17 for ’17: Ranking The Top Quarterback Transfers

Dec 30, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Malik Zaire (8) passes during the second half against the LSU Tigers in the Music City Bowl at LP Field. Notre Dame won 31-28.

By Pete Fiutak, College Football News // Source, MSN Sports

Not all quarterback transfers will step in and win conference titles right away – if at all – and some might not even start, or even play quarterback. But they’re some of the most important players this offseason and expected to be instant stars. They’re some of the top quarterbacks in new spots you need to pay attention to.

17. Malik Zaire, Unknown

Is it going to be North Carolina? How about pushing for the gig at Wisconsin? The former Notre Dame starting quarterback isn’t as experienced as you might think – he’s been more hype than production – but he’s the hottest free agent on the market. Give it a few months, and then he’ll be one of the biggest stories of the offseason.

16. Cooper Bateman, Utah

Not all quarterback transfers will shine at one spot. The one-time star recruit for Alabama was seen as the Next QB Up over the last few years – or at least was deep in the mix – but that obviously didn’t happen. It’s not going to happen at Utah, either – Troy Williams is firmly entrenched as the Ute QB – so Bateman will almost certainly move to receiver and be an emergency option under center.

15. Caleb Henderson, Maryland

Tyrrell Pigrome will likely be the No. 1 guy in spring, and everyone is keeping the seat warm for super-recruit Kasim Hill, but Henderson could be an interesting option in the chase. The former star recruit for North Carolina has the size, arm, and mobility, but he wasn’t able to become a key backup for the Tar Heels, and now he’ll have to fight for a decent depth chart spot.

14. Anu Solomon, Baylor

At the very least, Solomon gives new Baylor head coach Matt Rhule some desperately needed depth behind Zach Smith. No one ever questioned Solomon’s ability to move an offense, but the former Arizona Wildcat couldn’t get past a slew of knee problems last year and Smith should be the No. 1 this spring.

13. Kyler Murray, Oklahoma

Of course Baker Mayfield is the Heisman-caliber leader of the show, and he’s been able to stay in one piece over the last two seasons despite taking lots and lots of shots. All it takes is one bad blow, and the entire national landscape of the 2017 season changes, considering Oklahoma has national title potential. Austin Kendall might be the veteran backup, but Murray – the former Texas A&M super-recruit – has the upside to take over the attack and be the main man for the future if something happens to Mayfield.

12. Damian Williams, Texas State

Nick Fitzgerald didn’t just take over the Mississippi State starting job when Dak Prescott was done, he was magnificent, too. Williams lost out, and now it’s on to try reviving a woeful Texas State attack that did next to nothing last season. The skills are there to blow up into a Sun Belt statistical superstar.

10. Ryan Willis or A.J. Bush, Virginia Tech

Here’s the problem – if the guy couldn’t be the guy at Kansas, why is he going to rock at Virginia Tech? Willis is walking on to the Hokie program with a slew of interesting options to try replacing Jerod Evans, but Willis is the most experienced, and potentially, the most promising – if he can cut down on his interceptions. However, former Nebraska Cornhusker A.J. Bush will get a shot, too. Like Willis, the 6-4 lefty has a big interception issue – at least he did last year at Iowa Western – but he’s a dangerous all-around prospect.

10. Marvin Zanders, Virginia

The former Missouri quarterback wasn’t going to get much work behind Drew Lock, so it’s off to Virginia, where he’ll try to crank up Bronco Mendenhall’s dead offense. The Cavs have a slew of good young talent, but they need a more mature option who can do a little of everything. Zanders fits Mendenhall’s offensive style.

9. Dwayne Lawson, Illinois

It flew under the radar of quarterback transfers over the last year, but the guy who probably would’ve been Virginia Tech’s starting quarterback this year – had he stuck around – will now likely take over as Lovie Smith’s guy. While he can run, the 6-6 bomber should be able to stretch the field and give the Illini O more pop now that Wes Lunt is finished.

8. Blake Barnett, Arizona State

The former Alabama passer caught a break and became eligible right away after transferring over to ASU. With great size, a pro-level arm, and the right tools to be the exact fit to make the Todd Graham offense more vertical, Barnett could be what the team needs to battle in the Pac-12 South. However, he’ll be in a fight with Manny Wilkins for the job – and that’s a problem. Wilkins showed good promise at times last season, even though the Sun Devils went in the tank.

7. De’Andre Johnson, Florida Atlantic

Put aside the assault controversy at Florida State for a moment – or don’t, actually – and this might be the most productive of all the transfers on the list. If this works, and if Lane Kiffin really is a great offensive coach, then the outstanding dual-threat quarterback who was supposed to be the next great Noles’ star should dominate Conference USA.

6. Peyton Bender, Kansas

Someone has to be the guy who finally sparks the Jayhawk offense. Bender started out his career at Washington State under Mike Leach, but transferred after it became obvious that Luke Falk was going to be the triggerman. Great at Itawamba Community College – throwing 21 touchdown passes and just four picks last year – now he has to try making Kansas better at college football. With former TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meachem trying to jumpstart the Jayhawk attack, Bender should shine.

5. Kyle Allen, Houston

It’s the first big call of the Major Applewhite era – is Allen going to be able to win the job? It sounds crazy, considering the 2014 No. 1 overall recruit started as a true freshman at Texas A&M, and should be going into this season polishing his resume for the NFL. Instead, now he has to fight off Kyle Postma – a decent option who’s been around Houston for a few years – and dangerous dual-threat prospect D’Eriq King.

4. David Cornwell, Nevada

Look … out. Cornwell was a one-time star recruit at Alabama – aren’t they all? – with the big-time passing skills to not only fit the Tide system, but make the attack even more dangerous downfield. Instead, he transferred out last season and landed at Nevada, which might not seem like that big a deal except for the new coaching staff. New Wolf Pack offensive coordinator Matt Mumme, son of Hal Mumme – architect of the high-octane throw-first, throw-always offenses – should crank up the numbers.

3. Max Browne, Pitt

Browne waited his turn behind Cody Kessler at USC, and then it was supposed to be his time. For his patience, he got to face Alabama to start the season – that didn’t go well. The Trojans struggled early, Sam Darnold took over, and now Browne is in Pittsburgh. For his part, Browne never complained and was the good soldier throughout last year, and now it really might be his time to shine, taking over NFL prospect Nathan Peterman’s old job.

2. Will Grier, West Virginia

Remember him? He’s, apparently, the only college football player who used PEDs over the last several years, and this year he’ll finally be eligible again after being suspended at Florida before landing at West Virginia. The hype and expectations have grown, and now the former Gator starter who led the way to a 6-0 start in 2015 – with ten scores and three picks – gets to run the Dana Holgorsen attack.

1. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

Yeah, Stidham wouldn’t have transferred from Baylor if he didn’t think he’d be the starter at Auburn, but Sean White seems to always find his way under center, and John Franklin III is still an interesting option. But if this works out as planned, Stidham could be the do-it-all star the offense needs to make the Gus Malzahn attack fly.

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