There exists numerous possibilities for intriguing storylines in the 2019 College Football Playoff. For instance, an Oklahoma-Alabama matchup would not only be a rematch of the 2018 Orange Bowl semifinal, but a game pitting Jalen Hurts against his old team. Georgia could face a similar scenario against former Bulldog quarterbacks Justin Fields (Ohio State) or Jacob Eason (Washington).

Gone are the days when the typical FBS quarterback recruit was also the starting point guard, the shortstop and ran the anchor leg on the 4×400 relay. Quarterbacks specialize much earlier than they used to; two Power 5 personnel directors, independent of each other, estimated to FootballScoop that 85 to 90 percent of FBS quarterback recruits work with private coaches in high school. “I see middle schoolers (working with QB tutors) all the time,” one said.

To be sure, some players still sit and wait their turn. Toledo’s Mitchell Guadagni did not throw a single pass until his redshirt sophomore season and did not start until he was a redshirt junior, then led the MAC in passing efficiency. Purdue’s Elijah Sindlear is a first-time starter as a fifth-year senior.

While those stories do exist, they are exceptions. Far more emblematic of the current moment are these respective quarterback battles:

  • Oklahoma State: redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders beats out graduate transfer Dru Brown
  • TCU: graduate transfer Alex Delton beats out true freshman Max Duggan
  • North Carolina: true freshman Sam Howell wins the job, causing redshirt freshman Cade Fortin to transfer

And then there is the situation at Ohio State, where the Buckeyes’ quarterback room has become ground zero of the quarterback transfer market. First, Joe Burrow graduate transferred to LSU after losing out to Dwayne Haskins. After Haskins entered the draft following just one year as a starter, Justin Fields transferred in from Georgia. Fields’ arrival caused Tate Martell to leave for Miami and Matthew Baldwin to exit for TCU. Fields won the quarterback job, but only after beating out West Virginia transfer Chris Chugunov and Kentucky transfer Gunnar Hoak.

FootballScoop has catalogued all 130 FBS starting quarterbacks, breaking each player into four loose-fitting categories: active true or redshirt freshmen, veterans who played significant snaps as freshmen, transfers, and a fourth group we’ll call unicorns, guys who did not play as freshmen and did not transfer before winning their respective jobs.

The population of those groups break out as follows:

16 active true or redshirt freshmen
42 veterans who played significant snaps as freshmen
41 transfers
31 unicorns

In all, 76.2% of all FBS starting quarterbacks fall in the first three categories.

Within those 41 transfers, 28 — more than one in five among all FBS starting quarterbacks — signed with a different FBS school than the one they now start for.

While one might assume the talent flows downward, where Group of 5 schools take quarterbacks that could not win jobs the Power 5 schools they sign with out of high school, the data did not bear that out. Sixteen of the 28 FBS-to-FBS transfer starters are at the Power 5 level, with just 12 in Group of 5. (Six of those 12 are in the American.)

In fact, 11 of the 26 starters in the Big Ten and SEC are FBS-to-FBS transfers, while none of the 22 combined starters in the Mountain West and Sun Belt fall in that category. Not a single conference has even 50 percent of its starting quarterbacks classified as unicorns, the closest being the ACC (6-of-14, 42.8%) and one of those started as a true sophomore. The Big 12 and the SEC do not have a single unicorn among their 24 combined starters.

A full accounting of all 130 FBS starting quarterbacks can be found below.

AMERICAN
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati — Threw 311 passes, rushed 150 times as a redshirt freshman
David Pindell, Connecticut — Transfer (from Lackawanna College)
Holton Ahlers, East Carolina — Started five games as a true freshman
D’Eriq King, Houston — Started four games as a true freshman
Brady White, Memphis — Transfer (from Arizona State)
— Malcolm Perry, Navy — Started consistently as a true sophomore
Blake Barnett, South Florida — Transfer (from Arizona State, signed with Alabama out of high school)
Shane Buechele, SMU — Transfer (from Texas)
— Anthony Russo, Temple — Did not start until redshirt sophomore season
— Justin McMillan, Tulane — Transfer (from LSU)
— Zach Smith, Tulsa — Transfer (from Baylor)
Brandon Wimbush, UCF — Transfer (from Notre Dame)
TOTAL: 0 freshmen | 3 vets who played as freshmen | 7 transfers | 2 unicorns

ACC
— Anthony Brown, Boston College — Started 10 games as a true freshman
— Trevor Lawrence, Clemson — Started 10 games as a true freshman
— Quentin Harris, Duke — Did not start until redshirt junior year
— James Blackman, Florida State — Started 12 games as a true freshman
— Tobias Oliver, Georgia Tech — Redshirt freshman
— Jawon Pass, Louisville — Did not start until redshirt sophomore year
— Jarren Williams, Miami — Redshirt freshman
— Sam Howell, North Carolina — True freshman
— Matthew McKay, NC State — First time starter as a redshirt sophomore
— Kenny Pickett, Pitt — Started as a true sophomore
— Tommy DeVito, Syracuse — First time starter as a redshirt sophomore
— Bryce PerkinsVirginia — Transfer (from Arizona Western Community College)
— Ryan Willis, Virginia Tech — Transfer (from Kansas)
— Jamie Newman, Wake Forest — Didn’t start until end of redshirt sophomore season
TOTAL: 
freshmen | vets who played as freshmen | 2 transfers | 6 unicorns

BIG 12
— Charlie Brewer, Baylor — Big 12 Co-Freshman of the Year as a true freshman
— Brock Purdy, Iowa State — Started eight games as a true freshman
— Carter Stanley, Kansas — Started three games as a redshirt freshman
— Skylar Thompson, Kansas State — Started four games as a redshirt freshman
— Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma — Transfer (from Alabama)
— Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State — Redshirt freshman
— Sam Ehlinger, Texas — Started six games as a true freshman
— Alex Delton, TCU — Transfer (from Kansas State)
— Alan Bowman, Texas Tech — Started seven games as a true freshman
— Austin Kendall, West Virginia — Transfer (from Oklahoma)
TOTAL: freshmen | 5 vets who played as freshmen | 3 transfers | 0 unicorns

BIG TEN
— Brandon Peters, Illinois — Transfer (from Michigan)
— Michael Penix, Indiana — Redshirt freshman
— Nate Stanley, Iowa — Did not start until true sophomore season
— Josh Jackson, Maryland — Transfer (from Virginia Tech)
— Shea Patterson, Michigan — Transfer (from Ole Miss)
— Brian Lewerke, Michigan State — Started two games as a redshirt freshman
— Tanner Morgan, Minnesota — Started six games as a redshirt freshman
— Adrian Martinez, Nebraska — Started 11 games as a true freshman
— Hunter Johnson, Northwestern — Transfer (from Clemson)
— Justin Fields, Ohio State — Transfer (from Georgia)
— Sean Clifford, Penn State — First time starter as a redshirt sophomore
— Elijah Sindlear, Purdue — Ultimate unicorn: first-year starter as a fifth-year senior
— McLane Carter, Rutgers — Transfer (from Texas Tech)
— Jack Coan, Wisconsin — Played sparingly as a freshman and sophomore
TOTAL: 1 freshman | 3 vets who played as freshmen | 6 transfers | 4 unicorns

CONFERENCE USA
— Chris Reynolds, Charlotte — Started six games as a redshirt freshman
— Chris Robison, Florida Atlantic — Transfer (from Oklahoma)
— James Morgan, FIU — Transfer (from Bowling Green)
— J’Mar Smith, Louisiana Tech — Played in seven games as a redshirt freshman, but did not become full-time starter until sophomore season
— Isaiah Green, Marshall — Started nine games as a redshirt freshman
— Asher O’Hara — Transfer (from College of DuPage)
— Mason Fine, North Texas — Threw 261 passes in 10 games as a true freshman
— Blake LaRussa, Old Dominion — Played as a redshirt freshman, but not significantly until his redshirt junior year
— Wiley Green, Rice — Redshirt freshman
— Jack Abraham, Southern Miss — Transfer (from Northwest Mississippi Community College)
— Tyler Johnston III, UAB — Did not start until tail end of his redshirt sophomore season
— Brandon Jones, UTEP — Transfer (from Bakersfield College)
— Frank Harris, UTSA — Redshirt freshman
— Steven Duncan, WKU — Did not see significant action until his redshirt sophomore season
TOTAL: 2 freshmen | 3 vets who played as freshmen | 5 transfers | 4 unicorns

INDEPENDENTS
— Kelvin Hopkins, Jr., Army — Made first start as a redshirt sophomore
— Zach Wilson, BYU — Started seven games as a true freshman
— Stephen Calvert, Liberty — Started seven games as a true freshman
— Josh Adkins, New Mexico State — Started eight games as a redshirt freshman
— Ian Book, Notre Dame — Did not start until redshirt sophomore season
— Randall West, UMass — First-time starter as a fifth year senior
TOTAL: 0 freshmen | 3 vets who played as freshmen | 0 transfers | 3 unicorns

MAC
— Kato Nelson, Akron — Started five games as a redshirt freshman
— Drew Plitt, Ball State — First-time starter as a redshirt junior
— Darius Wade, Bowling Green — Transfer (from Boston College)
— Matt Myers, Buffalo — Redshirt freshman
— Quinten Dormady, Central Michigan — Transfer (from Tennessee)
— Mike Glass III, Eastern Michigan — Transfer (from Southwestern College)
— Woody Barrett, Kent State — Transfer (from Auburn)
— Brett Gabbert, Miami (Ohio) — True freshman
— Ross Bowers, Northern Illinois — Transfer (from California)
— Nathan Rourke, Ohio — Transfer (from Fort Scott Community College)
— Mitchell Guadagni, Toledo — Did not start until redshirt junior season
— 
Jon Wassink, Western Michigan — Did not start until redshirt sophomore season
TOTAL: 2 freshmen | 1 vet who played as a freshman | 6 transfers | 3 unicorns

MOUNTAIN WEST
— Isaiah Sanders, Air Force — Did not start until redshirt sophomore season
— Hank Bachmeier, Boise State — True freshman
— Collin Hill, Colorado State — Started four games as a true freshman
— Jorge Reyna, Fresno State — Transfer (from West Los Angeles College)
— Cole McDonald, Hawaii — Did not start until redshirt sophomore season
— Carson Strong, Nevada — Redshirt freshman
— Brandt Hughes, New Mexico — Transfer (from Butte Junior College)
— Ryan Agnew, San Diego State — Did not start until redshirt junior season
— Josh Love, San Jose State — Played as a redshirt freshman, first started as a sophomore
— 
Armani Rogers, UNLV — Started nine games as a redshirt freshman
— Jordan Love, Utah State — Started six games as a redshirt freshman
— Sean Chambers, Wyoming — Redshirt freshman
TOTAL: 3 freshmen | 3 vets who played as freshmen | 2 transfers | 4 unicorns

PAC-12
— Khalil Tate, Arizona — Played in seven games with one start as a true freshman
— Jayden Daniels, Arizona State — True freshman
— Chase Garbers, Cal — Started 10 games as a true redshirt freshman
— Steven Montez, Colorado — Started three games as a redshirt freshman
— Justin Herbert, Oregon — Started seven games as a true freshman
— Jake Luton, Oregon State — Transfer (from Ventura Community College)
— KJ Costello, Stanford — Started seven games as a redshirt freshman
— Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA — Started seven games as a true freshman
— JT Daniels, USC — Started 11 games as a true freshman
— Tyler Huntley, Utah — Did not start until true sophomore season
— Jacob Eason, Washington — Transfer (from Georgia)
— Anthony Gordon, Washington State — Transfer (from City College of San Francisco)
TOTAL: 1 freshman | 7 vets who played as freshmen | 3 transfers | 1 unicorn

SEC
— Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama — Played sparing but important snaps as a freshman. You may recall them
— Ben Hicks, Arkansas — Transfer (from SMU)
— Bo Nix, Auburn — True freshman
— Feleipe Franks, Florida — Started eight games as a redshirt freshman
— Jake Fromm, Georgia — Started 14 games as a true freshman
— Terry Wilson, Kentucky — Transfer (from Garden City Community College)
— Joe Burrow, LSU — Transfer (from Ohio State)
— Matt Corral, Ole Miss — Redshirt freshman
— Tommy Stevens, Mississippi State — Transfer (from Penn State)
— Kelly Bryant, Missouri — Transfer (from Clemson)
— Jake Bentley, South Carolina — Started seven games as a true freshman
— Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee — Started six games as a redshirt freshman
— Kellen Mond, Texas A&M — Started eight games as a true freshman
— Riley Neal, Vanderbilt — Transfer (from Ball State)
TOTAL: 2 freshmen | 6 vets who played as freshmen | 6 transfers | 0 unicorns

SUN BELT
— Zac Thomas, Appalachian State — Did not start until redshirt sophomore season
— Logan Bonner, Arkansas State — First-time starter as a redshirt junior
— Fred Payton, Coastal Carolina — Started four games as a true freshman
— Shai Werts, Georgia Southern — Started 11 games as a redshirt freshman
— Dan Ellington, Georgia State — Transfer (from Itawamba Community College)
— Levi Lewis, Louisiana-Lafayette — Started three games as a true freshman
— Cephus Johnson, South Alabama — First-time starter as a redshirt sophomore
— Tyler Vitt, Texas State — Started five games as a true freshman
— Kaleb Barker, Troy — Did not start until true junior season
— Caleb Evans, ULM — Started four games as a true freshman
TOTAL: 0 freshmen | 5 vets who played as freshmen | 1 transfer | 4 unicorns

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National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.