College football’s transfer portal is already bubbling with well over 1,000 names and counting, with heavy focus on the long list of quarterbacks on the lookout for immediate playing time.
In one way or another, every depth chart in the Football Bowl Subdivision will be impacted by losses or gains via the portal. With teams looking to lock down starting jobs during the spring, the next few weeks should see a furious run of quarterback commitments involving many of the biggest programs in the Power Five.
Not every Power Five team will add a transfer quarterback, but most will at least comb through the portal to evaluate every option. Some programs, including Alabama and Ohio State, could be in the market for valuable depth; others, led by Notre Dame and UCLA, believe a proven starter could spark a run to the College Football Playoff.
When it comes to the Power Five, these are the 10 teams to watch in the chase for the top passers in the portal:
1. Notre Dame
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At the very least, Notre Dame is a lock to bring in a transfer quarterback who can push Tyler Buchner for the starting job. The Irish are more likely to evaluate transfers with Power Five experience and a proven track record, such as North Carolina State’s Devin Leary. While limited by injuries this season, Leary tossed 35 touchdowns in 2021 and would bring a steady hand to the position as Notre Dame aims for a breakthrough in coach Marcus Freeman’s second year.
UCLA is the most obvious landing spot for Clemson transfer DJ Uiagalelei, who went to high school in nearby Bellflower, California, and could easily slide into the starting role vacated by Dorian Thompson-Robinson. After being replaced by Cade Klubnik in the ACC championship game, Uiagalelei would get a much-needed reboot in an offensive scheme that could maximize his ability to be a hammer in the running game.
New coach Hugh Freeze will inherit some options. One is rising sophomore Robby Ashford, who struggled as the off-and-on starter in 2022 but has the frame and physical gifts to become a solid SEC starter. But given how the Tigers need to hit the ground running in the rowdy SEC West, Freeze and new offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery could make a serious run at Coastal Carolina transfer Grayson McCall, one of the most productive quarterbacks in recent FBS history.
4. Oregon State
Oregon State has made enormous progress under coach Jonathan Smith despite hit-or-miss quarterback play; this year’s team won nine games during the regular season despite finishing second to last in the Pac-12 with 15 passing touchdowns. With improvement under center a necessity heading into 2023, Smith could stick with rising sophomore Ben Gulbranson or look to add an experienced starter via the portal. Names to watch include Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong, Notre Dame’s Drew Pyne, Pittsburgh’s Kedon Slovis and Boise State’s Hank Bachmeier.
Houston presents one of the best landing spots in the Power Five as the Cougars prepare for life in the Big 12. This year’s starter, Clayton Tune, is tied for the FBS lead with 37 touchdowns and ranks seventh nationally with 3,845 passing yards. Two in-state options could fit the bill for coach Dana Holgorsen: Texas transfer Hudson Card, who played well across several starts in September and October, and Texas Tech’s Donovan Smith, the Red Raiders’ primary starter in 2022.
6. Ohio State
With Kyle McCord the early favorite to replace CJ Stroud in the starting lineup, the Buckeyes can be finicky about which quarterback – and which type of quarterback – they evaluate in the portal. But the numbers say a quarterback is needed: Ohio State does not currently have a quarterback recruit in the 2023 class, so adding depth should be an offseason priority. That could mean Ryan Day shies away from a known commodity in favor of a talented but untested Power Five transfer or a starter from the Group of Five.
Alabama can be even pickier than OSU. The Crimson Tide would take a long look at a veteran quarterback who represents a dramatic upgrade over the two players set to battle this spring for the starting job, Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson. But the Tide are adding two incoming freshmen to the roster this offseason, meaning there may not be room for another scholarship quarterback barring Milroe or Simpson entering the portal after the spring. While there is no current transfer who fits the bill, Nick Saban could leap at the right option at any point in the next month and then make his scholarship chart work.
The pairing of Malik Cunningham and new coach Jeff Brohm would have made Louisville’s offense the most intriguing in the ACC. But with Cunningham approaching his final year of eligibility, the Cardinals will be in the market for an immediate starter with the smarts to run Brohm’s scheme. One transfer who would have worked perfectly is Western Kentucky’s Austin Reed, who entered the portal after throwing for 4,247 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2022 under Brohm’s former offensive coordinator, Tyson Helton. But with Reed stepping out of the portal to return to WKU, look for the Cardinals to consider one- or two-year rentals while finding a developmental starter during the traditional signing periods.
9. Oklahoma State
Four-year starter Spencer Sanders is in the transfer portal and should land at a Power Five school with an open starting position, potentially even on a team with legitimate hopes of reaching the New Year’s Six or playoff. His departure leaves the Cowboys with one scholarship quarterback, rising sophomore Garret Rangel, with a second on the way in true freshman Zane Flores. Coach Mike Gundy’s son, Gunnar, is a walk-on who made one start this season.
The Gators recently hosted Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz, indicating coach Billy Napier’s need for a plug-and-play starter after Anthony Richardson opted into the NFL draft. Mertz is an interesting recruit not just for his experience – he battled through extended runs of inconsistent play as a multiple-year starter for the Badgers – but for being more of a traditional pocket passer. If the Gators sign Mertz or someone with a similar skill set, what would that indicate about how the offense will look in 2023?
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