The best quarterbacks in college football's transfer portal

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The price of a starting quarterback is going up, up, up.

This week, Nebraska coach Matt Rhule said the price for a Power Five-caliber starting quarterback is "$1 million to $1.5 million to $2 million right now." That's for a transfer class that is currently deep in experience but devoid of a transcendent passer.

But programs in the Bowl Subdivision will pay the cost, and sometimes the investment will pay off. Bo Nix and Jayden Daniels were not seen as game-changing transfers when they joined Oregon and LSU, respectively. Washington's Michael Penix Jr. and Quinn Ewers of Texas both have their teams in the College Football Playoff.

Coaches are looking at three different types of quarterbacks: one-year rentals looking to cash in a final year of eligibility, plug-and-play starters with more than one season on campus, and high-ceiling but inexperienced players who transfer as redshirt freshmen or sophomores.

Players will be given about one month after the transfer portal officially opens on Dec. 4 to choose a new program.

These are the best quarterbacks currently available:

Cam Ward (Washington State)

Ward could also enter the NFL draft, though he's more likely to stay in college and become the most desired transfer quarterback on the market. The former Championship Subdivision transfer accounted for 61 combined touchdowns in his two seasons at Washington State and was much improved as a passer this past year, indicating not just a high floor of production but the chance to tap into something greater in his final season. Based on who's currently in the portal, Ward will have dozens of suitors and will be able to pick his next stop.

Update: Ward declared for the NFL draft on Jan. 1

Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward (1) rushes for a touchdown against California during the first quarter at California Memorial Stadium.
Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward (1) rushes for a touchdown against California during the first quarter at California Memorial Stadium.

Dillon Gabriel (Oklahoma)

The stats Gabriel has put up in his five seasons - three at Central Florida and two at Oklahoma - make him easily the most-productive quarterback on the market. He has thrown for 14,865 yarda and 125 touchdowns in career. This season, he threw for 30 scores and ran for 12 more in leading the Sooners to a 10-2 record. He'll be looking for a premier program that needs a starting quarterback to compete for the playoff because that's what he is leaving behind. He's also been cited at Oklahoma for his mentoring of successor Jackson Arnold, so that's another potential benefit for a school that has young quarterback on its roster.

Update: Gabriel announced his transfer to Oregon on Dec. 9

Kyle McCord (Ohio State)

In his first year as a starter with the the Buckeyes, McCord threw for 3,170 yards and 24 touchdown and six interceptions. Ohio State went 11-1 with a narrow loss to Michigan. But he's moving on, which is an indication of the high standards for quarterbacks under Ryan Day, who gave a less-than-ringing endorsement of McCord when the team's bowl assignment was announced. The Buckeyes are expected to sign Air Noland, a heralded recruit later this month, so there was competition coming for the job. It's possible a different environment will be more conducive to McCord's development. At a place like Ohio State, patience isn't something that is easily afforded.

Update: McCord announced on social media Dec. 17 that he will attend Syracuse next season.

DJ Uiagalelei (Oregon State)

Uiagalelei really cleaned up his game and threw the ball with more confidence during his one season under Jonathan Smith at Oregon State. After averaging 6.8 yards per attempt at Clemson in 2022, he bumped that average to 8.4 yards this past season with 21 touchdowns against seven interceptions and another six scores on the ground. Uiagalelei is never going to be the quarterback who set college football afire during a brief stint in the lineup as a true freshman in 2020, but he's become a steady and reliable Power Five starter who would represent an upgrade for more programs than not. Based off his connection to Smith, he could land at Michigan State, which badly needs a quarterback. But look for Uiagalelei to draw attention from every Power Five league, especially the SEC.

Update: Uiagalelei announced he will transfer to Florida State.

Riley Leonard (Duke)

Leonard burst onto the national scene amid Duke's hot start. But this was basically a lost season given his injuries, his ineffectiveness as a passer when healthy and the Blue Devils' swoon after September. This could make him a divisive prospect: Leonard has the tools to succeed in an offense that values his athleticism but has to develop more accuracy and reliability as a thrower to be a truly difference-making addition. Having said that, teams are going to be drawn to his frame, athletic ability and potential.

Update: Leonard announced on Dec. 12 he will be heading to Notre Dame.

Will Howard (Kansas State)

After an ugly start to his career upon being thrust into the lineup as a freshman, Howard developed into one of the most prolific and accomplished passers in Kansas State history. But the writing is on the wall: Avery Johnson is ready to take over as the Wildcats' starter, making this a good time for Howard to hit the open market. As a veteran starter with a proven track record and noticeable year-to-year improvement, Howard should draw interest from some of the biggest programs in the country. Though his biggest suitors should come from traditional members of the Big Ten, Howard will draw interest from Notre Dame and Big Ten newcomers Oregon, Washington, UCLA and Southern California.

Update: Howard will play for Ohio State next season.

Dante Moore (UCLA)

Moore would fall more on the development end of the transfer pool, even if he was the Bruins' primary starter as a true freshman. While this experience will pay off down the road, Moore's performance indicated a quarterback who could've used a full year in a reserve or limited role before being promoted into the starting lineup. But programs will look past the hit-or-miss game tape and see a former five-star prospect with the physical gifts to make every throw and at least three additional years of eligibility. That will make Moore a hot commodity.

Update: Moore is headed to Oregon with Gabriel with the likelihood he serves as the backup this season and is the starter in 2025.

Grayson McCall (Coastal Carolina)

McCall's stock was way higher a year ago, when he decided to return to Coastal Carolina instead of transfer into the Power Five or follow former coach Jamey Chadwell to Liberty. His numbers took a big step back amid an injury-hampered year under first-year coach Tim Beck: McCall had 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in seven games, though four of those turnovers came in one game and he still managed to complete 67.4% of his attempts and average 8.6 yards per throw. There's a feeling that McCall's skill set is limited compared to some of the Power Five transfers on the table, which should scare off the elite programs in the mix for a quarterback. But he's very experienced, hugely productive and good enough to start and play well in the Power Five.

Update: McCall committed to North Carolina State on Nov. 13.

Drew Pyne (Arizona State)

This will be Pyne's second transfer, following his previous departure from Notre Dame to Arizona State. Injuries cost him all but two games and one start in 2023, and with younger talent on the Sun Devils' depth chart he did not figure into the program's plans moving forward. But two things he's done since joining Notre Dame as a four-star recruit is win games against elite competition and avoid turnovers: Pyne went 8-2 overall and 4-1 against ranked teams with the Irish, and tossed 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions as the starter in 2022.

Update: Pyne will attend Notre Dame in the spring to finish his degree and then choose a college destination in the summer.

Tyler Van Dyke (Miami)

All Van Dyke could need is a change of scenery. He was a revelation as a redshirt freshman in 2021, tossing at least three touchdowns in each of his final six starts and 25 overall against six interceptions. While that made him a Heisman contender heading into 2022, his career quickly fizzled: Van Dyke has 17 picks across the past two years and has looked uncomfortable and hesitant since coach Mario Cristobal arrived. There will plenty of coaching staffs that look at Van Dyke and see an impactful reclamation project, and they may be right.

Update: Wisconsin is the destination for Van Dyke.

Tyler Shough (Texas Tech)

First things first: Shough has to stay healthy. That he's had multiple years stymied by injuries will scare off teams in the market for one transfer quarterback to step right in and grab the starting role. When on the field, though, Shough has the arm talent to succeed in a balanced offense and will be motivated to make the most of this last chance after struggling to get his career off the ground at Oregon and with the Red Raiders.

Update: Louisville landed Shough early in the transfer portal.

Max Brosmer (New Hampshire) and Matthew Sluka (Holy Cross)

These two Championship Subdivision standouts currently on the FBS radar will draw interest from the second tier of the Power Five and could land at a higher-end program based on how things play out with more established quarterbacks. While Sluka would be a very interesting fit in an offense that would value his dual-threat ability in the quarterback running game, Brosmer led the FCS in yards this past season and is purer passer of the two.

Update: Bosmer has decided to play for Minnesota.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football quarterbacks in transfer portal Ranking the best