It was an incredibly busy first day of the college football transfer period. More than 1,000 players have entered the transfer portal.
Some high-profile teams saw significant departures. The Oklahoma Sooners and Ohio State Buckeyes saw their starting quarterbacks elect to leave. Four Power 5 teams (Purdue, Vanderbilt, NC State and Cincinnati) saw double-digit players choose to transfer.
And that’s only since the portal opened at midnight on Monday.
What was the most surprising move? Where could the quarterbacks best fit? Our college football experts weigh in:
What move on Monday surprised you the most?
Tom VanHaaren: Quarterback Dillon Gabriel entering the portal was an interesting move. He followed offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby from UCF to Oklahoma, and Lebby just got the head coaching job at Mississippi State, but I thought there would be a chance that Gabriel would finish things out at Oklahoma. He is a highly productive quarterback who will likely have quite a few options that might include following Lebby again to Mississippi State, or possibly Florida State. It wasn’t entirely surprising, but with limited eligibility remaining, it would have made sense to stay put.
David Hale: No, there are no surprises in the portal era, and it’s hard to fault anyone for testing their market value. But if the 2022 transfer class set the bar for success in a new home with Bo Nix, Michael Penix Jr., Caleb Williams and others, the 2023 cycle didn’t actually have too many winners. DJ Uiagalelei had the highest Total QBR of any player who transferred after last season, and he’s now in the portal again.
Many of the biggest names the last time around — Devin Leary, Jeff Sims, Phil Jurkovec, Sam Hartman, Brennan Armstrong, Payton Thorne, Tanner Mordecai — finished the year as something between mediocre and outright bust. So, while I’m not shocked by anyone jumping into the portal, I’m a bit surprised there weren’t more big names who saw the results of 2023 and decided the grass isn’t always greener.
What is a QB fit that could make sense?
VanHaaren: Cameron Ward could be a great fit at Florida State. With Jordan Travis moving on, the Seminoles are going to need a new quarterback. Ward was fifth in passing yards this season among all FBS quarterbacks with 3,735 yards, No. 18 in passing touchdowns with 25, and he also had eight rushing touchdowns for Washington State. He’s already had a ton of success and would help keep Florida State on the track it’s on right now at the championship level. FSU backups Tate Rodemaker and Brock Glenn played in the final two games of the season due to Travis’ leg injury. Ideally, coach Mike Norvell would like to continue developing quarterbacks within the system, but if Ward is interested, this could be a great match.
Paolo Uggetti: As USC searches for a potential replacement for Caleb Williams, it’s notable that a former Lincoln Riley commit just entered the portal. Georgia’s Brock Vandagriff was once committed to play for Riley at Oklahoma. Plenty has changed since then, but maybe a reunion of sorts could be in the cards for Riley and Vandagriff. In three years at Georgia, Vandagriff threw only 21 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns, but as a former four-star recruit with plenty of potential, Riley and USC could be the perfect match to revitalize his college career.
Who’s an under-the-radar transfer that could make a big impact?
VanHaaren: We have seen quite a few Ivy League transfers this offseason, and one name that has stood out is Harvard defensive tackle Thor Griffith. He’s a 6-foot-2, 320-pound lineman who had 55 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks this season. He’s a senior, has a ton of production and experience and has already started to pick up offers from Michigan State, Oregon State, Cal, Minnesota, UCLA and a handful of others. Disruptive interior defensive lineman are valuable, and Griffith has a lot in his favor going into his transfer process.
Chris Low: Tight end Justin Joly led UConn with 56 catches and 578 receiving yards and was one of the bright spots for the Huskies in a 3-9 season. The 6-3, 232-pound junior still has two years of eligibility remaining and posted on social media Monday morning that he’d been offered by Tennessee soon after officially entering the portal. The Vols had a close-up view of Joly this season. He caught eight passes for 89 yards in UConn’s 59-3 loss to Tennessee in November.
Dave Wilson: If we’re just going off evaluation track records, Indiana’s Brendan Sorsby could be worth watching. Why? Because two years ago at this time, two of Tom Allen’s quarterback prospects, Michael Penix Jr. and Josh Hoover, both ventured elsewhere — Penix to become a superstar at Washington, where he’s led the Huskies to a No. 2 seed in the College Football Playoff and Hoover, who flipped from his Indiana commitment to TCU and was thrust into starting duty this year as a redshirt freshman and had five 300-yard games after Chandler Morris was injured.
A couple of years ago, another former Allen starter, Peyton Ramsey, who lost his starting job to Penix, went to Northwestern where he was the 2021 Citrus Bowl MVP and a third-team all-Big Ten selection.
The ACC’s QB pecking order is going to look a lot different in 2024. Not only is the league losing Jordan Travis and, almost certainly, Drake Maye — the top two QBs in 2023 — but with the departure of Riley Leonard and Tyler Van Dyke, the biggest name returning for next year might be Georgia Tech’s Haynes King. UNC already made its move to replace Maye, adding former Texas A&M and LSU starter Max Johnson.
Florida State and Louisville would be inviting landing spots for a QB, though both programs also have younger players they’d like to see develop. NC State, too, showed flashes of its offensive potential in the latter stages of the season, and after the departure of MJ Morris, the Wolfpack will be in the market, too. Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Boston College and Clemson figure to be the only schools who aren’t in search of a new starter, and they might even be in the market for another veteran to provide insurance for their younger QBs. — Hale
Oklahoma, which was the model of stability for two decades, just lost its third starting quarterback in three years to the transfer portal. Given, two of them split when Lincoln Riley did — Spencer Rattler, who had been benched in favor of Caleb Williams, to South Carolina, and Williams with Riley to USC. Gabriel provided an instant jump-start for Lebby’s offense, but with Lebby gone, it looks increasingly like it’s the start of the Jackson Arnold era in Norman, under new co-OCs Seth Littrell and Joe Jon Finley.
But the league as a whole saw a QB shakeup. Will Howard, who led Kansas State to conference championship last year, is heading out as Avery Johnson appears to be the future starter, Texas Tech’s Tyler Shough, who started 13 games in Lubbock after transferring from Oregon, is on the move, and league newcomer Utah lost both of its backup QBs, Nate Johnson and Bryson Barnes, with Cam Rising returning next year. –– Wilson
Herbstreit and McAfee surprised by Kyle McCord going into transfer portal
Kirk Herbstreit and Pat McAfee discuss their confusion about Kyle McCord entering the transfer portal and leaving Ohio State.
Ohio State was the Big Ten team with the most movement on Monday, as quarterback Kyle McCord, receiver Julian Fleming, running back Evan Pryor, linebacker Reid Carrico and defensive backs Ryan Turner, Kye Stokes and Cameron Martinez all entered the transfer portal.
McCord made the biggest waves of the day, considering he was the starting quarterback and went 11-1 this season. The quarterback play wasn’t up to what Ohio State expects, however, and it now seems likely that the coaches will look to the transfer portal for help for next season. Ward is one name that the Buckeyes could go after with Ward transferring from Washington State. Despite a successful season, Ohio State lost for a third time to Michigan, and the staff is now retooling to try to build the best roster it can for the 2024 season. — VanHaaren
Quarterbacks, quarterbacks and more quarterbacks. The conference of quarterbacks this past season might be going away, but its former teams will be back on the quarterback carousel now that portal season has officially arrived. Oregon State’s Aidan Chiles, Washington State’s Cam Ward and Utah’s Bryson Barnes joined their Pac-12 counterparts Dante Moore and DJ Uiagalelei, who already announced they would be entering the portal, as quarterbacks leaving their respective teams.
Meanwhile, USC head coach Lincoln Riley said Monday the Trojans will be looking into the portal to add at least one quarterback in the wake of Caleb Williams’ expected NFL departure and every aforementioned team, but Utah (Cam Rising announced he will return next year), will also likely be looking to add a quarterback in the coming weeks. With several high profile quarterbacks like Dillon Gabriel, Kyle McCord and Will Howard also in the portal, look for several of the soon-to-be-former Pac-12 teams to be in the mix. — Uggetti
More movement is sure to occur in the SEC, as some big-name players are biding their time before looking for new homes and bigger deals. It wasn’t a surprise to South Carolina that receiver Antwane “Juice” Wells officially entered his name in the portal on Monday after waffling over the last few weeks. The preseason All-SEC selection told the coaching staff last week he was likely heading that way after an injury-plagued season that saw him play in three games and catch three passes. Of course, he announced the week before the Clemson game that while he wasn’t going to play in that game, he would be back with the Gamecocks for the 2024 season. But in the new world of NIL/portal, he changed his mind again and is on the move.
He’s not the only SEC receiver that will draw some attention in the portal. Vanderbilt’s Will Sheppard, after four solid seasons with the Commodores, is headed elsewhere. He leaves as the school’s seventh-leading receiver all-time with 2,067 career receiving yards. He caught 17 touchdown catches over the last two seasons. It wasn’t a good day (or season) for Clark Lea and the Commodores, as 13 players are in the portal, including one of their most promising young players. Freshman receiver London Humphreys is leaving after catching four touchdowns and ranking second to Sheppard as Vanderbilt’s leading receiver. The Commodores, who finished 2-10, will be starting over in their passing game. All three of their quarterbacks who took a snap in 2023 won’t be back. — Low