The 2021-22 transfer portal is already humming with activity.
Several high-profile players have entered their name into the portal, using the NCAA’s one-time transfer rule to test their newfound mobility — or college football “free agency,” as Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin described it — in search of greener pastures.
Nowhere is that more true than with college football’s most impactful position: quarterback.
Already, players such as Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, UCF’s Dillon Gabriel and Ohio State’s Quinn Ewers have made national headlines for their decision to take their talents elsewhere. That said, those are not the only quarterbacks who stand to make a massive impact, not only for the teams they’re joining but also for the teams they leave behind.
Moreover, there are still several high-profile players who have yet to announce their new allegiances. Those players will be among the most sought-after players in all of college football following the completion of the early signing period and the start of bowl season.
With that, Sporting News breaks down the most impactful quarterbacks in the 2021-22 transfer carousel — both those who have committed and those who are still mulling their decisions:
Most impactful QB transfers
Quinn Ewers (Ohio State to Texas)
Ewers’ decision to leave Ohio State for Texas was unsurprising, considering the emergence of Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud, who finished fourth in the Heisman balloting in 2021 with 3,862 yards and 38 touchdowns to just five interceptions on the season. That led Ewers — who skipped his senior season of high school to enroll at Ohio State — to enter the transfer portal.
There, the Southlake, Texas native found his way to the Longhorns. Ewers stands to step in immediately and take over a program whose leading passer, Casey Thompson, has already entered the transfer portal. His biggest competition for the starting position appears to be either Hudson Card or Maalik Murphy, the No. 11 quarterback in the 2022 class.
Ewers, the top-ranked recruit in 2021 following his reclassification, is easily the biggest recruiting victory for coach Steve Sarkisian, who has worked wonders with such quarterbacks as Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones, among others. Time will tell what impact Ewers has in Austin, but it stands to reason he could be the Longhorns’ best quarterback in some time.
Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma to South Carolina)
Rattler, like Ewers, should step in as the immediate go-to guy for his new team. The one-time Heisman hopeful had a setback year in 2021, completing 140 of 187 passes for 1,483 yards and 11 touchdowns to five interceptions. His struggles in big games prompted Lincoln Riley to bench him in favor of freshman Caleb Williams, whose rushing ability and big arm made it difficult to keep him on the bench.
But there’s no denying Rattler’s talent. Remember, he passed for 3,087 yards and 28 touchdowns to seven interceptions as recently as 2020, a seasonlong performance that prompted pundits to declare him an early favorite for the 2021 Heisman Trophy.
Rattler shouldn’t have to face a similar quarterback controversy in Columbia, S.C., where the Gamecocks were at one point forced to rely on graduate assistant Zeb Noland as part of a revolving door at quarterback. The transfer of tight end Austin Stogner (14 catches, 166 yards, three touchdowns) will also help Rattler get acclimated to his new home. That now begs the question: Does South Carolina have the most talented quarterback in the SEC East?
Dillon Gabriel (UCF to UCLA)
Gabriel’s transfer to UCLA could be an early indicator that Dorian Thompson-Robinson will make the jump from college to the NFL for the 2022 NFL Draft. Should that be the case, Gabriel stands to be the quarterback of the future for Chip Kelly.
Gabriel was outstanding for the Knights before injuries derailed his 2021 season with just three games under his belt. He has completed 554 of 913 passes (60.7 percent) for 8,041 yards and 70 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions. That sort of passing ability made Gabriel a hot commodity in the portal, and he stands to enjoy similar success under Kelly in Los Angeles. That said, he must still beat out 2021 backup Ethan Garbers for the starting spot — if Thompson-Robinson doesn’t stay, that is.
Max Johnson (LSU to Texas A&M)
Johnson never had eye-popping stats in two seasons’ worth of play at LSU, but played well enough in 2021 with 2,814 yards and 27 touchdowns to six interceptions. With Ed Orgeron’s replacement by Brian Kelly, however, Johnson elected to take his talents to fellow SEC West program Texas A&M, where Johnson should be among the favorites to win the job with Zach Calzada entering the transfer portal.
Whether Johnson can wrest control of the starting job from redshirt freshman Haynes King — who suffered a season-ending injury against Colorado — remains to be seen. But Johnson could step in as a veteran presence for a team that is looking to take the next step under Jimbo Fisher. The Aggies have enough talent to challenge in the SEC — just look at their 41-38 victory over Alabama — and could be a quarterback away from making that dream a reality.
Adrian Martinez (Nebraska to Northwestern)
Perhaps a change of scenery is what Martinez needs in what will be his final year of college eligibility. The dual-threat quarterback has 8,495 passing yards and 45 touchdowns to 30 interceptions across four seasons of play, adding 2,277 yards and 35 more scores on the ground.
It will be up to Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald to reduce Martinez’s turnover issues but, if he can, then Martinez could be an immediate upgrade at quarterback. The Wildcats haven’t been worldbeaters under Fitzgerald, but they have had more sustained success than what Martinez has experienced in Lincoln. Perhaps playing for a program with a better infrastructure will yield positive results for the former Cornhusker.
Charlie Brewer (Utah to Liberty)
Brewer’s one year in Utah turned out to be less of a destination and more of a jumping-off point. Brewer, who led Baylor to a Big 12 title game berth in 2019, has shown heart and big-play ability with the Bears and Utes, throwing for 10,184 yards and 68 touchdowns to 31 interceptions across five seasons.
He’ll now make the jump to Liberty, where he can flourish under Hugh Freeze’s tutelage. The generally weaker competition should also help Brewer finish off his collegiate career with a bang in replacement of Malik Willis. He must first beat out Kaidon Salter first.
Bo Nix (Auburn to Oregon)
The former five-star recruit and Auburn legacy didn’t quite live up to the hype on The Plains, but is certainly talented enough to make a difference at Oregon. The dual-threat quarterback — who as a freshman in 2019 led the Tigers to a win over Alabama — has 7,251 passing yards and 39 touchdowns to 16 interceptions across three seasons. He also has 859 rushing yards and 18 scores on the ground.
Biggest QBs still in transfer portal
Kedon Slovis (USC)
Slovis has regressed in 2020 and ’21 following a 30-touchdown debut as a freshman in 2019, but the talent is still there to make him one of the best quarterbacks still available in the portal. The former three-star recruit has 7,576 passing yards and 58 touchdowns to 24 interceptions. He has three years of eligibility remaining.
Cameron Ward (Incarnate Word)
Ward could be the most interesting name still in the transfer portal; the Jerry Rice Award winner in 2020 FCS spring season (awarded to the nation’s best freshman) led the Cardinals to a 10-3 season and Southland Conference title in the fall while being named the Southland’s Offensive Player of the Year. The 6-3, 225-pound freshman completed 384 of 590 passes (65.1 percent) for 4,648 yards and 47 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.
It’s true Ward earned those stats against FCS competition. But the success of “small-school” players such as North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz and Liberty’s Willis, among others, should remove any fears that Ward can’t replicate his success at the FBS level.
Zach Calzada (Texas A&M)
Calzada played admirably for the Aggies in 2021 in replacement of King, who was lost for the season in Week 2. For the year, Calzada completed 184 of 327 passes for 2,185 yards and 18 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Nowhere was that more apparent than in a heroic effort of then-No. 1 Alabama, against whom Calzad completed 21 of 31 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns (and one interception) in the 41-38 upset. He also closed the season with five touchdowns and zero interceptions against Prairie View A&M and LSU.
Harrison Bailey (Tennessee)
Bailey, the No. 99 overall recruit in the 2020 recruiting class, has not had much playing time in Knoxville, prompting his decision to transfer. He has played in seven games across two seasons (only one in 2021), completing 51 of 75 passes for 594 yards and four touchdowns to two interceptions.
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