Every college football season brings some familiar faces in new places as players resume their college careers at a new school. Here are five of those transfers who will make their presences felt in a big way for their new programs in the 2016 season.
Barry J. Sanders, RB (Stanford to Oklahoma State)
It was certainly a buzzworthy reveal that there would once again be a Barry Sanders stomping on the gridiron in Stillwater, Oklahoma, when the younger Sanders announced his decision in February. Though slightly taller than his Hall of Fame dad, Sanders is still slightly undersized at 5-foot-10, and as such he was never really able to emerge in the starting lineup at his former school, Stanford. It certainly didn’t help his case for playing time in his redshirt senior season either that the Cardinal has a pretty decent running back by the name of Christian McCaffrey poised to get the heavy bulk of carries.
Sanders showed flashes during his time at Stanford, piling up over 300 yards on the ground in each of the past two seasons. He also added four trips to the end zone in 2015.
The Cowboys’ running game was pretty nonexistent in 2015, with their 126.8 rushing yards per game ranking 15th-worst in the FBS. Sanders’ speed and big-play ability, like the run seen below, should give Oklahoma State a little more of a threat in that department.
John O’Korn, QB (Houston to Michigan)
O’Korn quite possibly would have been Michigan’s starting quarterback last season if he didn’t have to sit out a year due to NCAA undergraduate transfer rules. As it turned out, Jake Rudock was a very solid presence in Jim Harbaugh’s first season, doing nothing flashy but managing the offense brilliantly.
Now Rudock has moved on, and O’Korn is looking to take the reins. While he will have to earn the starting spot in a preseason battle with Wilton Speight (and Shane Morris lurking in the background), O’Korn is a pro-style signal-caller, which would allow the offense to operate in a similar manner as it did a season ago.
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The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, product was thrust into the Houston starting lineup as a true freshman in 2013, where he impressed to the tune of 3,117 yards and 28 scores. Eventually, however, Greg Ward Jr. took the starting job from him and the rest was history, forcing O’Korn to search elsewhere if he wanted to find playing time.
Michigan is expected to be a top contender for the Big Ten title. While its defense should be the unit leading the way, a strong passing game could be what puts the Wolverines over the top.
Trevor Knight, QB (Oklahoma to Texas A&M)
Like Sanders and O’Korn, Knight is a talented player who was forced to switch schools because he had to stare up at a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in front of him. In Knight’s case, it’s Baker Mayfield, who supplanted Knight as the starter prior to the 2015 season.
Knight was the toast of Norman, Oklahoma, after finishing out his redshirt freshman season as the starter in 2013 and leading the Sooners to a 45-31 upset over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. He threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns in that game but was never really able to replicate his success, going through a middling 2014 season before becoming Mayfield’s backup and asking for his release from the program.
Still, being the starting quarterback of Texas A&M is always a great way to put a player in a position to succeed, even if recent starters Kenny Hill, Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen all failed to work out with the Aggies and transferred out (Hill’s move to TCU made him just miss this list). Texas A&M always provides a quarterback with a lot of weapons at his disposal in the receiving game, and that partnered with Knight’s athleticism could see a resurgence for both Knight and the Aggies.
Dakota Prukop, QB (Montana State to Oregon)
For the second year in a row, the Ducks are turning to a FCS transfer to finish out his college career in Eugene, Oregon. Last season it was Vernon Adams, who impressed with a 26:6 touchdown to interception ratio after transferring in from Eastern Washington. Now the Ducks are bringing in dual-threat quarterback Dakota Prukop out of Montana State.
Prukop, an AP first-team All-American in FCS play last season, adds a speed element that Adams was lacking. The Texas native turned heads in his two seasons as a starter for the Bobcats, throwing for 5,584 yards and rushing for 1,743 more in his 22 career starts. Those are certainly attributes that will fit in pretty seamlessly in the up-tempo Oregon offense.
Davis Webb, QB (Texas Tech to California)
Yes, it’s a fourth quarterback out of five spots on this list, but it really is nearly impossible to see anyone else making a bigger impact. Webb is replacing Jared Goff, who was only good enough last season to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Webb certainly has the build to be another top NFL pick out of Cal with his 6-foot-5 frame, and his gaudy numbers at Texas Tech should easily carry over to Berkeley.
The last Texas Tech quarterback to transfer was Mayfield, and obviously the Bears are hoping for the same level of success from their new leader. California coach Sonny Dykes runs a similar offensive system to Texas Tech — in fact, he coached there from 2000-06 — which should only make Webb’s transition easier. Can he repeat Goff’s near-5,000-yard season? It’s probably not very likely. But Webb should put up some nice stat lines in 2016, making it a beneficial pairing for both his new team and his own NFL draft stock.