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The 11 biggest transfer quarterbacks in college football this season

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No position in college football will be more scrutinized this offseason than quarterback with the freedom created by the transfer portal and the NCAA allowing immediate eligibility for those players switching schools. 

Unlike other positions, quarterbacks can't easily share time with other players so the pressure is on to exhibit top play early in careers. Days of heralded recruits waiting two or three years to get on the field are gone. They want to play now and won't wait before looking for a new home.

Even starters are seeking greener pastures with their positions on the depth chart challenged and with opportunities arising at higher-profile schools or with coaching systems that more suit their talents.

There will be many familiar names in new places this fall. A look at the 10 biggest quarterback transfers that could make an immediate impact this season.

Notre Dame's Jack Coan, who transferred from Wisconsin, is expected to contend for the starting job.
Notre Dame's Jack Coan, who transferred from Wisconsin, is expected to contend for the starting job. Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports

1. Jack Coan, Notre Dame

Coan started 18 games with Wisconsin until a foot injury sidelined him before the start of last season. With Graham Mertz taking over the job for the Badgers, a move to South Bend made sense for Coan as the Fighting Irish need a replacement after three-year starter Ian Book headed to the NFL. Early reports from spring have Coan and holdover Drew Pyne the two top contenders for the job.

2. McKenzie Milton, Florida State

No elite program has had more quarterback issues than the Seminoles in recent years. Six players have started games in the past three seasons and four players made starts in 2020. Milton was a standout at Central Florida before his horrific knee injury in 2018. His chance to play for the Knights was limited with the emergence of Dillon Gabriel, so a move to Florida State was a good match. Even if he never fully regains his form, Milton will provide stability and leadership at a spot the Seminoles sorely need both.

3. Tyler Shough, Texas Tech

In a year without a pandemic, Shough likely would still be at Oregon after starting all seven games last season. However, graduate transfer Anthony Brown decided to return, creating a quarterback competition after Shough struggled late in the season and Brown saw action in the team's bowl game. A move to the Red Raiders brings more opportunities to throw the ball for Shough and provides them with a prolific passer who can help them start moving up the Big 12 standings.

Charlie Brewer moves from Baylor to Utah.
Charlie Brewer moves from Baylor to Utah. Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports

4. Charlie Brewer, Utah

It was just 18 months ago that Baylor was in the Big 12 title game and Brewer was ascending to the level of elite quarterbacks in the country. Then coach Matt Rhule left for the NFL and an uneven first season under Dave Aranda had Brewer looking for other options. The loss for the Bears is a big gain for the Utes. In need of a quarterback, they get a polished signal caller who threw for 9,700 yards and 65 touchdowns in his four seasons with the Bears. 

5. Anthony Russo, Michigan State

A transfer from Temple might not seem to be a huge addition for the Spartans, however Russo could be exactly what the program needs after years of disappointing performances at the position. A three-year starter for the Owls, he threw for 6,292 yards and 44 touchdowns. That experience will be invaluable in solving the struggles of the Michigan State offense and producing the kind of results needed to get the program back near the top of the Big Ten.

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6. Grant Gunnell, Memphis

A starter last year, Gunnell showed promise in both his seasons at Arizona but decided to leave the desert and incoming coach Jedd Fisch for the Tigers. The Memphis offense was appealing to the Texas native and should allow him to display his throwing ability. Both he and Memphis will hope he can produce at the same level as departing three-year starter Brady White, who transferred in from Arizona State.

7. Tanner Mordecai, SMU

Moving from Oklahoma to the Mustangs shouldn't be a major adjustment for Mordecai with both offenses using elements of the Air Raid system. The junior looks poised to earn the starting spot immediately with Shane Buechele gone. Morecai saw his biggest moments with the Sooners come last year when he played well as a replacement for Spencer Rattler in the first half against Texas. His addition should allow SMU to continue being explosive on offense.

8. Alan Bowman, Michigan

One of the reasons Texas Tech had a need for Shough was the departure of Bowman after three up-and-down seasons. A fit with the Wolverines seems natural as Jim Harbaugh's team lost transfers Joe Milton and Dylan McCaffrey, leaving Cade McNamara as the lone significant holdover. Bowman showed star potential as a freshman for the Red Raiders, but was limited the past two seasons by injury. If he can stay healthy, he should give McNamara a huge challenge in fall camp.

9. Jarrett Guarantano, Washington State

No matter how many times it was talked about before each season, Guarantano never developed into a star at Tennessee. He walked away after four seasons and 32 starts with the Volunteers and found a new home with the Cougars. He looked good in the spring while adjusting to the West Coast and a new offense. It's possible he finally puts up those anticipated big numbers in Nick Rolovich's pass-happy scheme.

Joe Milton will be one of four QBs vying for the starting spot at Tennessee.
Joe Milton will be one of four QBs vying for the starting spot at Tennessee. Gregory Shamus, Getty Images

10, 11. Hendon Hooker and Joe Milton, Tennessee

With Guarantano out the door and Josh Heupel arriving with his offense, the Volunteers have two transfers to go with holdovers Harrison Bailey and Brian Maurer. It will make for an interesting training camp if all four make it there. Bailey, a heralded recruit, played as a freshman last year and was thought to be the heir apparent before Jeremy Pruitt was fired. Hooker arrived before the coaching change after success in two years starting for Virginia Tech. His fit with the offense and the progress of Bailey in the spring remain questions after Heupel decided to bring in Milton from Michigan. It's a chaotic situation that seems perfect for a program that has been anything but stable recently.

Follow colleges reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @ericksmith

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