College football transfer quarterback tiers: Playoff hopefuls, breakout candidates and more in 2022 season

The college football quarterback carousel is in full swing as dozens of FBS signal-callers rotated in search of greener pastures this offseason. More than three-dozen transfer quarterbacks have been given ratings in the 247Sports rankings for 2022 with more surely on the way.

Adding a transfer quarterback can significantly upgrade a program, like when Oklahoma added Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Other times, playing the quarterback roulette can be more like buying scratch-off lottery tickets and hoping for a miracle. Here is how we categorize 16 of the top transfer passers heading into their new stops this coming season.

Tier 1: Playoff hopefuls, league title contenders

Caleb Williams, USC: Williams ranked as the most impressive true freshman in the country at Oklahoma and followed Lincoln Riley west to Heritage Hall. As the overwhelmingly presumed starter, Williams will have an opportunity to take USC into a new era.

Williams completed 64.5% of his passes for 1,912 yards passing, 442 yards rushing, 27 total touchdowns and only four interceptions to become the talk of college football. He even briefly entered the Heisman conversation after leading OU to the biggest come-from-behind victory against Texas in the history of the rivalry. Expectations are off the charts in Williams’ first season.

Quinn Ewers, Texas: Take everything we wrote about Williams and erase all college football experience — or any snaps since the Texas 6A State Championship Game in 2020. However, Ewers is the first perfect 1.0000 quarterback recruit in the 247Sports Composite since Vince Young, and he went home to Texas in hopes of being the first signal-caller to lead the Longhorns to a national championship since Young in 2005.

Texas has major work to do after Steve Sarkisian completed the worst season by a first-year coach at Texas since Dana X. Bible in 1937. However, the talent is there for the Longhorns to rebound from 5-7. If Ewers hits, star skill players like Bijan Robinson, Xavier Worthy and Jahleel Billingsley make the Longhorns a team to watch.

Dillon Gabriel, Okla. Gabriel ranks among the most intriguing transfers of the cycle. His numbers from him across three seasons at UCF are impressive – 60.7% completion for 8,037 yards passing, 70 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 26 games. He is teaming up with former UCF QB coach Jeff Lebby at Oklahoma in a familiar offense.

However, Gabriel has also dealt with injuries relatively consistently. He played only three games for Gus Malzahn’s Knights in 2021 and threw three of his career interceptions in those games. Additionally, Big 12 defenses are geared to stop the Hurry Up-No Huddle pace systems in which Gabriel thrived — so what does the next evolution of Gabriel’s game look like in Norman?

Max Johnson, Texas A&M: Johnson is right on the borderline of these tiers, but the importance of his transfer ultimately lands him in Tier 1. While playing on a chaotic LSU squad, Johnson completed 60.3% of passes for 2,815 yards passing, 27 touchdowns and only six interceptions. His finest start from him came against the Aggies as he threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns in an upset victory.

Texas A&M’s quarterback play scraped near the bottom of the SEC last season as the Aggies ranked as perhaps the most disappointing team in the country after entering the AP top 10. Early returns on Haynes King and blue-chip quarterback recruit Conner Weigman have been mixed at best. If Johnson can give the Aggies upper-tier quarterback play in the SEC, Texas A&M quickly becomes a conference and national championship contender.

Max Johnson could help keep Texas A&M in the national championship hunt.

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Tier 2: National breakout candidates

Spencer Rattler, South Carolina: Rattler might be the most controversial player in college football after the way things ended at Oklahoma, but Columbia gives the former five-star recruit an opportunity to rewrite his story. Rattler entered 2021 as the presumed Heisman favorite and No. 1 draft pick before getting benched at halftime against Texas.

Shane Beamer shocked the world by leading a flawed Gamecocks squad to 7-6 in his first season despite not producing even a 1,000-yard passer. Rattler arguably ranks as the most talented signal-caller to ever put on the Garnet and Black before even playing a game. If Rattler can use his unmatched physical gifts to rediscover the form that made him a freshman star, South Carolina will be a must-watch team.

Kedon Slovis, Pitt: Slovis looked like a star in the making at USC but steadily declined as the situation got worse under coach Clay Helton. That said, adding Slovis’ 68.4% completion to a roster featuring Bilentikoff winner Jordan Addison gives the Panthers a huge opportunity.

Pitt earned his first conference championship in program history after winning the ACC behind Heisman finalist quarterback Kenny Pickett. It’s unlikely that Slovis will be able to replicate the gaudy numbers, but adding him as a proven commodity should at least keep Pitt a contender in the ACC Coastal.

Jaxson Dart, Ole Miss: Dart earned meaningful snaps at USC in his first season on campus and showed some interesting flashes. He threw for 291 yards and four touchdowns against Washington State and followed it up with 325 passing yards against UCLA. However, Dart also struggled with injuries and interceptions.

Now, Dart teams up with Lane Kiffin, one of the top quarterback coaches in the country, to replace projected first-round draft pick Matt Corral. The sophomore will compete with fellow 2021 recruit Luke Atlmyer for the starting job and try to keep the Rebels in the SEC West race.

Cameron Ward, Washington State: Ward is one of the most intriguing transfers in the country after tearing up the FCS at UIW. The Texan won the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in FCS football in the spring, and then won Southland Offensive Player of the Year in the fall after throwing for 4,648 yards and 47 touchdowns.

Ole Miss came calling for Ward, but the sophomore opted to transfer to Washington State to rejoin former UIW coach Eric Morris, who took the open offensive coordinator position in Pullman. Ward has not played Power Five competition, but his familiarity with the system and dynamic natural gifts give him a chance to quickly emerge as one of the Pac-12’s most interesting stories.

Tier 3: Bringing stability to the position

JT Daniels, West Virginia: Daniels has struggled to live up to the five-star billing that earned him attention at both USC and Georgia, but his flashes have still been intriguing. The Californian has completed 63.8% of passes for 4,840 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

West Virginia’s quarterback play under Neal Brown has been downright putrid, and it has held the Mountaineers back from competing for the conference title. If Daniels hits, West Virginia could finally break out of its slide.

Casey Thompson, Nebraska: Thompson’s first season starting at Texas was a mixed bag, but a bad thumb injury kept him from reaching his full potential down the stretch. However, the junior should bring some much-needed consistency to the position at Nebraska.

The Oklahoma City native threw for 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions while splitting starting duties with Hudson Card. The Cornhuskers lost eight games by one score last season, many of which included mental mistakes down the stretch by the offense. Thompson should fit in nicely to Scott Frost’s system and avoid some of the lapses.

Adrian Martinez, Kansas State: Martinez left Nebraska as the program’s all-time leader in total offense but decided to move on after a tumultuous final season featuring eight losses by just one score. Luckily, Martinez is going to a highly structured system at Kansas State that should maximize what he does best.

Wildcats coach Chris Klieman produced multiple NFL quarterbacks while at North Dakota State, but Martinez is the most talented athlete he has had at K-State. Martinez will slide in next to potential All-American running back Deuce Vaughn and make for a dynamic backfield. If his decision making him can improve, Martinez could turn into an all-conference player.

Jayden de Laura will play a major part in helping turn the Arizona program around this season.

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Jayden from Laura, Arizona: The Wildcats ranked as perhaps the worst team in all of the Power Five last season, but don’t expect that trend to last long. After cycling through three struggling quarterbacks, Arizona added a proven commodity in de Laura who threw for 2,798 yards, 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions for Washington State.

Arizona put together the Pac-12’s second-best recruiting class and added dynamic receiver transfer Jacob Cowing next to blue-chip recruit Tetairoa McMillan. De Laura will have some real talent to work with in Tucson.

Tier 4: Looking to take the next step

Jayden Daniels, LSU: Daniels’ time at Arizona State was a mixed bag, especially as the Sun Devils lost momentum amid NCAA troubles. But, when locked in, Daniels shows elite upside as both a passer and a runner.

Daniels completed 65.4% of his passes for 2,380 yards and added 710 yards rushing and six touchdowns on the ground. However, his 10 touchdowns to 10 interceptions ratio was a red flag. LSU has struggled to put together consistent quarterback performance since Joe Burrow graduated, but the roster has the talent to help Daniels hit his potential.

Bo Nix, Oregon: Expectations were off the charts after Nix led to a comeback win over Oregon in his first career game, but the Auburn legacy never quite managed to meet those expectations. After inconsistent play early in the year, Nix was benched for a stretch.

Now, Nix is ​​joining the Ducks in hopes of finding his rhythm under offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, who served as quarterbacks coach at Auburn during Nix’s freshman season. Oregon lost key contributors to the NFL and transfer portal, but the Ducks still rank as perhaps the most talented team in the Pac-12. Can Nix pull everything together?

Michael Penix Jr., Washington: Penix looked like the next big thing during the 2020 season at Indiana, but injuries turned him into a negative player as a junior. The Tampa native threw four touchdowns and seven interceptions in five games, including zero touchdowns and four interceptions in Big Ten games.

However, Penix is ​​teaming back up with Kalen DeBoer at Washington. DeBoer coached Penix during a standout redshirt freshman season and has turned every program he has coached at into a winner. The Huskies have work to do, but Penix is ​​an intriguing piece.

Zach Causeway, Auburn: Causeway is an enigma. He joined the storied list of quarterbacks to beat Nick Saban’s Alabama after playing the game of his life, but then failed to complete more than 57% of his passes against any of the remaining SEC opponents on the docket. His passing stats of him rated near the bottom of the SEC in virtually every category.

Auburn is an odd destination for Calzada after the Tigers limped out to a 6-7 record in Bryan Harsin’s first season. Calzada will compete with incumbent TJ Finley and unproven Oregon transfer Robby Ashford for the starting job.

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