Quarterback transfers to watch

As spring football begins to hit its stride (most teams will open this month), it’s important to look at some of the key contributors that were sitting on the bench last year. I’m talking about the transfers, the guys who left schools from automatic qualifying conferences to help a non-AQ find success.

There are a lot of major transfers on non-AQ teams that are eligible to play this season, but none are more important than the quarterbacks. Several teams are looking to replace starters or just get some new blood under center.

Here’s a look at my top five quarterback transfers from AQ teams:

Wesley Carroll, FIU: Carroll comes to FIU after a pretty fantastic start at Mississippi State and is the favorite to replace graduated starter Paul McCall. Carroll started nine games as a true freshman in 2007 (played in all 13) and was named SEC freshman first-team. He started four games as a sophomore for the Bulldogs before deciding to transfer after he lost his job to junior college transfer Tyson Lee. During the FIU spring game last year, Carroll completed 11-of-17 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. FIU had a down year in 2009, mostly because of injuries, but with a couple key transfers and two strong recruiting classes, this could be the year the Golden Panthers reverse their fortunes.

Taylor Cook, Rice: The Owls will actually have two transfers vying for the starting quarterback position this year. Cook came over from Miami last year and sat out, and Nick Fanuzzi, who started eight games last season, transferred from Alabama after the 2007 season. Fanuzzi put up nice numbers last year, but didn’t have a lot of help. Cook enters the spring with a nice pedigree but doesn’t have any collegiate experience. Cook actually entered Miami’s 2009 spring practices as the No. 2 quarterback before opting to transfer.

Phil Bates, Ohio: Bates came over from Iowa State and was actually a wide receiver as a true freshman before switching to quarterback his sophomore year. He completed 14-of-24 passes for 137 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and he ran 24 times for 166 yards. He’s the type of dual-threat quarterback coach Frank Solich likes in his system and the battle with Boo Jackson, who missed last year with an injury, will be interesting. Bates’ versatility (he did catch five passes for 73 yards) will make it tough to keep him off the field.

Willy Korn, Marshall: Korn was a surprise pick up for new head coach Doc Holliday. Korn is graduating in May and will have two years of eligibility remaining. Since he won’t be around until the fall, it will be hard for him to wrestle the starting role away from Brian Anderson. Anderson threw for more than 2,600 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he also had 13 interceptions. In three seasons at Clemson, Korn completed 46-of-66 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns. He also battled a shoulder injury.

Cannon Smith, Memphis: Smith was a big pickup for Memphis, especially since the Tigers graduated three senior quarterbacks. Cannon played in one game as a true freshman at Miami in 2008, but was injured and ultimately took a medical redshirt. Smith will challenge sophomore Tyler Bass, who played in four games and had three starts last year, and sophomore Will Gilchrist. The starting role will probably come down to Smith and Bass.