8 Offseason Transfers, Dismissals That Will Have Biggest Impact on 2014 Season
In college football, change is a constant.
Each winter and spring, players shift from one program to another for a variety of reasons: looking for the next big thing, a better opportunity, more playing time or simply a new start.
Other players have no choice in the matter—they're dismissed for off-the-field reasons ranging from arrests to the always-popular "undisclosed violation of team rules."
Regardless, a number of talented players will find themselves in new locales this fall with new expectations, dreams and goals.
Here is a look at the offseason departures and transfers which will have the biggest impact on college football teams next season.
Dorial Green-Beckham Dismissed by Missouri
When Dorial Green-Beckham signed with Missouri in 2012, it was considered a major coup for Gary Pinkel and the Tigers. Green-Beckham was rated as the nation's top overall recruit in the class of 2012; however, his off-field conduct outweighed his on-field contributions, and Pinkel announced his dismissal in April, per Jerry Hinnen of CBSSports.com.
The wide receiver was arrested in 2012 for simple marijuana possession, and again in January, when he was a passenger in a car where marijuana was found following a traffic stop (the charge was dropped after another passenger in the car admitted to ownership of the drug).
His third (and final) strike came when he was questioned following an incident at a Columbia, Mo. apartment complex, where he allegedly forced his way into an apartment and pushed the female occupant down at least four steps.
He was initially suspended and later dismissed from Missouri's program, which was a major blow to the Tigers' passing game. Last fall, the tall, athletic Green-Beckham had 59 receptions for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns.
With the loss of talented seniors Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington via graduation, Mizzou and new starting quarterback Maty Mauk will be short on reliable passing game options. Instead of cementing his breakout as one of the nation's top receivers, Green-Beckham is pondering his next option, and he'll be missed by his former teammates.
Jacob Coker Transfers from Florida State to Alabama
There's no shame in what happened to Jacob Coker in Tallahassee.
Last fall, Coker lost Florida State's QB battle to redshirt freshman Jameis Winston. Winston, of course, broke out in a huge way, winning the Heisman Trophy and leading Florida State to a BCS National Championship, the program's first since the 1999 season.
Winston wasn't going anywhere this fall (and his father says he plans on staying at least two more seasons at FSU, according to USA Today Sports), so it was time for Coker to explore new frontiers. He gets a great opportunity at Alabama, where the job is open following the graduation of AJ McCarron.
McCarron led the Crimson Tide to a pair of national titles with a 36-4 career record as a starter, so expectations will be high. Coker graduated from Florida State in three years and has enrolled at Alabama.
He will be eligible immediately thanks to college football's graduate transfer rule, which allows this eligibility—provided both that the player graduated and that the new stop provides a compatible graduate program.
While senior Blake Sims—who had been McCarron's backup—ended the spring as the top quarterback, Coker stands an excellent chance of supplanting him as long as he picks up new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's playbook quickly, even though Nick Saban won't say so yet.
At 6'5" and 230 pounds, Coker is a pro-style quarterback who fits very well with Kiffin's system. Last fall, he completed 18 of 36 passes for 250 yards with no touchdowns and an interception in mop-up duty.
He will have a talented offense around him and could be one of 2014's biggest breakout players.
Michael Brewer Transfers from Texas Tech to Virginia Tech
Last fall, Logan Thomas was one of college football's most polarizing players.
Some people saw his huge potential. Others saw him as one of the game's most frustrating quarterbacks to watch, capable of following a huge touchdown toss with a baffling turnover.
With Thomas running coordinator Scot Loeffler's offense, Virginia Tech averaged only 22.5 points per game, ranking No. 99 nationally in the category.
Backup Mark Leal was not impressive after Thomas left the Sun Bowl with an injury, completing 12 of 25 passes for 130 yards and two interceptions—one of which was returned for a touchdown. Neither did he separate himself from sophomore Brenden Motley in the Hokies' spring game, completing 10 of 18 passes for 90 yards and an interception. Tech's offense scored a total of 10 points.
Enter Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer, who arrived in May via the graduate transfer rule and thus eligible to play in 2014.
Brewer has two years of eligibility left and stands 6'1", 185 pounds with solid mobility. He is a good fit for Loeffler's spread offense, and if he learns the playbook quickly, he'll have a chance to see immediate action in Blacksburg.
Tech badly needs a quarterback who can run this offense, and in Brewer, it just might have its man.
Georgia Secondary Departures
With the departure of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to Louisville and the arrival of former Florida State D-coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, Georgia’s defense was already in flux this spring.
Several key departures only heightened the churn.
Former 5-star safety Josh Harvey-Clemons was dismissed in mid-February for “an unspecified violation of team rules”, and safety Tray Matthews was dismissed for similar reasons in early June, with coach Mark Richt telling the Macon Telegraph “we are trying to make room for guys who want to do things right.”
Harvey-Clemons would have served a three-game suspension to start the season due to his second violation of UGA’s student-athlete drug policy, while Matthews is facing charges along with four other UGA players that he tried to cash scholarship checks in multiple locations, doubling the checks’ value.
Georgia lost 31 starts from 2013’s secondary but do return a pair of returning starters in cornerback Damian Swann and Corey Moore. In addition, corner Malkom Parrish and safety Shattle Feteng are expected to receive significant playing time this fall.
Richt doesn't seem worried about the departures, according to the Telegraph.
You know what, I think we’re going to find four guys — or five guys if we’re in nickel — that’ll play good. Even a year ago, I think Jeremy started a couple true freshmen. Three of them played a lot on that defense for Florida State last year. So if guys come in and do what Coach says, and they have the athletic ability to do it, I think we’ll be fine.
Jake McGee Transfers to Florida
Mike London finds himself in serious need of a turnaround season this fall. Following 2011’s Chick-fil-A Bowl trip, Virginia is just 6-18, including last season’s 2-10 record that prompted a dreaded “vote of confidence” from athletic director Craig Littlepage.
This spring, the struggling program was dealt another major blow when senior tight end Jake McGee announced his plans to transfer to Florida, where he will be eligible immediately per the graduate transfer rule.
McGee was the Cavaliers’ leading receiver in 2013. He had 43 receptions for 395 yards last fall and worked as a hybrid receiver/tight end this spring.
He should emerge as a major target in the Gators offense, which will move to a spread, hurry-up system under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. Quarterback Jeff Driskel also returns after recovering from a broken leg suffered in the third game of the 2013 season, which should also boost Florida’s production.
"It seemed to me a pretty good fit with sort of having a relationship with coach Roper from him recruiting me out of high school and then playing against Duke the last four years," McGee told the Tampa Bay Times.
Florida’s gain is clearly Virginia’s loss, one that UVA can’t afford at this point.
Vad Lee Transfers from Georgia Tech
This was not the season that Paul Johnson wanted to break in a new quarterback. Following an ACC title in 2009, Georgia Tech is 28-25 over the last four seasons, and Johnson appears to be firmly on the hot seat entering 2014.
That job got tougher in January when quarterback Vad Lee transferred to James Madison, telling ESPN that “the triple option really wasn’t my thing.”
Last fall, Lee passed for 1,561 yards with 11 touchdowns against 10 interceptions and rushed for 513 yards with eight touchdowns. He gave Tech opponents a threat both passing and running, something that Johnson’s flexbone-oriented quarterbacks haven’t always been able to muster.
Now, Tech must turn to sophomore Justin Thomas, a first-time starter who originally chose the Yellow Jackets over Alabama.
Thomas is a talented, mobile quarterback capable of passing and running, but throwing him into the fire at this point is far from ideal. But thanks to Lee’s departure, that’s where the Jackets find themselves.
Cody Riggs Transfers to Notre Dame
With the graduation of Bennett Jackson, a sixth-round pick of the New York Giants, Notre Dame has a hole in its secondary. Enter Cody Riggs, who took advantage of the graduate transfer rule to land at Notre Dame.
Riggs is a versatile, experienced player who played 40 games at Florida, starting 26 at both cornerback and safety. He has 107 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, two pass breakups and an interception in his Florida career.
He’ll likely compete with spring starter Cole Luke for Jackson’s old spot but he could also fit in at safety if necessary.
Cody Riggs is an outstanding player,. He played a ton of football at Florida having started at both safety and corner back. Cody definitely brings veteran leadership and versatility to our team and defense. He will help us immediately but, more importantly, Cody is a great kid with a tremendous focus on both football and academics.
Texas A&M Defensive Dismissals
Last fall, Texas A&M needed every bit of Johnny Manziel’s heroics to prop up a young, porous defense. The Aggies allowed 32.2 points per game, ranking 96th nationally in scoring defense. The expectation was that a year of experience would help A&M improve. But a pair of key dismissals will make that task much tougher.
Earlier this month, A&M coach Kevin Sumlin announced that sophomore linebacker Darian Claiborne and sophomore defensive tackle Isaiah Golden had been dismissed from the team. Both played significant roles as freshmen in 2013.
According to a release from the College Station Police Department, both were arrested in late May on a charge of aggravated robbery after attempting to purchase marijuana, producing a handgun and taking the money back that they had just given for the marijuana, and striking a victim in the face with the handgun before fleeing.
Claiborne was a freshman All-SEC selection last season after leading A&M with 89 tackles, but was suspended for the Chick-fil-A Bowl following a December arrest for drug possession charges.
Golden started six games last season and made 30 tackles.
Sumlin didn’t pull any punches in announcing the dismissals, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
These two individuals have failed to meet the high expectations and standards that we have for our football players and as representatives of this university. These two players have exhibited a pattern of behavior that we will not tolerate at Texas A&M.
Without Claiborne and Golden, a defensive turnaround just got harder for the Aggies.
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