Daily Focus: Breaking down top transfer QBs
Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest college football news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
Breaking down the top transfer quarterbacks: Yesterday, the PFF College team asked the 50 biggest questions in college football for the 2016 season, but at least one deserves its own space. We asked, “Which QB transfers will make the biggest difference in 2016?” The college quarterback carousel has become college’s version of NFL free agency as top signal callers move about with regularity. We’ve seen a number of teams benefit greatly from transfers the last few years, so which teams are going to get the best return this season?
Let’s dive in.
- Kenny Hill, TCU via Texas A&M
Hill held off the challenge of five-star freshman, Kyle Allen, back in 2014 and he got off to an outstanding start that had him ranked as the third-best quarterback in the nation through five weeks. He tapered off a bit after getting into the meat of the SEC schedule and the last we saw of Hill was week eight against Alabama. He sat out the 2015 season and he’s primed to take over for departed QB Trevone Boykin at TCU. Hill showed good accuracy, finishing fourth in the nation with an adjusted completion percentage of 77.3 percent and he also maneuvered the pocket very well to avoid sacks and find throwing lanes. With a number of young playmakers on TCU’s offense, Hill could put up monster numbers and keep TCU in the running for a Big 12 title.
- Davis Webb, Cal via Texas Tech
We already covered Webb in more depth after he first announced his transfer, and his biggest key will be cutting back on the risky (turnover-worthy) throws that plagued him at Texas Tech. As the starter for most of 2014, he threw far too many passes into harm’s way, either forcing passes into tight coverage or misreading the defense entirely. However, Webb does show the potential that has NFL scouts intrigued as he has the touch and downfield accuracy to sprinkle in NFL throws as well. He moves to a familiar system at Cal, so that should ease the transition, and after ranking fifth among Big 12 quarterbacks with a +5.4 passing grade as a true sophomore in 2014, Webb may have the biggest impact of any transfer in the country.
- Trevor Knight, Texas A&M via Oklahoma
While Texas A&M has had a QB Exodus the last two years, they at least get one in return in Knight who will step in as an eligible graduate transfer from Oklahoma. Every Knight story seemingly mentions his impressive bowl game performance against Alabama in 2013 or perhaps Katy Perry’s yearning for his attention on College Game Day, but all Texas A&M wants out of his is week-to-week consistency. The potential he showed against Alabama was more anomaly than norm in 2014 and by 2015, Knight had lost his job to yet another transfer, Baker Mayfield. Texas A&M boasts one of the best groups of receivers in the nation, and Knight’s ability to avoid the disastrous games that plagued him the last two seasons will go a long way toward their chances in the SEC West.
- Patrick Towles, Boston College via Kentucky
Size and athleticism stand out when looking at Towles and while he made strides as a passer last season, there is still a ways to go for his on-field play to match his look. Accuracy and decision-making have been issues for Towles each of the last two seasons as he finished with a turnover-worthy throw percentage of 5.06 percent in 2014 and 4.9 percent last year, both numbers ranking in the bottom half of the nation among quarterbacks. Towles has been an effective runner, particularly in 2014 when he was used more often in the designed running game while picking his spots to move the chains as a scrambler. Given the Boston College quarterback situation that was one of the nation’s worst a year ago, Towles will be an upgrade in 2016.
- John O’Korn, Michigan via Houston
Another one of the burning questions for 2016 centers around the teams with the best rosters and question marks at quarterback, and O’Korn is relevant in that space as well. The Michigan roster boasts perhaps the nation’s best defense along with a strong nucleus of playmakers and offensive linemen, but it will be the quarterback that holds their playoff chances together. We only have 315 snaps of data on O’Korn from 2014 and it wasn’t a pretty as he graded at –15.2 and he finished 133rd out of 135 in adjusted completion percentage at 60.0 percent. He’s certainly no lock to come in and shore up the position at Michigan, so expect a tight competition with Wilton Speight and Shane Morris.
Other notable transfers:
Dakota Prukop, Oregon via Montana State
We do not have any data on Prukop from the last two seasons, but he’s the favorite to start at Oregon.
Luke Del Rio, Florida via Oregon State and Alabama
We saw Del Rio for only 19 attempts in 2014 when he completed eight of them (including three drops). Del Rio is the expected starter at Florida after a strong showing in the spring game in which he made good decisions and sprinkled the ball around in head coach Jim McElwain’s offense.
Mike White, Western Kentucky via South Florida
White ranked 139th out of 151 quarterbacks in 2014, grading at -18.5 on the season. Accuracy was an issue as he finished 125th out of 135 qualifiers in adjusted completion percentage.
News and Notes.
— Defensive linemen recently dominated our list of top 25 breakout candidates for 2016.
— PFF College team previews are underway, including a look at defending national champions, Alabama.
— Stanford is among the teams with a talented roster but questions at quarterback.