Blair Kerkhoff

August 28, 2014

How about a Russell Wilson Award for college football’s best transfer?

Transferring is part of the college football culture these days, especially at quarterback, where everybody wants to play right away. Some schools, like Florida, Florida State and Texas Tech have lost depth charts worth of quarterbacks to transfer in recent years.

College football presents individual awards for nearly every position, so why not one involving the quarterback.

Already exists, you say? Correct, the Davey O’Brien Award is presented to the nation’s top quarterback. The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm goes to the top senior quarterback. The Heisman, Maxwell and Walter Camp are presented to the top players in college football and often that is deemed a quarterback.

But a new category has developed, one that applies to all positions, but most notably among quarterbacks.

The transfer.

Presenting the Russell Wilson Award to the top quarterback at the next place. Continuing education, so to speak.

There would be no shortage of candidates. More than 20 quarterbacks transferred after last season, and this year opens with relocated players at several schools. Loosened rules, including the graduate transfer, have made it possible for more players to become eligible immediately.

But today players also are more willing to wait a year under traditional NCAA transfer rules for an opportunity to be the guy.

Cincinnati’s Gunner Kiel started at Notre Dame. Illinois’ Wes Lunt once was seen as Oklahoma State’s quarterback of the future.

At Miami, Fla., Jake Heaps — who started out at Brigham Young — lost in his bid to become the starting quarterback after transferring from Kansas.

Depth charts of quarterbacks have moved on. Former Florida Gators Jacoby Brissett and Tyler Murphy have moved into the ACC at North Carolina State and Boston College, respectively, and are slated to match up in October.

A meeting of former Florida State quarterbacks could happen Saturday if Jacob Coker starts for Alabama. He was a teammate of West Virginia’s Clint Trickett with the Seminoles, and they spoke recently.

“I told him I wanted him to win every game he played, except against us,” Trickett said.

Texas Tech has three former quarterbacks elsewhere. Michael Brewer was chosen Virginia Tech’s starter earlier this week. Baker Mayfield surfaced at Oklahoma and Clayton Nicholas at Bowling Green.

While Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury started for three seasons, three players — B.J. Symons, Sonny Cumbie and Cody Hodges — worked in the system and waited their turn to start. That kind of patience seems to be the exception today.

Transfers have been around as long as sports have been played on campus. Doc Blanchard may have been the first famous one. He played on North Carolina’s freshman football squad in 1942, enlisted in the Army a year later, wound up at West Point and won the Heisman Trophy for the 1945 national championship team.

But for most of the game’s history, transferring wasn’t part of the culture. Players unhappy with their current condition tended to stuck it out. That’s an observation on my part, not based on statistical analyses. Former Texas coach Mack Brown once told me that the transfer trend increased greatly over his head coaching career that started in 1983, especially at quarterback.

“Everybody wants to play,” Brown said.

Players like Wilson, who left North Carolina State and led Wisconsin to a Rose Bowl in his only year with the Badgers. Ryan Mallett made the right move from Michigan to Arkansas.

One of first high profile quarterbacks to switch was a resounding success. Troy Aikman arrived at Barry Switzer’s Oklahoma intending to be a pocket passer in the I-formation. The Sooners did throw it more with Aikman, but they also were running the wishbone.

Aikman broke his leg in a 1985 game against Miami, Fla. Freshman Jamelle Holieway took over and the Sooners won the national championship. Aikman transferred to UCLA the next year, finished third in the 1988 Heisman voting and went on an NFL Hall of Fame career.

Maybe Russell Wilson could have won the inaugural Troy Aikman Award.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to Follow him on Twitter: @BlairKerkhoff.

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