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Transfer Portal 2022: Ranking the Top 10 QB Transfers of the Offseason (So Far)

Jaxson Dart, USC to Ole Miss

No matter your thoughts on the transfer portal, there's absolutely no denying just how crucial it has become to the world of college football. Simply consider some of the sport's signature stars over the past half decade: Joe Burrow, Justin Fields, Jalen Hurts, Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray. All of them took a leap of faith and left their original schools to start anew. This offseason, the transfer portal got dialed up even further, with major names at every position hitting the market and shaking up the college football universe. In that spirit, I decided to take a deep dive into the quarterback position and evaluate the ten signal-callers whose respective transfers will have the greatest impact in 2022 and beyond. The wild thing is, this list could realistically grow by the time we kick off in seven months, with spring ball and fall camp likely to shake up depth charts further.

1. Caleb Williams, Oklahoma to USC

Lincoln Riley's decision to bail on Oklahoma and move on to the West Coast at USC sent shockwaves throughout the college football world. He took several major Oklahoma assistants with him to the Pac-12 and also mined the Sooner recruiting class for future talent, with a host of future players set to join him. However, there was no bigger move for Riley in his first offseason at USC than landing his prized quarterback, Caleb Williams. The expectation prior to the 2021 campaign was that Williams, a five-star from the D.C. area, was going to sit behind Heisman Trophy frontrunner Spencer Rattler then get his opportunity in '22. Of course, things can change rapidly in this sport, and Rattler's prolonged struggles led Riley to turn to Williams earlier then expected. The freshman immediately became a household name when he led OU to a thrilling, come-from-behind victory over Texas. He followed that up by putting together a stat-line of 1,921 yards, 27 total touchdowns, and a 64% completion percentage. Now, he follows his head coach to 'SC, with an opportunity to do even greater things. He'll play in a wide-open offense with an abundance of playmakers on the perimeter inside a Pac-12 South that is wide open behind reigning champ Utah. Needless to say, Williams is going to enter next fall with lofty expectations, but I am curious to see what type of strides he makes over the offseason. For all his talent and magical playmaking abilities, he took some very freshmen QB shots down the field, and should be thankful he recorded only four interceptions. A player of his talent level doesn't come around often, but he has to learn to effectively harness it if he wants to reach is full potential.

2. Dillon Gabriel, UCF to Oklahoma

Williams' eventual decision to follow Riley to USC set off even more dominoes throughout the sport. One of those dominoes to fall was Dillon Gabriel, a former UCF quarterback who originally announced he was transferring to UCLA, then flipped his pledge as soon as Williams walked out the door. It's not a shock when you consider all the factors that led to Gabriel's decision. For one, he would likely have to sit a year behind Dorian Thompson-Robinson in Westwood. At Oklahoma, he walks into a light quarterback room as the obvious alpha. But just as important in Gabriel's decision was Oklahoma's new offensive coordinator, Jeff Lebby. Lebby was OC at UCF in 2019 and after a two year pit stop at Ole Miss, reunites with his former QB in Norman. It's the perfect match for both sides; Lebby has a gunslinging QB who knows his offense, while Gabriel is back together with the coach that helped him throw for 29 touchdowns as a wide-eyed freshman. With that being said, the first priority for Gabriel will be getting healthy; he played in just three games in 2021 before breaking his clavicle in a loss to Louisville. If he can regain his huge arm and mobility, Gabriel should be ready to once again put up numbers, even as he makes the jump from the Group of Five to Power Five.

3. Jaxson Dart, USC to Ole Miss

Yet another player that was impacted by Riley's arrival on the West Coast was Jaxson Dart. Much like Williams, Dart entered 2021 locked into a backup role behind USC veteran Kedon Slovis. However, Clay Helton's firing combined with Slovis' struggles led to Dart getting more playing time than expected, and the freshman delivered. He flashed natural arm talent, a superb feel for the game, and the type of "swagger" that you simply can't teach. Of course, there were still freshman QB-type mistakes, but you can see the upside when you watch his tape. Dart seemed like he would be a good fit with Riley, but with Williams now in town, he felt it was best to take his talents elsewhere. While he considered Oklahoma and hometown BYU, he eventually decided to join up with Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss. His huge arm should be a perfect fit in Kiffin's offense, and he is joined by a former five-star in the backfield, as tailback Zach Evans comes over from TCU. Don't be surprised if Dart immediately grabs hold of the job and quickly shows why he was such a highly regarded prospect, even in the unforgiving SEC West.

4. Quinn Ewers, Ohio State to Texas

Quinn Ewers is the prime example of the new era of college football. He was the top ranked player in the Class of 2022 before reclassifying and coming to school a year early so that he could earn NIL money at Ohio State. After not taking a single snap in Columbus, Ewers then entered the transfer portal and ended up at Texas, a school he was once again committed to under Tom Herman. It's rare that a player who hasn't taken a collegiate snap gets this much attention, but Ewers is a special case. For one, he has a look not every college quarterback rocks, with an eye-popping blonde mullet flowing down to his shoulders. Even more importantly, he's got a live arm and possesses excellent awareness for his age, even if we haven't seen it at the college level just yet. While he didn't play at OSU, he should still benefit from a year learning the offense and scouts have long raved about his potential. He has a good chance to start right away in Austin for Steve Sarkisian, as incumbent starter Casey Thompson ditched to Nebraska.

5. Cameron Ward, Incarnate Word to Washington State

Incarnate Word, a school of 5,000 nestled in San Antonio, isn't typically viewed as a hot bed of college football talent. However, that changed this past fall with the performance of gunslinging signal-caller Cameron Ward, who lit FCS defenses on fire to the tune of 4,678 yards and 46 touchdowns. You can argue it was against less-than-stellar defenses in the high-scoring Southland, but there's no denying that Ward put up some truly gaudy numbers. Numerous Power Five schools were interested in bringing him on, but Ward opted for Washington State, a program in transition mode after the firing of Nick Rolovich. He joins a long line of big-armed WSU quarterbacks who put up huge numbers, following Gardner Minshew, Anthony Gordon, Connor Halliday, and Jeff Tuel. Obviously, the move from FCS to FBS ball is a major one, but do you know what will help the transition? Incarnate Word head coach Eric Morris took the WSU offensive coordinator job and will now call plays for Ward for the third straight season. Expect plenty of fireworks in Pullman in 2022, particularly with how wide-open the Pac-12 North appears to be.

6. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma to South Carolina

It's truly amazing how fast things can change in a year. This time last year, Spencer Rattler was the odds-on Heisman favorite, hoping for a huge final season in Norman before likely becoming the first QB off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft. Now, Rattler is fresh off a frustrating 2021 that saw him benched and replaced by Williams before he entered the portal. Rattler will team up with former Oklahoma assistant Shane Beamer in South Carolina, a program that surpassed expectations by going 7-6 in Beamer's debut. On paper, it really does seem like an excellent fit. Rattler desperately needed a fresh start and has familiarity with Beamer; South Carolina had to start a grad assistant at quarterback multiple times in '21 and needed to add some star power. In practice? Obviously it's anyone's guess at this point, but Rattler does have talent, even if the 2021 frustrations overshadowed it. At the very least, he's worth the risk for the Gamecocks, who could be the SEC East dark horse in 2022.

7. Kedon Slovis, USC to Pittsburgh

Thrown into the fire as a freshman when J.T. Daniels went down with a season-ending injury, Kedon Slovis responded with a 30-touchdown season, setting the stage for what looked like an illustrious career as the next great 'SC signal-caller. But, he was unable to build on that initial showing; he posted average numbers during the weird, shortened 2020 season that struggled mightily in 2021. Even before Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley announced their intentions to come to southern California, Slovis seemed like the odd man out, with Jaxson Dart the future for the Trojans. In turn, the Arizona native decided he would head across the country and transfer to Pittsburgh, following the route of another recent USC QB, Max Browne. Slovis steps in to a favorable situation; while OC Mark Whipple is gone, Kenny Pickett's graduation leaves the QB spot at Pitt wide open. Additionally, Slovis will have the chance to work with the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner, Jordan Addison, who should do serious damage with Slovis' huge arm. It seems like a nice fit, but you hope that Slovis can fix some of the things that led to his demise with USC. First off, he'll have to get healthy after an injury-plagued season, but he also seemed to lose confidence during the end with the Trojans. Like a lot of others on this list, the hope is that a change of scenery and new offense can help him regain the potential we saw in 2019.

8. Michael Penix Jr. Indiana to Washington

There were plenty of programs that experienced down 2021 campaigns after success during the wacky 2020 season. Few places was that more evident than at Indiana, which nearly made the Big Ten Championship in 2020 but slipped to the bottom of the league this fall. At the helm of that sinking ship was Michael Penix Jr., who put up two productive years in 2019 and 2020 before being benched this season. Penix finished '19 and '20 with 24 total passing touchdowns and showed fearlessness in his decision-making. On the flip side, his wild decision-making seemed to catch up with him in 2021, as he finished with a 4-7 TD-INT ratio. And, in both of the two previous years, he suffered season-ending injuries that stopped him from reaching his full potential. Penix definitely needed a change of scenery, opting to team up with his former offensive coordinator, Kalen DeBoer, who is now the head man at Washington. Unlike others on this list who may be walking into starting roles from the get-go, Penix walks into a crowded room in Seattle. Veteran Dylan Morris remains in town and former five-star Sam Huard also lurks. He will have to work to earn his spot, but I'm still a believer in Penix and his talent. Now that he's back with DeBoer and playing in an offense that should be fun to watch, I wouldn't be surprised if Penix has a resurgent year.

9. Max Johnson, LSU to Texas A&M

Texas A&M's quarterback situation in the first season post-Kellen Mond was far from ideal. Youngster Haynes King won the job out of camp, then proceeded to fracture his leg in the season's second week against Colorado. Backup Zach Calzada had some massive ups-and-downs and while the Alabama victory will forever cement his legacy in College Station, he didn't seem like the long-term answer. Calzada has since announced he will be transferring inside the SEC West to Auburn, but the Aggies might have found his replacement in Max Johnson, the starter for LSU in 2021. Johnson, the son of former NFL QB Brad and the brother of big-time A&M TE commit Jake, had a solid, but unspectacular season as the Tigers' starting QB. He finished 2021 with 2,815 yards and 27 touchdowns for a team that finished .500. With that being said, A&M seems like a much better fit for the young quarterback. For one, Jimbo Fisher and the overall stability on the A&M coaching staff is a major benefit after all the drama surrounding Ed Orgeron's future in Baton Rouge this fall. Just as important, the offense should be overall better than at LSU, and Johnson will benefit from actually having a running game to support him. The job is not, however, guaranteed; King is expected to return from injury and give him a serious battle, and true freshman Conner Weigman comes to campus with loads of hype. Johnson's previous SEC experience gives him an edge and he has plenty of upside, but will need a strong spring and fall camp to secure his spot on this list.

10. Jack Miller, Ohio State to Florida

Quinn Ewers was the most publicized quarterback transfer of the offseason from Ohio State, but he wasn't the only one. Former four-star prospect Jack Miller also announced he would move on from Columbus but instead of going but instead of going back to his native Arizona, Miller chose Florida as his next destination. It's an intriguing fit; we have no idea what Florida's offense will look like under new head man Billy Napier, and the quarterback situation is a complete mystery. Last year's starter, Emory Jones, had previously announced his intentions to transfer, but remains on the roster. Anthony Richardson flashed serious game-changing potential, but wasn't able to stay healthy in 2021 and will need to refine his fundamentals. That leaves an opportunity for Miller, who is more of a traditional pocket passer than either Jones or Richardson. Miller doesn't have much in-game experience, throwing a total of 14 passes this fall, but scouts remain high on the former Buckeye. This is more of a potential pick than anything else, but I think it could work out. 

Just Missed

Adrian Martinez, Nebraska to Kansas State -- After a stellar freshman season in Lincoln, Adrian Martinez was never able to build on it. He takes a short trek over to Manhattan, where he will compete against Will Howard for the starting job. 

Connor Bazelak, Missouri to Indiana -- Bazelak earned SEC Co-Freshman of the Year honors after flashing upside in 2020, but had a down 2021 campaign, as he struggled with downfield passing and turnovers. After redshirt frosh Brady Cook started the bowl game, Bazelak entered the portal and will now compete for the starting gig at Indiana.

Charlie Brewer, Utah to Liberty -- A multiyear starter for Baylor who is No. 2 on the school's all-time passing list (behind only RG3), Charlie Brewer took a leap of faith and transferred to Utah prior to 2021. It was always an odd pairing and after a few games, Brewer again entered the portal. He now travels to Liberty, where he'll compete with former Tennessee QB Kaidon Salter to replace Malik Willis.

Grant Wells, Marshall to Virginia Tech -- Grant Wells is another former starter coming off a down 2021 season, throwing 13 interceptions to 16 touchdowns. With the coaching staff moving in a different direction, Wells moved on to Virginia Tech, where he'll have a chance to compete right away under new head man Brent Pry.

Chubba Purdy, Florida State to Nebraska -- The younger brother of former ISU starting QB Brock, Chubba Purdy never quite got a chance to show what he could do at Florida State. After 53 attempts in 2020, Purdy's only action this fall was mop-up duty in their smashing of UMass. Purdy is hoping a move to Lincoln, where he'll be the projected starter once Casey Thompson graduates, is the right decision.

Bo Nix, Auburn to Oregon -- Time is a flat circle. Bo Nix began his collegiate career by leading Auburn to a thrilling win over Oregon in 2019 and after two more uneven years on the Plains, is joining the Ducks. It had to be a tough decision for the Auburn legacy, but he gives the new staff a veteran entity.

Casey Thompson, Texas to Nebraska -- Although he initially lost the UT job out of fall camp, Casey Thompson eventually started 10 games and finished with 2,113 yards and 24 touchdowns. With Ewers now the future in Austin, Thompson moves on to Lincoln, where he hopes a marriage with Scott Frost can be the grand finale to his college career.

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