Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - There may be no such thing as free agency in college football, but there's still an opportunity for players to get a fresh start at a new program via transfer, especially quarterbacks.
More so than any other position, a quarterback's future is improbable to predict. Even the most highly touted recruits can find themselves buried on the depth chart, and unlike other positions, there's rarely room for more than one signal caller to co-exist in the same offense.
Quarterback transfers are more common than ever these days. Earlier this week, Jake Heaps announced he is leaving Kansas in favor of the Miami (Florida) Hurricanes, who are left with a hole under center after the graduation of senior Stephen Morris.
Heaps, once a prized five-star recruit who transferred once already in his career from BYU, spent the last season trying to elevate the play of a poor Jayhawks squad. Although the talent that surrounded him was far from great, Heaps was still a major disappointment in 2013, completing only 49 percent of his passes for 1,414 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Considering Heaps has already graduated with still a year of eligibility left, he will be able to play immediately next fall without having to sit out a year. This graduate transfer rule, which passed in 2006, has opened up an even bigger quarterback market in recent years.
The most high-profile graduate transfer this offseason was Jacob Coker, who was blocked by Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston on the national championship-winning Florida State Seminoles and will attempt to fill the gaping void left by A.J. McCarron's departure at Alabama.
Coker, a Mobile, Alabama, native, was just a three-star recruit out of high school and was unimpressive in very limited action last season (18-of-36, 250 yards, one interception), but his stock has been rising during his years as a backup at FSU and he made the obvious choice to try his luck elsewhere. He hasn't won the job just yet, but with Blake Sims and Cooper Bateman struggling this spring, expect the 6-foot-5 gunslinger to be the man this fall for the championship-hopeful Crimson Tide.
The graduate transfers don't stop there. Tyler Murphy, who originally planned to attend Louisville in 2014 but backed out once head coach Charlie Strong departed for Texas, will leave Florida and play his final year with Boston College. Murphy missed the final three games of last season but was solid for the Gators in the wake of Jeff Driskel's season-ending injury in September, completing 60.5 percent of his passes while accounting for nine touchdowns.
Perhaps the most experienced and successful quarterback to change addresses this offseason is the former Duke product Brandon Connette, who split time under center with Anthony Boone in 2013 to the tune of 1,212 yards (on 62.1 percent completions), 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. Connette has starter's experience, throwing back-to-back 300-yard games in September with Boone injured, and he'll be given plenty of chances to succeed on a pass-happy Fresno State squad trying to fill the shoes of Derek Carr.
With Johnny Manziel leaving Texas A&M early for the NFL, it appeared as though Matt Joeckel was going to have a fair shot at the Aggies' starting gig in 2014. Instead he's off to TCU looking to boost a squad that was just 4-8 last season, although he'll have to contend with incumbent dual-threat Trevone Boykin (seven rushing and seven passing touchdowns last season). Joeckel shined in the first half of the 2013 opener while Manziel served a suspension (14- of-19, 190 yards, TD), but he appeared in only three other games last season.
As one of the top quarterback recruits of 2010, Andrew Hendricks had high hopes of eventually holding the illustrious claim of being a starting quarterback at Notre Dame, but after being buried on the depth chart for three seasons, he'll now try his luck at Miami of Ohio. The RedHawks signal callers were dreadful last season, as the team ranked 119th in the nation in passing (124.3 yards per game), and Hendrix's strong-armed, pro-style approach should make for a considerable improvement.
There's also a handful of non-graduate transfers, players who have multiple seasons left and needed to sit out the 2013 season before regaining eligibility with their new team.
Another former member of the Fighting Irish will be calling plays for a new team this fall, as Gunner Kiel is set to earn the starting position at Cincinnati. Kiel is only three years removed from being the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation, but he saw no future at Notre Dame after failing to attempt a pass in his freshman season, and his stay with the Bearcats started off well with 300 passing yards in the spring game.
In the 2012 offseason, there was a neck-and-neck battle in Florida between sophomores Jacoby Brisset and Jeff Driskel for the starting quarterback job, and after Brisset lost out on that opportunity he opted to start again at North Carolina State. Brisset hopes to give the Wolfpack some stability after their quarterback-by-committee combined for more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (14) a year ago.
Wes Lunt surprised many by winning the starting job as a true freshman at Oklahoma State in 2012, but after a fast start (which included a 436-yard, four-touchdown performance at Arizona), injuries derailed his campaign. Maybe equally surprising as his hot start to his career was his decision to leave the Cowboys after just one year to return to his home state to play for Illinois. Lunt hopes to bring glory back to his Fighting Illini, who have gone just 1-15 in Big Ten action over the past two seasons.
Other notable transfers: Stephen Rivers (from LSU to Vanderbilt), Michael Brewer (Texas Tech to Virginia Tech), Pete Thomas (N.C. State to ULM), Cody Sokol (Iowa to Louisiana Tech), Nick Patti (Boise State to UCF), Luke Del Rio (Alabama to Oregon State) and Kendal Thompson (Oklahoma to Utah State).