This past year, the Division I Council of the NCAA met in Indianapolis to deliberate whether they should modify the transfer rules of student-athletes. A consensus was reached with the council voting in favor of implementing a transfer portal for student-athletes, which would incorporate all collegiate sports. The transfer portal is a database that provides student-athletes with the opportunity to submit their names for transfer eligibility and grants them the chance to reach out to other coaches and universities that might have displayed interest in them. Through this process, players gamble the possibility of losing their scholarships from their current universities. Furthermore, with the restriction of sitting out a season upon transferring, a player could jeopardize their chances of even seeing the field or court, due to competition and other factors. One sport in particular that has already seen a significant impact as a result of this rule change is Division I college football. A majority of college football players have the dream and aspiration to one day play in the NFL and will seek any means necessary to make this dream a reality. In many of these players’ minds, transferring might seem like the best opportunity to set themselves up to be successful and possibly win a National Championship. Already this year, there have been more than five hundred Division I football players that have individually entered their names into the transfer portal. Some names that specifically stood out included the former number one ranked prospect of the 2018 recruiting class Justin Fields, ex-Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, and former five star dual-threat Tate Martell.
This article will statistically break down the top three players within the transfer portal to determine if they will not only benefit their specific teams for the upcoming 2019 season, but also reveal whether the transfer portal could enhance the competitiveness of college football overall. We will first evaluate the transferring of Justin Fields from Georgia to Ohio State and then Jalen Hurts from Alabama to Oklahoma. Finally, we will look at the transition of Tate Martell from Ohio State to the University of Miami. As you read through this article the topics will be discussed in further detail.
As shown in the chart above, Justin Fields had a solid freshman year statistically for the Georgia Bulldogs. He made an appearance in all 12 of Georgia’s regular season games, scored 8 total touchdowns, and did not throw a single interception all season. This is a significant outlier because most young quarterbacks tend to turn the ball over or make multiple mistakes as they try to get adjusted to playing against Division I talent. Fields, on the other hand, appeared to thrive when he took the field and seemed to be composed, especially in SEC matchups. He also demonstrated this composure through finishing the season with a 69.2% completion average and completing 27 for 39 on pass attempts. It was difficult for Fields to truly unleash his raw potential because he was the back-up to an incredible quarterback in Jake Frohm. Frohm had led the Bulldogs to the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2018. Fields was mostly used by head coach Kirby Smart in blowout and red zone situations for his dual threat ability. Whenever he entered a game, he proved to be a nightmare for defensive coordinators. A common belief of Georgia fans was that Fields would stay in Athens and take over the starting quarterback position after Frohm left. On the contrary, Fields departed for Ohio State University in the Spring where he is now believed to be the starter for the Buckeyes week one. Based on the statistics Fields posted throughout the 2018 season, there is a likelihood that he will settle in nicely to head coach Ryan Day’s offensive scheme.
This chart above shows the career statistics thus far for Jalen Hurts who played his first three years for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Hurts announced his entrance into the transfer portal last year, only nine days after his team lost the College Football Playoff National Championship to the Clemson Tigers. Hurts went 26-2 as a starter for the Crimson Tide and took the team all three years to the College Football Playoff National Championship. He actually won it in 2017 over the Georgia Bulldogs. As revealed in the data, Hurts’ statistics seem to trend downward across five different categories. These categories are completions, attempts, yards, total touchdowns, and his longest pass completion. This is a clear indication of how his performance was negatively impacted when Coach Saban benched him for Tua Tagovailoa, at the start of the 2018 season. Even as a backup quarterback, Hurts still put up decent numbers, and even increased his completion percentage and passer rating ratio from the previous season. Hurts decided to transfer to the University of Oklahoma, where he is following in the footsteps of both Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray who were also transfers. Hurts proved himself as a winner and a stellar competitor for Alabama from his freshman to junior year. There is a wide-spread belief that he will take the starting quarterback position and do the same for the Oklahoma Sooners.
The chart above presents Tate Martell’s statistics at Ohio State, where he served as a backup quarterback for two seasons. As shown through the statistics, when he made appearances in games, Martell appeared to be very accurate and poised throwing the ball. He was 23 for 28 and had an impressive 82.1% completion percentage. The problem with Martell seemed to be the situation he entered into at Ohio State. There were already two older quarterbacks on the roster, J.T. Barrett and Dwayne Haskins, which put him at a disadvantage. This past Spring, he submitted his name into the transfer portal and decided to depart for the University of Miami. So far, this move has not seemed to pan out in his favor. Martell was a heavy favorite to seize the starting quarterback position this off-season as he competed with two other candidates. However, this past Monday, the Miami Hurricanes announced that their starter would be Jarren Williams, one of the other candidates. Through evaluating Martell’s statistics, it is tough to tell whether he could prove to be beneficial to the Miami Hurricanes. He does not seem to have enough “on-field” experience to prove himself at the collegiate level and in the words of an ESPN Senior writer it “has proved to be a difficult transition for Martell."
As we can see through the statistics, the transfer portal has certainly helped out three highly talented quarterbacks find a change of scenery. The hope is that this change will not only benefit the players, but also their new teams. These quarterbacks did not believe that staying put at their original universities would help them get any closer to their ultimate goals of getting drafted and building a career in the NFL. At this point in the offseason, it is too early to tell if these quarterbacks could possibly lead their individual teams to a winning season or a National Championship. There is still so much that can happen before the first game and throughout the season with multiple roster moves, changes, and unfortunately, injuries. It can be supported that the transfer portal will result in a higher level of competitiveness throughout college football. The transfer portal ultimately provides college athletes with the opportunity to gain some control over their own destinies for the future.
About the Author
Hale Williamson is a rising junior at Samford University, where he is double majoring in Marketing and Management with a concentration in Sports Marketing. He has enjoyed following and studying sports since a young age and looks forward to learning more about the industry every day.