Back in the 2018 recruiting cycle, USC quarterback JT Daniels was a composite five-star college football recruit at 247Sports. From 2010-2019, only 19 quarterback recruits achieved that status.
On Thursday, Daniels entered the transfer portal. He intends to leave USC to find another program at which he can start. Daniels entered last season with significant fanfare after showing flashes as a true freshman in 2018. After one game, he tore his ACL.
Kedon Slovis stepped in for the Trojans, and was very good. He threw for 3,502 yards, 30 touchdowns, and nine interceptions as a true freshman. Displacing him, even for a talented passer like Daniels would be very difficult.
With the transfer portal, Daniels can return to USC, but it is hard to imagine him not finding a suitable program. One would think a composite five-star quarterback transferring would be a rare opportunity. In fact, it is quite the opposite. According to 247Sports, more than half of them between 2010 and 2019 have either transferred schools or, in the case of Daniels, signaled their intention to do so.
There were 19 five-star QBs between the 2010-18 classes in the @247Sports Composite. After JT Daniels' entered the portal today, 12 of those 19 have transfered at least once in their career.
That's 63 percent.
— Chris Hummer (@chris_hummer) April 16, 2020
Transfers have seen a huge spike in recent years in college sports overall, thanks in large part to the advent of the graduate transfer and transfer portal. This summer, we may even see the NCAA vote on a one-time waiver for players to change schools without sitting out, which would streamline the process and largely take the decision-making out of the organization’s hands.
Quarterbacks have particular incentive to do so, because of the scarcity of playing time. For a wide receiver or offensive lineman, there may be five or more players with chances for playing time at each school. For quarterbacks, that number is almost always one for a stable system. .
247’s Chris Hummer took a look at every composite five-star QB from the last decade. Here are the players who did, or have not entered the transfer portal:
- 2011: Braxton Miller, Ohio State
- 2012: Jameis Winston, Florida State
- 2013: Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
- 2015: Josh Rosen, UCLA
- 2017: Davis Mills, Stanford
- 2017: Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
- 2018: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Meanwhile, those that have transferred is the bigger group:
- 2010: Phillip Sims, Alabama -> Virginia
- 2011: Jeff Driskel, Florida -> Louisiana Tech
- 2012: Gunner Kiel, Notre Dame -> Cincinnati
- 2013: Max Browne, USC -> Pittsburgh
- 2014: Kyle Allen, Texas A&M -> Houston
- 2015: Blake Barnett, Alabama -> Arizona State -> USF
- 2015: Kyler Murray, Texas A&M -> Oklahoma
- 2016: Shea Patterson, Ole Miss -> Michigan
- 2016: Jacob Eason, Georgia -> Washington
- 2017: Hunter Johnson, Clemson -> Northwestern
- 2018: JT Daniels, USC -> ???
- 2019: Justin Fields, Georgia -> Ohio State
As he notes in the 247 write-up, Tua Tagovailoa openly admitted that if not for his star turn opportunity in the national championship game, Tua Tagovailoa was heavily considering a transfer from Alabama. Instead, it was Jalen Hurts who left for Oklahoma.
The transfer group is a mixed bag, but college football has been defined by those players in recent years. Three transfers—Baker Mayfield (Texas Tech to Oklahoma), Murray, and Joe Burrow (Ohio State to LSU)—have won the last three Heisman Trophies. Burrow won the national championship, and joined Hurts and Fields in the College Football Playoff, making three of the four starting quarterbacks in the field transfers.
It is definitely frustrating for some, but for players, expanding transfers gives them the agency to carve out the best possible careers, especially with limited opportunities. Go ask LSU, Ohio State, or Oklahoma fans if they are really put off by their quarterback play in recent years. They probably don’t mind where their QB1s started their careers one bit.