Jake Fromm is off to the NFL, so Georgia is in the market for an experienced quarterback. None of the QBs considering playing elsewhere in 2020 is likely to have the same impact as this season’s trio of terrific transfers: Joe Burrow (Ohio State to LSU), Justin Fields (Georgia to Ohio State) and Jalen Hurts (Alabama to Oklahoma). All the possible transfer QBs would improve Georgia’s QB situation, which instantly went from great to shaky when Fromm declared for the draft.
The Bulldogs can offer transfer QBs all the trappings of a top college program and an open spot at QB. Those are significant enticements. But other programs looking for replacement QBs, most of all LSU and Oklahoma, can offer all that plus more. The Tigers and Sooners can boast of making it to this season’s College Football Playoff with explosive, high-tempo offenses run by coaches with reputations for turning out great QBs.
LSU hired former Saints assistant Joe Brady to modernize its scheme and Burrow improved from pretty good in 2018 to Heisman Trophy winner in 2019. He’ll be the No. 1 pick in the draft, assuming the Bengals don’t bungle it.
Oklahoma coach/QB guru Lincoln Riley helped Hurts post his best season and a second-place finish in the Heisman voting. Hurts’ improved passing production this season should help his draft stock. Another one of Riley’s Oklahoma QB pupils, Baker Mayfield, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. The next season Mayfield’s former backup, Kyler Murray, won the Heisman Trophy before also becoming the No. 1 pick.
Georgia might offer a clearer path to a starting position than LSU or Oklahoma. That’s especially true with the Sooners, who signed the No. 1 QB recruit in 2019. The Bulldogs can’t match LSU and Oklahoma as far as 2019 offensive accomplishments and coaching pedigree. Those are important factors for QBs looking for one last chance to show they can play in the NFL.
UGA won the SEC East title with its elite defense carrying a slow, uninspiring offense. James Coley was elevated to primary play-caller this season, which was Fromm’s worst in three years as starter. The accuracy issues that plagued Fromm at midseason weren’t solved until the Sugar Bowl. I’m not putting all that on Coley, who also is the QB coach, but it happened on his watch, so now it’s on his resume.
Before Georgia, Coley had future NFL QB Christian Ponder as Florida State OC, but that was Jimbo Fisher’s show. Coley ran Miami’s offense in 2014 with QB freshman Brad Kaaya, who was named ACC rookie of the year. Kaaya played two more seasons, one of them with Coley, before he was picked in the sixth round of the 2017 draft. He hasn’t played in an NFL game.
UGA coach Kirby Smart will be trying to convince transfer QBs that they can flourish under Coley. Things will get tougher in the transfer market if Alabama joins it. The Crimson Tide probably won’t be a major factor because they have incumbent Mac Jones, freshman Taulia Tagovailoa and incoming five-star recruit Bryce Young. But there are some other good programs in need of experienced QBs.
Oregon has an opening. Senior Justin Herbert is set to be a first-round draft pick after working for three seasons with Ducks coordinator Marcus Arroyo. Arroyo was the Buccaneers QB coach in 2014 and took over as OC when Jeff Tedford stepped aside for health reasons.
Washington must replace ex-UGA QB Jacob Eason after he declared for the draft. New coach Jimmy Lake reportedly is after Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. He might end up staying in Dallas to work for new coach Mike McCarthy. If Moore joins the Huskies, they’ll have the cachet of a coach who just ran one of the NFL’s best offenses.
Clearly, there are lots of good choices for QBs looking for a fresh start in 2020. The best one known to be in the portal is Wake Forest graduate Jamie Newman. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reports that Newman is considering Georgia along with Oregon, Washington, Maryland and Miami.
D’Eriq King might be the top transfer QB if he’s really looking to leave Houston. He was fantastic as a junior with 50 total touchdowns, 2,982 passing yards and 752 rushing yards (not counting sacks as lost yards). When King decided to redshirt after four games, his father said he would transfer. The player released a cryptic statement in which he said he planned to be part of the Houston program “going forward” and hasn’t said anything publicly on the topic since.
Newman and King are the kind of dual-threat quarterback who could make Georgia’s offense more dynamic. Smart can make that pitch, but there would be an elephant in the room. He played it safe with Fields, who left to become an instant star with Buckeyes coach Ryan Day, a former NFL QB coach. Day also coached Dwayne Haskins, who vouched for Day with Fields before going on to become the No. 15 overall pick in last year’s NFL draft.
The Bulldogs don’t have the same kind of draw for transfer QBs. That doesn’t mean they won’t end up with a good one. It does mean that Smart may have to convince the best QBs looking to move that his program can offer them something more than others with high-scoring offenses run by coordinators who guided QBs to great seasons. That sounds like a tough sell.
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