Over the past seven years, nine of the 247Sports Composite’s 15 five-star quarterbacks transferred:
- 2011 five-star Jeff Driskel transferred from Florida to Louisiana Tech.
- 2012’s Gunner Kiel is extremely well-traveled.
- From the 2013 class, Max Browne transferred from USC to Pitt.
- 2014’s Kyle Allen transferred from Texas A&M to Houston.
- From 2015’s class, Blake Barnett transferred from Alabama to Arizona State (and then USF), and Kyler Murray transferred from Texas A&M to Oklahoma.
- 2016 five-stars Jacob Eason and Shea Patterson transferred, respectively from Georgia to Washington and from Ole Miss to Michigan.
- From 2017, Hunter Johnson signed with Clemson before leaving.
(And then there’s 2017 five-star Tua Tagavailoa, who implied he was 30 minutes from leaving Alabama.)
Four-star QBs transfer all the time, too.
No matter how good recruiting ratings get, not every touted quarterback will pan out.
Evaluating talent is one thing, but whether or not that talent develops at the next level is another. Plenty of schools will still take chances on a transfer who’s demonstrated elite talent before, though, so a player who didn’t fit at one school will almost always find plenty of suitors.
One big reason for all this is obvious.
Only one QB can play at a time. That’s not the case for any other position group.
Top teams often have several starter-caliber QBs. Many players on the list above got stuck behind other blue-chips on the depth chart — that was the case for Johnson, Eason, and others.
If you aren’t getting the playing time you expected, the option to transfer and get to start immediately somewhere else looks far more viable.
And if you were a top prospect, your plan is to be a starter wherever you are.
That’s especially true if you’re a QB, which likely means you’ve invested even more in your development than players at other positions have.
“Quarterbacks are increasingly specializing in football, as opposed to playing other sports,” SB Nation’s Bud Elliott says. “Thanks to year-round training, 7v7, camps, and spring ball, they are entering college more game-ready than ever before. And that means they want to play early, as opposed to sitting and learning, since they feel they have less to learn.”
Five-star quarterbacks also transfer for all the same reasons as other players.
Sometimes it’s due to grades or discipline issues or other normal attrition situations.
Sometimes a school just isn’t a good fit in general, a player wants to get back home to his family, a player wants to take advantage of the NCAA’s looser rules for graduates, or other personal factors arise.
There’s also the usual weird college sports stuff, like how Patterson transferred to Michigan due to the Rebels’ NCAA sanctions.
QBs transfer a lot, but college football’s transfer market isn’t actually turning into total free agency.
There’s a lot of talk about the number of transfers within the sport, especially with the NCAA considering loosening the rules up a bit.
But according to the NCAA’s Division I numbers on the percentage of athletes in each sport who transfer, FBS football is below the overall student-athlete average of 6.5 percent, and adding in the slightly above-average FCS numbers wouldn’t nudge DI football above the average.