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OU football: Sooners not the only playoff team with a transfer quarterback

(From left): Ohio State's Justin Fields, Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts and LSU's Joe Burrow each left a blueblood program for the opportunity to start and to chase a national title. [OKLAHOMAN PHOTO ILLUSTRATION]
(From left): Ohio State's Justin Fields, Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts and LSU's Joe Burrow each left a blueblood program for the opportunity to start and to chase a national title. [OKLAHOMAN PHOTO ILLUSTRATION]

Jalen Hurts, late of Alabama, quarterbacks Oklahoma.

Justin Fields, late of Georgia, quarterbacks Ohio State.

Joe Burrow, late of Ohio State, quarterbacks LSU.

Which makes Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence the outlier in the College Football Playoff. Lawrence, late of Cartersville High School, came to the Tigers the old-fashioned way. Straight from the Senior Prom. But this playoff shows that Lawrence’s traditional path is the new exception.

Free agency has come to college football, and the top programs are using it to exploit their already-heavy advantages. Particularly the graduate transfer rule — immediate eligibility for anyone with a sheepskin — has created instant gratification for offenses in need of a rifleman. Hurts and Burrow were graduate transfers who could play immediately; Hurts this season and Burrow last season.

Fields was not a Georgia graduate but received an NCAA waiver for instant eligibility, perhaps via a distasteful racial incident while he was in Athens.

Seems safe to say that without the transfer quarterbacks, none of LSU, Ohio State or Oklahoma would be in the playoff.

The previous heir apparent at Ohio State, Tate Martell, transferred to Miami and lost the quarterback derby there. The previous heir apparent at OU, Austin Kendall, transferred to West Virginia and eventually lost the QB job there. LSU has been looking for a quarterback messiah for more than a decade, until Burrow’s transformation.

“Obviously, the Joe Burrow transfer has made a difference for us,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron. “We're fortunate that the transfer rule's in place. Joe's one of the most important recruits we've had at LSU. With the spread offense, we couldn't have had success without him. I do believe you have to have a great quarterback, obviously. Most of the teams we're playing right now have great quarterbacks.”

College football is a copycat sport. Emory Bellard invented the wishbone in the mid-‘60s, the Sooners perfected it by 1971 and two years later half the teams were in the 'bone. Mike Leach and Hal Mumme once were lone soldiers on the Air Raid. But now, even Nick Saban spreads his offense from sideline to shining sideline.

Same with the quarterback transfers. Every school’s antennas are up. If you’ve got one you like, great. If you don’t, patience not required. Head to the transfer portal and reinvent your team.

“Obviously, the transfers for quarterbacks have been good to us,” Lincoln Riley said. “That goes without saying, and I totally believe you have to have very good quarterback play to get into the playoffs and to eventually win it all. It's such an important position, and there's too many good ones out there.

“But you know, kind of like for those guys, Jalen's been a very positive impact on our program. His has been unique because it hasn't been years; it's been months. So it's been kind of fast and furious but very positive.”

One of the redeeming characteristics of this Playoff Quarterback Club is that the transfer quarterbacks weren’t lured away from schools trying to work their way up the college football ladder. They came from Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State, not Georgia Southern, South Alabama and Bowling Green.

The rich don’t necessarily get richer. They just pass around their riches.

Even Riley’s original transfer quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, came from Texas Tech and Texas A&M, respectively, a couple of ports that have been in the QB spotlight.

If transfers become more of a feeder system — go prove yourself at Oregon State, then step right in at Texas; put in two years at Boston College, then get called up to Michigan — then college football becomes more unsavory.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is not a fan of rampant transfers. He says the waiver process has been “inconsistently applied” and he supports the traditional requirement of sitting out a season before becoming eligible. Bowlsby calls it the transfer residency requirement.

“I just think we’ve made a mistake not doing it in all sports, because the data is clear,” Bowlsby said. “It’s very good from an academic standpoint. There are a lot of good reasons why the residence requirement makes a lot of sense.”

But Bowlsby also knows the toothpaste doesn’t go back in the tube. Heck, he admits his own conference is considering relaxing transfer rules.

Let’s be honest. The people in power like the liberalized transfer rules. Remember Archie Bunker’s old line, “what’s good for General Motors is good for America?” What’s good for Ohio State, what’s good for Oklahoma, what’s good for LSU, is good for college football, says Ohio State, Oklahoma and LSU.

Just look at the 2019 playoff, which includes three teams that can credit transfer quarterbacks for their royal seasons.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

Related Photos
<strong>Jalen Hurts (2) leaves the field at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., after Alabama lost last season's national title game to Clemson. [Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports]</strong>

Jalen Hurts (2) leaves the field at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., after Alabama lost last season's national title game to Clemson. [Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-c04825960beb4f229fc690478e13da8d.jpg" alt="Photo - Jalen Hurts (2) leaves the field at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., after Alabama lost last season's national title game to Clemson. [Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports] " title=" Jalen Hurts (2) leaves the field at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., after Alabama lost last season's national title game to Clemson. [Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports] "><figcaption> Jalen Hurts (2) leaves the field at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., after Alabama lost last season's national title game to Clemson. [Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-784cea29754892e47a7a870ce0fe4ba7.jpg" alt="Photo - (From left): Ohio State's Justin Fields, Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts and LSU's Joe Burrow each left a blueblood program for the opportunity to start and to chase a national title. [OKLAHOMAN PHOTO ILLUSTRATION] " title=" (From left): Ohio State's Justin Fields, Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts and LSU's Joe Burrow each left a blueblood program for the opportunity to start and to chase a national title. [OKLAHOMAN PHOTO ILLUSTRATION] "><figcaption> (From left): Ohio State's Justin Fields, Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts and LSU's Joe Burrow each left a blueblood program for the opportunity to start and to chase a national title. [OKLAHOMAN PHOTO ILLUSTRATION] </figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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