This is all Russell Wilson’s fault.
Given the too-good-to-be-true career arc of the Seattle Seawhawks quarterback, you knew we (the evil media) would find something to blame on poor, Saint Russell.
Of course, this is a reference to “free agency” in college football, specifically at the quarterback position.
Nevermind there’s nothing free about the choice, or the price to leave, but don’t interrupt the narrative. When Wilson left N.C. State, as a graduate, and finished his career at Wisconsin in 2011, he did so well — leading the Badgers to a Big Ten title — he started a trend.
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If Wilson could make the transition look that easy, then others could, too.
Three of the four teams who made the College Football Playoff last season (Oregon, Florida State, Alabama) have graduate transfers at quarterback this season. That’s kind of an absurd coincidence when you think about it, but it does make you wonder if there’s a glitch in the system?
The answer, of course, is no. Since 2006, the NCAA has allowed athletes who graduate and still have a year of eligibility left to transfer and play without sitting out a year.
Undergraduates who choose to transfer have to sit out one year, which is a deterrent for most but not a deal-breaker.
The graduate transfer rule is a reward and one Wilson used to his and Wisconsin’s advantage. There are plenty of examples of it not working, including one at Wisconsin.
Danny O’Brien, the ACC rookie of the year at Maryland in 2010, left after the 2011 season and followed Wilson to Wisconsin only to become a backup. He eventually left the Badgers and finished his career at Catawba.
There are some within the self-proclaimed “Autonomous 5” conferences (“Power 5” to the rest of us) who are opposed to the rule, mainly because their default position on anything that benefits the players is “Get off my lawn!”
But there’s nothing wrong with letting the market sort itself. If Vernon Adams (Eastern Washington to Oregon), Jake Coker (Florida State to Alabama) and Everett Golson (Notre Dame to Florida State) all turn out to be “the next Russell Wilson,” then good for them and good for their new schools.
If they don’t, then those schools have cost themselves a year of development with a player they have recruited and will think twice about taking transfers in the future.
The schools and the NCAA would be smart to just give the one progressive rule they have passed in the last 100 years a chance to play out.
A weekly review of who’s trending:
High-profile defensive coordinators: UNC couldn’t have asked for much more from new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, even in defeat. The Tar Heels held South Carolina to 17 points, which was the fewest points they’ve allowed since a 39-17 Belk Bowl win over Cincinnati in 2013.
Auburn (Will Muschamp) and Texas A&M (John Chavis) both got early returns out of their new coordinators in winning efforts.
Neutral-site games: The games in Charlotte (UNC-South Carolina), Atlanta (Louisville-Auburn), Dallas (Alabama-Wisconsin) and Houston (Texas A&M-Arizona State) were the most interesting of the opening week. There is a risk to playing good teams early but the payoff is understanding where your team really is. The bigger games are also better for fans.
A preseason game against lower Division I teams in August would get most of the less interesting matchups out of the way, and add a revenue stream, but few schools seem interested in making more money or pleasing their fans.
Injuries: There were too many, to too many important players in the first week of the season.
Inside the ACC, Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt tore his Achilles’ tendon and will miss the rest of the season, after missing seven games last year with a broken leg.
Pitt running back James Conner hurt his knee in the first half of the Panthers’ win over Youngstown State and Clemson receiver Mike Williams had a scary collision with the goalpost in the first quarter of the Tigers’ easy win over Wofford. Both are expected to be OK.
Outside the ACC, BYU quarterback Taysom Hill (foot) is out for the year, Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright (knee) is out for a month and new Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams got knocked out of the Ducks’ win over Eastern Washington
Jim Harbaugh: His new Big Ten team (Michigan) lost to a Pac-12 team (Uta) and his old Pac-12 team (Stanford) lost to a Big Ten team. That doesn’t bode well for his old NFL team (San Francisco) next Sunday.