USC, Oregon start new eras with impact transfers

The Pac-12 has four new coaches heading into the 2022 season, and all of them might be starting a transfer quarterback this season. 

This is the new normal, right? 

That starts at the top with USC and Oregon. The Trojans hired Lincoln Riley and made the biggest splash of the transfer portal when Caleb Williams followed his coach to USC. Oregon hired Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, and three-year Auburn starter Bo Nix followed him to Eugene. 

TROCCHI: Williams’ transfer to USC will accelerate Riley’s rebuild

Washington coach Kalen DeBoer has Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. among his starting options, and Washington State’s Jake Dickert has brought in an FCS superstar in Incarnate Word’s Cameron Ward. 

Those are the top storylines that could have as many as six or seven teams start a transfer quarterback in 2022. 

What do the rest of those quarterback rooms in the Pac-12 look like? Sporting News will sort out the returners and transfers, with the promise that there is more to come this offseason. 


Today we breakdown the Pac-12. Let’s go alphabetical by division.

Pac-12 North 

Cal (5-7, 4-5)

2021 recap: Cal finished 5-7, and senior quarterback Chase Garbers finished with 2,531 yards, 16 TDs and eight interceptions. Garbers ranked fourth in the conference in passing yards. 

2021-22 offseason: Garbers entered the NFL Draft, and coach Justin Wilcox and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave are looking for the right answer among six quarterbacks on the roster. Purdue transfer Jack Plummer will be the front-runner based on experience, but he will get a push from sophomore Zach Johnson and redshirt freshman Kai Millner. 

What to look for in spring: Plummer’s experience makes him the favorite to land the job, but will he take hold of it in spring practice? 

Oregon (10-4, 7-2)

2021 recap: The Ducks won the Pac-12 North, and Boston College transfer Anthony Brown led the Pac-12 with 2,998 passing yards. Brown also had 18 TDs and seven interceptions. Ty Thompson played sparingly behind Brown. 

2021-22 offseason: Coach Mario Cristobal left for Miami and was replaced by Lanning. Nix, a three-year starter with 39 TDs and 16 interceptions through an up-and-down career, transferred to Oregon. Ducks quarterback Robby Ashford transferred to Auburn. 

What to look for in spring: Kenny Dillingham, who spent the past two seasons at Florida State, replaces Joe Moorhead as offensive coordinator. It might be presumptuous to think Nix lands the job. Expect Thompson, a four-star recruit in the 2020 class, to make this a true competition. 

Oregon State (7-6, 5-4)

2021 recap: Redshirt sophomore Chance Nolan won the starting job and led the Beavers to a winning record. He finished with 2,677 passing yards, 19 TDs and 10 interceptions. Colorado transfer Sam Noyer was the primary backup. 

2021-22 offseason: Coach Jonathan Smith and offensive Brian Lindgren remain together. Noyer is gone, and Sam Vidlak transferred to Boise State. Nolan remains the best bet to start, but Tristan Gebbia and Ben Gulbranson will make that a competition. Travis Throckmorton, a three-star recruit from Simi Valley, Calif., has time to break in. 

What to look for in spring: Nolan has the experience factor, but Gebbia, who started in four games in 2020 before a season-ending injury and didn’t play last season, could be in the mix if healthy. 

Stanford (3-9, 2-7)

2021 recap: Tanner McKee started in 10 games in 2021. He missed two games because of a leg injury. McKee finished with 2,327 yards, 15 TDs and seven interceptions, with the highlight a 230-yard, three-TD performance in the overtime victory against Oregon. Unfortunately, the Cardinal lost McKee’s next five starts. 

2021-22 offseason: Is longtime coach David Shaw on the hot seat? Tavita Pritchard is back as the offensive coordinator, and there were no arrivals or departures in the transfer portal. Three-star quarterback Ashton Daniels was the lone QB in the 2022 recruiting class. 

What to look for in spring: McKee showed flashes but needs to be more consistent. Isaiah Sanders, a graduate transfer from Air Force, will stick in the backup role. 

Washington (4-8, 3-6)

2021 recap: Dylan Morris started in 11 games for the Huskies. He finished with 2,458 yards, 14 TDs and 12 interceptions. Five-star freshman Sam Huard saw action in four games and finished with 241 yards, one TD and four interceptions. 

2021-22 offseason: Jimmy Lake was fired, and DeBoer is the new head coach after two years at Fresno State. DeBoer developed Jake Haener as a pro prospect while there and can do the same in what might be the Pac-12’s most interesting competition. The quarterback room added Penix from Indiana. Penix has dealt with injuries the past two seasons but is a dynamic playmaker when healthy. 

What to look for in spring: Morris won the starting job last year, and Huard is a legacy player and fan favorite. Penix, however, is the most experienced of the three and could help DeBoer make that transition in Year 1. 

Washington State (7-6, 6-3)

2021 recap: Jayden de Laura took over the starting job for the Cougars. He beat out Tennessee transfer Jarrett Guarantano for the starting job and passed for 2,802 yards, 23 TDs and nine interceptions in a year when Nick Rolovich was fired during the season. 

2021-22 offseason: Dickert took over as head coach, and de Laura transferred to Arizona. Ward, who won the Jerry Rice Award as a freshman in 2020 and passed for 4,647 yards and 47 TDs last season, transferred in from Incarnate Word. Three-star quarterback John Mateer also joined through this year’s recruiting class.

What to look for in spring: Ward brings a high fascination factor to the new offense and it will be interesting to see how that translates with Dickert and offensive coordinator Eric Morris, who was the head coach at Incarnate Word from 2018 to 2021. 

MORE: NFL Draft prospects for 2022

Pac-12 South 

Arizona Wildcats (1-11, 1-8)

2021 recap: The Wildcats struggled in Jedd Fisch’s first season, and it wasn’t pretty at quarterback. Will Plummer, Gunner Cruz and Jordan McCloud combined for 10 TDs and 17 interceptions. 

2021-22 offseason: Washington State’s Jayden de Laura, who passed for 3,684 yards, 28 TDs and 13 interceptions over two seasons, transferred to Arizona. Three-star recruit Noah Fafifta gives the Wildcats five scholarship quarterbacks on the roster heading into spring practice. 

What to look for in spring: Fisch and offensive coordinator Brennan Carroll will promise an open competition, but it’s one they want de Laura, who led the conference in passing TDs, to win early. 

Arizona State (8-5, 6-3)


2021 recap: Jayden Daniels completed his third year as a starter in Herm Edwards’ fourth year as coach. Daniels struggled with 2,381 passing yards, 10 TDs and 10 interceptions. He did have a career-high 710 rushing yards and six TDs. 

2021-22 offseason: Daniels announced his return for his senior year, which gives him one more chance to recapture the form he had as a freshman. Sun Devils offensive coordinator Zak Hill resigned amid an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations and was replaced by Glenn Thomas, who had the same job at UNLV. Thomas was the quarterbacks coach for the Atlanta Falcons from 2012 to 2014 and will bring pro-style principles to that offense. Alabama’s Paul Tyson transferred to Arizona State, too. 

What to look for in spring: Daniels will be the starter, but Tyson will give a much-needed push in the spring. Given the NCAA investigation and lukewarm conference record last year, it’s a big year for Edwards. 

Colorado Buffaloes (4-8, 3-6)

2021 recap: Brendon Lewis started in 12 games for the Buffaloes. He finished with 1,540 yards, 10 TDs and three interceptions. Colorado averaged 18.8 points per game in Karl Dorrell’s second season. 

2021-22 offseason: The Buffaloes have a new offensive coordinator in Mike Sanford Jr. He comes from Minnesota, where he had the same position the past two seasons. Lewis returns as a redshirt sophomore. The room added Houston transfer Maddox Kopp and incoming freshman Owen McCown, a lefthander who is the son of NFL journeyman quarterback Josh McCown. 

What to look for in spring: Lewis needs to get the offense going with Sanford. Lewis will be under center for the Buffaloes in Week 1. 

UCLA Bruins (8-4, 6-3)

2021 recap: Dorian Thompson-Robinson completed his fourth year as the starting quarterback. He finished with 2,409 passing yards, 611 rushing yards and 30 total TDs. Washington transfer Ethan Garbers played in five games in backup duty.   

2021-22 offseason: Thompson-Robinson will return as a Super Senior quarterback for Chip Kelly, who also is in his fifth year. That tandem has produced an 18-25 record the past four years, including a 16-18 mark in conference play. The Bruins will have a new offensive coordinator in 2022 after Justin Frye left for Ohio State. Kajiya Hollawayne transferred to Grambling. 

What to look for in spring: It’s now-or-never time for Thompson-Robinson, and the extra year is a good thing. Four-star freshman Justyn Martin, a local star from Inglewood High School, will have a year to develop in the starting role. 

USC (4-8, 3-6)

2021 recap: Clay Helton was fired after two games. Kedon Slovis played in nine games and finished with 2,153 yards, 11 TDs and eight interceptions. Jaxson Dart finished with 1,353 yards, nine TDs and five interceptions. 

2021-22 offseason: The Trojans made the splash hire of the offseason with Riley, and that cleared the quarterback room. Slovis transferred to Pitt and Dart transferred to Ole Miss. USC got Williams, who took over the starting job at Oklahoma at midseason and brings an NFL skill set to the Trojans’ offense. USC also has a commitment from five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson for the class of 2023. It didn’t take long for Riley to make an impact. 

What to look for in spring: How does Williams adjust to the new surroundings, where the pressure will be more intense? Williams will be among the Heisman favorites early in the season. 

Utah (10-4, 8-1)

2021 recap: Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer left the team after three games, which opened the door for sophomore Cameron Rising to take control of the job. Rising passed for 2,493 yards, 20 TDs and five interceptions and led the Utes to a Pac-12 championship. He was injured during the Rose Bowl and replaced by Bryson Barnes, who led a TD drive in the fourth quarter. 

2021-22 offseason: Kyle Whittingham returns Rising and Barnes, and the Utes added Elite 11 quarterback Nate Johnson to the room.

What to look for in spring: Rising gives the Utes continuity they didn’t have early last season. He will build on a strong Rose Bowl performance.

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