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This Year’s Heisman Finalists Embraces The Era Of The NIL And The Portal

Heisman Trophy finalists, from left, LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., Oregon quarterback Bo Nix and Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. pose for a photo with the Heisman Trophy, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in New York. The Heisman Trophy will be announced Saturday, Dec. 9. (Photo/Marvin Chambers)

Marriott Marquis —This year Heisman Trophy winner is likely to be a transfer quarterback for the fifth time in the last seven years.

Three of the four Heisman finalists are signal caller who blew up at their second schools and were getting more opportunities in school they decided to stay on their perspective college campus for an extra year — or two.

“It’s different for everybody. It depends on how they want their life to go,” LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels said. “We decided to transfer, and to start fresh, and to stay an extra year because we felt like we had something more to prove.”

None of them were considered to be among the best quarterbacks before they hit the portal, but they ended up becoming college football’s three best quarterbacks this season.

Ohio State might utilize the transfer portal to look for a quarterback of its own. They are hoping that the portal will bring the same amount of success it brought Washington, LSU, and Oregon.

Ohio State will be taking a bit of a chance if it goes that route. None of the quarterbacks currently in the transfer portal are established stars to the extent that Ohio State would be adding a clear and obvious upgrade over the quarterbacks it already has on its roster. It will definitely be an upgrade from Kyle McCord.

Quarterback like Washington State’s Cam Ward, Duke’s Riley Leonard, or Kansas State’s Will Howard could definitely come to Columbus and turn that program immediately.

Ward, considered by many to be the top quarterback in the portal right now, already has four years of starting experience under his belt. Those first two years were at Incarnate Word, where he was one of the best quarterbacks in the FCS, while the last two were at Washington State, where he ranked fourth in the FBS this season in passing yards per game – behind only Penix, Nix, and Daniels.

Four of the last six Heisman’s Trophy winners have won by transfer quarterbacks: Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma via Texas Tech) in 2017, Kyler Murray (Oklahoma via Texas A&M) in 2018, Joe Burrow (LSU via Ohio State) in 2019 and Caleb Williams (USC via Oklahoma) in 2022.

The Buckeyes has only brought in a starting signal caller through the transfer portal once, but that proved to be an excellent move for OSU; Justin Fields was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in both of his two seasons at Ohio State as a transfer from Georgia, also earning an invite to the Heisman ceremony in 2019.

If on December 9th, if one of the finalists happens to win to the Heisman Trophy that transfer you better believe Ohio State will definitely explore the transfer portal option more vigorously.