College Football Analyst
Transfer portal season is alive and well in the college football world.
Colorado is making waves in the portal for the second straight offseason, ranking among the top transfer classes in the nation. Ole Miss has also made a huge push as Lane Kiffin has landed three of the top-15 players to enter the portal this offseason and appears to be the favorite to land the top-ranked player in the portal, Texas A&M defensive tackle Walter Nolen. Class of 2023 five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson also entered the portal on Sunday as he’ll be on the move from Lincoln Riley and USC.
While there have been many headlines surrounding the portal so far, I think the biggest news was Kyle McCord announcing Sunday that he was heading to Syracuse. McCord, of course, was the five-star quarterback who played at Ohio State and did a great job in Columbus, for the most part. Particularly, that win at Notre Dame in Week 4 stands out as the highlight of his lone season as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.
But, let’s face it, McCord ultimately fell short, at least in terms of Ohio State standards. Those standards include beating Michigan, winning the Big Ten, making the College Football Playoff and winning the national championship. McCord didn’t accomplish any of that, losing to Michigan by six on the road. Following that game, he became the target of a lot of criticism from that fan base.
McCord was strongly linked to Nebraska not long after he entered the portal on Dec. 4. In fact, he took a visit to Lincoln, and it looked like it was a foregone conclusion that he was going to be a Cornhusker. Then, all of a sudden, he reversed course and opted to go to Syracuse instead, as Nebraska revved up its push to flip five-star Georgia commit Dylan Raiola.
It’s certainly interesting that’s where McCord wound up. Syracuse probably wasn’t on many people’s bingo cards for possible destinations for the junior quarterback, largely because we just don’t know if the Orange are going to be a playoff-caliber team in 2024. You’d think McCord would leave Ohio State to go to another program that has legitimate playoff hopes next season.
But we’ll see what happens with McCord and Syracuse next season. There’s a lot of momentum surrounding that program in western New York after it hired Georgia assistant Fran Brown to be its next head coach.
[2023-24 college football coaching hire grades]
Now with McCord’s situation all settled, it begs the question: What is Ohio State going to do at quarterback?
It seemed like people were expecting the Buckeyes to jump in and really target Washington State’s Cameron Ward. Heck, I was expecting it, to some degree. I even listed Ward as a potential front-runner to win the Heisman next season if he transferred to Ohio State.
Texas‘ Maalik Murphy is another option in the portal that has been floated out there for the Buckeyes. FOX Sports’ college football writers actually listed Ohio State as the top fit for the redshirt freshman. Kansas State’s Will Howard is also available as a possible transfer option.
Yet, Ohio State hasn’t really made a big play for any of those transfer portal quarterbacks. Ward, who many view as the top quarterback in the transfer portal this offseason, has only reportedly visited Miami (Fla.) and Florida State, with his next destination likely coming down to those two schools.
So, Ohio State’s decision to not really pursue one of the transfer options out there leads you to believe that this coaching staff is confident enough in the quarterbacks they’re going to have for spring practice and allow the situation to figure itself out. Devin Brown, who battled with McCord for the starting job entering the season, is expected to be back and will start for Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl against Missouri. The sophomore completed 12 of 22 passes for 197 yards, two touchdowns and an interception to go with 35 rushing yards and a score over the one start and four other appearances he made this season.
Former Ohio State QB Kyle McCord announces transfer to Syracuse
Beyond Brown, Ohio State will likely have freshman Lincoln Kienholz and incoming freshman Air Noland on its roster at the start of spring ball. Kienholz was a four-star recruit in the Class of 2023 out of South Dakota, making two brief appearances at the end of blowout wins for Ohio State in November. Noland, meanwhile, is a four-star recruit in the Class of 2024 and will likely sign his letter of intent in the coming days.
Obviously, I don’t think it’s a sure thing that either one of those three quarterbacks will be Ohio State’s starting signal-caller by the time the regular season begins, either. Remember, there’s another round of the transfer portal that takes place after spring practice, when guys who lose jobs look to go elsewhere. If you recall, that’s when Joe Burrow transferred out of Ohio State, opting to make the move after he lost a great battle to Dwayne Haskins and went to LSU for his last two years of eligibility.
But it looks like it’ll be Brown, Kienholz and Noland battling it out for the starting quarterback job in Columbus come springtime — at least for now.
Joel Klatt is FOX Sports’ lead college football game analyst and the host of the podcast “The Joel Klatt Show.” Follow him on Twitter at @joelklatt and subscribe to the “Joel Klatt Show” on YouTube.
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