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Sometimes, the grass is greener after all.
As Ohio State’s Braxton Miller and Notre Dame Everett Golson contemplate whether to become free agents in 2015, dozens of athletes have already transferred for myriad reasons, from a desire to be closer to family to the need for a fresh start. Above all else, the quest for more playing time and more exposure is always at the forefront of the decision-making process.
While college football doesn’t technically have free agency, like in pro sports, its coaches recognize the annual opportunity to serve as safe havens for those one-time high school and college stars who’ve opted to take their skills to a new zip code. In many cases, they sat out last year, drifting from the spotlight. They’re eligible in 2015, though, and eager to resume careers that have taken intriguing detours.
15. OT Freddie Tagaloa, Arizona via Cal
Tagaloa’s eligibility in Tucson could not come at a better time for the Arizona offense.
The Wildcats are getting a facelift at offensive tackle, with the graduations of Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele. Enter Tagaloa, a 6-8, 330-pound bookend who’s vying to protect Anu Solomon’s backside. Tagaloa chose Arizona in large part to be reunited with Jim Michalczik, one of the game’s top . Tagaloa wasn’t happy with his career trajectory in Berkeley, where he started seven games, and now has two seasons of eligibility to get it back on track.
14. QB Jake Rodrigues, San Diego State via Oregon
The Aztecs offered Rodrigues in 2012, then a four-star recruit, but they were no match for the lure of Eugene. Two years later, though, the ballyhooed quarterback has turned to the Mesa for a second chance.
Rodrigues struggled to rise above No. 3 on the Duck depth chart, prompting a return to California, where he’ll be closer to a starting job—and his son and fiancé. Quinn Kaehler has graduated, so finding a new quarterback tops San Diego State’s offseason to-do list. The 6-3, 217-pound Rodrigues has limited experience, but he throws a very nice ball, and has the agility to escape pressure when the pocket breaks down.
13. S Avery Sebastian, Undecided via Cal
Someone is going to land an intelligent veteran defensive back eager to finish his career on a high note.
Now that Sebastian has his Cal degree, he wants to help lead his next program to a playoff spot, while auditioning for NFL scouts wanting to see him healthy for an entire year. He’s a versatile, hard-hitting DB who can play multiple positions in the secondary. Sebastian has spoken with Notre Dame, which would be a good fit, but Penn State, Oregon, Louisville, North Carolina and Auburn have also expressed interest. He hopes to make a decision in time to participate in spring drills to better digest a new system, staff and surrounding personnel.
12. WR JaQuay Williams, Louisville via Texas A&M
The Cardinals were unable to compete two years ago for Williams, who chose the Aggies over a handful of SEC schools. But Louisville is home for the next few seasons.
The Cards lost a ton of receiving talent, namely next-level playmaker DeVante Parker. Williams isn’t Parker yet, but he shares many of the same base qualities. He’s well-sized at 6-3 and 210 pounds, with the speed to get behind the defense. Naturally, Williams will have a lot to prove this offseason, as Bobby Petrino begins retooling his passing game, but the opening is there for a player of his caliber to become the homerun hitter on the outside.
11. WR Robbie Rhodes, Bowling Green via Baylor
Rhodes has chosen a perfect campus to resurrect a career sidetracked by off-field issues.
The former blue-chip recruit will be playing for Dino Babers, a former Baylor assistant who employs a similar system as the one Rhodes learned in Waco. Rhodes has elite speed to go along with good hands and the frame to become an instant star in the MAC. The Falcons return last year’s top four receivers as well as star QB Matt Johnson, who missed all but a few snaps of 2014 to a hip injury. Rhodes is the new toy in what might be one of the nation’s highest-scoring attacks this season.
10. OL Austin Golson, Auburn via Ole Miss
Golson isn’t making many headlines today, but he could become a key cog in Gus Malzahn’s offense by the fall.
The former four-star Rebel transferred to Auburn to be closer to family, and the Tigers are about to reap the benefits. At 6-5 and 310 pounds, Golson has terrific size as well as the versatility to play multiple positions. Ole Miss used him as a backup guard in 2013, but Auburn could employ him at tackle to supplant Patrick Miller. The staff has been particularly impressed by Golson’s smarts and work ethic, which will be featured on the Plains for three more years.
9. QB Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech via Florida
Driskel is looking to use Ruston as a venue for resuscitating a college career that began with so much promise.
The one-time blue-chip recruit has followed a similar career path as the man who inked him, Will Muschamp. Neither met expectations nor will be in Gainesville this year. No longer chasing SEC titles, Driskel is eyeing far humbler pursuits, like supplanting Cody Sokol, another Power Five conference transfer. Driskel has the physical tool box for success, as well as 22 career starts as Gator. However, he was plagued by turnovers and poor decisions in the pocket, throwing more picks than touchdowns in three of his four seasons.
8. RB Ty Isaac, Michigan via USC
Jim Harbaugh will establish the ground game in Ann Arbor. Isaac is bucking for his share of the touches.
Backfield depth won’t be a worry for the Wolverines, who’ll be adding Isaac, a five-star recruit from 2013, to holdovers Derrick Green, Drake Johnson and De’Veon Smith. Isaac carried the ball 40 times for 236 yards and two scores as a Trojan rookie, but elected to transfer to be closer to his ailing mother. He’s well-sized at 6-3 and 225 pounds, yet possesses the burst and the speed to make plays outside the tackles. After running well on the scout team last fall, Isaac is eager to contend for a job in 2015.
7. QB Hayden Rettig, Rutgers via LSU
The Los Angeles kid, who had a cup of coffee in Baton Rouge, will kick off his college career in Piscataway.
With Rutgers desperate for quarterback consistency in the post-Gary Nova era, Rettig has a chance to make an early splash in the Big Ten. He was one of the nation’s most coveted prospects of 2013, but a perceived poor fit in the LSU offense led to a transfer. For the Knights, who never land blue-chippers from the other coast, this is a rare gift. Rettig has a big arm and underrated athleticism for a pro-style pocket passer. But now he has to seize the opening and become the young face of the Rutgers offense.
6. CB Shaq Wiggins, Louisville via Georgia
Louisville—the newest landing strip for sidetracked careers.
Bobby Petrino is turning the Cardinals into the preferred program for players to chart a new course. Wiggins, for example. The former four-star recruit of Mark Richt sought a fresh start on a new campus after starting eight games and making 19 tackles, two interceptions and four pass breakups as a rookie in 2013. Wiggins excels in man-to-man coverage, which is especially poignant to a Louisville squad that lost corners Terell Floyd and Andrew Johnson to graduation and all-star Charles Gaines to the NFL Draft.
5. WR Damore’ea Stringfellow, Ole Miss via Washington
Stringfellow can play at this level. But can he stay out of trouble long enough to perform to his potential?
Fingers are crossed in Oxford. Stringfellow played one year in Seattle, flashing enormous upside as the season unfolded, including an eight-catch, 147-yard effort versus UCLA. However, he was booted from U-Dub last February for assault charges, and was arrested this past January for disorderly conduct. On the field, Stringfellow has tantalizing tools. He’s a sure-handed 6-3, 225-pounder who can create mismatches and outmuscle defenders for the ball. Rebel fans are rightfully giddy about the possibility of teaming Stringfellow with a rehabbed Laquon Treadwell.
4. S Tray Matthews, Auburn via Georgia
Auburn is in the market for safeties in 2015, making the arrival of Matthews particularly timely.
He was a four-star Bulldog recruit in 2012, but an on-campus incident earned him a one-way ticket out of Athens last June. In his only year at Georgia, he showcased his enormous potential by starting six games and making 36 tackles, a pick and a forced fumble. Matthews is a thumper, with just enough nastiness to be an enforcer from the last line of defense. And he’ll now be a part of a Tiger secondary auditioning replacements for the graduating Jermaine Whitehead.
3. S Josh Harvey-Clemons, Louisville via Georgia
Harvey-Clemons is a Cardinal, where he’s reuniting with former Bulldog defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
Harvey-Clemons is—literally—an enormous talent. The 6-5, 212-pounder is ideally suited to play Grantham’s ‘Star’ position, a hybrid of a strong safety and an outside linebacker. But a spate of off-field problems short-circuited a career that was set to go airborne in Athens. As a sophomore, he was third on the team with 66 stops, 5.5 tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries, despite being suspended for two games. Harvey-Clemons is the heavy favorite to start for a Louisville D that lost both of its safeties to the NFL Draft.
2. QB Vernon Adams, Oregon via Eastern Washington
No, Eastern Washington is not an FBS program, which makes this move to Eugene all the more compelling.
Adams is thinking big for his final season of eligibility, throwing his hat into the race to replace Heisman-winner Marcus Mariota. As an Eagle, he was one of the nation’s most decorated and prolific FCS players, throwing 90 touchdown passes over the past two years. And he’s a natural playmaker, whose success against the likes of Washington and Oregon State fueled the Ducks’ interest. Adams engineered an upset of the Beavers, and strafed the Huskies for seven touchdown passes last fall. He has the tools to play in the Pac-12, but can he quickly grasp the system and handle the pressure of succeeding a legend?
1. QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma via Texas Tech
The butcher. The Baker. The Air Raid caretaker?
The Sooners are making wholesale changes on offense, with coordinator Lincoln Riley arriving from East Carolina to install the Air Raid. Might a new quarterback be running a system that was in place when Oklahoma won the national championship in 2000? Mayfield operated a similar attack in Lubbock as a walk-on true freshman, throwing for 12 scores and 2,315 yards. And he stood out during his first offseason in Norman. Incumbent Trevor Knight left the door open with his inconsistent play, and Mayfield is itching to be the guy who gets the Sooners back on the rails.
15 For '15: The Big Transfers
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