Recapping college football's busy offseason of quarterback transfers

·14-min read

It's been a long, eventful offseason, but we're inching closer to the 2022 college football season.

A lot has happened since we saw Georgia top Alabama in the national title game. And in the era of the transfer portal and the one-time transfer waiver, player movement is more prevalent than ever.

That’s especially true among quarterbacks, where the search for playing time so often propels players from one school to another. As players like Joe Burrow, Justin Fields and Kyler Murray have shown us, these quarterback transfers usually play a huge role in the race toward the College Football Playoff.

Now with the start of the 2022 season less than two months away, it seems like a good time to recap a busy offseason of quarterback movement.

ACC

Clemson: Hunter Johnson (Northwestern)

A one-time five-star recruit, Hunter Johnson is back at Clemson in a depth role after a rocky stint at Northwestern. He’s behind DJ Uiagalelei and freshman Cade Klubnik and isn’t expected to see the field.

Georgia Tech: Zach Gibson (Akron), Taisun Phommachanh (Clemson)

Jeff Sims has been the main QB for Georgia Tech the past two seasons, but the program is 6-16 during that span and just 9-25 in three years under Geoff Collins. With new offensive coordinator Chip Long in the fold, Sims has some competition with Zach Gibson and Taisun Phommachanh added to the roster. Gibson threw for 1,262 yards and 10 TDs last year at Akron while Phommachanh played sparingly over three seasons at Clemson.

Pittsburgh: Kedon Slovis (USC)

With Heisman finalist Kenny Pickett off to the NFL, Pitt brought in former USC starter Kedon Slovis. Slovis started 26 games in three seasons at USC and was especially impressive as a freshman, throwing for 3,502 yards and 30 TDs. Without OC Mark Whipple (Nebraska) and star receiver Jordan Addison (USC), the Pitt offense will likely look different in 2022 but Slovis gives the team a veteran presence.

Virginia Tech: Grant Wells (Marshall), Jason Brown (South Carolina)

Braxton Burmeister, Virginia Tech’s 2021 starter, left the school after Justin Fuente was fired. New Hokies head coach Brent Pry added two transfers soon after his hire. Grant Wells, who threw for 5,623 yards and 34 TDs at Marshall, is the favorite to start over Jason Brown, who was an FCS star before spending one year at South Carolina.

Texas NCAA college football quarterback Quinn Ewers talks to the media following a spring practice, Thursday, April 14, 2022, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas NCAA college football quarterback Quinn Ewers talks to the media following a spring practice, Thursday, April 14, 2022, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Big 12

Kansas State: Adrian Martinez (Nebraska)

For his final season, Adrian Martinez is getting a fresh start at Kansas State, replacing longtime starter Skylar Thompson. Martinez started four years at Nebraska as the Huskers endured close loss after close loss. The fit in Manhattan makes a ton of sense as Martinez is a tough runner who should form a nice backfield pairing with running back Deuce Vaughn.

Oklahoma: Dillon Gabriel (UCF)

Caleb Williams followed Lincoln Riley to USC, and new coach Brent Venables looked to the highly productive Dillon Gabriel to fill the void at QB. Gabriel, who missed most of 2021 with an injury, threw for 8,037 yards and 70 TDs in three seasons with the Knights. He’s also got past history with new Sooners OC Jeff Lebby, who coached him at UCF in 2019.

Texas: Quinn Ewers (Ohio State)

Ewers was the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2022 but he reclassified and enrolled at Ohio State last summer. He spent the season buried on the depth chart as he adjusted to the college game and ended up transferring back to his home state. He landed at Texas and is expected to beat out Hudson Card for the starting job before Arch Manning arrives in 2023.

West Virginia: JT Daniels (Georgia)

West Virginia is the third school for JT Daniels, the former five-star recruit who started at USC as a freshman before a move to Georgia. Daniels has dealt with an array of injuries and ended up serving as the backup QB on UGA’s national championship team. At West Virginia, Daniels is reuniting with Graham Harrell, who is entering his first season as WVU’s offensive coordinator and coached Daniels at USC.

Big Ten

Illinois: Tommy DeVito (Syracuse)

Tommy DeVito played in 24 games with 15 starts at Syracuse but transferred after losing his starting job. He chose Illinois back in December and will compete with Artur Sitkowski for the starting job in Bret Bielema’s second season coaching the Illini. DeVito’s best year came in 2019 when he threw for 2,360 yards and 19 TDs with only five INTs.

Indiana: Connor Bazelak (Missouri)

With the oft-injured Michael Penix Jr. leaving for Washington, Indiana added former Missouri starter Connor Bazelak. Bazelak threw for 5,058 yards at Mizzou and was the co-freshman of the year in the SEC in 2020. IU had a breakthrough in 2020 but came crashing back to earth with a 2-10 (0-9 Big Ten) record in 2021. Bazelak should help stabilize things.

Nebraska: Casey Thompson (Texas), Chubba Purdy (Florida State)

It’s a pivotal season for Scott Frost at Nebraska and he and his revamped coaching staff will be counting on Texas transfer Casey Thompson to bring some life to the offense. Thompson opened 2021 as Texas’ backup but ended up taking the majority of the snaps for the scuffling Longhorns. In all, he threw for 2,113 yards and 24 TDs with nine interceptions. With Ewers now in Austin and Martinez moving over to K-State, Thompson found a fit with the Huskers, who also added Chubba Purdy via Florida State.

Pac-12

Arizona: Jayden de Laura (Washington State)

Jayden de Laura threw for 3,684 yards, 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions over his two years at Washington State. Though sometimes a bit risk-prone, he had some strong moments at WSU and is now expected to take the reins in Year 2 of Jedd Fisch’s time at Arizona. Fisch is rebuilding the program slowly and the presence of de Laura could help the Wildcats be better than many expect in 2022.

Arizona State: Emory Jones (Florida)

The Herm Edwards era at ASU has been tumultuous to say the least. Under the cloud of an NCAA investigation, there was a mass exodus of coaches and players, including three-year starting QB Jayden Daniels. That opened the door for Emory Jones, who threw for 2,734 yards, 19 TDs and 13 INTs at Florida in 2021. Jones likely would have been the backup to Anthony Richardson in Gainesville in 2022 but is now the favorite to start in Tempe.

Cal: Jack Plummer (Purdue)

With four-year starter Chase Garbers out of eligibility, Cal added Jack Plummer from Purdue. Plummer saw action in 17 games for the Boilermakers over three seasons, throwing for 3,405 yards, 26 TDs and 10 INTs. Instead of a likely backup job at Purdue in 2022, Plummer found a home in Berkeley for a program that has underwhelmed on offense under Justin Wilcox.

Oregon: Bo Nix (Auburn)

The son of an Auburn quarterback, Bo Nix left his home state for the Pacific Northwest to play for new Oregon coach Dan Lanning. Nix is known for his scrambling and improvisational style from his three years starting in the SEC. At Oregon, he will reunite with Kenny Dillingham, his OC at Auburn back in 2019. But with five-star redshirt freshman Ty Thompson also on the roster, Nix won’t just be handed the starting job.

USC: Caleb Williams (Oklahoma)

Caleb Williams lived up to his five-star billing and emerged as a star during his freshman season at Oklahoma. In seven starts, he threw for 1,912 yards and 21 touchdowns while rushing for 442 yards and six more scores. But when Lincoln Riley decided to leave OU for USC, his star quarterback eventually chose to follow the road from Norman to LA. In 2022, Williams will lead a new-look USC offense filled with transfers.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 23: Caleb Williams (13), USC quarterback, and head coach Lincoln Riley, in the USC Football Spring Game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 23: Caleb Williams (13), USC quarterback, and head coach Lincoln Riley, in the USC Football Spring Game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Washington: Michael Penix Jr. (Indiana)

Washington hired Kalen DeBoer following the short and disastrous tenure of Jimmy Lake. The two QBs who played on a lackluster Huskies offense in 2021 — Dylan Morris and Sam Huard — remain with the roster, but DeBoer also added ex-Indiana starter Michael Penix Jr. Penix had flashes of excellence at IU, but also dealt with multiple injuries and took too many chances with the ball. DoBoer was Penix’s OC at Indiana in 2019, so he knows what the lefty is capable of.

Washington State: Cameron Ward (Incarnate Word)

Cameron Ward was a star at the FCS level and became highly sought after by Power Five programs once he entered the transfer portal. Ward, who threw for 4,648 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2021, chose to play for Jake Dickert at Washington State. Dickert was WSU’s interim coach in 2021 before being promoted to the full-time gig replacing Nick Rolovich.

SEC

Auburn: Zach Calzada (Texas A&M), Robby Ashford (Oregon)

Bryan Harsin nearly went one-and-done at Auburn, but now he’s back for Year 2 with a revamped QB room led by Texas A&M transfer Zach Calzada. Calzada is most-known for his heroics in A&M’s upset over Alabama. On the whole, though, his play was very inconsistent. At Auburn he will compete for the starting job with TJ Finley. Another transfer, Robby Ashford (Oregon), is also in the mix.

Florida: Jack Miller (Ohio State)

Anthony Richardson had some unbelievable moments as a freshman and should start for Florida in 2022. But the Gators also made a shrewd move in adding Jack Miller, who was one of several highly regarded recruits on a crowded depth chart at Ohio State. Miller was a four-star prospect in the 2020 class and is expected to be the No. 2 QB for UF behind Richardson.

LSU: Jayden Daniels (Arizona State)

Jayden Daniels threw for 6,025 yards, 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions at Arizona State. He also rushed for 1,288 yards and 13 scores, but he’s not guaranteed to start at LSU with veteran Myles Brennan back in Baton Rouge for another year. Brian Kelly is assuredly going to preach competition after his stunning move from Notre Dame.

Missouri: Jack Abraham (Mississippi State)

Jack Abraham was the starter at Southern Miss but could not get off the bench in two seasons at Mississippi State. Missouri searched for a while to find a QB in the portal and will give Abraham, now in his seventh year of college ball, a chance to compete for the starting job. Three others are also in the mix: Brady Cook, Tyler Macon and Sam Horn. Cook started last year’s bowl game.

Ole Miss: Jaxson Dart (USC)

Lane Kiffin wasn’t shy in the transfer portal and Jaxson Dart was one of his biggest acquisitions. Ole Miss needs a replacement for Matt Corral, and Dart will compete with sophomore Luke Altmyer for the role. While Altmyer was the Rebels' backup last fall, Dart saw action in six games at USC and threw for 1,353 yards and nine TDs with five interceptions. Dart was one of the top QB recruits in the 2021 class.

South Carolina: Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma)

After being a preseason Heisman favorite, Spencer Rattler lost his job to Caleb Williams at Oklahoma last season. He later decided to transfer to South Carolina, where he is reuniting with ex-Oklahoma assistant Shane Beamer. In Columbia, Rattler will look to return to the form he showed for much of the 2020 season. Over his three seasons at Oklahoma, Rattler threw for 4,595 yards with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while completing 70.1% of his throws. He also rushed for 260 yards and nine TDs.

South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler throws at the Manning Passing Academy on the Nicholls State University campus in Thibodaux, La. Friday, June 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler throws at the Manning Passing Academy on the Nicholls State University campus in Thibodaux, La. Friday, June 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Texas A&M: Max Johnson (LSU)

Max Johnson threw for 2,815 yards, 27 touchdowns and just six interceptions while spending most of the 2021 season as LSU’s starter. Now he is looking to become QB1 in College Station. At Texas A&M, the junior lefty will compete with Haynes King and heralded freshman Conner Weigman. King was A&M’s starter to begin last season but he went down with a season-ending injury in Week 2.

Group of Five

Cincinnati: Ben Bryant (Eastern Michigan)

Ben Bryant was Desmond Ridder’s backup at Cincinnati for three seasons before leaving for Eastern Michigan. He threw for 3,121 yards in his lone season at EMU but is now back with the Bearcats on the heels of their trip to the College Football Playoff. Bryant will compete to start with Evan Prater, a four-star recruit from the 2020 class.

Hawaii: Cammon Cooper (Washington State), Joey Yellen (Pitt)

Hawaii has two Power Five transfers on its QB depth chart for its first season under Timmy Chang. Cammon Cooper was a four-star recruit who threw 23 passes during his time at Washington State. Joey Yellen began his career at Arizona State and then spent the last two seasons as a backup to Kenny Pickett at Pitt.

Liberty: Charlie Brewer (Utah)

A familiar name to Big 12 fans, Charlie Brewer was a four-year starter at Baylor who decided to use his COVID year at Utah. But Brewer was benched after three games and decided to leave the Utes. Because he played in only three games, he was able to use his redshirt and has now moved on to Liberty. With the Flames, Brewer is expected to replace Malik Willis, a third-round NFL draft choice.

Marshall: Henry Colombi (Texas Tech)

Between his stops at Utah State and Texas Tech (both under Matt Wells), Colombi played in 24 games and threw for 2,816 yards, 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Now he’ll have a chance to start for Marshall in its first season as a member of the Sun Belt.

Nevada: Shane Illingworth (Oklahoma State)

Shane Illingworth was Spencer Sanders’ backup for two seasons at Oklahoma State. Now he has the chance to step in the shoes vacated by Carson Strong at Nevada.

San Diego State: Braxton Burmeister (Virginia Tech)

Braxton Burmeister is onto his third school after beginning his career at Oregon and then becoming the starter at Virginia Tech.

San Jose State: Chevan Cordeiro (Hawaii)

With the addition of Chaven Cordeiro, SJSU feels like an under-the-radar contender in the Mountain West. Cordeiro threw for 6,167 yards, 45 TDs and 22 interceptions in four seasons at Hawaii. He also rushed for 1,083 yards and 13 scores.

South Florida: Gerry Bohanon (Baylor)

Gerry Bohanon backed up Charlie Brewer for three seasons before becoming Baylor’s starter in 2021. During spring ball, though, he was passed on the depth chart and decided to use his final season at USF.

UCF: John Rhys Plumlee (Ole Miss)

An explosive athlete with experience at QB and receiver, John Rhys Plumlee feels like a natural fit in Gus Malzahn’s offense. UCF has Mikey Keene back, but Plumlee should find his way onto the field in some capacity.

UNLV: Harrison Bailey (Tennessee)

Harrison Bailey was a five-star recruit in Tennessee’s 2020 recruiting class but he never found his footing in Knoxville. He’ll get a chance to resume his career with a rebuilding UNLV program.

Western Kentucky: Jarret Doege (West Virginia)

Jarret Doege started at both Bowling Green and West Virginia and will now try to fit into Western Kentucky’s pass-happy offense for his final season of college football. He’ll just have to avoid the turnovers that plagued him in Morgantown.

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