It’s officially the college football offseason, which means rosters across the country are in flux as players make stay-or-go NFL Draft decisions, schools work to finalize their 2019 recruiting classes and some student-athletes seek greener pastures through the transfer market.
Here’s a look at some of the top transfers of the offseason, including those who have already committed to a new school or are still available on the market.
QB Justin Fields
Previous school: Georgia
New school: Ohio State
Fields was the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2018 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, when he stayed in-state and enrolled at Georgia. He spent his freshman season backing up Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm and the Bulldogs never seemed to properly figure out how or when to use the 6-3 dual-threat quarterback.
Fields attempted just 39 passes last season with 27 of those coming against Georgia’s non-conference opponents. In limited snaps, he was efficient as a passer and a runner with a 173.7 passing efficiency rating, 8.4 yards per attempt, four touchdowns and no interceptions through the air and 6.3 yards per carry and four touchdowns on the ground.
But too often Fields appeared to have a short leash, especially in the red zone, as Georgia chased its College Football Playoff aspirations while attempting to balance playing time between two talented quarterbacks.
He found a home at Ohio State, which has to replace Heisman Trophy finalist Dwayne Haskins, who declared for the NFL Draft after one season as a starter. The Buckeyes are on the short list of programs that can reasonably have College Football Playoff – if not national championship – aspirations on an annual basis.
Fields is hoping to receive a waiver that would allow him to play immediately in 2019 rather than redshirting next season after transferring from Georgia. Regardless of when Fields is eligible to play for Ohio State, he’ll have to compete with Tate Martell, who’s a former four-star, top-100, dual-threat quarterback prospect from the 2017 recruiting class.
QB Jalen Hurts
Previous school: Alabama
New school: TBD
Hurts has entered the NCAA transfer portal, according to the Tuscaloosa News, in a move that many expected after he was benched at halftime of the 2018 National Championship Game against Georgia. Last season he served as the team’s backup behind Tua Tagovailoa, whose performance in the second half and in overtime against the Bulldogs won the Crimson Tide the title two seasons ago, but Hurts ironically came off the bench to lead a rally to beat Georgia in the 2018 SEC Championship.
Whatever school Hurts chooses as a grad transfer will get a quarterback who was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year as a true freshman and 26-2 as Alabama’s starting quarterback.
Hurts is a dangerous runner, rushing for 1,809 yards and 21 touchdowns in his first two seasons, and his passing efficiency improved as a junior, albeit in a limited number of attempts as a backup.
In his three college seasons, he has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 5,626 yards, 48 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, so even if he isn’t the passer that Tagovailoa is (admittedly, comparing any college quarterback to the Heisman Trophy runner-up is a high bar), he’ll be the most sought-after transfer on the market.
QB Tate Martell
Previous school: Ohio State
New school: TBD
Before Heisman Trophy finalist Dwayne Haskins officially declared for the NFL draft, former Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell appeared to have the inside track at taking over under center for the Buckeyes next season. Then former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields announced he would transfer to Ohio State after spending his freshman season stuck behind Jake Fromm on the Bulldogs’ depth chart.
In a since-deleted tweet, Martell warned Fields, “Words of advice – don’t swing and miss … especially not your second time,” and now it’s Martell who will also be looking for a second opportunity.
Martell, a redshirt freshman, reportedly entered his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal on Thursday, meaning other schools are allowed to contact him. He has since removed mentions of Ohio State from his Twitter bio, which now reads “Quarterback at…” and lists his location as his hometown of Las Vegas, NV, so while he can still return to Columbus, it appears he’s ready to move on from the Buckeyes.
Martell has recently followed Miami Coach Manny Diaz, West Virginia Coach Neal Brown and Auburn Offensive Coordinator Kenny Dillingham on Twitter, so if you read the tea leaves, the Hurricanes, Mountaineers and Tigers are contenders for the dual-threat quarterback.
In six games last season, Martell completed 23-of-28 attempts for 269 yards and one touchdown with 22 rushes for 128 yards and two touchdowns. He was ranked as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback prospect in the 2017 recruiting class and he chose Ohio State over Texas A&M, Washington, Alabama, Cal and USC, among others.
QB Kelly Bryant
Previous school: Clemson
New school: Missouri
Clemson true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s performance in the Tigers’ 44-16 victory over No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday night showed why former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant transferred from the school. Bryant was the bridge between a pair of national championship-winning Clemson quarterbacks, Deshaun Watson and Lawrence, and he could now be at the forefront of a potentially special season in Columbia, Missouri.
Given Missouri’s top-25 finish in the AP Top 25 Poll in the 2018 season, its returning talent and the Tigers’ 2019 schedule, they could contend for a 10-win season next fall.
Bryant, who chose Missouri over Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State and North Carolina, has only been a starting quarterback for one full season in college, but he brings with him College Football Playoff and ACC Championship Game experience. You could argue Clemson’s best regular season victory last season was on the road at Texas A&M in Week 2, when Bryant completed 12-of-17 attempts for 205 yards and a touchdown and he ran for 54 yards and another score.
Now Bryant will get the opportunity to play against SEC competition on a weekly basis in his final year of eligibility.
QB Shawn Robinson
Previous school: TCU
New school: Missouri
Given Kelly Bryant’s status as a grad transfer with just one year of eligibility remaining, Missouri also established a potential succession plan at quarterback for the 2020 season. Former TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson announced his commitment to Missouri in December.
He’ll have to redshirt next season, making him eligible starting in the 2020 season after Bryant’s eligibility has been exhausted. Robinson, 6-2, was a four-star, sixth-ranked dual-threat quarterback prospect in the 2017 recruiting class.
Robinson struggled some with his accuracy and throwing interceptions last season, but with a development year in which he can learn from Bryant, he could give Missouri a solid option under center in 2020 and 2021.
DT Aubrey Solomon
Previous school: Michigan
New school: Tennessee
Former five-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon is heading south. After two seasons at Michigan, the Georgia native announced his decision to transfer to Tennessee.
The Wolverines had one of the strongest defenses in the country last season, but Solomon appeared in just five games in an injury-shortened sophomore campaign, recording six total tackles, which ranked 25th on the team.
Tennessee, whose defense ranked 96th in terms of efficiency last season, could use the boost.
Solomon was recruited by Alabama, where current Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt spent two seasons as the team’s defensive coordinator. The 6-3, 287-pound defensive tackle will redshirt next season then have two years of eligibility remaining.
WR Jeff Thomas | WR A.D. Miller
Previous school: Miami (FL) | Oklahoma
New school: Illinois
Illinois, which ranked 115th in passing yards per game in 2018, added Miami (FL)’s leading wide receiver Jeff Thomas and former Oklahoma wide receiver A.D. Miller as transfers. Thomas had 35 receptions for 563 yards and three touchdowns last season, while Miller had seven catches, 75 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Miller is a graduate transfer who is eligible to play immediately, while Thomas will have to redshirt next season unless he receives a waiver to play in 2019. The latter was dismissed by the Hurricanes in November and he will now play in his home state after being the No. 5 wide receiver prospect in the 2017 recruiting class after playing for East St. Louis (Ill.) High School.
Thomas is a big-play threat who averaged 18 yards per catch in two seasons at Miami, including a five-catch, 132-yard game against LSU’s vaunted defense in Week 1 of last season.
WR Lawrence Cager
Previous school: Miami (FL)
New school: TBD
Miami’s receiving corps took another hit when second-leading receiver Lawrence Cager, a 6-5 junior who caught a team-high six touchdowns, announced his decision to transfer. He hasn’t committed to a new school and the redshirt junior should be eligible next season as a grad transfer.
Cager was a three-star recruit who ranked as the No. 45 wide receiver prospect in the 2015 recruiting class. He chose Miami over Alabama and Ohio State, among others.
RB James Gilbert
Previous school: Ball State
New school: Kansas State
New Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman has already taken advantage of the transfer market to land former Ball State running back James Gilbert, who rushed for 2,806 yards in his college career.
He had the best year of his career as a sophomore, when he rushed for 1,332 yards, 5.3 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns with seven 100-yard games. In a road win at Buffalo three seasons ago, he had 34 attempts for 264 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and he had seven games that season with at least 20 carries in a game, suggesting the potential for him to be a workhorse back if needed.
Kansas State’s leading rusher Alex Barnes, who rushed for 1,355 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, will be a senior next fall so the Wildcats have the potential for an experienced 1-2 punch in their backfield next season. It remains to be seen what Kansas State’s offense will look like under Klieman, but North Dakota State, where he spent the last five seasons as head coach, averaged 286 rushing yards per game last season.