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QB Free Agents Give Spring Position Battles New Dimension

With spring football practice firing up on campuses across the country, college football fans are beginning to concentrate on tightly contested position battles. Whether a vacancy has opened up due to graduation/attrition or you have a plethora or riches at a given position, spring is a time when next fall’s depth charts begin coming into focus.

Of course, any time there’s a competition at quarterback, that becomes the focal point of the spring, and there are going to be dozens of high-profile battles to see who leads the huddle at programs around the nation. Some of those debates will be settled in the next six weeks while others will last deep into the fall; however, a new dynamic may make separating themselves from the competition early important for these student-athletes.

In recent years, graduate transfer rules have been taken advantage of, and several relatively established options at quarterback have been able to move freely to a new program after graduating to make an immediate impact on the field. Russell Wilson was a three-year starter at NC State before a dispute over being allowed to play baseball led him to pursue options elsewhere after graduating.

He famously went on to finish his career at Wisconsin–rather marvelously, we might add–and now graduate transfers have become increasingly commonplace.

This offseason, there are some incredibly prominent players who could potentially explore their graduate transfer options in the fall, and the headliners are Everett Golson of Notre Dame and Braxton Miller of Ohio State. Currently, both players are expected to stay with their schools, but depending on how this spring shakes out, they could be on different campuses by fall.

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Everett Golson could very well transfer if he can graduate this spring.

So if you’re competing for a chance to call signals at a school like Texas–I’m looking at you, Tyrone Swoopes and Jerron Heard–and you don’t establish yourself as a viable option coming out of spring, there’s always a chance that a player like Golson or Miller sees the opportunity to be a starting quarterback at a prestigious program like Texas and swoops in (pun somewhat intended) to take it.

Granted, regardless of who is behind/under center in Texas, Charlie Strong has some work to do before the Longhorns are ready to compete for a championship. However, if you’re Golson or Miller there’s also opportunities at places like Baylor, Florida State and UCLA, with rosters that are all just a quarterback away from being potential national championship contenders.

Quarterbacks competing for every appealing starting job in the country have to be looking over their shoulders in some regard due to this new free agency era that the graduate transfer rules have created. And if you’re Braxton Miller and Everett Golson, you certainly have to keep yourself apprised of these situations throughout the spring.

For Golson, Malik Zaire is carrying a lot of momentum into spring practice, and the race will be on to see if Everett can earn his starting job back while taking on a heavy course load to race towards spring graduation. If he can earn his diploma in time and Zaire emerges as the favorite to win the job, Golson would likely explore his opportunities elsewhere.

However, the Miller situation is a little bit different. Nobody questions Braxton Miller’s ability to lead Ohio State, but J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones have both been incredibly successful in Miller’s absence as he recovered from a preseason injury.

This spring, Barrett and Miller both won’t be 100%, so Jones, who has the least experience but may have flashed the largest potential upside in leading the Buckeyes to a national championship, will have the chance to dazzle and possibly separate himself. If that’s the case, Miller– who has already graduated and is an established Heisman Trophy candidate–would have to at least entertain the thought of playing elsewhere.

For now, both players appear intent on winning their old jobs back and that’s admirable, but the possibility that one or both could take the keys at any move-in ready program throughout the country makes these spring QB battles more interesting than ever.

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