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Quarterbacks, New Coaches Highlight Trends Worth Watching in Wild Transfer Portal Stretch

Programs prioritizing college players joining their rosters even more with the influx of transfer candidates

By now the numbers aren't surprising, however staggering they may be. 

At last check this week, according to Rivals, more than 600 college football players on scholarship at one FBS program are still looking for their next stop. It's more than half of the transfer portal entries since 2021 preseason practice began so the likelihood of hundreds of players on the move not finding another home is still high.

For the rest of the portal prospects, the trends beginning to develop in the marketplace are beginning to reflect that of the modern Power 5 program's recruiting patterns. Quarterbacks kick off and often dominate the conversation; player decisions aren't final until an enrollment is made and programs have shown the ability to go on hot streaks with new additions in short order. 

The movement is ongoing as departments refresh their portal accounts each morning -- and throughout the day. 

On Wednesday, Georgia quarterback J.T. Daniels officially hit the portal. Thursday morning, Sports Illustrated confirmed it was All-Big 12 cornerback Jarrick Bernard-Converse, a three-year starter with Oklahoma State, among the latest looking for the next stop.

Perhaps the most Even transfer portal flips have become a thing. UCF transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel committed to Chip Kelly and UCLA only to change his mind and pick Oklahoma after Jeff Lebby was named offensive coordinator in Norman. Wyoming breakout wide receiver Isaiah Neyor picked Tennessee on Jan. 8 and has since visited Ole Miss and Texas, flipping his commitment to the Longhorns on Thursday. Neyor announced his intent on social media. 

The urgency with Neyor is reflective of most in the portal at this time, even the new additions, efforting the path to getting enrolled at the new school in time to be a full-time student. That ensures eligibility for spring practice, where the depth chart can begin to crater towards new, experienced additions. Of course, after the spring sessions, a new round of portal activity is expected as positional pecking orders on a given roster move towards clarity.

"There is no finish line for the 2022 (cycle) with all the portal action," an FBS head coach told SI Wednesday evening. 

Most of the academic windows for new enrollees close at the end of January or the first week of February, so more declarations should come over the next two weeks or so. 

Quarterbacks Set the Pace

As usual, among the hundreds of prospects still searching for the next school, the quarterbacks drive the eyeballs and create and movement for others at the position. Those eyes have been on Oklahoma transfer Caleb Williams since before he officially declared his intention to enter the portal before the New Year. Since, there has been buzz from the SEC (Ole Miss, Georgia), Pac-12 (USC, UCLA) and speculation everywhere in between. When USC quarterback and fellow breakout freshman Jaxson Dart entered the portal on Jan. 10, the assumption of Williams following Lincoln Riley from OU to USC strengthened. 

The two, with Daniels now likely to factor in, set the market at the game's most important position. Williams is in no rush to make a final pick, as SI sources have indicated from the beginning, while Dart has taken visits to Oklahoma, Ole Miss and BYU in the last week. The initial feel surrounding Daniels is that a move back out West would make the most sense for the SoCal native and former USC starter. 

The quarterback domino is easy to explain, as each of the prospects on the move are looking for clear paths to playing time at their next stop. It means for the most part, teams are likely to bring in one veteran to compete for a theoretically open gig. Some programs, like Auburn, have brought in multiple passers to help create the competition rather than pairing a young quarterback room with a veteran. 

Don't underestimate the skill position talent keeping a close eye on the moves, too. Austin Stogner followed OU teammate Spencer Rattler to South Carolina, Michael Trigg wants to play with his USC teammate Dart and there are still big names left at the position like Georgia's Jermaine Burton, USC's Bru McCoy, Syracuse's Taj Harris, Neyor, Vanderbilt's Cam Johnson and others. 

Newer Coaching Staffs Peppering Portal

The portal has also created big runs by various programs in need, too, led by teams with new or relatively new coaching staffs. Of the 18 FBS programs already with eight or more transfers verbally committed as of Thursday morning, per 247Sports, 15 are led by coaches with two seasons or less under their belt at their current program. Seven are ahead of their first year at the helm. The numbers will of course grow in short order. 

Oftentimes there is a carryover effect of players following the head coach from one school to the next. Billy Napier has already added three former Louisiana players at Florida to date. USC has added two commitments from Oklahoma in wide receiver Mario Williams and defensive back Latrell McCutchin, and of course the other Williams is potentially set to do the same. TCU's Sonny Dykes has one former SMU Mustang transferring in to date, too. 

The one-time transfer rule, along with graduate transfers have aided the movement throughout college football rosters. Gone, for the most part, are the days of making a move from one school to the next with the need to sit out for the following season. Many transfers have been within the same conference, even at quarterback in the same division with Max Johnson moving on from LSU to Texas A&M and Zach Calzada's transfer from A&M to Auburn.

The constant movement has created more dialogue around potential regulation with the portal, especially with scholarship limitations unchanged despite the other changes surrounding roster management. It has almost created a 'get in to fit in' participation with most programs in order to maintain the numbers necessary to conduct fall camp or even spring practices. 

Even the most visible program most against select player-empowerment and relative change, Clemson and outspoken head coach Dabo Swinney, has taken a transfer commitment in one-time quarterback Hunter Johnson pledging to the Tigers after three years at Northwestern. 

If the coach who once threatened to quit if college players were to be paid (which he has since clarified) can adjust to the swift change in recruiting college players versus those coming from the high school ranks, the portal conversation appears here to stay.