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College football quarterback transfers: Breaking down Jaden Rashada, other available portal QBs by tiers

Payton Thorne turned heads this time last year with his decision to transfer from Michigan State to Auburn, where he promptly won the Tigers’ starting quarterback job even though he wasn’t around for spring practice with the Tigers. Former Cincinnati quarterback Ben Bryant pulled off a similar feat when he left the Bearcats and landed as Northwestern’s starter, helping the Wildcats to an eight-win season. 

Other transfer quarterbacks from the 2023 spring window included Thomas Castellanos (UCF to Boston College), Tyler Buchner (Notre Dame to Alabama), Jaylen Henderson (Fresno State to Texas A&M) and Ben Finley (NC State to Cal). All of those players ended up starting at least one game at their new schools. 

This year’s spring crop of quarterbacks on the move doesn’t appear to have the same pop, or at least the same depth. But it still features a handful of players who are looking for new homes after logging meaningful game action in their last stops. Recognizable names — such as former heralded prospect Jaden Rashada and ex-Georgia Tech/Nebraska signal-caller Jeff Sims — highlight the list.

With the April 30 deadline approaching for players to enter the portal, here’s the breakdown of the top quarterbacks searching for new homes by tiers. 

Tier A: Evident Upside

Given the relative scarcity of available quarterbacks in the spring transfer window, the first two players in this tier stand out for their combination of talent and youth. With multiple seasons of eligibility remaining and meaningful power conference playing experience in hand, both will have a good chance to resurface as starting quarterbacks for quality teams in the years ahead. The third player in this tier only has one season left but is a plug-and-play guy with a little upside left, too. 

Jaden Rashada | Old school: Arizona State

How 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: Four-star, No. 10 QB

Arizona State threw freshman Rashada into the fire with mixed results, but a knee injury derailed the experiment after just two games. He would return late in the season to play against Arizona. In total, Rashada logged action in just three games, which will allow him to count 2023 as a redshirt season. With four years left on his clock, Rashada can afford to serve as a backup for a season or two before taking on another starting role. Another example of a player taking this route is Dante Moore, who was thrust into the lineup for UCLA as a freshman in 2023 before transferring to Oregon, where he is expected to apprentice behind Dillon Gabriel.

Jacurri Brown | Old school: Miami

How 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: Three-star, No. 61 QB

Brown showed glimpses of promise in two seasons at Miami, proving to be an effective runner while completing 61.8% of his 76 pass attempts. His lone game action in 2023 came during Miami’s Pinstripe Bowl loss to Rutgers when he completed 20 of 31 passes for 181 yards with three touchdowns (two rushing and one passing) and one interception. With three seasons of eligibility remaining, Brown has enough upside to reemerge as a potential power conference starter. Says CBSSports’ Chris Hummer: “He brings a breath of fresh air to the transfer QB market.” 

Jeff Sims | Old schools: Georgia Tech/Nebraska

How 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: Three-star, No. 82 QB 

Sims is an uber-athletic player with a significant body of work across four seasons at Georgia Tech and Nebraska. With just one year left to play, he needs to transfer to a place where he can win the job. The knock on Sims is how often he turns the football over. He’s thrown 29 interceptions in 680 career attempts and has also been fumble-prone. Those are what drag his 247Sports transfer ranking down probably further than it should be. If Sims can find a place to start and cut back on the whoopsies, it’s not absurd to suggest that he could garner interest as a late-round selection or free-agent pickup in the 2025 NFL Draft class. Perhaps Arizona State could be that place.

Tier B: Drop-down candidates

These quarterbacks have demonstrated some upside over the years but are running short on time to leave their mark on college football. As they seek the third school of their careers, it might be in their best interest to use what eligibility they have left in a place where they can realistically earn the keys to the offense during preseason practice.

Jacolby Criswell | Old schools: North Carolina/Arkansas

Where 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: Three-star, No. 80 QB

Criswell paid his dues in three years at North Carolina, but Drake Maye‘s presence proved to be an impediment. The Arkansas native transferred home to play for the Razorbacks last season, backing up KJ Jefferson and positioning himself for a crack at the starting job in 2024. But with Boise State transfer Taylen Green set to win the gig, Criswell is on the move yet again. The former four-star prospect could still play two more seasons. But after four-plus years of landing at No. 2 or No. 3 on power conference depth charts, he needs to consider looking at a lower tier to find a starting job.

Collin Schlee | Old schools: Kent State/UCLA

Where 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: Three-star, No. 70 QB

Schlee participated in UCLA’s game of musical chairs at quarterback in 2023, appearing in seven games and logging some significant late-season action. Schlee is limited as a passer but differentiates himself as a runner. His 127 rushing yards were pivotal in the Bruins’ LA Bowl victory over Boise State. Schlee was the primary quarterback for Kent State in 2022, and it may be in his best interest to return to the Group of Five or even consider an FCS opportunity for his final season.

Mike Wright | Old schools: Vanderbilt/Mississippi State

Where 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: N/A in 2024; 3-star and No. 44 QB in 2023

Wright is a true dual-threat with four years of significant SEC experience at Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. With a career 55.5% completion percentage, he wasn’t a natural fit in new Mississippi State coach Jeff Lebby’s pass-happy system. Wright has one season left to play, so finding a spot where he could realistically have a shot at winning the starting job in preseason practice would be prudent. That almost certainly will not come at the Power Five level. If he can find the right fit, Wright has the tools to produce big numbers.

Tier 3. J-A-G

Those in the J-A-G (Just a guy) category will likely face uphill battles to finding FBS starting jobs. Still, the players in this group are veterans who have played meaningful power conference snaps. Teams emerging from spring practice with true freshmen as their No. 2 quarterbacks might be interested in plucking one of these players to bolster their depth.

Deacon Hill | Old school: Iowa

Where 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: N/A

Hill’s struggles at Iowa in 2023 were well-documented. He was forced into action due to an injury to starter Cade McNamara, and the results weren’t pretty. It wasn’t all his fault as the Hawkeyes’ lack of playmakers and schematic creativity would have impeded virtually any quarterback. Still, it’s hard to envision Hill getting on the field for another FBS school after he averaged just 4.6 yards per attempt and completed 48.6% of his 251 passes in 2023.

Shane Illingworth | Old schools: Oklahoma State/Nevada

Where 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: N/A

Illingworth played meaningful snaps in each of his first four seasons of college football, first at Oklahoma State and then at Nevada. Given he was around during the COVID-impacted 2020 season and appeared in only three games in 2021, he could still play two more years. He would be a good power conference depth option or a desperation swing for a Group of Five program still figuring out its starting quarterback situation.

Brendan Sullivan | Old school: Northwestern

Where 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: N/A

Sullivan seemed well-positioned to compete for the starting job at Northwestern in 2024 after doing a respectable job filling in for the injured Ben Bryant late last season. The graduate transfer has two years of eligibility remaining after completing 68.7% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions over the past two campaigns. But it’s hard to envision Sullivan winning a starting gig at another Power Four school without the benefit of spring practice.

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