Coaches have largely embraced the trend — not that they have much choice.
“I think it’s good when I get the good player,” said L.S.U. Coach Ed Orgeron, whose quarterback came from Ohio State. “When I lose the good player, I don’t like it.”
Two rules changes in effect this season are likely to lead to more transfers, particularly at quarterback. Previously, transfers had to request a release from their team and were barred from direct contact with other coaches until they received it — creating a murky system of back-channel communication and uncertainty. Starting Oct. 15, they merely had to notify their team of their intention to transfer, after which their name would be put into a database and other coaches could reach out to them.
Another new rule permits players to compete in up to four games and still redshirt that season. Clemson’s Kelly Bryant announced he would transfer after this season’s fourth game — and after Coach Dabo Swinney announced that the freshman Trevor Lawrence would be the starter. Bryant, a senior, will be able to count 2018 as his redshirt year, even though he played substantial snaps in the Tigers’ first four games, and play all of 2019.
“This model of amateurism forces kids to take any means necessary to get noticed for the next level, because that’s the only way you can monetize that skill,” said Joel Klatt, a Fox Sports analyst and former college quarterback who outspokenly defended Bryant’s decision.
Take Shea Patterson. Recruited to Mississippi before the 2016 season, his coach, Hugh Freeze, resigned amid scandal the following year, and the Rebels received N.C.A.A. sanctions near the end of 2017. “Some things were promised that didn’t happen,” Patterson said. As a result of the sanctions, the N.C.A.A. allowed players to transfer without having to sit a season. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh visited him in Oxford, and Patterson now starts for the No. 5 Wolverines (7-1).
Or take Grier. After Muschamp was fired, Grier seemed tied to McElwain, who had not recruited him and who generally uses run-first offenses. Instead, Grier was re-recruited by West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen, an offensive guru. Holgorsen and Jake Spavital, the offensive coordinator, have between them coached the future pro quarterbacks Case Keenum, Geno Smith and Johnny Manziel. They run a pass-happy Air Raid-style offense similar to those that produced the current N.F.L. starters Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes and Mayfield.
“I wanted to play in an offense where I could throw the ball a little bit and highlight my skills,” said Grier, who is among the leaders in completion percentage, touchdowns and quarterback rating this season.