|Former FSU QB Jacob Coker is the favorite to start for Alabama after transferring in the offseason.|
When the NCAA passed the graduate-transfer exception in 2006, many college football coaches called it the start of free agency. They were on-point for the most part -- the exception and the related graduate-transfer waiver have functioned similarly to free agency for players that have an undergraduate degree, but it has been a remarkable success in getting players a diploma and a better opportunity on the field.
The rule served Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson very well when he went from N.C. State to Wisconsin in 2011 and promptly led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. The Wolfpack ended up starting Mike Glennon at quarterback that season and he went on to become a third-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their potential quarterback of the future.
Which graduate transfers could have on-field success in 2014? Here are 10 players that could have a Wilson-like impact on their team after transferring to be in a grad program. The players are ranked based on the impact we expect them to make next season, from least impactful to most impactful.
10. QB Michael Brewer, Texas Tech to Virginia TechLogan Thomas has moved to the NFL, and apparently the Hokies are ready to move on from the other quarterback options on their roster. Brewer was slated to be the Red Raiders' starter last season but injuries caused him to fall behind a pair of freshmen and he never made a start for Texas Tech. He can't match what Thomas offered in size, but he is arguably a better passer than any of the recent Hokies quarterbacks. If healthy and given some good offensive game plans (neither is a sure thing), Brewer could be a big boost for the team in the ACC.
9. DE Jordan Allen, LSU to ArizonaIt's not often that a Pac-12 program picks up an SEC transfer on defense, but Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez received a nice boost when Allen made the move West. He played in 13 games last season for the Tigers and should be able to provide good size, speed and ability to the Wildcats' defense in 2014.
8. OL Malcolm Bunche, Miami to UCLAHe had some ups and downs at Miami but will be a big boost for UCLA, which has to replace stud left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo. Bunche is a big addition (literally and figuratively) and gives the team some flexibility in playing both guard and tackle. The team has had to do some shuffling up front due to injuries, so Bunche should be a quality addition for Jim Mora.
7. QB Clint Trickett, Florida State to West VirginiaTo be fair, he transferred last year and started seven games for West Virginia, but his final season with the program should allow him to have the biggest impact. He had some good moments last season despite tearing his labrum. He should be healthy and have a full understanding of head coach Dana Holgorsen's offense as he attempts to get the team back to a bowl game.
6. TE Jake McGee, Virginia to FloridaThe Gators' offense last year was, um, not even close to being good, but McGee is a nice weapon. One of the few bright spots for Virginia during his time with the program, he should fit in nicely with new Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's system and become a much-needed safety net for quarterback Jeff Driskel.
5. C Chad Lindsay, Alabama to Ohio StateThe Buckeyes are rebuilding the offensive line and adding Lindsay should give them a big boost. He started several games with the Crimson Tide and had extensive experience during his four seasons in Tuscaloosa. He might have been the center for the Tide had he stuck around, but instead will be a big part of Urban Meyer's offense snapping the ball to Braxton Miller.
4. QB Brandon Connette, Duke to Fresno StateDerek Carr was the nation's leading passer with the Bulldogs and was a second-round pick by the Raiders in the draft, so he left some big shoes to fill. Connette isn't a quarterback who will throw it 50 times a game, as Carr often did, but he should contribute as a dual-threat option for the team. Considering how successful he was with the Blue Devils despite splitting time, Connette could be a big boost for a team looking to replace a ton of production at quarterback.
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3. CB Cody Riggs, Florida to Notre DameHe played both cornerback and safety for the Gators but is heading to South Bend to play corner. Adding an experienced (26 career starts), SEC-quality corner is a big coup for the Irish with a schedule that features some high-powered offenses like Florida State, Arizona State and USC in addition to pass-happy attacks like North Carolina and Louisville.
2. DE Shaquille Riddick, Gardner-Webb to West VirginiaThe Mountaineers haven't had a great defense in the past few years and were searching for a replacement for third-round pick Will Clarke. Dana Holgorsen lucked out in landing Riddick, an All-American last season who was second in the FCS in tackles for loss to go with 8.5 sacks. He's a prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft and should be a big boost for West Virginia's defense.
1. QB Jacob Coker, Florida State to AlabamaForget just the graduate transfers -- Coker might have the biggest impact of any transfer after making the move to the Crimson Tide. He will presumably be the starter in the fall after most of Alabama's other options at signal-caller failed to impress during spring practices. He nearly beat out Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston for the starting job at Florida State before last season and might have one of the best arms in the SEC, if the hype is to be believed. If Nick Saban wants to win the SEC West and get into the College Football Playoff, he better hope Coker is as advertised.
Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.