A change of scenery doesn’t change a player’s DNA. Coaching staffs can alter the way a quarterback is used and improve his production, but the flaws will surface under intense stress. It’s like Tim Tebow’s throwing motion. The guy could have the footwork of Peyton Manning and the accuracy of Drew Brees in practice, yet when facing an onslaught of defensive linemen and linebackers, the shot-put motion came out.
Have you ever met someone who “used” to have an accent that resurfaces after a few cocktails? That’s what happens to QBs under pressure. The stat that made the rounds prior to this season was that nearly half of all college quarterbacks are transfers, with 59 of them named starters, per 247 Sports.
The transfer portal is responsible for the turnover, and coaches, usually bad ones unable to install a towel rack let alone an offense, have embraced the more or less free agency it’s created. That said, like free agency in the NFL, landscape-altering QBs rarely hit the market. If it happens at the NCAA level, and a proven playmaker becomes available, it’s rare.
Russell Wilson did all he could do at NC State before he left for Wisconsin. Vernon Adams Jr., if you remember him, also used the graduate transfer exception when he came to Oregon from Eastern Washington. His tenure as a Duck didn’t pan up the way Wilson’s did as a Badger though.
Disgruntled signal callers hit the market more frequently, and for every Joe Burrow or Justin Fields, there are 17 Luke McCaffreys, Bo Nixes, Spencer Rattlers, etc.
Before last season, Rattler was a Heisman frontrunner in Oklahoma, and any GameCock fan who thought they were getting a QB of that caliber figured out as quickly as Lincoln Riley that he’s not that guy. The transfer went 23-of-37 for 227 yards, a touchdown, and two picks against Georgia State.
So when your school announces a former four-or-five-star recruit is transferring to become the starting quarterback, the reaction should not be the same as if it had signed the player out of high school. A new car depreciates in value the second it leaves the lot, as do high school quarterbacks once they lose a starting job or two.
If Kansas State fans only looked at Adrian Martinez’s highlight package and career stats when he came over from Nebraska, they would’ve been elated. And boy was that optimism short-lived. Yes, the Wildcats won Saturday, shutting out South Dakota 34-0. But Martinez finished the games with 92 yards total, going 11-of-15 for 53 yards.
Husker fans were okie-doked much in the same fashion as I’m sure thousands of Longhorns’ fans would’ve informed them that Casey Thompson had a lot to do with Texas’ 5-7 record a year ago. The expectation for Jalen Hurts was always national championship — and you could argue Heisman winner as well when he opted to follow up Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray when he transferred to become Riley’s next disciple at Oklahoma. The move came with a lot of stats but no hardware, and (probably unfairly) Alabama fans’ skepticism was validated.
The Sooners got boat-raced by the Tigers, 63-28, in the CFP. No one was stopping that LSU team, but if you remember Burrow’s first year in Baton Rouge, he was 10-3, and a lot of fans weren’t sold on him. He came close to doubling his passing yards from his junior to senior year (2,894 to 5,671) and more than tripled his TD passes (16 to 60) while only throwing only one more interception (from five to six).
That was an anomaly, much like Fields, because no one really knew how good either was since they never played. The only way Caleb Williams was leaving Norman was to follow his head coach, and extraordinary circumstances, as well as a pickup bed full of cash, made that happen. CJ Stroud and Bryce Young aren’t leaving the security of their offensive lines unless it’s to follow Ryan Day or Nick Saban (and even then, I don’t know if Stroud would do it). Can you imagine Tebow playing anywhere other than Gainesville? They still bottle his sweat and use it as holy water.
Do you think Virginia Tech would’ve let Hendon Hooker walk had they known he could command an offense like he has since taking over at Tennessee? He was so unknown that Michigan transfer Joe Milton started Week 1 for the Vols in 2021 before eventually becoming the backup. Va. Tech also might want to figure out what an offense, you know, is, or else it’s going to be a long season for Marshall transfer Grant Wells, who didn’t even break 200 yards passing and had four picks in the Hokies’ Week 1 loss to Old Dominion.
Good coaching staffs develop good quarterbacks, and chances are that if your team is in the market for a transfer because they fucked up the previous guy, they’re going to fuck up this guy, too. Hell, it might even be worse because he’s already developed bad habits. I’m more encouraged by Quinn Ewers because there’s little college tape on him. However, Steve Sarkisian is the key to this, and I wouldn’t let him drive a golf cart.
So good luck to every fanbase hoping that a transfer will save their inept head coach’s job — which, according to the portal, is a lot of you.