No SEC team has had more quarterbacks enjoy success elsewhere after transferring than Florida.
It’s as if Florida Field has become a minefield for anyone playing the position in the post-Tim Tebow era.
Tyler Murphy transferred to Boston College and set an ACC record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Jacoby Brissett transferred to North Carolina State where he passed for more than 5,200 yards and 43 touchdowns in two seasons while leading the Wolfpack to two bowl games; he should be selected in next week’s NFL draft.
Jeff Driskel transferred to Louisiana Tech where he passed for 4,033 yards and 27 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He also ran for 323 yards and five scores. His QB rating was 154.0. In four seasons at Florida (two slowed by injuries), he had 3,421 yards passing, 23 touchdowns, 20 picks and ran for 652 yards. His QB rating was about 130.
Oddly, Florida likely will rely on a transfer behind center. Luke Del Rio, who went from Alabama to Oregon State to Gainesville, and Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby were the top two quarterbacks after spring drills concluded. Could one be good enough to guide the Gators to an East Division repeat?
If Florida has been the poster child for transfer quarterbacks succeeding outside The Swamp, Auburn has benefited the most from transfers doing quite well (counting the junior college variety).
Auburn won the 2010 national championship behind junior college transfer Cam Newton, who also won the Heisman that year. Do we dare mention he signed with Florida before transferring to Blinn College in Texas?
Auburn also reached the 2013 national title game behind another JC transfer, Nick Marshall, who originally played at Georgia. Another JC transfer might win the job on the Plains this fall – John Franklin III, who originally began his career at Florida State.
Last season, Alabama won a national title with a transfer quarterback, Jake Coker, who came from Florida State. Coker’s success came after an unsuccessful attempt to beat out fifth-year senior Blake Sims in 2014.
Ole Miss has had its share of productive JC signal-callers in recent years. Bo Wallace (Arkansas State, then junior college) was a two-year starter for the Rebels. Chad Kelly, a Clemson transfer who came to Oxford from a junior college, passed for 4,042 yards last year and is the top returning quarterback in the league. Each also helped Ole Miss reach No. 3 in the polls.
Ole Miss also had a Texas transfer at quarterback, Jevon Snead, who led the Rebels to an upset at Florida in 2008, prompting Tebow to give his famous “The Promise” speech that is etched in stone outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Another Rebels quarterback transfer didn’t work out so well: Jeremiah Masoli from Oregon. His sketchy background led the SEC to adopt a rule about accepting troubled transfers with only one year of eligibility remaining. Masoli had been dismissed at Oregon for second-degree burglary, then marijuana possession. He was allowed to play immediately when the NCAA reversed field on an earlier ruling.
Arkansas had success with Ryan Mallett, a Michigan transfer who passed for almost 7,500 yards and 62 touchdowns in two seasons with the Hogs. He averaged 297.6 passing yards per game as a senior.
Texas A&M is in a unique situation, virtually trading quarterbacks with Oklahoma. Kyler Murray left Aggieland for Oklahoma, then graduate transfer Trevor Knight, packed his bags for College Station. Knight won the starting job in spring practice. Murray – who is one of seven quarterbacks to transfer from A&M in the past four seasons – must sit a season.
Tennessee has had little success with transfer quarterback, but one did work out a dozen years ago. Rick Clausen, buried on the depth chart at LSU, landed on Rocky Top, and after two freshmen quarterbacks got hurt late in the 2004 season, he helped the Vols win the East Division and play Auburn for the SEC title. Clausen then was offensive MVP of a Cotton Bowl blowout over Texas A&M.
Only one other transfer has led UT in passing in a season: Steve Alatorre, a JC transfer who threw for 747 yards in 1980 and 1,171 in ’81.
Tennessee benefited from a quarterback who transferred to Texas A&M – Branndon Stewart, who was beaten out by Peyton Manning in 1994. Stewart, from Stephenville, Texas, led the Aggies to an upset win in the 1998 Big 12 championship game over top-ranked Kansas State. That helped clear the way for Tennessee to play in – and win – the first-ever BCS national title game.
LSU’s best quarterback transfer was Zach Mettenberger, who was dismissed at Georgia and attended a junior college before signing with the Tigers. Mettenberger is the lone LSU quarterback to pass for at least 2,500 yards in back-to-back seasons. His two-year numbers: almost 5,700 yards, 34 TDs, 15 picks. His last season at LSU, in 2013, the Tigers had a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers.
Georgia utilized a graduate transfer from Virginia last season, Greyson Lambert, who started strong but struggled down the stretch.
Vanderbilt didn’t have any transfer quarterbacks for years, then had two back-to-back. Jordan Rodgers, younger brother of Green Bay great Aaron Rodgers, led Vanderbilt to nine wins in 2012 – the most for the Commodores since 1915. Austyn Carta-Samuels then took over after transferring from Wyoming and guided Vandy to another nine-win season.
At South Carolina, Mike Hold of Yuma (Ariz.) CC was part of a quarterback rotation on the 1984 team that started 9-0 and reached No. 2 in the nation. Hold threw for almost 3,000 yards and 15 touchdowns with 15 interceptions in two seasons. The Gamecocks’ most productive transfer quarterback was Bobby Fuller, who came from Appalachian State with coach Sparky Woods in 1989. After sitting a season, Fuller threw for 4,896 yards and 28 touchdowns while completing 58.8 percent of his passes in two years.
Perhaps the most amazing quarterback transfer success story occurred at Mississippi State. Dave Marler transferred in 1977 from Division II Mississippi College as a kicker/quarterback. His first season, he was 13-of-26 on field-goal attempts, including a 50-yarder. He led the league in field-goal attempts and was second in field goals made.
The next season, he won the quarterback job and set a school record for passing yards in a season (2,422) that lasted for 34 years. He set a single-game record with 429 yards against Alabama. He led the SEC in completions, attempts, pass efficiency, yards per attempt, completion percentage, total yards and passing yards. Not bad for a kicker.
TRANSFER QUARTERBACKS WHO COULD START FOR SEC TEAMS THIS FALL
- Auburn: John Franklin III (from junior college; began career at Florida State)
- Florida: Luke Del Rio (transfer from Oregon State) or Austin Appleby (graduate transfer from Purdue)
- Georgia: Greyson Lambert (graduate transfer from Virginia, second season at Georgia)
- Ole Miss: Chad Kelly (from junior college, began career at Clemson; second season at Ole Miss)
- Texas A&M: Trevor Knight (graduate transfer from Oklahoma)
(You can follow Jimmy Hyams on Twitter @JimmyHyams)
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