Here’s another good one:
**--Alabama backup quarterback Jalen Hurts, who came off the bench to lead the Crimson Tide to the SEC championship win over Georgia, received his undergraduate degree in December. In January Hurts announced, as expected, that he was transferring to Oklahoma, which has produced the last two Heisman Trophy winners.
**--Austin Kendall, who was the backup at Oklahoma to Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray, decided he did not want to stick around and compete with Hurts for the job. He transferred to West Virginia.
**-- Spencer Rattler, rated the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback by ESPN, will now serve as Hurts’s competition. He arrives in Norman in June.
**--Rising junior Sam Ehlinger is clearly the Texas QB after the Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. As a result freshman Cameron Rising is transferring to Utah and former starter Shane Buechele is pondering this future. He’ll graduate in May. He could be going to SMU because…..
**--SMU quarterback Ben Hicks is transferring to Arkansas where he’ll be eligible for this, his final season. Hicks played for Arkansas coach Chad Morris at SMU. Hicks is the school’s all-time passing leader.
**--Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly decided before the Wake Forest game last September that he would replace starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush with redshirt sophomore Ian Book. It proved to be the right decision as the Fighting Irish went 12-0 and made the College Football Playoff.
**--Wimbush, who was 13-3 as a starting quarterback, stayed at Notre Dame the rest of the season but on Jan. 15 announced he would transfer to UCF. The Knights lost quarterback McKenzie Milton to a horrific knee injury on Nov. 23 and he may have to sit out the entire 2019 season. Wimbush will compete with redshirt sophomore Darriel Mack, who started after Milton was hurt and was the Most Outstanding Player of the AAC championship game.
I’m sure I’ve left out a bunch of other quarterback moves but the point is made. Because of relaxed transfer rules, especially for graduates with eligibility remaining, there is more freedom of movement than ever for college football players. And they are taking full advantage of it.
The question today is how do you, as a fan of the game, feel about this movement?
Are these guys being disloyal to their teammates by bolting out of town when they lose/don’t win a job? Or, are they simply trying find the best situation for themselves, which is something coaches—and people in every walk of life--have been doing since the leather helmet days?
Those of you who have read this space over years know that, with rare exceptions, I don’t pull for players or schools. I pull for good stories. And with all of these guys leaving and being able to play this Fall, we’ve a bunch of great stories coming up. Specifically:
**--Will Jalen Hurts have this Russell Wilson moment at Oklahoma? And what if the football gods have a sense of humor and match Oklahoma with Alabama in the College Football Playoffs? That’s a helluva story.
**--The Ohio State situation is fascinating. Urban Meyer is gone and Ryan Day has to replace Heisman finalist Dwayne Haskins with Fields, who has enormous talent but is still learning the nuances of the position. Martell, who was supposed to compete for the job, is gone and so is Mathis, who was supposed to sign with the Buckeyes.
So it looks like all the chips—or the Buckeyes--are on Fields. What if Fields has a monster year and gets the Buckeyes to the playoffs?
**--Austin Kendall had a good competition with Kyler Murray for the job at Oklahoma last season and lost out to the eventual Heisman Trophy winner. Now he’s at West Virginia but head coach Dana Holgorsen has left for Houston. Does Kendall thrive under Neal Brown, one of the bright young offensive minds around?
**--After he left Clemson in September, Kelly Bryant had a lot of time to watch football. He watched while new OC Derek Dooley helped groom Missouri’s Drew Lock into an NFL quarterback. Can Dooley do the same for Bryant?
The point? College football, already the best game in the world, gets a lot more interesting because of all these new faces in new places.
This is going to be fun.