Players are zipping in and out of the transfer portal and ending up all over the place. Nowadays QB transfers are a major, defining feature of the college game and there have been some big ones that will shape the 2019 season.
Oklahoma wins the “biggest free agent in college football history”
Jalen Hurts’ dad said that Hurts would become that back in the day when Tua Tagovailoa appeared to have him beat (he did) for the starting job. As it turned out, Justin Fields also became available and was the true “biggest free agent” in history. This was a nice “consolation prize” of sorts for Oklahoma though and arguably better because Hurts is a one-year stopgap that doesn’t spoil Oklahoma’s chances of developing Spencer Rattler or Tanner Mordecai into their starter down the line.
As for Austin Kendall, he has also entered the transfer portal and may come out the other side in Auburn or perhaps West Virginia but currently Oklahoma is looking to block some of his options. Obviously it’s a pretty lame trick to block a transfer from a QB that you are using the transfer market to keep off the field.
Jalen Hurts is a fascinating fit for the Oklahoma offense with a history as a phenomenal runner but a spotty if careful passer who was famously replaced at QB by Tua Tagovailoa because his lack of passing acumen was holding the Tide back.
As it happens, I broke down the adjustment that Alabama made on offense in 2017 that doomed Hurts back at the time. The increased emphasis that OC Brian Daboll put on the pass game made Hurts less effective than he’d been even as a freshman with Lane Kiffin, who built the offense more around read plays. That led me to predict Georgia would beat Alabama in the national title game, a prediction that looked brilliant up until Tua Tagovailoa came in for Hurts in relief and led a comeback by throwing RPOs.
Hurts would sort of return the favor in the SEC title game this year, helping to lead Alabama back to a victory over Georgia by utilizing some scrambles, the Bama run game, and a transparent fake punt attempt that utilized Justin Fields. He was then relegated back to the bench for the playoffs because Tagovailoa is better and made better use of Alabama’s loaded WR room.
That makes the fit at Oklahoma a little interesting and bizarre. On the one hand, Oklahoma is adding an extremely athletic and extremely experienced college QB who’s been in more playoff games than Lincoln Riley has coached. On the other hand, what makes Oklahoma scary in 2019 is their ability to put Ceedee Lamb, Charleston Rambo, and Grant Calcaterra on the field at the same time. You want a QB that can make the most of those wideouts, which has never been Jalen Hurts’ forte.
Nevertheless, you know that Riley will make hay with Hurts with their normal run game and perhaps some bonus features and also set him up for a lot of one-read throws in the passing game. If nothing else, Oklahoma remains competitive (pending defensive improvements) while developing more talented passers like Tanner Mordecai and Spencer Rattler behind a hard-working leader.
Oklahoma State pulled some defensive help from the portal
A former target they lost to Colorado just before signing day, Israel Antwine. He’s a 6-4, 315 pounder that started 11 games for the Buffs last year as a DT, so he should be quite useful to a team who’s recruiting defeats at that position had left them in a tough spot in replacing three starters across the DL.
TCU turns to Alex Delton
This one is just kinda sad, honestly. There was hope that TCU would get Jalen Hurts but he didn’t even visit and they’ve been desperate to find a transfer after Shawn Robinson left for Missouri. There’s got to be a story there but it seems obvious enough that TCU wasn’t planning on losing their 2018 starter.
Delton was planning to transfer to UTEP to run the Snyder-ball offense under former Bill Snyder OC Dana Dimel but then TCU made him a better offer. Namely, to play at TCU rather than UTEP.
The problem here is that Alex Delton isn’t a good passer and was probably the worst in the Big 12 in 2018. It’s hard to see him beating Michael Collins out for a team that desperately needs to involve Jalen Reagor in the passing game to be the best version of themselves.
I’d be convinced that TCU was going to play him as a wideout or RB or something if not for the fact that A) TCU has been hunting for a grad transfer QB to help depth and B) if Delton wanted that maybe he should just stay at K-State where there’s an opening at RB.
My suspicion is that he’ll compete in the spring, be well behind Collins and anyone else they have at QB (Max Duggan is an early enrollee), and then be moved to WR over the summer.
Transfers and the transfer portal all make the offseason in this sport pretty interesting but they also cut against the purity of the game. Football is a war game that’s all about sacrifice and teamwork and the transfer market transforms it into something highly mercenary. This is probably just where football is headed and it’s not totally foreign to the game to have truly mercenary elements, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something tragic about this trend and something that’s being lost.