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Transfer Portal 2023-24: Ranking the Top 10 Quarterbacks (So Far)

Cam Ward, Washington State

December has become the most crucial month on the college football calendar, not only because of the action on the field, but all the movement away from it. The transfer portal has been churning at a dizzying rate this offseason, with more players looking to move on than ever before - all of which will have a major impact on the National Title race next season, and beyond. Some big names have decided, plenty haven't, and more are likely to enter, but as we stand today these are the Top 10 signal-callers switching schools this winter.

1. Dillon Gabriel

From: Oklahoma --> Oregon

There may be quarterbacks in the portal with more natural arm talent than Dillon Gabriel, or prettier touch with the football. But, there is not another signal-caller on the move this offseason who can come close to Gabriel's college production - through five seasons at both UCF and Oklahoma, he has totaled nearly 16,000 yards of total offense, 151 total touchdowns, and 49 starts. Assuming he can stay healthy this next fall, he's on pace to smash the record of career starts by a quarterback, which is now held by Bo Nix at 61. It just so happens Gabriel will be the one replacing Nix under center, as he travels northwest to Eugene to take over the Duck offense after a pair of stellar seasons with Oklahoma. It's an understandable match - the Ducks want a veteran QB to lead them into a new era of Big Ten football, while Gabriel is looking for a fresh start, with Jackson Arnold the new face of the program at OU. It will be an adjustment as Gabriel moves from the Sooner offense led by now Mississippi State head man Jeff Lebby to the unit currently run by Oregon's Will Stein, but he'll have no shortage of skill position talent around him, on a team with College Football Playoff aspirations. As long as Gabriel can stay healthy, it feels like we're in store for a grand finale from the longtime quarterback in 2024.

2. Riley Leonard

From: Duke --> Notre Dame

For the second straight offseason, Marcus Freeman and Notre Dame raided the ACC to snag an accomplished quarterback to run the show in South Bend. After a solid year from Sam Hartman, they're hoping for even more from Duke's Riley Leonard, who was putting together a special season before an unfortunate injury suffered against ... Notre Dame. Leonard should be back at full strength by the time things kick off in 2024, and he'll give this Irish offense something they've lacked for years - an explosive, dual-threat under center. Leonard ran for 1,224 yards in his Duke career, despite limited action in both 2021 and 2023, and proved that he was a threat to take it to the house every time he dropped back to throw. As a passer, he still has room to grow, and will be working with an Irish receiver corps that is going to completely flip over the offseason, but the tools are there for him to have a major impact in 2024. 

3. Cam Ward

From: Washington State --> TBD

There are few players in college football as entertaining as Cam Ward, who is looking for a new home after an impressive two-year run with Washington State. Ward has dazzling athletic gifts and a fearless mentality, creating plenty of highlight reel plays, as well as plenty of head-scratching moments. You never can be quite sure what you're getting from Ward play-to-play, drive-by-drive, or week-to-week - he is the type of ultimate wild card that makes this sport so engrossing. It's no surprise that he has plenty of suitors, fresh off a 2023 in which he finished with 3,735 passing yards and 33 total touchdowns, but it's unclear which uniform he will be repping in 2024. Ohio State seems to be on the inside track as things stand in mid-December, but it still feels like there could be some fireworks yet to come from Cam Ward this offseason. As with his play on the field, it's best to just sit back and enjoy the ride. 

4. Dante Moore

From: UCLA --> TBD

Contrary to the first three names on the list, who are accomplished college quarterbacks, Dante Moore's rank is all about his potential. The former five-star prospect was a huge get for Chip Kelly and UCLA, and the young quarterback saw a healthy dosage of action in Year One. But, the results were mixed - Moore would finish with 1,610 yards, an 11-9 TD-INT ratio, and a completion percentage of 54% on a Bruins team that slipped to 7-5 on the year. It's not surprising that a freshman quarterback had growing pains, but it also felt that the marriage between Moore and Kelly was always an awkward fit. In turn, it's no surprise that he has since entered the portal and likely has countless suitors lining up for his services. Even with his ups-and-downs, you still saw many of the tools that made Moore such an enticing quarterback prospect. He has a huge arm, moves incredibly well, and has the type of improvisation ability that you simply can't teach at this level. Whoever gets him is landing a talented youngster who has the best of both worlds:  experience, but also two years of eligibility remaining. Moore was previously committed to Oregon coming out of high school and while it doesn't feel like he will end up transferring there, it wouldn't be a shock to see him stay on the West Coast.

5. Will Howard

From: Kansas State --> TBD

After four seasons at Kansas State, Will Howard is officially on the market and looking for his next destination. Howard had a productive career with the Wildcats, breaking through last season in relief duty for the injured Adrian Martinez and finishing with 15 touchdowns. He built on that with a fine campaign this fall, in which he tossed for 2,643 yards and 24 touchdowns, even though K-State was unable to repeat as Big 12 Champs. But with the wise of talented youngster Avery Johnson, Howard saw the writing on the wall and looks to be a one-year rental for a contender come 2024. He's not necessarily a flashy quarterback, but it's not easy to find steady, experienced options like him to fill out a roster. In fact, I think a transfer may actually bring Howard's skill-set even more. It always felt like the Kansas State offense was a bit too ground-and-pound and conservative for him to truly shine. With USC and Miami being two schools rumored to be in the hunt for Howard, his next offensive scheme could look vastly different.

6. Tyler Van Dyke

From: Miami (FL) --> Wisconsin

Tyler Van Dyke was one of the best quarterbacks anywhere in college football in 2021 but after a pair of disappointing seasons in Coral Gables, he'll head north to take over the reigns of the offense in Madison. It's an interesting fit; Van Dyke clearly needed a change of scenery and Wisconsin's hiring of OC Phil Longo prior to 2023 seems to indicate a willingness to open up this offense. Yet, I remain skeptical that Luke Fickell is eager to move away from a style of football that has not only defined the Badgers for decades, but been his preferred play style throughout his coaching tenure. Yet, it feels worth the risk for both sides, as Van Dyke gets a fresh start at a program that desperately needed a quarterback, while Wisconsin gets a boom-or-bust option who could go either direction in 2024.

7. Will Rogers

From: Mississippi State --> TBD

Mike Leach's unfortunate and untimely passing was not only a turning point for Mississippi State football, but a massive change for the guy under center. Will Rogers had put up gaudy stats playing in Leach's Air Raid scheme, but the offense felt lifeless this season en route to a frustrating 5-7 campaign. Injuries played a role, but it was still startling to see Rogers, who had thrown the ball over 600 times each of the last two seasons, attempt just 237 passes in 2023. It's no surprise that he has since decided to move on and play his final year of college ball elsewhere, and plenty remain interested in a proven commodity with multiple years of SEC experience. Washington appears on the inside track as things stand today, as they look for a potential replacement for Michael Penix, but nothing is 100 percent certain at this point in the process. Rogers, who is originally from Mississippi, may have a tough time leaving the SEC, and South in general, behind.

8. Aidan Chiles

From: Oregon State --> Michigan State

It's no surprise that one of Jonathan Smith's first priorities when he got to Michigan State was bringing his highly touted young quarterback with him, and Aidan Chiles officially announced he would be coming along earlier in the week. Chiles may not have the experience of others on this list, as he threw just 35 passes during his lone season in Corvallis, but his physical gifts pop out at you. He's 6'3", 200 pounds with a wiry arm and the ability to make defenders miss with his legs. He seems like an obvious pick for a potential breakout 2024 campaign, although identifying new weapons for him in the passing game will be a chief goal for the Spartan staff over the offseason. It's likely they're going to raid the portal and try to patch something up for Smith's first team in East Lansing.

9. Maalik Murphy

From: Texas --> TBD

With Quinn Ewers potentially coming back for one more season and Arch Manning the guy of the future in Austin, there just wasn't enough space for Maalik Murphy at Texas. However, the redshirt freshman has an opportunity to start at various other Power Five schools in the nation and he now has experience, after stepping in for Ewers for two games this fall. Whoever lands Murphy will be getting a quarterback with three years of eligibility remaining, a guy who is a bit rough around the edges, but has all the tools necessary to be a star at this level. The Longhorn coaching staff clearly thought highly of Murphy and considering Steve Sarkisian's way with quarterbacks, that's quite the endorsement for the talented signal-caller.

10. Kyle McCord

From: Ohio State --> TBD

Kyle McCord's decision to hit the transfer portal was one of the more surprising moves of this year's transfer portal cycle, as he was coming off a season in which he threw for 3,170 yards and 24 touchdowns. Yet, it has become clear that Ohio State was looking for a new face to run the show, and McCord became somewhat of a casualty of the times in the new era of college football. But, the thing is, I think it's going to end up being a positive for his career. The pressure cooker in Columbus is wild, and the fans seemed to have turned on the young quarterback. The Buckeyes have been spoiled with quarterback play over the last decade-plus and McCord had a topsy-turvy lone season as starter, but he was a highly accomplished quarterback prospect who got a chance to learn from some of the best coaches in the sport over the last several seasons. It feels like he's going to kill it wherever he goes, which is now an open mystery after rumors that he was "moving on" with his transfer decision following a visit to Nebraska over the last week.

Just Missed

Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina --> NC State: Grayson McCall had a legendary run with Coastal Carolina, but his style of play seemed a bit at odds with head coach Tim Beck after a down 2023. He's now making the jump to the Power Five level at NC State, which is a fascinating fit. He's completely different than the past quarterbacks OC Robert Anae has coached, but this could be one of those pairings that works out much better than expected.

D.J. Uiagalelei, Oregon State --> TBD: At this point, the ship has sailed on D.J. Uiagalelei every living up to his five-star billing coming out of high school. But, he has proven he can be a rock-solid, steady leader under center at multiple spots, and I think he was much better than people realize at Oregon State this past fall. There was some thought he may stay inside the state and join his brother at Oregon but with Dillon Gabriel in town, it's likely elsewhere on the West Coast for the older Uiagalelei.

Max Brosmer, New Hampshire --> Minnesota: After leading all FCS passers with 3,459 yards, Max Brosmer will make the jump all the way to the Power Five level at Minnesota. It's a risk for P.J. Fleck and company, but feels like a necessary one after a frustrating 5-7 season that featured a lifeless passing offense. Brosmer will have the advantage of having Minnesota's top target back in action, as Daniel Jackson looks to cement himself as one of the best in the Big Ten in 2024.

Brock Vandagriff, Georgia --> Kentucky: It's been an interesting ride for Brock Vandagriff, who hopes that he's found his home at Kentucky after spending the last several seasons at Georgia. Vandagriff was once pledged to Lincoln Riley and Oklahoma before de-committing (and the Sooners responded by landing some guy named Caleb Williams) and ending up in Athens. He was buried below Stetson Bennett on the depth chart and couldn't beat out Carson Beck prior to the season. With Beck putting up huge numbers, Vandagriff's future in Athens appeared bleak, so his move to Kentucky didn't come as a major shock. He certainly has talent, but it's been a mixed bag for Mark Stoops in taking quarterback transfers during his run in Lexington.

M.J. Morris, NC State --> Maryland: There are few quarterbacks in this year's portal class with the boom-or-bust potential of M.J. Morris. Morris is a former blue-chip prospect who impressed in 2022 when he filled in for the injured Devin Leary, as he threw for 648 yards and finished with a 7-1 TD-INT ratio. The encore wasn't quite what NC State was hoping for - he was beat out by Brennan Armstrong out of camp and when he did play, the results weren't quite as impressive. Even so, Maryland needs a quarterback with Taulia Tagovailoa exhausting his eligibility, and Morris has shown enough to potentially be just what they need in the expanded Big Ten next fall.

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