Transfer Quarterbacks Most Likely to Succeed with New Teams in 2018
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Perfect planning doesn’t always lead to perfect results.
For many reasons, college football players decide to transfer schools in search of playing time. In particular, quarterbacks have the most reason to seek the best possible opportunity.
After all, only one QB plays at a time.
The 2018 season will feature several signal-callers who sought greener pastures—or a more friendly depth chart—and have a realistic chance to succeed.
But first, some ground rules: Players who arrived at their current school via junior college and weren’t previously at a Football Bowl Subdivision program were not considered. Plus, players who suited up for their team in 2017 (such as Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham and West Virginia’s Will Grier) were likewise excluded.
The focus here is on players ready for their first year of eligibility in 2018.
Brandon Dawkins, Indiana
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Previous school: Arizona
When a late hit knocked Brandon Dawkins out of Arizona’s game against Colorado in early October, nobody could’ve expected what happened next.
Otherwise, Khalil Tate would’ve been the starter anyway.
Nevertheless, Tate took the opportunity and ran with it—literally—as he piled up up 1,411 yards on the ground while indirectly pushing Dawkins out of Tucson. The once-starter ended 2017 with a 61.4 completion percentage, 732 passing yards, 459 rushing yards and 13 total scores.
Now at Indiana in his final year of eligibility, Dawkins must beat out Peyton Ramsey and a few younger quarterbacks. Should that happen, the Hoosiers offer an impressive group at receiver with Luke Timian and two players returning from injury, Nick Westbrook and Donavan Hale.
Dawkins needs to improve his intermediate and downfield accuracy, but his mobility would be an asset for Indiana. The Hoosiers otherwise have the pass-catching weapons necessary for a quarterback to shine.
Chris Robison, Florida Atlantic
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Previous school: Oklahoma
Can Chris Robison stay on the straight and narrow?
After being charged with public intoxication the morning after Oklahoma’s 2017 spring game, the Sooners dismissed him from the program in August. He transferred to FAU a few weeks later, but he had another setback this spring.
“He came in and actually thanked me for it,” Kiffin said, per Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “He said it really kind of embarrassed him nationally and humbled him that things could kind of be taken away. It was good to see.”
If Robison can stay out of trouble and move past De’Andre Johnson in the competition, the Owls are built to thrive. Kiffin can outcoach any C-USA opponent, Devin Singletary is an electric running back and the receiving corps has Willie Wright and West Virginia transfer Jovon Durante.
Gardner Minshew, Washington State
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Previous school: East Carolina
It initially appeared as though Gardner Minshew might not even play in 2018.
Minshew played 17 games over the last two seasons, throwing for 3,487 yards with 24 touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions. Although his former team didn’t have much success, his experience will be welcomed in Pullman.
Longtime starter Luke Falk graduated, and expected replacement Tyler Hilinski committed suicide in January. Prior to Minshew’s arrival, no Wazzu quarterback had taken a snap at this level.
Mike Leach’s Air Raid offensive system is built on a combination of volume and efficiency, so Minshew is likely to put up gaudy numbers in several games.
Joe Burrow, LSU
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Previous school: Ohio State
If spring games are any indication, Joe Burrow has a bright future at LSU. He went 29-of-44 for an even 500 yards with five touchdowns in 2017 and 2018 combined.
Yes, those were only exhibitions. Yes, context matters in those stat lines, too.
During actual games in the fall, he’s gone 29-of-39 for 287 yards and two touchdowns while only appearing in low-stress situations.
Though he isn’t guaranteed to start for the Tigers in 2018—Myles Brennan, Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse are all battling for the job—the college football world has seen enough of Burrow in glimpses to be intrigued by his potential.
And with Texas Tech transfer Jonathan Giles eligible to play this season, Burrow would have a true No. 1 target leading a group of unproven yet once-prized receivers.
LSU has the talent in place to make some noise in the SEC.
Brady White, Memphis
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Previous school: Arizona State
Arizona State lost a pair of graduate transfers to the American Athletic Conference during the offseason, as Blake Barnett headed to South Florida and Brady White picked Memphis. The latter has a clear advantage in playing for an offensive-minded coach, though.
White also has a familiarity with Memphis head coach Mike Norvell, who served as ASU’s offensive coordinator during his redshirt season in 2015.
In both 2016 and 2017, the Tigers ranked top 15 nationally in passing yards per game. While partly a product of standout receiver Anthony Miller, it’s a testament to Norvell’s balanced attack, too.
Five players with at least 20 catches this past season are returning in 2018. And since four starters are back on the offensive line, whoever wins the quarterback job should be well-protected.
If White can outlast David Moore in the competition, he’ll have a great opportunity to excel.
Dru Brown, Oklahoma State
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Previous school: Hawaii
Dru Brown is looking forward to a tremendous opportunity at Oklahoma State. However, he can’t enroll until late July.
“I’ve basically been doing everything I can within the rules to make sure I’m as prepared as I can be when I get there,” he said, per Scott Wright of the Oklahoman. “I can’t get there fast enough. The hardest part about this whole thing is being patient with it.”
Brown posted a 62.0 completion percentage overall while throwing for at least 2,400 yards and 18 touchdowns in both 2016 and 2017. It isn’t difficult to envision him eclipsing that pace in a wide-open OSU offense set to feature Jalen McCleskey and Dillon Stoner in addition to star runner Justice Hill.
The key question is whether Brown’s delayed arrival hampers his ability to compete with Taylor Cornelius, who could lock down the starting job in his absence.
But if Brown wins the gig, no quarterback transfer beyond Shea Patterson inherits a better situation.
Shea Patterson, Michigan
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Previous school: Ole Miss
The only legitimate national title contender featured here is Michigan, which will showcase another top-tier defense.
But as Clemson reminded the college football world in 2017, teams need a competent offense to complement a dominant defense at the championship stage.
That’s been a consistent struggle for the Wolverines, who could improve significantly on offense with Shea Patterson under center. He tossed 17 touchdowns in seven appearances for Ole Miss last season, whereas Michigan managed nine total passing scores in 13 games.
One wild card is the development of the receiving group, which has immense talent but limited past production. Tarik Black, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Grant Perry can be a steady starting trio, though.
Patterson shouldn’t be considered a “savior” for Michigan’s offense, but he’s undoubtedly capable of guiding the program’s return to national contention.
Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.