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What to Expect From Your New Grad Transfer QB?

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A look back to 2018’s transfers to gauge expectations for Ben Hicks

NCAA Football: Navy at Southern Methodist Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

So your school just got a Grad Transfer QB, it’s the hottest new trend in college football. Now what to expect from him? For Arkansas, Ben Hicks comes in with some pretty good numbers. On the positive side he knows the coaching staff, and the staff already has a good sense of his strengths and weaknesses as a quarterback. On the negative side, he’s coming into a rough situation, with a shaky at best offensive line and he’ll face stronger and faster defenses in the SEC.

Grad Transfers are a pretty new situation so there isn’t a ton of historical data, but we do have plenty of quarterbacks in 2018 to look to. According to Grad Transfer Tracker there were 24 grad transfer quarterbacks in FBS. From Joe Burrow to Jeff George Jr., here are the season stats for all 24 of those.

2018 Grad Transfer QB’s

QB School Transferred From School Transferred To COMP ATT % YDS TD INT
QB School Transferred From School Transferred To COMP ATT % YDS TD INT
Gardner Minshew East Carolina Washington St 468 662 70.7 4779 38 9
Brady White Arizona St Memphis 246 392 62.8 3296 26 9
Joe Burrow Ohio St LSU 219 379 57.8 2894 16 5
James Morgan Bowling Green FIU 213 326 65.3 2727 26 7
Blake Barnett Arizona St USF 214 350 61.1 2705 12 11
KJ Karta Samuels Washington Colorado St 183 296 61.8 2261 5 1
Tyler Weigers Iowa E Michigan 171 264 64.8 1887 11 3
Wilton Speight Michigan UCLA 126 208 60.6 1527 6 6
AJ Bush Virginia Tech Illinois 117 217 53.9 1413 6 10
Shawn Stankavage Vanderbilt Rice 124 219 56.6 1328 10 10
Justin McMilan LSU Tulane 79 154 51.3 1304 10 4
Jalan McClendon NC State Baylor 55 91 60.4 715 3 3
Evan Shirreffs Miami Charlotte 54 105 51.9 631 2 4
Alex Thompson Wagner Marshall 53 100 53 506 5 3
Keller Chryst Stanford Tennessee 23 51 45.1 450 3 2
DJ Gillins SMU UTSA 30 61 49.2 225 1 5
Rafe Peavey SMU FAU 20 34 58.8 147 0 2
Kolney Cassell Sacramento St Hawaii 1 1 100 8 0 0
Quinten Dormady Tennessee Houston 2 5 40 8 0 0
Jeff George Michigan Illinois 1 3 33.3 1 0 0
Alex Malzone Michigan Miami (OH) 0 4 0 0 0 0
Chris Chugunov W Virginia Ohio State 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dallas Davis S Alabama UAB 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dru Brown Hawaii Oklahoma St 0 0 0 0 0 0

There’s a huge range of stats there, and only two that transferred from a Group of 5 School to a Power 5 School like Arkansas’ Ben Hicks did. Those two were Gardner Minshew, undoubtedly the most successful of the bunch. And Dru Brown, who didn’t throw a pass.

Those are the two extremes obviously, anyone who expects Hicks to have a Minshew like impact is...

  • a) completely undervaluing Mike Leach’s development skills
  • b) unaware of the stability Leach brought to Washington State
  • c) is wildly optimistic
  • d) all of the above.

If he ends up not finding the field like Brown that would be a huge disappointment, although in fairness to Brown he is competing for the job this year after playing behind an established starter Taylor Cornelius.

So what’s in the middle? Well the average numbers for the transfer QB’s who threw more than 30 passes in 2018 look like this.

  • 57.89 Comp. %, 1790.5 yards per game, 11.25 touchdowns, 5.75 interceptions

The Average for those who played at Power 5 schools is a little better

  • 58.08 Comp. %, 1963 yards per game, 12 touchdowns, 5.83 interceptions

That looks a lot more like what a conservative guess of what Hicks’ numbers will be. An aggressive number would be getting to the 3,000 yard mark and Joe Burrow type numbers. Hicks came close to those numbers each year at SMU, but the adjustment from AAC defenses to SEC ones will be a big one.

Personally, splitting the difference there, getting 2,500 yards this season on 55% completion would be a nice improvement from last season. If he can keep the interceptions down like he did in 2018, then his season would look very similar to Brandon Allen’s 2014 year, which most Hog fans would take in a heartbeat.

So for 2019, expectations probably fall in the line of this. A Wilton Speight/A.J. Bush type season would be the low end. Most likely, I’d expect his numbers to fall in the line of K.J. Carta-Samuels. And exceeding expectations means Hicks is touching 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns on the year.