College football transfer portal decisions made a major impact on this spring’s way-too-early Heisman outlook ahead of the 2024 season, according to updated February odds from FanDuel Sportsbook. It comes as no surprise the race is once again quarterback driven. Many candidates reside in the Big Ten or SEC, expanded leagues with countlss spotlight games.
Several multi-year Power conference starters are playing elsewhere, including Will Howard (Ohio State), Cameron Ward (Miami) and Dillon Gabriel (Oregon), all becoming the new faces at respective league title contenders. Various factors define every Heisman contender’s path to New York, but eye-popping passing numbers and being the star of a team in the national conversation are the most important.
With the College Football Playoff expanding to 12, that could increase the numbers of legitimate candidates coming down the stretch unless there’s a player who separates himself from the rest of the pack early.
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Here are the updated Heisman odds with spring practice set to begin a few weeks from now…
Carson Beck, QB, Georgia (+750)
Carson Beck, who announced his return for another year at Georgia after the Bulldogs’ 60-point Orange Bowl win over Florida State, recorded the second-most passing yards (3,941) in a single season in program history last fall and his completion rate of 72.4 was one of the nation’s best. Beck started with 11-straight games eclipsing 250 yards passing, the same number Stetson Bennett had in 15 games during the 2022 season. In the SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama, Beck completed 21 passes on 29 attempts for 243 yards with a rushing touchdown.
Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas (+750)
Quinn Ewers returns in hopes of bringing the Longhorns a national championship as one of the nation’s top teams in 2024. Last season was Ewers’ best as a collegian after throwing for 3,479 yards and 22 touchdowns. Ewers is the first of several signal-callers in the expanded SEC who will be a forward-facing superstar of the sport, per updated Heisman odds. His 452-yard, four-touchdown effort in the Big 12 Championship Game was a career best. Texas added several high-end portal pass-catchers and Ewers has five-star Arch Manning waiting in the wings behind him.
Dillon Gabriel, QB, Oregon (+1000)
Following two statistically-impressive years at Oklahoma, Dillon Gabriel is on the move again for the third time in his lengthy college career, this time wrapping things up with the Ducks. He might be a Bo Nix-clone in terms of extending plays. Oregon reloaded with weaponry around the quarterback position, highlighted by a recent commitment from former five-star Texas A&M signee Evan Stewart, one of this cycle’s top receiving threats in the portal. UCLA transfer Dante Moore is behind him on the depth chart.
Will Howard, QB, Ohio State (Was +1500; Now +1000)
Former Kansas State quarterback Will Howard made his debut inside the Heisman’s top five with FanDuel’s eary-January update after transferring to Ohio State and continues to climb. There’s a certain amount of statistical expectations that go into playing quarterback for Ryan Day and the Buckeyes and oddsmakers know it. And considering Ohio State is bringing back Emeka Egbuka, TreVeyon Henderson and welcome Ole Miss star Quinshon Judkins to the offense, this unit should flourish under Howard’s direction. In two seasons as Kansas State’s starter, Howard threw 39 touchdown passes and ran for another 12 scores.
Jalen Milroe, QB, Alabama (Was +850; Now +1200)
Will Kalen DeBoer unlock Jalen Milroe to full potential? Well, his Heisman odds dropped following offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb’s departure to the Seattle Seahawks with this update. Alabama’s first-year starter last season helped the Crimson Tide win 11-straight games to reach the playoff, that coming after a Week 2 loss to Texas led to a temporary benching from Nick Saban. Milroe tossed 19 touchdown passes while rushing for 10 additional scores over that final stretch. The dual-threat figures to be the top-returning player offensively for a team that is inside the top five favorites to win a national championship despite losing several key contributors to the transfer portal.
Nico Iamaleava, QB, Tennessee (+1500)
Nico Iamaleava is wise beyond his years, evidenced by his performance in Tennessee’s Citrus Bowl win over Iowa as a first-time freshman starter. Taking over for Joe Milton following his NFL Draft entry, Iamaleava dissected an elite defense with fluidity, showcasing notable arm strength, accuracy and an ability to evade pressure. All those things are imperative for a Vols offense in 2024 that will be predicated on timing and rhythm. Iamaleava could have a Hendon Hooker-like season if Tennessee’s wide receiver group pans out with Bru McCoy leading the charge as the squad’s top returner at the position.
Garrett Nussmeier, QB, LSU (+1800)
Given LSU’s production at the quarterback position last season under elite offensive coaching this season, you can expect Garrett Nussmeier to flex impressive numbers next fall. Quarterbacks coach Joe Sloan has done a marvelous job with his room in Baton Rouge. The Tigers need pass-catchers to emerge following the exits of Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr., but LSU expects several portal additions to assist there, including Liberty star wideout CJ Daniels. Nussmeier waited his turn behind Daniels and has impressed in spots throughout his career, including his showing in the ReliaQuest Bowl win over Wisconsin.
Jaxson Dart, QB, Ole Miss (+1800)
Jaxson Dart came back for his senior season at Ole Miss, fantastic news for Lane Kiffin coming off an 11-win season. Dart improved substantially as a passer with 23 touchdowns and five interceptions while managing a career-best 65.1% completion rate. Dart held off Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders for QB1 in fall camp and never looked back in his second season as the Rebels’ starter. In the expanded SEC next fall, Dart is one of the league’s top returning players at the position and should get more play as a passer with star running back Quinshon Judkins entering the portal.
Noah Fifita, QB, Arizona (+2000)
Another quarterback inside the Heisman’s preseason top 10, Arizona’s Noah Fifita lost his coach, Jedd Fisch, to Washington, but decided to stick around with the Wildcats following the hire of San Jose State’s Brent Brennan as their new coach. As a redshirt freshman in 2023, Fifita threw for 2,869 yards and 25 touchdowns following an early-season injury to the team’s QB1, Jayden de Laura. Fifita was terrific as his time as the starter progressed, helping the Wildcats win seven-straight games to end the season.
Conner Weigman, QB, Texas A&M (+1800)
Texas A&M quarterback Conner Weigman sported a QBR of 87.2 as a freshman before injury cut his year short. Over four starts, he threw for 979 yards and eight touchdowns, including five during a win over New Mexico. He is the future of the offense for first-year coach Mike Elko and is cut from a similar, playmaking-cloth to that of former Duke signal-caller Riley Leonard. Weigman has a strong arm and is accurate with the football, but the Aggies might not win enough games in 2024 to be a serious candidate.
Cam Ward, QB, Miami (+2000)
Cam Ward told 247Sports in January he endured “many sleepless nights” in choosing another year in college at Miami over the 2024 NFL Draft. In doing so, the former Washington State star gives the Hurricanes the piece they were missing to their 2024 puzzle offensively following Tyler Van Dyke’s move to Wisconsin. In the Air Raid, Ward has a chance to take the ACC by storm as the league’s leading passer against the likes of several other top-end transfers — Grayson McCall at NC State and DJ Uiagalelei at Florida State.
Riley Leonard, QB, Notre Dame (+2000)
Duke’s Riley Leonard was the first major quarterback domino to fall this transfer cycle after committing to the Fighting Irish. One of the 2024’s best available, Leonard battled through an injury this season and arrives in South Bend with 24 career touchdown passes and, at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, is an ideal fit in Notre Dame’s offense schematically. This marks the second-consecutive season Notre Dame has tapped the portal for its new QB1 after landing accomplished Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman last January.
Jackson Arnold, QB, Oklahoma (Was +1800; Now +2200)
Jackson Arnold was good in spots during Oklahoma’s bowl loss to Arizona, but his first-career start as a freshman was turnover-filled early. Insiders suggest Arnold has all the intangibles to execute the Sooners’ attack with precision and he seems to have the utmost confidence from coach Brent Venables, who added new coordinators on both sides of the football. In the new SEC, Arnold will get countless spotlight opportunities against quality competition.