The College transfer portal is quickly becoming just as important as recruiting high school talent for college programs. Many would argue it is even more important to college programs because the players in the transfer portal for have proven themselves on the field at the college level for the most part. The NCAA has instituted a new transfer rule that allows for a one-time free transfer for any player, granting them immediate eligibility. This rule has led to an unprecedented number of players entering the transfer portal and joining new colleges for the 2021 season. This has changed the college landscape for the teams these players have left but also created some interesting camp battles for the teams they have joined. For this article, I will focus on the quarterbacks arriving on new teams and what this means for them and their new college programs.
McKenzie Milton- Transfer from UCF to Florida State
Milton was once a highly touted quarterback prospect. However on November 23rd, 2018 in a game against South Florida, Milton was injured on an option play. As Milton kept the ball on the option and ran right, he was tackled by two USF players with one hitting him right below his knee. Milton dislocated his knee and was rushed to the hospital with extensive damage to his nerves and arteries in his right knee.
Milton was sidelined for two seasons after not being able to play a snap in 2019. He was trending towards being able to play in 2020 but a second infection sidelined him. He was cleared to play in the summer of 2020 and sat behind Dillon Gabriel all year before announcing his transfer to Florida State on December 3rd.
Joining Florida State who had a down season in 2020 and finished 3-6 ranking as the 116th offense (per PFF.com) seemed like an interesting decision this off-season. Florida State does have a very interesting quarterback room. Jordan Travis (Rs-Soph.) was the starter for most of last year while Chubba Purdy (FR) and Tate Rodemaker (FR) are both there as well. All that being said I can’t imagine Milton would have transferred to Florida State if he wasn’t given some kind of reassurance he would be a starter. Unless Milton has some sort of setback with his health I expect him to be the starter for the Seminoles as I see him as the more complete quarterback right now.
While Travis is more athletic and showed flashes last year, Purdy the freshman has the most upside. Unless Travis or Purdy flash in spring camps, expect Milton to be the starter. He’s likely a quarterback for the college side you will be able to count on at times in 2021 but I don’t see much of an NFL future for him.
Grant Gunnell- Transfer from Arizona to Memphis
Grant Gunnell looked all but committed to Texas A&M but ended up committing to Arizona following head coach Kevin Sumlin. He joined the Wildcats as a 3-star per 247sports.com and the 10th ranked pro-style quarterback in the 2019 class. Entering the 2019 season as a freshman, Gunnell was the backup to starter Khalil Tate. Due to injuries and poor play, Gunnell started three games and played in eight in his 2019 season.
With a shortened Covid 2020 season, Gunnell was looking for a chance to improve on his impressive freshman season. In the end, unfortunately, Gunnell started four games but was injured three plays in his third game and threw only one pass. After a 70-7 loss to in-state rival Arizona State, head coach Kevin Sumlin was let go. Quickly following that on December 17th, Gunnell entered the transfer portal and would end up with the Memphis Tigers.
Under head coach Ryan Silverfield, Memphis finished 2020 8-3 and as the 49th ranked offense (per PFF.com) which averaged 307 passing yards per game. Last year’s starter Brady White left the team for the NFL after he helped lead the Tigers to their best season in program history. The quarterback position is wide open with two other players competing with Gunnell. Peter Parrish, former LSU quarterback, and Keilon Brown. I believe the battle will come down to Parrish and Gunnell as Brown is currently also playing baseball for the Tigers. Parrish is more exciting with his legs than Gunnell and he will be able to make plays as a runner. However, his arm doesn’t stand up to Gunnell’s when it comes to accuracy or the deep ball.
Gunnell is the most talented quarterback on the roster and should win this job. It should be very interesting, with Gunnell’s arm talent mixed in with Silverfield’s fast-paced offense, to see just how good this combination could be and how much it could raise his draft stock. Gunnell is a top 12 ranked quarterback for me in our campus ranks. He should bring you points on the college side and has NFL upside as well.
Anthony Russo- Transfer from Temple to Michigan State
Russo joined the Temple Owls in 2016 and redshirted his freshman season. Russo saw some playing time as a redshirt freshman but didn’t see his first start till 2018 as a redshirt sophomore. He led the team to a 7-3 record as the starter and had a great game against UCF and Heisman hopeful at the time McKenzie Milton. As a junior, he became the first Temple quarterback to throw for 400+ yards twice and tied his career-high in touchdown passes with four.
Entering 2020 Russo was on the Golden Arm Award Watchlist and started three games before he suffered an injury. With his injury and COVID ravaging the program, Russo had played his last game at Temple. After entering the transfer portal, on December 16th he announced he was joining the Michigan State Spartans.
Michigan State had a down season in 2020 finishing with a 2-5 record. Mel Tucker’s offense averaged 232.1 passing yards a game and finished as the 115th ranked offense (per PFF.com). Tucker wasted no time in adding Russo to the Spartans quarterback room joining Rocky Lombardi and Payton Thorne.
While both Lombardi and Thorne were with Michigan State last year, Russo will likely be the day one starter for the Spartans. I’m currently much higher on him for the college side of things this year, as he’s ranked as my quarterback 67. He’ll have some big moments but doesn’t have a lot of talent around him, and I don’t see much of an NFL future ahead of him.
Jack Coan- Transfer from Wisconsin to Notre Dame
In 2017, Coan appeared in just six games for the Badgers. During his sophomore season in 2018, he played in five games but only started in four of them. His junior season was the year Coan was finally named the starter, starting all 14 games that year. After having his best college year, he wound up with an All-Big Ten honorable mention and as an Academic All-Big Ten player. Heading into the 2020 preseason he was even placed on the Davey O’Brien Award watch list along with the Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list.
Before the start of Wisconsin’s season in 2020, Jack Coan suffered a broken right foot in fall camp and was forced to undergo surgery in early October. While he was with the team in uniform for the last three games of the season, Coan entered the transfer portal after their final game. Jack Coan would later commit to Notre Dame to play for Brian Kelly.
Notre Dame finished the season with a 12-1 record averaging 237.4 passing yards a game. Ian Book, the starter in 2020, left Notre Dame for the NFL draft as the all-time winningest quarterback in school history. Coan joined a quarterback room with junior Brendon Clark, rising sophomore Drew Pyne, and incoming freshman Tyler Buchner.
While the battle will likely come down to freshman phenom Tyler Buchner and recent transfer Jack Coan, I expect Coan to win the job. Notre Dame still has a very good team that has a chance to make the playoffs again in 2020. Jack Coan has competed at the highest levels in college and has had some standout moments as well. Even with the weapons in place at Notre Dame, I’m not expecting much out of Coan this year form a fantasy standpoint and I don’t believe he has much of an NFL future.
Ryan Hilinski- Transfer from South Carolina to Northwestern
In his freshman season in 2019, Hilinski was named the backup quarterback to Jake Bentley. Bentley would later get injured and Hilinski would be named the starter moving forward, starting 11 games in the 2019 season. While he had some incredibly good moments, he would also have some incredibly bad moments as well.
As the 2020 season started many thought Hilinski was going to continue as the starting quarterback for the South Carolina Gamecocks. However, in September he was named the backup quarterback to Collin Hill. While Hilinski would see limited action in two games, as the season came to an end Hilinski entered the transfer portal on December 30th. Almost a month later Hilinski would announce his transfer to Northwestern on January 19th.
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald led Northwestern to another successful year, finishing with a 7-2 record and making the Big Ten Championship game. Northwestern did rely heavily on their defense for their success, as their offense finished ranked 102nd averaging 197.9 passing yards a game. With the departure of senior Peyton Ramsey, Hilinski seems to be the guy to slide into the starting role. Hilinski was recruited by Fitzgerald before committing to South Carolina. Northwestern is lacking in offensive weapons and I don’t believe Hilinski will raise the floor much in this situation. He’s ranked as my quarterback 83 right now and I don’t see much of an NFL future for him either.
Ethan Garbers- Transfer from Washington to UCLA
Ethan Garbers, a four-star recruit out of Newport Beach, California, committed to the Washington Huskies on December 18th, 2019 and was ranked as the fourth-best quarterback in the 2020 class by 247sports. Garbers certainly has talent but lost the battle to Dylan Morris for the starting job this past year, which would lead to him redshirting for the 2020 season. However, Washington landed five-star quarterback Sam Huard in recruiting this year. With Huard committing to Washington, Garbers entered the transfer portal on December 24th and would commit to joining the UCLA Bruins on December 29th.
UCLA heavily recruited Garbers and was a finalist on his list of schools before choosing to commit to Washington. Dorian Thompson-Robinson the current starter at UCLA will likely be playing his final season for the Bruins. With a full season to sit behind Dorian and learn the offense with head coach Chip Kelly, Garbers should be the starter in 2022. Garbers is currently my 50th ranked quarterback and I do believe has upside in both college and possibly the NFL, though you will have to likely wait a season to get any production out of him outside of an injury.
With recent changes to the rules of the transfer portal, we will likely see more players using this one-time rule in the future. As always the Campus 2 Canton crew will continue to monitor the ever-changing college football landscape. Stay locked into our transfer portal coverage as we tackle the running back position next.