football

Quarterback Transfers & Notre Dame

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Malik Zaire (8) and Everett Golson (5) both opted to use their fifth seasons elsewhere.
Photo by Joe Raymond

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There are two types of transfers these days in college football.

The first is the more familiar route where an individual usually leaves after his freshman or sophomore year for either personal, academic or disciplinary reasons.

The other that has come in vogue is the graduate-transfer route. That is when a student-athlete finishes his undergraduate degree at his original choice, but if eligible for a fifth season opts to use it at another school where he might have a better chance to play. Plus, as a graduate, he doesn't have to sit out a year.

Former Irish Quarterback Malik Zaire (2013-16) is one such example, with the University of Florida a potential landing site, per recent reports.

Yesterday we looked at the six quarterbacks who have departed Notre Dame during head coach Brian Kelly’s time. Four of them had graduated and opted to use their fifth season elsewhere: Dayne Crist (Kansas), Andrew Hendrix (Miami (Ohio)), Everett Golson (Florida State) and now Zaire. Two others, Nate Montana (University of Montana and West Virginia Wesleyan) and Gunner Kiel (Cincinnati), departed earlier.

That raised Notre Dame's 40-year total at QB since 1977 to 25 such departures (albeit different in nature), or one every 1.7 years.

Here’s a chronological list of those who left the program since 1977, and the year they were recruited.


Rick Buehner (1977) – Louisville native returned to his home state after making switch from QB to cornerback. Six QBs were recruited in this class, including No. 1 prospect Tim Koegel, Mike Courey and Greg Knafelc. One of them, Pete Holohan, became a stellar flanker at Notre Dame and a productive NFL tight end.


Randy Wright and Eddie Hornback (1979) – Wright transferred to Wisconsin after his freshman year and became a star for the Badgers. He also was a starter for the Green Bay Packers from 1986-88.

Hornback, a Mississippi native, was shifted to safety as a sophomore and eventually returned to the Magnolia State after incurring a knee injury.


Scott Grooms (1980) – Rated the nation’s No. 1 quarterback by Parade magazine, he transferred to Miami (Ohio) after his freshman year when Parade’s No. 3 quarterback that same year, Blair Kiel, won the starting job as a freshman, and then split it with 5th-year senior Koegel in 1981.

Grooms returned to Notre Dame in 1982, though, so maybe it's not as appropriate to include him on the list. His lone start was a 21-7 loss to Air Force in 1984, when Steve Beuerlein was injured.


Ken Karcher (1981) – The Pennsylvania native was trumpeted by recruiting maven Joe Terranova as potentially “the next Joe Willie Namath.” Late in his sophomore year, he started in place of an injured Kiel versus Penn State and Air Force (both losses), and was replaced by walk-on Jim O’Hara.

Karcher then transferred to Tulane and later became an NFL backup for John Elway at Denver in 1987-88.


Joe Felitsky (1983) – Enrolled the same year as Steve Beuerlein, who replaced the senior Kiel as the starter during his freshman year. That prompted Felitsky to transfer to Pitt, near his western Pennsylvania roots. He played some with the Panthers, but was never a full-time figure.


Duke St. Pierre (1984) – Four of head coach Gerry Faust’s 17 recruits in this class were QBs: Terry Andrysiak, Tom Byrne, Pat Pesavento and St. Pierre. Andrysiak was the bridge between Beuerlein and Tony Rice, Byrne moved to tight end and Pesavento became a standout infielder for the Irish baseball team. St. Pierre transferred to nearby Boston College within his first couple of weeks on campus, but did not play there.


Kent Graham (1987) – Ranked the No. 1 high school quarterback in many circles, Graham rotated with Tony Rice (1986) after Andrysiak was injured in the fourth game of 1987, and even started against Boston College. The Irish trailed 25-12 when Rice came in and rallied Notre Dame to a 32-25 victory.

Graham backed up Rice during the 1988 national title run, but he transferred to Ohio State in 1989, where he backed up Greg Frey in 1990 and stated ahead of Kirk Herbstreit in 1991, passing for 1,018 yards. He was a journeyman in the NFL for about a decade.


Jake Kelchner (1989) – Enrolled the same year as the nation’s No. 1 QB prospect, Rick Mirer. From the same high school as Ron Powlus (1993-97), Kelchner experienced academic problems and transferred to West Virginia. In 1993, he led the nation in passing efficiency, including 10.3 yards per pass attempt, while guiding the Mountaineers to an 11-0 regular season. They lost 41-7 to Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

Like Kevin McDougal that same year, however, he wasn’t deemed an NFL prospect.


B.J. Hawkins (1990) – Arrived with more fanfare than classmate McDougal, but he left for the home-state Virginia Cavaliers when McDougal won the No. 2 slot behind Mirer. His career never really took off with the Cavaliers.


Wade Smith (1992) – Relatively unheralded Texan was shifted to free safety during his freshman year and eventually left.


Gus Ornstein (1994) – A late addition to the class, he left after one season when he realized that Powlus would be a four-year starter from 1994-97.

He transferred to Michigan State, and Mel Kiper Jr. projected him as a future first-round draft pick, prompting colleague Joe Theismann to say, “Mel’s out to lunch on that one.” Ornstein saw some action at MSU but never became a full-fledged starter.

Eric Chappell (1996) – He received his chance to start at USC in 1998 when Jarious Jackson was out with an injury, but the junior struggled. Two of his three passes were intercepted before freshman Arnaz Battle replaced him in the 10-0 loss to USC.

Chappell transferred to Alabama A&M, where he lined up at safety.


Zak Kustok (1997) – Entered his sophomore year in 1998 as the No. 3 QB behind Jackson and Chappell – but left during training camp when freshman Battle leapfrogged him and dropped him to No. 4.

He enjoyed a sensational career at Northwestern, passing for nearly 6,000 yards while rushing for 1,294 yards and 22 more TDs and leading the Wildcats to a share of the Big Ten title in 2000.


Matt LoVecchio (2000) – Had the greatest freshman year ever by a Notre Dame quarterback, winning his first seven starts, completing 58.4 percent of his passes, throwing 11 TDs to just one interception and rushing for 300 yards.

But when classmate Carlyle Holiday moved ahead of him in 2001 and first-year coach Tyrone Willingham left the job open after the 2002 spring, LoVecchio headed to Indiana University, where in two years he pass fro about 3,700 yards, 16 TDs and 16 interceptions on bottom-tier teams.


Christian Olsen (2002) – The offensive MVP in the 2003 Blue-Gold Game packed his bags two weeks into fall camp, along with freshman brother and tight end Greg. Holiday was No. 1 while freshman Brady Quinn was making a serious bid to supplant Olsen for the No. 2 spot.

Olsen transferred to Virginia, where he started the first few games as a fifth-year senior in 2006 before getting replaced.


David Wolke (2004) – With no chance to unseat Quinn and the recruiting getting upgraded at quarterback, Wolke was approached by Charlie Weis about moving to running back in 2006. He opted instead to transfer to Western Kentucky.


Zach Frazer (2006) — At the end of his freshman year in the spring of 2007 he was listed behind the trio of Evan Sharpley, classmate Demetrius Jones and early entrant wunderkind Jimmy Clausen, prompting him to transfer to UConn.

He had a so-so career in three years with the Huskies, passing for 3,422 yards, 17 TDs and 21 interceptions, but his highlight was starting in the 33-30 double-overtime win at Notre Dame (2009) in what would be head coach Charlie Weis’ final home game.


Demetrius Jones (2006) — He received the starting nod for the 2007 opener against Georgia Tech but was benched before halftime in the 33-3 defeat and bolted from the school two weeks later amidst a 3-9 campaign.

At Cincinnati under head coach Kelly from 2008-09 he was in the linebacker rotation. He finished his college career at Division II Central State in Ohio, playing tight end/receiver.

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