By Ralph D. Russo
AP College Football Writer
Florida might have solved its long-running quarterback problem with the addition of Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire.
That move became official last week, and as a graduate transfer, Zaire will be immediately eligible. Zaire is no lock to be the Gators’ starter when they open against Michigan in Arlington, Texas, at the home of the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, if coach Jim McElwain and the Gators really felt good about redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, then Zaire probably would not be going to school in Gainesville.
Florida is one of several schools likely turning to a transfer quarterback this season to lead their teams. Here are six that will be drawing lots of attention:
Kyle Allen, Houston
Allen was a five-star recruit who spent two seasons at Texas A&M before he bailed on Aggie-land drama. He sat out last season at Houston and now gets his chance to deliver on that pedigree and help the Cougars transition from Tom Herman to Major Applewhite as coach. In 19 games with Texas A&M, Allen threw 33 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. This looks very promising for the Cougars.
Max Browne, Pitt
The former USC quarterback was a huge recruit in the class of 2013. Yes, 2013. He waited three seasons to get a shot to lead the Trojans and then lost his starting job to Sam Darnold in the first month of last season. A graduate transfer landed him at Pitt, where he will replace former Tennessee transfer Nate Peterman. Browne’s talents should nicely match the pro-style system the Panthers run — with one caveat. Peterman thrived last year with Matt Canada as offensive coordinator, but now former Louisville and Texas assistant Shawn Watson is directing Pitt’s offense.
Brandon Harris, North Carolina
Harris rarely looked like the four-star recruit he was out of high school during his three seasons at LSU, completing 53.7 percent of his passes in 22 games (15 starts). LSU’s plodding offense did Harris no favors. At North Carolina, the spread offense Larry Fedora runs should be more to Harris’ liking. The graduate transfer missed spring practice, so he will have to win the job in preseason. Fedora bringing Harris to Chapel Hill signals he wasn’t thrilled with the QBs already on the roster.
Will Grier, West Virginia
Grier was last seen playing in Gainesville in 2015, giving Florida fans hope that he would be the Gators best quarterback since Tim Tebow. He was suspended for failing a test for performance-enhancing substances after six games, and then transferred out. After sitting out last season, Grier is eligible for the start of 2017. Mountaineers fans are excited, but it should be noted that Grier’s resume includes four SEC games: one sensational performance against Ole Miss and three OK outings against Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri.
Tanner Lee, Nebraska
The Tulane transfer won the job in the spring practice after sitting out last season. Lee was a starter for two seasons for the Green Wave and his numbers were not good. He threw 23 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions and completed 53.5 percent of his passes while playing as a freshman and sophomore on teams that had little talent around him. Lee seems a better fit for Cornhuskers coach Mike Riley’s offense than departed starter Tommy Armstrong, but it’s fair to be skeptical about his ceiling.
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Stidham was a four-star recruit who started three games as a freshman at Baylor and looked pretty good (934 yards passing, six touchdowns and 63 percent completions). Stidham sat out last season, giving him plenty of time to learn Gus Malzahn’s spread offense. He is the most talented quarterback Auburn has had since Cam Newton, and the Tigers should provide him good weapons and protection. Expectations are really high for Stidham. Maybe too high?
Other notable transfer QBs who could play for new teams this season:
*Blake Barnett from Alabama to Arizona State (attended junior college most of last school year).
*Kyle Bolin from Louisville to Rutgers (graduate transfer).
*David Cornwell from Alabama to Nevada (graduate transfer).
*Caleb Henderson from North Carolina to Maryland (sat out last season).
*Chris Laviano from Rutgers to San Diego State (graduate transfer).
*Thomas Sirk from Duke to East Carolina (graduate transfer).