In case you haven’t heard, Lincoln Riley is now coaching USC and not Oklahoma. That deal went down quickly, as the Sooners lost to rival Oklahoma State on Saturday night and Riley was introduced as the next head coach of the Trojans’ football program on Sunday.
We got our guy.
— USC Football (@USC_FB) November 29, 2021
USC brass held a press conference on Monday to show off their new coach. LA Times’ columnist Bill Plaschke asked Riley how much time he thinks he needs to turn the program around and get it back to what it once was.
After joking that he had only been in LA for a few hours, Riley added something interesting.
“In this day and age, I think it can happen quickly, I do,” Riley said. “I think there’s a lot of good things going on in this program that we can absolutely build on. And I think in this day and age, with the way college football works, you can turn over rosters in so many different ways, and we’ll be very deliberate and creative and intentional with that.”
That’s code for scouring the transfer portal for players who can help win football games, which is exactly what Scott Frost and Nebraska—and everyone else—are looking to accomplish this offseason as well.
“This recruiting class, we’re going to focus on maybe some immediate-impact guys a little more. Probably not sign as many freshmen,” Frost said following the loss to Minnesota. “When you’re as close as we’ve been, one or two more pieces, one or two more guys can get you over the hump. We’re probably going to look to the transfer portal a little more, look to junior college a little more and focus on those things to make sure we replace a couple guys we might be losing and try to add just a couple more of the pieces I think we need.”
Along with finding a new offensive coordinator and an offensive line coach who can have better luck than the now-departed Greg Austin did, Frost should look for an upgrade at quarterback position. Following the news that four-year starter Adrian Martinez will not be returning to the program, Frost is left with little experience at the position.
Logan Smothers did well for three quarters against Iowa before disaster struck and freshman mistakes were made. It was his first game and the second-year freshman is still learning and growing. It’ll take time and many more live game reps for him to develop into the best version he can be. Heinrich Haarberg looks the part, but there is still so much unknown about how the Kearney Catholic product will do against Big Ten defenses. Class of 2022 quarterback commit Richard Torres of San Antonio isn’t on campus yet and is currently rehabbing an ACL injury.
That’s why, in a must-win-early 2022, Frost needs to see if there’s a quarterback in the portal who can help the team win now. If anything, having a transfer push both Smothers and Haarberg at practice can be beneficial.
Who are some of the quarterbacks in the portal? There are the big names, like Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler and UCF’s Dillon Gabriel. Rattler announced he was transferring shortly after the news that Riley took the USC job, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. And according to 247Sports, Gabriel is predicted to land at Ole Miss. That makes sense, too, as Rebels’ head coach Lane Kiffin likely wants a proven quarterback after current starter Matt Corral leaves, and Gabriel fits the Corral mold.
So, who are other options Nebraska could take a look at? Here are four, in no particular order.
Myles Brennan, LSU
Brennan has had bad luck in his college career. He waited for three seasons to get a shot at starting for LSU, and when he finally did, a scary abdomen injury cut his 2020 season short. Then he broke his arm in spring ball this past offseason, which gave way to Max Johnson, who made the most of the opportunity and now looks like the has a bright future as quarterback of the Tigers.
Brennan has the ideal size you’re looking for in a Big Ten quarterback at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. In 20 career games he completed 121 of 201 passes for 1,712 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Brennan wouldn’t fit the mold of previous run-first quarterbacks under Frost, but he can provide that down-field throwing threat. On more than one occasion, Nebraska receivers were running free down the field, but the ball wasn’t thrown because Martinez either didn’t see it or couldn’t make the throw. Maybe the pass-first Brennan could in those situations.
With rumors swirling about the possibility of a couple LSU assistant coaches with Nebraska ties—receivers coach Mickey Joseph and offensive coordinator Jake Peetz—joining Frost in Lincoln, could that mean Brennan would tag along?
Tommy DeVito, Syracuse
Like Frost and Nebraska did, Dino Babers and Syracuse are going through a staff shakeup following a 5-7 finish in 2021, the third straight losing season for the Orange. Babers, however, appears to be getting a seventh year, but a few of his assistants were let go.
Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, tight ends/inside receivers coach Reno Ferri and defensive line coach Vinson Reynolds were fired. The Orange also lost quarterback Tommy DeVito to the transfer portal. DeVito, a former four-star prospect, started for the Orange for two seasons but lost his job this season as Babers opted to go with Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader instead.
The 6-2, 215-pound DeVito completed 58.9% (377-of-572) of his passes and threw 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his career at Syracuse. He’s a tough runner, too, and rushed for 218 yards and four touchdowns in four seasons.
Babers took what he learned from the Art Briles-Baylor spread offense first to Bowling Green and then to Syracuse in 2016, so DeVito has plenty of experience quarterbacking a spread, up-tempo attack like Frost has favored.
Jack Miller, Ohio State
Miller doesn’t have a lot of experience as he’s attempted just 14 passes this season—he completed seven of them for 101 yards—but he’s still a young player looking for an opportunity.
Miller was a four-star prospect in the 2012 class coming out of Scottsdale, Arizona, and committed to the Buckeyes over other programs like Alabama, LSU, Michigan and just about everyone else. CJ Stroud looks like he’s the guy at Ohio State, so it’s not a shock that the 6-3, 215-pound Miller is seeking playing time elsewhere.
Wherever Miller chooses to go, he’ll push for starting time with the background he has.
Charlie Brewer, Utah via Baylor
If Frost is looking for experience, Brewer has plenty of it.
The Texas native played four seasons at Baylor, completing 63.5% (828-of-1,304) of his passes for 9,700 yards, 65 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. Following injuries and concussions, Brewer opted to transfer and landed at Utah this season, but left the team after three games.
Brewer should be a hot commodity in the portal as many teams across the country would like to have a quarterback with as much playing time under the belt as he does. He’s a dual-threat and has rushed for 1,055 yards and 22 touchdowns in his career, which included an 11-rushing-touchdown season in 2019 when Baylor went 11-3.
Brewer’s abrupt exit from Utah may scare some away, but many coaches will take the chance on him. Should the Huskers?