O'Gara: My favorite fits for these 10 Power 5 quarterbacks in the transfer portal
Man, it’s loaded.
The transfer portal already looks like it’ll have its deepest quarterback class to date. It makes sense. Look at the Heisman Trophy finalists. All 3 quarterbacks are former transfers who needed fresh starts to get to New York. It wouldn’t be surprising if one of the following players ended up on that list in 2024.
This feels like a good time to map out a fit for some coveted portal guys. And to be clear, this isn’t a prediction. My “favorite fits” are based on where I’d like to see them end up.
So, here are my favorite fits for these 10 transfer portal signal-callers:
Favorite fit — Mississippi State
This one is obvious. Following Jeff Lebby to Starkville would give Gabriel an opportunity to face elite defenses and help his NFL Draft stock in his final year of eligibility. There’s also the possibility that Gabriel could deviate from staying in the same system and he could seek out a place like Oregon, where offensive coordinator Will Stein worked wonders with Bo Nix. But given Mississippi State’s quarterback needs in Year 1 with Lebby, that seems like the most logical fit after having success together at 2 different schools.
Favorite fit — Ohio State
I’ll fight anyone who says Ryan Day is no longer an elite offensive mind. The opportunity to play in Columbus with an always-loaded group of skill-players has to be enticing for the Washington State transfer. With Kyle McCord in the transfer portal, it’s possible that Day and Co. transition to true freshman Air Noland, but I have my doubts that Day wants to get over the Michigan hurdle by putting all of his eggs in the basket of a true freshman. Ward’s skill set would be an ideal way for Day to bridge the gap. If not Ohio State, I’d love to see Ward play in a Hugh Freeze offense at Auburn.
Favorite fit — Notre Dame
It seems like it’s only a matter of time before this is announced. Replacing Sam Hartman would be a logical fit, given the ACC-to-Notre Dame transfer portal connection. Leonard’s decision to enter the portal was a done deal when Mike Elko left Duke for Texas A&M. Who would Leonard and the Irish face in Week 1, you ask? Elko and his new team, Texas A&M. Sign me up for that.
Favorite fit — USC
I’m tempted to say Michigan here, but given the uncertain status of Jim Harbaugh’s future in Ann Arbor, that’s a tough one to project. Instead, Moore going to play for the coach who turns 5-star quarterbacks into stars makes the most sense. Moore didn’t exactly have a freshman season as Caleb Williams did at Oklahoma in 2021, but there’d still be plenty for Riley to work with, especially at a place that’ll be active in landing established skill players via the portal. If Riley doesn’t land Will Howard, that’d make a ton of sense.
Speaking of Howard …
Favorite fit — Auburn
If one of these coveted transfer quarterbacks doesn’t end up at Auburn, I’ll be stunned. The chance to work with Hugh Freeze would make a ton of sense, especially if he promises not to mess around with a 2-quarterback system for the majority of the season. Howard has plenty of potential suitors, so this is by no means a prediction. USC would probably be my guess, considering Lincoln Riley reportedly flew to Kansas State to meet with Howard. That’d be an awfully tough person to say “no” to. But I’d love to see the mobile Howard go to a place like Auburn, where the bar to meet is much lower than what he’d have replacing Caleb Williams at USC.
Favorite fit — NC State
If not for fellow Oregon State transfer Aidan Chiles being projected to follow Jonathan Smith to Michigan State, I would’ve had Uiagalelei doing the same thing. But let’s instead go with NC State, which quietly had an excellent late-season turnaround with transfer quarterback Brennan Armstrong. Uiagalelei can go back to the ACC, get a reunion against Clemson and continue to resurrect his career after a standout season in Corvallis. If not there, why not replace Jordan Travis at Florida State? That also would make a ton of sense after an unimpressive showing by Travis’ backups in those make-or-break games down the stretch.
Tyler Van Dyke
Favorite fit — Louisville
I think Van Dyke needs to go to a place with an elite schemer. The reads he needs to make still aren’t there, but the physical ability is impressive. Despite what the ACC Championship suggested, Jeff Brohm can scheme at a high level. He’s worked with plenty of quarterbacks who have put up big numbers in his system, which had much more balance this past year. Van Dyke could stay in the conference that he’s game-planned for throughout his career, and he could do so for a program with a bright future under Brohm. If not Louisville, I’d be interested to see if Jeff Lebby would be a nice fit for TVD if the Gabriel reunion doesn’t happen at Mississippi State.
Favorite fit — Oregon
I desperately want one of these portal signal-callers to go play for Will Stein and run that Oregon offense. I know that there’s plenty of intrigue about Ty Thompson, and perhaps we’ll see him get some run in the bowl game. But I wonder how many teams like Oregon opt for portal options with reps instead of finding an in-house quarterback replacement. McCord would get to — as weird as it sounds — stay in the Big Ten at Oregon, and he’d get to work with perhaps an even better offensive line than what he had at Ohio State. Of course, he won’t have a Marvin Harrison Jr. no matter where he ends up. He’d still have some extremely favorable surroundings in Eugene.
Favorite fit — Washington
I know, I know. That’d be quite the landing spot for a guy who looked lost away from the Air Raid offense. Once upon a time, Michael Penix Jr. looked lost away from former Indiana OC Kalen DeBoer. Then he reunited with him at Washington and the rest is history. What’s clear is that Rogers needs to play in a pass-happy offense with an elite schemer. He’d have that in spades with DeBoer and Ryan Grubb in Seattle. Washington already recruited a skill player (RB Dillon Johnson) to leave the Mike Leach Air Raid, and it paid off in a big way. Obviously, Rogers would be in a different spot at quarterback, and he doesn’t throw the deep ball at Penix’s level. To be fair, nobody in the portal does. But Rogers could execute that pass-happy offense and elevate the Huskies’ offensive floor in their inaugural Big Ten season.
Favorite fit — Kentucky
Man, this would be awesome. Vandagriff has a ton of Will Levis in him. Both are built like tanks that seem to crave contact as mobile quarterbacks, yet both have cannons for arms. UK would be the perfect landing spot with the offense that Liam Coen would like to run, much like we saw in 2021 when he led the Cats to their best offense in 14 years. No, it didn’t work out with fellow transfer Devin Leary for the majority of the 2023 season. Too often, it felt like UK lacked a signal-caller who could make something out of nothing. But Vandagriff can be that guy. Yes, it’s risky to put that much faith in a guy who has never started a college game, but if he gets a full offseason of reps after spending 3 years battling the speed of that Georgia defense, look out. Vandagriff can be a star in the SEC, where he spent 3 years learning opposing game plans, 2 of which were alongside Todd Monken.
Let’s also remember that Vandagriff would also have 2 years of eligibility left, which we’re seeing is an ideal model to follow. There’s no doubt that he’d be loved in Lexington.