Ranking the 4 biggest QB transfers in 2019

transfer QBs-2019-college football-jalen hurts oklahoma-justin fields ohio state

Former Georgia QB Jacob Eason is expected to start for Washington this season. He is just one of several big-time transfer quarterbacks who will play in a new uniform in 2019.

Not every quarterback is Trevor Lawrence, Tua Tagovailoa or Jake Fromm. All three are transcendent quarterbacks.

Lawrence led Clemson to the 2018-19 national championship, Tagovailoa came on in relief to help lead Alabama to the 2017-18 national championship and a ’19 title game loss, and Fromm, the least heralded of the trio, is 23-5 as a starter and led Georgia to a national championship appearance and a New Year’s Six bowl.

The exploits of that talented trio accounted for five of the more high-profile transfers entering the 2019 college football season, none more high-profile than Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields, who likely will factor into the College Football Playoff and Heisman discussion (and gambling considerations).

1. QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma (previously: Alabama)

The most heralded transfer in recent memory, Hurts will play his senior season as a graduate transfer at Oklahoma, choosing the Sooners over a host of other programs, including Maryland, Miami, Auburn, Tennessee, Utah, UCLA, Florida State and Ohio State.

Hurts became the first freshman quarterback to start under Nick Saban and went 26-2 as a starter before Nick Saban benched him in favor of Tagovailoa.

Hurts is the third high-profile transfer quarterback in as many years for Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, following Baker Mayfield (Texas Tech) and Kyler Murray (Texas A&M), who won the Heisman Trophy and helped lead Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff.

It’s no surprise to see Hurts with the third-best odds for the 2019 Heisman Trophy (+700) and Oklahoma with the fifth-best odds for the 2020 national championship (+1000).

With Hurts at quarterback, the Alabama offense was good but not great, ranking  27th in efficiency and 34th in explosiveness (’16), and 17th and 27th (’17). With Tagovailoa, the Alabama offense surged to first and third (’18).

As a backup in 2018, Hurts appeared in all but two games and completed 72.9 percent of his passes and averaged 10.9 yards per attempt. He cemented his Alabama legacy with a come-from-behind win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, completing 7-of-9 passes for 82 yards, including the game-tying touchdown, and rushing for 28 yards on five carries, including the go-ahead score.

Hurts showed development as a passer under quarterbacks coach Dan Enos. That should continue under Riley, one of the most regarded offensive minds in football. Riley tweaked his offense to fit Mayfield’s accuracy and Murray’s dual-threat ability and will adjust to Hurts’ skill set.

Because of its offense, Oklahoma made the playoff in each of the last two years. Now the Sooners add Alex Grinch, previously the defensive coordinator at Washington State before spending one season as co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State.

Oklahoma likely will be favored in every game, with the Red River Shootout against Texas and the regular-season finale at rival Oklahoma State looming as potential land mines.

Outside of Lawrence, Tagovailoa, Clemson and Alabama, Hurts and Oklahoma likely are the most popular bets to win the Heisman Trophy and College Football Playoff.

2. QB Justin Fields, Ohio State (previously: Georgia)

Ohio State will feature a first-year head coach (Ryan Day), a new offensive coordinator (Mike Yurcich), and new quarterback (Fields).

Fields is the favorite to replace Dwayne Haskins, who set Big Ten records for passing yards (4,831) and passing touchdowns (50) on his way to becoming a Heisman finalist in his first and only season as a starter.

With Fields, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2018 and the No. 2 ranked prospect overall behind Lawrence, Ohio State is tied with Georgia for the third-best odds (+800) to win the College Football Playoff. Fields himself has the fourth-best odds (+900) to win the Heisman Trophy.

Fields played in 12 of 14 games for Georgia as a Freshman All-SEC selection mainly as a runner, attempting just 39 passes.

His transfer resembles Murray’s transfer from Texas A&M to Oklahoma, as Murray, also a dual-threat quarterback and former five-star recruit, played sparingly in College Station.

With all the change, it will be fascinating to see what the Ohio State offense resembles in 2019 (could it be more aggressive?).

Day was 3-0 as the interim head coach in Urban Meyer’s absence, highlighted by a 40-28 neutral-site win over TCU in Arlington, Texas, and will face a schedule that includes cross-division games against Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin and a Nov. 30 road date at rival Michigan.

3. QB Jacob Eason, Washington (previously: Georgia)

After sitting out the 2018 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Eason should replace four-year starter Jake Browning, who set numerous program season and career records while becoming the winningest quarterback in Pac-12 history.

The No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2016, one spot behind Michigan’s Shea Patterson, Eason played in 19 games at Georgia.

As a true freshman in 2016, Eason completed 55.1 percent of his passes and averaged 6.6 yards per attempt. Eason began the ’17 season as the starter before suffering an injury in the season opener and never regaining his spot.

It’s worth noting that while Eason played with NFL running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the same backfield, his offensive line and receiving corps were less less talented than the pieces that have surrounded Fromm.

With Browning under center, Washington was efficient but not explosive. Eason has the arm talent to stretch the field.

The 2019 schedule is favorable outside of drawing USC and Utah from the Pac-12 South, but both of those games are at home. Washington also gets Oregon and Washington State at home but must travel to Stanford the first week of October.

I don’t see Washington as a good bet to win the national championship at +3500, but there may be value on the season win total or a playoff appearance, especially if the team can beat Oregon.

4. QB Kelly Bryant, Missouri (previously: Clemson)

Bryant traded in Clemson orange for Missouri’s black-and-gold. He’ll succeed four-year starter and future first-round pick Drew Lock.

Bryant was 16-2 as a starter and led Clemson to a College Football Playoff appearance. His only losses came after suffering a concussion against Syracuse and to eventual national champion Alabama in the semifinals.

Bryant was efficient, completing 65.8 percent of his passes, but not explosive. He also rushed for 665 yards and 11 touchdowns on 192 carries.

He played in four games for the Tigers in 2018 before giving way to Lawrence, due in large part to Lawrence’s arm talent that added explosiveness to an efficient offense.

Bryant and the Tigers have a relatively favorable draw in the SEC, getting Ole Miss and Arkansas from the West and home games against South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee. The toughest test on the schedule, a road date at Georgia, comes following a bye week and in a potential let-down, look-ahead spot for the Bulldogs sandwiched between rivalry games against Florida and Auburn.

Other quarterbacks to watch

QB Hunter Johnson, Northwestern (previously: Clemson) — The frontrunner to succeed four-year starter and future NFL quarterback Clayton Thorson, Johnson completed 21-of-27 passes for 234 yards at Clemson. Kelly Bryant (Clemson to Missouri) beat him out for the starting job in 2017.

QB Gage Gubrud, Washington State (Previously: Eastern Washington) — Gubrud won an appeal or a sixth year of eligibility and will eligible to play as a graduate transfer at Washington State (and Mike Leach) in 2019. A two-time finalist for the Walter Payton Award, Gubrud threw for 9,984 yards at Eastern Washington.

Brandon Wimbush, UCF (previously: Notre Dame) – Wimbush, the one-time starter at Notre Dame, who lost out to Ian Book, will compete with returnee Darriel Mack Jr. as McKenzie Milton rehabs.

Tate Martell, Miami (previously: Ohio State) – Martell saw action in six games as a redshirt freshman before transferring after learning of Justin Fields’ intentions. If Martell receives a waiver from the NCAA, he will give first-year head coach Manny Diaz another option at quarterback, along with N’Kosi Perry.

Austin Kendall, Oklahoma (previously: West Virginia) – Kendall played behind Kyler Murray, appearing in six games, and transferred out after the incoming transfer of Jalen Hurts. Kendall will look to replace two-year starter Will Grier for first-year head coach Neal Brown.

Josh Jackson, Maryland (previously: Virginia Tech) – Jackson enters a crowded quarterback room, joining Kasim Hill and Tyrrell Pigrome, who both started games for the Terrapins. Both put their names in the transfer portal this offseason. While Hill may miss the season due to injury, it remains an interesting quarterback room to watch with new head coach Mike Locksley.

Alex Delton, TCU (previously: Kansas State) – Delton split time with Jesse Ertz and Skylar Thompson the last two seasons. He’ll compete with returnees Mike Collins and Justin Rogers and freshman Max Duggan.

Ben Hicks, Arkansas (previously: SMU) – A three-year starter at SMU, Hicks reunites with Chad Morris and Joe Craddock, who were the head coach and offensive coordinator, respectively, at SMU.

Riley Neal, Vanderbilt (previously: Ball State) – A three-year starter at Ball State, Neal will compete with Deuce Wallace and Mo Hasan.

Shane Buechele, SMU (previously: Texas) – Buechele started every game as a freshman in 2016 before splitting time and eventually getting beat out by Sam Ehlinger. He should replace Ben Hicks, who transferred to Arkansas.

Other players to watch

RB James Gilbert, Kansas State (previously: Ball State) – Gilbert played in 38 games at Ball State, totaling 2,806 career rushing yards and 30 career rushing touchdowns. Gilbert will help replace Alex Barnes under first-year head coach Chris Klieman.

RB James Gilbert, Kansas State (previously: Ball State) – Gilbert played in 38 games at Ball State, totaling 2,806 career rushing yards and 30 career rushing touchdowns. Gilbert will help replace Alex Barnes under first-year head coach Chris Klieman.

WR K.J. Osborn, Miami (previously: Buffalo) – One of team’s top playmakers, Osborn caught 53 passes for 892 yards and seven touchdowns for Buffalo in 2018. He will look to complement Jeff Thomas.

WR Lawrence Cager, Georgia (previously: Miami) – Cager led Miami with six touchdowns and 17.8 yards per catch. He is the second Power 5 receiver transfer for Georgia in as many years, following Demetris Robertson (Cal). Georgia loses four of its top five pass-catchers from last season.

WR Jalen McCleskey, Tulane (previously: Oklahoma State) – McCleskey took advantage of the four-game redshirt rule to retain his last season of eligibility and joins his father J.J. McCleskey, the defensive backs coach. He gives Tulane its third Power 5 transfer in the last two years (QB Justin McMillan, RB Corey Dauphine).

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