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A Recent History of Highly Ranked QB Transfers

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What do the last 5 years of Top-100 QB transfers teach us about the future for Eason, Sirmon, and Yankoff?

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship Game-Alabama vs Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This week has made Husky fans acutely aware of the world of high level QB transfers. I had already planned to write this article with Jacob Eason as the sole focus but with the potential transfers of Colson Yankoff and Jacob Sirmon* I’ve increased the scope a little bit. All 3 players were top-100 overall prospects regardless of position per the 247 composite rankings when they came out of high school. To give an idea of the odds of each panning out in the future I’m going to look at the results of each top-100 QB who ended up transferring in the 2014-2016 classes. We’ll start with the class of 2016 since no one younger than that has had the chance to play for their new team yet.

*EDIT 5/1 3:35p: Mike Vorel of the Seattle Times is now reporting that Jacob Sirmon has withdrawn his name from the transfer portal and intends to remain at UW.

Class of 2016- 7 top-100 QBs, 3 have transferred

Jacob Eason is a member of this class but since he hasn’t been eligible to play yet at Washington and since you all know his story, I’m excluding him from the more detailed listing below.

Shea Patterson- 5 stars, #4 overall, Transferred from Ole Miss to Michigan

Stats Pre-Transfer: 10 games, 3,139 yards, 23 TDs, 12 INTs, 60.7%, 8.01 YPA

Stats Post-Transfer: 13 games, 2,600 yards, 22 TDs, 7 INTs, 64.6%, 8 YPA

Patterson transferred from Ole Miss after the school was sanctioned for their recruiting which allowed the Rebels to secure the services of multiple 5-star recruits...like Patterson. He was granted a waiver by the NCAA because of the sanctions allowing him to play immediately at Michigan. The offense in Michigan is certainly less explosive than the one Ole Miss ran so his counting stats per game were worse than they were in Oxford but his completion percentage and yards per attempt were equal or better.

Malik Henry- 4 stars, #49 overall, Transferred from Florida State to Independence CC to Nevada

Stats Pre-Transfer: NONE

Stats Post-Transfer: 12 games, 1,620 yards, 11 TDs, 11 INTs, 52.2%

Henry was suspended by Florida State for a violation of team rules before his freshman season ever started and he opted to transfer just a few months later in December. He ended up at Independence Community College which is the featured school of the show Last Chance U. He started for the team in what was his redshirt freshman season but lost the job the following year after early struggles. He has now walked on at Nevada and is hoping to rejuvenate his career although the prospects of it look grim.

Class of 2015- 10 top-100 QBs, 7 have transferred

Blake Barnett- 5 stars, #22 overall, Transferred from Alabama to Arizona State to South Florida

Stats Pre-Transfer: 3 games, 219 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 57.9%, 11.5 YPA

Stats Post-Transfer: 13 games, 2,745 yards, 12 TDs, 11 INTs, 61.1%, 7.7 YPA

Barnett entered Alabama with tons of hype but he was ultimately unable to beat out the less heralded but much more athletic Jalen Hurts for the starting job. He appeared in mop up duty in 3 games during his redshirt freshman season then opted to transfer. He wound up at Arizona State where he once again failed to beat out the starter, this time Manny Wilkins, and so ended up on the move a second time. Barnett finally was named the starter this past fall at South Florida and the team won his first 7 starts but they collapsed down the stretch losing their last 6 and overall he put up very mediocre stats.

Kyler Murray- 5 stars, #34 overall, Transferred from Texas A&M to Oklahoma

Stats Pre-Transfer: 8 games, 686 yards, 5 TDs, 7 INTs, 59.5%, 5.7 YPA, 335 rush, 1 TD

Stats Post-Transfer: 21 games, 4,720 yards, 45 TDs, 7 INTs, 69.8%, 11.9 YPA, 1,043 rush, 12 TD

This one worked out pretty well for Murray. We’ll get to Kyle Allen a little later but Kevin Sumlin went back and forth between his pair of 5-stars in Allen and Murray and neither one liked the way the situation was handled. Both transferred at the end of the 2015 season with Murray headed to Okahoma a week after Allen departed despite seemingly having a clear path to the starter’s job. After sitting out all but garbage time in 2 seasons at OU he took over from Baker Mayfield this year and won the Heisman and became the #1 pick in the NFL Draft while putting up video game numbers. Not bad.

Jarrett Stidham- 4 stars, #38 overall, Transferred from Baylor to Auburn

Stats Pre-Transfer: 10 games, 1,265 yards, 12 TDs, 2 INTs, 68.8%, 11.6 YPA

Stats Post-Transfer: 23 games, 5,233 yards, 34 TDs, 10 INTs, 65.4%, 8.5 YPA

Stidham took over as the starter for Baylor late in his freshman season and played extremely well as you can see by the pre-transfer stats listed above. Coach Art Briles was fired amid the numerous scandals happening at Baylor at the time and so Stidham decided to transfer. He sat out the 2016 season taking online courses and was immediately eligible at Auburn where he started both seasons and was a well above average quarterback. He left for the draft where last week he was selected in the 4th round by the New England Patriots and will have a chance to be Tom Brady’s backup.

Brandon Wimbush- 4 stars, #46 overall, Transferred from Notre Dame to Central Florida

Stats Pre-Transfer: 19 games, 2,589 yards, 20 TDs, 12 INTs, 50.4%, 6.9 YPA, 1,148 rush yards, 18 TDs

Stats Post-Transfer: NONE...yet

Wimbush held the starting job in 2017 as Notre Dame went 10-3 and was dynamic with his legs but struggled to complete passes at even an average rate. He was the unquestioned starter this past season but was benched despite a 3-0 start after the offense never cracked 24 points in home wins over Ball State and Vanderbilt. Rather than enter as the clear backup this season Wimbush decided to grad transfer to Central Florida where he will be the favorite to start after the incumbent Mackenzie Milton suffered a gruesome leg injury at the end of UCF’s season which will likely end his football career.

Deondre Francois- 4 stars, #66 overall, Transferred from Florida State to ???

Stats Pre-Transfer: 25 games, 6,291 yards, 36 TDs, 21 INTs, 58%, 7.58 YPA

Stats Post-Transfer: NONE...yet

Francois was dismissed from Florida State after allegations of domestic violence came out against him. He entered the transfer portal and has unsurprisingly yet to find a new school willing to take on the public relations nightmare and likely won’t unless the allegations are shown to be false. He was a 3-year starter for the Seminoles although the 2017 season was ruined for FSU when Francois went down for the season with a knee injury in the opener against Alabama.

Brady White- 4 stars, #68 overall, Transferred from Arizona State to Memphis

Stats Pre-Transfer: 3 games, 259 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INTs, 51%, 5.3 YPA

Stats Post-Transfer: 14 games, 3,296 yards, 26 TDs, 9 INTs, 62.8%, 8.4 YPA

White was the hipster version of the above Blake Barnett in that he failed to beat out Manny Wilkins in a QB competition before it was cool. White redshirted his first season and then was the backup to Wilkins, getting his opportunity when Manny was hurt against USC. White started in a victory against UCLA and Josh Rosen but suffered a Lisfranc fracture in his foot which knocked him out for the rest of 2016 and ultimately for 2017 as well. With Wilkins entrenched as a senior, White decided to transfer to Memphis where he won the starting job and led them to an 8-6 season this past year putting up good numbers in the explosive Tigers offense.

Ricky Town- 4 stars, #79 overall, Transferred from USC to Arkansas to Ventura College to Pittsburgh

Stats Pre-Transfer: NONE

Stats Post-Transfer: Basically NONE

Town was one-half of the duo that comes closest to mirroring the Sirmon/Yankoff situation that Washington faces as Town and fellow 4-star Sam Darnold both entered USC in the same class. Town was more highly ranked but Darnold quickly asserted himself and became a star while Town opted to transfer to Arkansas without playing a snap. Unfortunately, in 2 seasons he never was able to win the job with the Razorbacks either and again didn’t play a snap before heading back to California at Ventura College where he was the starter for a season. Town gave it one last try at Pittsburgh where he backed up Kenny Pickett and threw one pass (a completion) for 15 yards in mop up duty of the opener against Albany. Town opted to forego his final year of eligibility and will instead simply graduate and retire.

Class of 2014- 7 top-100 QBs, 5 have transferred

Kyle Allen- 5 stars, #8 overall, Transferred from Texas A&M to Houston

Stats Pre-Transfer: 20 games, 3,532 yards, 33 TDs, 14 INTs, 58.5%, 7.4 YPA

Stats Post-Transfer: 4 games, 751 yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs, 76.2%, 7.2 YPA

It was mentioned in the Kyler Murray section but Allen came in as a 5-star the year before Murray and took over from incumbent Kenny “Trill” Hill for the final 5 games and did enough to enter 2015 as the starter. However, Sumlin went back and forth between Allen and Murray and the lack of trust and communication was enough to prompt Allen to head to Houston. After a redshirt season he took over as the starter for the Cougars and lasted 4 games before being benched and ultimately declaring early for the NFL Draft where he went unselected but made the Carolina Panthers roster as a UDFA.

Will Grier- 4 stars, #48 overall, Transferred from Florida to West Virginia

Stats Pre-Transfer: 6 games, 1,202 yards, 10 TDs, 3 INTs, 65.6%, 7.5 YPA

Stats Post-Transfer: 17 games, 5,745 yards, 57 TDs, 19 INTs, 65.7%, 9.5 YPA

Grier redshirted his true freshman season as many do and then came in and won the starting job with perhaps the most success of any Florida QB since Tim Tebow. However, he was suspended for taking a banned supplement and then head coach Jim McElwain seemingly pushed Grier to move on rather than give him a chance to earn his job back the following season. He headed to West Virginia where he put up stellar numbers and went in the 3rd round of last week’s NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers and ironically enough joins Kyle Allen listed above.

Keller Chryst- 4 stars, #51 overall, Transferred from Stanford to Tennessee

Stats Pre-Transfer: 23 games, 1,926 yards, 19 TDs, 6 INTs, 55.4%, 6.7 YPA

Stats Post-Transfer: 5 games, 450 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs, 48.9%, 9.6 YPA

Chryst started his career as the backup to Kevin Hogan but had a path to the starter as a sophomore. He lost the QB competition to Ryan Burns in training camp but took over for him halfway through the year and led Stanford to a 6-0 finish despite middling stats. The following year was a repeat except with Chryst playing the role of Burns and K.J Costello taking over for Keller. As the clear backup, Keller decided to grad transfer to Tennessee where he served as the backup although he played well in extended time against Alabama.

Brandon Harris- 4 stars, #75 overall, Transferred from LSU to North Carolina

Stats Pre-Transfer: 22 games, 2,756 yards, 20 TDs, 10 INTs, 53.9%, 7.9 YPA, 370 rushing yards, 7 TDs

Stats Post-Transfer: 6 game, 346 yards, 1 TDs, 8 INTs, 49.3%, 4.9 YPA

Harris appeared in 8 games as a backup during his true freshman season before taking over as a starter the following season. LSU’s quarterbacks have generally been a train wreck for over a decade but Harris showed enough promise to make it seem like he could break the trend. However, he was benched 2 games into the 2016 season and after the season grad transferred to North Carolina. Once in Chapel Hill he was an abomination throwing 8 picks in just 71 attempts across 4 starts.

David Cornwell- 4 stars, #82 overall, Transferred from Alabama to Nevada

Stats Pre-Transfer: NONE

Stats Post-Transfer: 1 game, 97 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs, 52%, 3.9 YPA

Cornwell headed to Alabama but never was in serious consideration to win a starting job with the talent in that QB room. After 3 seasons he graduated early and headed to Nevada where he was the presumptive starter but failed to win the job. He got into one game after an injury to the starter but threw three picks and that was it for his D-1 football career.

CONCLUSION

That makes 15 of 24 (62.5%) top-100 overall QBs who have transferred over that 3-year period. The list of those that stayed is impressive and includes: Deshaun Watson, Drew Lock, Jake Browning, Josh Rosen, Dwayne Haskins, and KJ Costello. The only one who stayed and didn’t ultimately either start for multiple seasons or get drafted in the NFL was Texas’s Jerrod Heard who switched from running QB to WR rather than transfer (Colson, this could be you!).

Of the 15 who transferred I would say that 7 have been busts, 5 have been successes, and it’s too soon to tell for 3 of them. Let’s delve a little deeper into each category to see if we can find trends.

Among the successes, only Brady White failed to start at least 5 games at his prior stop and all of the others seemingly would’ve been the favorites to win the starting job had they stayed at their current school. Shea Patterson and Jarrett Stidham each were the starter and left due to program scandals. Kyler Murray left due to lack of faith in a coaching staff that showed no ability to stick with a starter at QB and Will Grier was forced out due to off-field issues rather than on-field performance. White had a red flag in that he couldn’t beat out Manny Wilkins but Wilkins was solid for ASU and injuries derailed White’s career more than poor performance.

The 7 busts can be divided into 2 categories. 3 of them (Harris, Chryst, and Allen) all started for a significant amount of time before being benched and losing their jobs. The other 4 (Henry, Barnett, Town, and Cornwell) all failed to ever win the starting position at their prior school and never appeared particularly close to doing so. It shouldn’t necessarily be surprising that players who were either previously benched due to inadequate performance or who weren’t good enough to even get the chance to play would go on to fail at later stops as well.

The other 2 unknowns besides Eason seem to fit fairly cleanly into one of the categories. Francois was a good QB at Florida State but is transferring due to off-field transgressions. If he ever is allowed to start again the odds are that he’ll be an effective quarterback at his new school. Wimbush had an up and down record but getting benched at Notre Dame doesn’t bode well for his prospects at UCF. However, the drop in competition, elite offensive system, and better baseline performance than some of the other examples means I could see him having success there though not as much as Milton has had.

What does this means for the trio of Husky QBs who fit this criteria? Jacob Eason falls generally into the success story category. He was sidelined due to injury rather than performance concerns and there’s plenty of room to be worse than Jake Fromm (career 65.6%, 9.1 YPA) and still be a very good quarterback.

As for Sirmon and Yankoff I’d consider it fairly troubling if they both do go through with their transfers as expected. The only three quarterbacks in that list who didn’t play a single snap at their prior school before transferring were Cornwell, Henry, and Town and they have combined for 26 pass attempts at the D-1 level since deciding to transfer for the first time. That makes a lot of sense since generally the only way you see 0 field time is by being the 3rd string or lower and it’s a lot less likely that you will wind up being good if you were at best the 3rd string at some point in your career regardless of how stacked the QB position there might have been.

That isn’t to say that either will 100% be a bust. Maybe Eason and Haener are both very very good and we’ll look back in awe at the talent in the QB room we had this past spring. Or maybe the coaching staff has been incompetent with the way they gave out snaps. Regardless, history says it’s not surprising that either are moving on but that it would be if they’re starting at a power conference school 2 years from now.