There were breakout stars all across college football this year, but nowhere were they more impactful than the quarterback position, specifically in the freshman class. Jalen Hurts was the surprise star for that nation’s best team at Alabama, while USC was a completely different team once Sam Darnold was inserted into the starting lineup.
While those moves worked out well for both teams, it had a trickle-down effect that is just now starting to be felt: With two freshmen in charge of the most powerful programs in college football going forward, it means the guys behind them are looking for new places to play. That’s right, the transfer market has never been hotter!
On Wednesday we told you how Alabama has lost three different quarterbacks since Hurts was named the permanent No. 1. And with USC’s opening-night starter Max Browne leaving, there is now an unprecedented number of high-level big names on the transfer market.
Here are the eight biggest:
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Blake Barnett: Former Alabama QB (committed to Arizona State)
Had this list been done earlier this week, Barnett probably would have come in at either No. 1 or 2 in terms of guys who could have the most impact at whatever program they choose. Well, Barnett chose Arizona State on Monday, ending his recruitment for good.
What the Sun Devils now have is a former five-star, dual-threat kid who actually began the year as Alabama’s starter and completed 11 of 19 passes with two touchdowns before losing the job permanently to Hurts. Looking ahead, Barnett will be eligible following Week 4 next season (after transferring from Alabama to a local junior college) and will have three years of eligibility remaining.
Ricky Town: Former Arkansas QB
There might not be a guy who has made more headlines before ever playing a down of college football than Town has. The former four-star recruit from California initially committed to Alabama before flipping to USC late in the process (a decision that allowed ‘Bama to sign Barnett, ironically enough). Town then enrolled at USC, but after falling behind Darnold – who also was in his recruiting class – on the depth chart, he transferred to Arkansas.
Once in Fayetteville, Town couldn’t move past Brandon Allen and again elected to transfer earlier this week. It looks as though he’ll choose to go to junior college, allowing him to transfer to a school of his choice in time for the 2018 season.
David Cornwell: Former Alabama QB
The curse of Jalen Hurts claimed a third victim on Monday (we’ll get to the other guy later) when David Cornwell announced that he, too, would transfer from Alabama. The former four-star recruit out of Oklahoma didn’t throw a single pass in his four years at ‘Bama, serving as a backup to Blake Sims, Jake Coker and Hurts this season.
As a graduate transfer, Cornwell will be eligible right away and have two years to play. He’s originally from Norman, Oklahoma, but because Baker Mayfield has another year of eligibility left, it’s safe to assume Cornwell will not be playing for the Sooners.
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Jalen Hurd: Former Tennessee RB
Hurd elected to leave Tennessee midway through the season, citing Butch Jones’ inability to feature him in a pro-style offense. His intention was to transfer, sit out next year and move to tight end. And if that were his decision alone, he’d be much higher on this list.
Poor Browne never could find his footing at USC. He arrived right as Cody Kessler earned the starting job and never could wrestle it away from him. And even after earning the gig this year, he promptly went 1-2 and lost it to Darnold.
While Browne is clearly limited, he should still provide solid value to the right team as a former five-star, traditional pro-style quarterback. As a graduate transfer, he is eligible to play right away, and to USC’s credit it put no restrictions on where he can go. Browne can transfer anywhere and play next season.
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Cooper Bateman: Former Alabama QB
Bateman was technically the second quarterback to transfer in the wake of Hurts earning the starting job (Cornwell did it a day later). Unlike so many on this list, Bateman had multiple chances to earn the starting job, making a start last year against Ole Miss and also having ample opportunity to take over the starting gig this past season.
Either way, it didn’t happen and now Bateman will transfer. He is a former four-star guy out of Utah who finished his Alabama career with just 66 pass attempts and two touchdowns. Bateman is a graduate transfer, meaning he’ll be eligible immediately with one season left to be played.
Malik Zaire: Former Notre Dame QB
Zaire is probably the most accomplished player on this list, after earning Music City Bowl MVP honors three years ago after replacing Everett Golson as the Irish’s starting quarterback. Unfortunately, when Zaire got hurt last year, DeShone Kizer took over the starting spot and never really gave it back. There was a brief quarterback competition going into the season, but it was one Kizer won going away.
So what’s next for Zaire? There appears to be mutual interest with Wisconsin and North Carolina. Zaire also said that he wants to go to a school that runs a pro-style offense to get better prepared for the next level -- eliminating a handful of teams, including Auburn.
Jarrett Stidham: Former Baylor QB
Stidham is the “white whale” of this year’s transfer market -- a former five-star signal-caller out of high school who tossed 12 touchdowns in limited time as a freshman at Baylor last season. However, when Art Briles was fired, Stidham elected to sit out this entire season and enroll at a junior college while figuring out his next step. He also made the unusual decision not to play during his one-season hiatus.
In terms of what is next for Stidham, he has listed Auburn, Texas A&M and Florida as potential landing spots and has already visited Gus Malzahn’s club several times. Regardless of where Stidham ends up, it’s hard not to see him earning the starting job and making an immediate impact.
As things stand, he’s the biggest name on the transfer market.