For college quarterbacks, it’s migrating season

05/17/2014 6:05 PM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

A new kind of quarterback option is gaining steam.

This isn’t about the keep or pitch. Seemingly more than ever, quarterbacks not in line to start for their current teams are seeking a new campus.

This week, reserve quarterbacks Daniel Sams at Kansas State and Trent Hosick at Missouri announced they were leaving — Sams to a Football Championship Subdivision school closer to his home in Louisiana, and Hosick to a junior college and then to Brigham Young, according to his Twitter account.

They’ve joined a large group of QBs that have announced their intention to change addresses since the end of last season, and the list grew larger after spring practice depth charts were established.

In the last month or so, quarterbacks at Texas A&M, Kentucky and Oregon announced transfers.

The migration includes Aggies quarterback Matt Joeckel, who backed up Johnny Manziel for the last two years. Joeckel is headed to TCU, which lost Tyler Matthews.

Texas Tech has lost three scholarship quarterbacks since the end of last season. This from a school that throughout the first decade of the 2000s became the ultimate wait-your-turn program; in successive years B.J. Symons, Sonny Cumbie and Graham Harrell led the Big 12 in passing.

Symons started in his fifth year, Cumbie his fourth, and Harrell his third.

All put in the practice time, played on scout teams, and finally started.

College quarterbacks aren’t showing that kind of patience these days, and Kansas coach Charlie Weis, whose program has welcomed three transfer quarterbacks in his two-plus years in Lawrence, calls the position unique when it comes to finding playing time.

“Unlike any other position on the team, it’s only position where you very seldom are playing more than one,” Weis said. “You set up your offense for one guy.”

And when somebody else becomes that guy, a quarterback who believes he can or should start looks elsewhere.

Former Raymore-Peculiar standout Cameron Coffman started most of his sophomore season at Indiana and finished second in the Big Ten in passing yards per game. But he was the odd man out in three-man battle for the job last season, and announced in January that he was transferring.

His finalists are Wyoming and Southern Illinois, and under NCAA transfer rules, he’ll have to sit out of competition next year before becoming eligible for 2015.

“I’m not a big proponent of transferring, but he wants to chase his dream,” said Cameron’s father, Paul Coffman, a former NFL and Kansas State tight end. “On a team, you might have eight offensive linemen that play, six or seven defensive linemen, linebackers, five receivers. But only one quarterback.”

Transferring in college sports, especially football and basketball is trending upward. According to STATS Inc., some 325 Division I college basketball players last season had suited up for multiple programs in their career, nearly three times as many as a decade earlier.

An unofficial list has 28 of 123 Football Bowl Subdivision programs losing a quarterback to transfer since the end of last season.

NCAA transfer guidelines have shifted over the years. Among the general rules: Athletes must sit out a year of competition after transferring from one Division I program to another, except if the athlete completed undergraduate degree requirements. Then, eligibility is immediate.

That was the case for Russell Wilson, who led the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory last season. He left North Carolina State for Wisconsin, played right away and led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl.

The previous Super Bowl winning quarterback also was a college transfer. The Baltimore Ravens’ Joe Flacco was buried on the depth chart at Pittsburgh and finished his career at Delaware. Perhaps the most famous transfer was Troy Aikman, who didn’t want to run the wishbone at Oklahoma and transferred to UCLA before winning three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys.

College sports could be in for even more transferring. The Northwestern football players union movement wants to give more rights to athletes, such as eliminating the rule that allows schools to prohibit athletes from transferring to certain competitors.

The NCAA has suggested limited reform, giving athletes who transferred between Division I programs “as a result of difficult life or family circumstances” an additional year to complete their four years of eligibility. Those athletes would still be required to sit out a year but wouldn’t need to see a waiver to transfers and compete immediately.

The issue is being studied further, and those who suggest less restriction on transfer rules point to job-jumping coaches.

Some look to tightening the graduate rule. Should an athlete be immediately eligible, essentially becoming a free agent, after getting his degree with eligibility remaining?

What’s at stake is the spirit of the transfer rule, with the spirit left open to interpretation.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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