The transfer portal is becoming an integral part of the team-building process for college football coaches around the country. It is a double-edged sword, with schools losing and gaining players via the portal each year. NIL deals have made all the difference, giving prospects the ability to make money off of their own image and likeness. How does this impact the quarterback position going forward?
The quarterback position is the most important in sports. I know, I am not telling you anything you don’t already know. Just taking a look at the four college football playoff teams this season, three of them feature a Heisman finalist behind center. CJ Stroud, Max Duggan, and Stetson Bennett have all moved the needle for their respective programs in 2022.
The favorite to win the Heisman, Caleb Williams, came just short of reaching the playoffs with his USC Trojans. Williams, himself, is a product of the transfer portal. The former five-star recruit committed to Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, playing for the Sooners as a true freshman, before following Riley to Southern Cal. The Trojans witnessed an immediate jolt, as Williams and others from the transfer portal made USC an instant contender.
Transfer Portal: Get Ready For Some CFB Musical Chairs At Quarterback
Will Levis and Hendon Hooker have been fixtures in NFL Draft discussions all year, and both guys started their collegiate careers elsewhere. Levis lost a quarterback battle at Penn State, prompting a transfer to the Kentucky Wildcats. Hooker spent a few years with Virginia Tech before setting up shop in Knoxville the past two seasons.
Long story short, the transfer portal has shaped the college football landscape over the last 24 months, and there are no signs of it slowing down any time soon. Other positions will impact the playoff race in 2023, but none more so than the quarterback group. Luckily for the teams searching for a starter, there will be more than a dozen quality signal-callers looking for new homes this offseason.
Let’s highlight a handful of quarterbacks that could come in and replicate the success of Lincoln Riley, Caleb Williams, and the USC Trojans.
Devin Leary, QB, NC State
Devin Leary is the most surprising name to enter the transfer portal. Leary was tabbed as a top QB in the 2023 NFL Draft coming into the year. Unfortunately, due to inconsistent production and injury, Leary saw his NFL Draft stock plummet. The NC State Wolfpack leader went from potential day-one talks to a fringe top 100 selection.
Wisely, Leary opted to return for another season of college football to resuscitate his stock. To the shock of many, that will not come with the NC State program. In his four years with the Pack, Leary accounted for 67 total touchdowns and served as a captain of the locker room.
Whoever winds up with Devin Leary at quarterback will be a better team for it. He possesses NFL arm talent but needs to refine his technique and eliminate poor decision-making to rebuild his brand into day-one consideration again. Wisconsin sticks out to me as a hand-in-glove fit for both parties.
Shedeur Sanders, QB, Jackson State
Deion Sanders recruited his son to play for him at Jackson State, and now the former four-star recruit will follow his pops to Colorado. Don’t misconstrue this as Deion doing a favor for his son, because Shedeur helped build the Jackson State program the past two seasons, and will look to do the same in Boulder.
Shedeur Sanders is as talented of a quarterback as there is in the country. He is a raw player, but the younger Sanders uses an NFL frame to make plays with his arm and his legs. Sanders tallied 74 touchdowns, eclipsed 3000 yards each season as the starter, and completed over 68% of his passes when dropping back.
The Colorado roster is starting over from scratch with Deion Sanders. Prime Time should be able to add droves of talent from the transfer portal, but how far they go in year one will fall directly at the feet of Shedeur Sanders. Just like his father, Shedeur was born to be on the gridiron; expect big things from the duo in 2023.
DJ Uiagalelei, QB, Clemson
A five-star quarterback out of California, DJ Uiagalelei was supposed to be the next Clemson great behind center. Those expectations are lofty for anyone, considering Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence each propelled the program to a National Championship.
Uiagalelei witnessed an abysmal season as a starter in 2021, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns on the year, and completing only 55% of his passes. In 2022, DJU showed improvement in key areas but still could not muster up enough juice to lead the Tigers back to the College Football Playoff.
With youngster Cade Klubnik taking over the top spot on the depth chart, the writing was on the wall for DJU’s time coming to an end at Clemson. A team without national title expectations should scoop up the talented passer and give him a chance at a fresh start with a new staff. Maybe they can get the five-star potential out of Uiagalelei.
As far as fits go, a few make sense. Nebraska is perhaps the most intriguing of the options, with Matt Rhule as the new man on campus. Rhule and Uiagalelei witnessed some down years in the Carolinas; perhaps the two could rebuild their image by bringing Nebraska back to prominence.
Spencer Sanders, QB, Oklahoma State
The Oklahoma State leader made a stunning announcement by adding his name to the transfer portal. Sanders has over 40 starts under his belt and is a dual threat out of the backfield, making him an enticing option for programs in search of an experienced, versatile starter.
Sanders is most dangerous when out in space as a runner, with nearly 2000 career rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground. As a passer, Sanders will never be confused as a precision quarterback. Still, the four-year starter knows how to read a defense and has the talent in his arm to spray throws all over the field.
Sanders will not be the most popular name in the transfer portal, but he has the potential to be the most impactful in 2023. An intriguing fit for Sanders would be Oregon State. The Beavers took a leap in the Pac-12 by winning nine games but were given very little to work with in the passing game.
With Sanders in tow, head coach Jonathan Smith can improve on this disgusting stat line that his quarterbacks posted in 2022: 2229 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. If Sanders can bring his exciting style of play to Corvallis, the Beavers have a great chance to build on their breakout 2022 campaign.
Other big names like Kedon Slovis, JT Daniels, and Nick Evers have yet to find a home. Guys like Spencer Rattler and Donovan Smith may not leave their current spots, but both will flirt with the possibility. These are exciting times in the college football world. Sit back and enjoy as the quarterback musical chairs are already underway!