The college football transfer market is largely an annual winter tradition, but every year a number of interesting candidates last until the spring. This year there are a number of new factors affecting the market, including the ongoing pandemic shutting down recruiting visits, the lack of spring practice and the uncertainty around both transfer rules for 2020–21 and whether the 2020 college football season will even start on time.
Quarterback transfers are always in the highest demand, and this past season’s College Football Playoff (featuring transfers Joe Burrow, Justin Fields and Jalen Hurts) was a perfect illustration of just how impactful a QB move can be. A transfer quarterback has also won the Heisman three years in a row, suggesting this just might be the new normal in the NCAA. While the vast majority of this year’s transfer QBs have already found new homes for 2020—including Jamie Newman (Wake Forest to Georgia), D’Eriq King (Houston to Miami) Feleipe Franks (Florida to Arkansas) and K.J. Costello (Stanford to Mississippi State), a number of intriguing options are still in the portal.
JT Daniels (USC)
Daniels entered the transfer portal in mid-April, and made sure to note that a return to USC is still on the table. That option may be looking increasingly attractive to Daniels after the NCAA Board of Directors recently said it does not recommend passing a rule at this time that would allow student-athletes to transfer once without sitting out, although nothing has been officially voted on yet.
Should he indeed still decide to move on from the Trojans, Daniels would either need the one-time transfer rule to pass or would need to apply for and receive a waiver from the NCAA in order to take the field in 2020. The threat of needing to sit out will likely come under consideration—and the other thing to keep in mind here is that if Daniels graduates early from USC next year, he’d be free to transfer and play immediately in 2021 even if he stays in Los Angeles this fall and fails to win the Trojans’ starting job.
A former five-star QB recruit who started as a true freshman at USC and has only used one full year of eligibility, Daniels will be a highly-coveted commodity for as long as he keeps his name in the portal. The 6’ 3” pro-style quarterback had an up-and-down season in 2018, throwing for 14 touchdowns and 2,672 yards with 10 interceptions as the Trojans went a disappointing 5–7. Daniels was again the starting QB to open the 2019 season, but tore his ACL and meniscus in the season-opener and could only watch as true freshman Kedon Slovis soon won the job in impressive fashion, throwing for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns with nine interceptions. With Slovis back in L.A. this fall, Daniels's path to returning as starter is a lot cloudier than before.
Taulia Tagovailoa (Alabama)
A brand-new addition to the transfer portal, Taulia Tagovailoa—younger brother of former star Crimson Tide QB Tua—only entered his name a few days ago. Taulia, a sophomore, isn’t quite as heralded as his older brother, but was a four-star 2019 recruit who was ranked as the fifth-best pro-style QB in his class by the 247Sports composite. It’s rare to see players of his caliber become available in May, but the lack of spring practice and the looming competition (incoming SI-All American QB prospect Bryce Young and returner Mac Jones) likely complicated his status in Tuscaloosa.
There’s another thing to consider: Tua Tagovailoa was just drafted by the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, and it’s believed his family could move to South Florida the way they followed him from Hawaii to Alabama. If Taulia also opts to head down there, it's expected that Miami, Florida International and Florida Atlantic will all be players for his services. Meanwhile, a school with a less geographic connection to the Tagovailoa family is Maryland, after head coach Mike Locksley’s days as the Tide’s offensive coordinator under Nick Saban.
Unless he receives a waiver or the NCAA passes a one-time transfer rule before the fall, Taulia would need to sit out 2020. He has a tiny bit of college game experience under his belt, having appeared in three games for Alabama in 2019 and completed 9 of 12 passes, including his first career touchdown.
Jarren Williams (Miami)
Williams had a roller-coaster 2019 season with the Hurricanes as a redshirt freshman, which started by beating out N’Kosi Perry and Tate Martell for the starting job in August. Williams threw for a combined 523 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in Miami’s first two games against Florida and UNC, but struggled and saw his playing time decrease in October, including a three-interceptions-in-one-quarter outing vs. Virginia Tech. After earning the starting job back, he threw for six touchdowns in a win over Louisville, but his final appearance with Miami was a 9-for-20, 94-yard passing effort in a shutout bowl game loss to Louisiana Tech.
In January, the Hurricanes landed coveted grad transfer QB D’Eriq King, and just days later Williams entered the portal. Williams, who has been recently linked to Western Kentucky but has not made any public decision, is expected to apply for a waiver to seek immediate eligibility in 2020.
Jack Sears (USC)
Sears first entered the transfer portal back in August 2019 after failing to win the USC job in preseason camp. A former touted recruit who was a fringe top-100 prospect nationally in the 2017 class, Sears appeared in just one game as a Trojan, throwing for 235 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a loss to Arizona State in 2018. The 6’ 3” pro-style QB originally committed to San Diego State over the winter, but backed out of that decision amid a coaching change and did not join the Aztecs program in January as anticipated.
Sears visited NC State and Northwestern in March before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the country and previously visited Oregon State in November, but has yet to announce a decision on his next destination. As a grad transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately, and he has a second year of eligibility remaining as well.
Tyrrell Pigrome (Maryland)
Pigrome entered the transfer portal back in early February, but has yet to find a new home. The 5’ 11” senior QB is an interesting case because his career numbers don’t pop off the page (nine passing touchdowns, eight rushing touchdowns, 10 interceptions) but he has plenty of Power 5 game experience spread across four seasons. Pigrome played a key role in Maryland’s 2017 win over Texas before tearing his ACL late in the game, and was under center when the Terps were a two-point conversion away from pulling off an upset of Ohio State in 2018. While he is mobile in the pocket and at times possesses a nice touch on the deep ball, inconsistency (especially through the air) and the aforementioned ACL injury plagued his time in College Park. As an immediately eligible grad transfer, Pigrome could be well worth a flier for a school seeking veteran depth in the QB room.