A brief history of quarterback transfers

ByMark Schlabach ESPN logo
Thursday, May 28, 2015

College football fans love backup quarterbacks, especially when their favorite team's starter is struggling.

Do you know what fans like even better than backups? Transfer quarterbacks.

Over the past several seasons, plenty of quarterbacks have taken advantage of the NCAA's graduate transfer rule, which allows student-athletes to transfer and play immediately if they earned a degree at their former school and have eligibility remaining.

In many cases, the transfer quarterbacks were considered saviors, players who could come in and provide an immediate spark for a team's offense.

Former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson, who is transferring to Florida State, certainly isn't the first quarterback to try his luck at another school. The results are varied; some turned out to be very good, while others weren't so good.

Here's a look at how some of the notable graduate transfer quarterbacks fared in past seasons:

The good

Ben Mauk, Wake Forest to Cincinnati, 2007: A devastating arm injury nearly ended Mauk's college career, but he made a miraculous recovery after transferring to Cincinnati in 2007. In Wake Forest's 2006 opener, Mauk broke his passing arm and dislocated his shoulder. Doctors placed a steel plate in his arm and metal anchors in his shoulder and told him he might not play again.

But after transferring to Cincinnati, Mauk's arm strength returned and he won the starting job a couple of weeks into the season. He guided the Bearcats to a 10-3 record, including upsets of No. 21 Rutgers, No. 20 USF and No. 16 UConn. He finished the season with 3,121 passing with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while completing 60.9 percent of his passes.

Tyler Murphy, Florida to Boston College, 2014: Murphy started six games for the Gators in place of injured Jeff Driskel in 2013, but it was clear he was never going to be their full-time quarterback.

So Murphy transferred to Boston College last summer and was reunited with former Gators assistant Steve Addazio. As a senior in 2014, Murphy set the ACC's single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,184. He also passed for 1,623 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, helping lead the Eagles to a 7-6 record.

Greg Paulus, Duke to Syracuse, 2009: Sure, Syracuse's record (4-8) might not have been great in 2009, but could the Orange have expected anything more from a quarterback who spent the previous four seasons playing basketball at Duke? Paulus, who was the 2004 Gatorade National High School Player of the Year as a quarterback, returned to his hometown of Syracuse, New York, after exhausting his eligibility in hoops and graduating from Duke.

Paulus won the starting job and put up respectable production: 2,024 passing yards with 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Cody Sokol, Iowa to Louisiana Tech, 2014: Sokol spent two seasons at Scottsdale (Arizona) Community College and then enrolled at Iowa, where he hoped playing in a pro-style offense would prepare him for the NFL. But Sokol couldn't unseat Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard, so he transferred to Louisiana Tech last summer.

In his only season with the Bulldogs, Sokol passed for 3,436 yards with 30 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He helped lead Louisiana Tech to a turnaround season, finishing 9-5 and beating Illinois 35-18 in the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Clint Trickett, Florida State to West Virginia, 2013: Trickett left Florida State after losing the starting job to eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston during spring practice in 2013. There certainly wasn't any shame in leaving, as Winston guided the Seminoles to a BCS national championship as a redshirt freshman.

In his second season at West Virginia in 2014, Trickett threw for 3,285 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He was forced to retire from football before the Mountaineers' bowl game because of multiple concussions.

Russell Wilson, NC State to Wisconsin, 2011: After spending three seasons with the Wolfpack, Wilson left after a disagreement with former NC State coach Tom O'Brien. Wilson wanted to spend the summer before his senior season in 2011 playing baseball in the Colorado Rockies' minor-league system; O'Brien wanted Wilson at NC State preparing for his final college football season.

Wilson transferred to Wisconsin, where he guided the Badgers to an 11-3 record and Rose Bowl appearance. In his only season in Madison, Wilson set an NCAA single-season record for pass efficiency (191.8) and set single-season school records for passing yards (3,175), touchdown passes (33), completions (225) and total offense (3,513 yards).

The bad

Drew Allen, Oklahoma to Syracuse, 2013: A former blue-chip recruit, Allen was regarded as a quick Band-Aid for Syracuse's offense in 2013. For a team that needed a replacement for record-setting quarterback Ryan Nassib, Allen started the opener and then lost the job in Week 4. He spent the rest of the season playing behind Terrel Hunt, throwing two touchdowns and nine interceptions in his only season with the Orange.

Dayne Crist, Notre Dame to Kansas, 2012: Once considered Notre Dame's next golden boy quarterback, Crist left after three seasons for Kansas, where he was reunited with former Fighting Irish coach Charlie Weis. The one-year results: The Jayhawks went 1-11 (with the only victory coming against South Dakota State in the opener), and Crist completed 47.7 percent of his passes for 1,313 yards with four touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Jake Heaps, Kansas to Miami, 2014: Heaps started his college career at BYU before transferring to Kansas, where he played only one season in 2013 before leaving for Miami. He'd hoped to win the starting job with the Hurricanes, who had to replace departed starter Stephen Morris and injured Ryan Williams. However, Heaps lost the starting job to freshman Brad Kaaya, and attempted only 12 passes in limited playing time in 2014.

Matt Joeckel, Texas A&M to TCU, 2014: Talk about bad luck. Joeckel lost the Texas A&M job to 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and then transferred to TCU, where Trevone Boykin had one of the most remarkable bounce-back seasons in college football history.

With Boykin passing for 3,901 yards, running for 707 and totaling 41 touchdowns in 2014, Joeckel played sparingly in four games, completing 12 of 21 passes for 134 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Jeremiah Masoli, Oregon to Ole Miss, 2010: Maybe the Rebels (and Masoli) actually got what they deserved during the 2010 season. Masoli led the Ducks to the Rose Bowl during the 2009 season, but then was booted from the team following a string of off-field incidents. He transferred to Ole Miss, where the Rebels somehow obtained an NCAA waiver that allowed him to play immediately.

Things didn't go as planned, however, as the Rebels went 4-8 in Masoli's only season in Oxford. He ran for 544 yards with six touchdowns, while passing for 2,039 yards with 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Danny O'Brien, Maryland to Wisconsin, 2012): After Wilson's one-hit wonder at Wisconsin, Badgers fans hoped O'Brien would do the same. He was named ACC Rookie of the Year as a freshman at Maryland in 2010, throwing for 2,438 yards with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions. But he struggled under new coach Randy Edsall the next season, throwing 10 interceptions with seven touchdowns. O'Brien lost playing time to C.J. Brown and then broke his left (non-throwing) shoulder against Notre Dame and decided to leave.

At Wisconsin, O'Brien started the opener, but then fumbled four times in two games and lost the starting job to Joel Stave. He played only one season for the Badgers, completing 60.5 percent of his passes for 523 yards with three touchdowns in 2012.

Kendal Thompson, Oklahoma to Utah, 2014: In another sequence of unfortunate events, Thompson transferred from Oklahoma (where he fell behind Trevor Knight and others for the starting job) to Utah (where he was considered a favorite to replace the injured Travis Wilson).

After Thompson arrived in Salt Lake City, however, Wilson was medically cleared to play after suffering a season-ending head injury in 2013. Then Thompson suffered a torn ACL in his left knee against Oregon on Nov. 8 and missed the rest of the 2014 season. He didn't participate in spring practice, but he's expected back this summer. Thompson and Wilson will be seniors this coming season.

Jury still out

Michael Brewer, Texas Tech to Virginia Tech, 2014: Brewer looked like Texas Tech's next big thing, but a preseason back injury in 2013 dropped him behind Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield. Brewer wanted to transfer to Texas or TCU, but the Red Raiders denied his request. He ended up at Virginia Tech, where he had an up-and-down season in 2014.

The highlight of his first season with the Hokies was undoubtedly a 35-21 upset of eventual national champion Ohio State, in which Brewer passed for 199 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He finished the season with 2,692 passing yards with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, helping the Hokies finish 7-6. He'll be back this coming season and might be better in Year 2 of Virginia Tech's offense.

Jacob Coker, Florida State to Alabama, 2014: Once considered Winston's heir apparent at FSU, Coker left the Seminoles last summer and transferred to Alabama, where he was expected to replace departed starter AJ McCarron.

But Coker was unable to beat out senior Blake Sims for the starting job and threw for 403 yards with four touchdowns in five games in 2014.

Coker is considered the favorite to replace Sims this coming season, but he wasn't able to take command of the job during spring practice. He'll continue to battle David Cornwell and others during preseason camp.