The rise of the transfer portal has concocted an interesting offseason for the quarterback position at Eastern Michigan.
Eagles quarterback Ben Bryant, who transferred from Cincinnati to Eastern Michigan in January 2021, re-entered the portal on Dec. 27 to seek a new opportunity. Bryant was thrust into the starting role in Week 3 and finished the season as the MAC’s third leading passer with 3,121 yards and most accurate quarterback, displaying a 68.4 completion rate.
Eastern Michigan’s other seasoned quarterback, Preston Hutchinson, served as the primary starter in 2020 and was the No. 1 QB on the depth chart for the first two games this season. After 21 in-game appearances in donning the green and white, Hutchinson declared for the portal on Dec. 21 and already found a landing spot at FCS program Chattanooga.
That leaves current freshman Austin Smith as the Eagles most experienced incumbent quarterback. At the collegiate level, Smith’s résumé consists of one passing attempt which went for 16 yards in Eastern Michigan’s 59-21 win over Texas State in September.
As of now, Smith appears to be destined to become the 2022 starter. But Eastern Michigan is no stranger to filling out the quarterback room through the transfer portal. In 2018, the Eagles’ Week 1 starter was Iowa transfer Tyler Wiegers. Last year, they received heavy utilization from another transfer quarterback in Bryant. The program’s offseason targets in the portal are unknown at this time.
But one notable Eastern Michigan alumni has his sights set on landing a certain transfer. Former Eagle quarterback Charlie Batch, who enjoyed a lengthy NFL tenure with the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers, proposed a godfather offer to Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams. After the Sooners’ star sent shockwaves around the college football universe Monday by entering the transfer portal, Batch is luring Williams to Ypsilanti, MI, as a potential destination.
Sponsored by GameAbove Capital — an investment group of primarily Eastern Michigan alumni which has invested millions into the university — Batch announced an NIL offer which could pay Williams $1 million per year should he commit to the Eagles.
Hey @CALEBcsw, have you considered Eastern Michigan, @EMUFB? If not, you SHOULD. GameAbove Capital is prepared to pay you ONE MILLION DOLLARS for one year! Are you ready be an EAGLE?@espn @CBSSportsNet @CBSSports @NBCSports @FOXSports @barstoolsports @MACSports @FS1— Charlie Batch (@CharlieBatch16) January 5, 2022
What would have previous been viewed as a heinous NCAA recruiting violation — likely resulting in sanctions such as a temporary bowl ban — is now permitted under the guise of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL). The NCAA adopted NIL legislation last July after a unanimous decision in the Supreme Court, and thousands of collegiate athletes have been reaping the benefits of profiting off their own name since.
It’s indisputable that Caleb Williams is one of college football’s biggest stars. Only one year removed from high school, he has 110,000 followers on Instagram and 69,000 on Twitter. Williams already held one of the most prestigious roles in the sport — starting quarterback of Oklahoma, the program which produced an FBS-best four different Heisman winners at the position in the 21st century.
As a freshman, he first garnered nationwide recognition for spearheading Oklahoma’s 21-point comeback to upend Texas in October. The former 5-star recruit lived up to the hype in his first year as a Sooner, manufacturing a stupendous ratio of 21 touchdowns to four interceptions, while guiding an 11-2 Oklahoma team to a 47-32 Alamo Bowl win over Oregon.
Given his star power, it’s not easy to transport an individual of that prominence to Eastern Michigan, which only saw more than 17,000 spectators once in 2021 during a road trip to Wisconsin. But we’ve already seen athletes make similar decisions in the NIL era. For instance, 5-star cornerback Travis Hunter stunningly committed to Jackson State of the FCS despite holding status as the No. 1 high school football player in the nation by a variety of outlets.
The odds of Williams selecting Eastern Michigan as his future college home seem slim. The Eagles’ coaching staff has not acquired any members of Oklahoma’s departing personnel, and the atmosphere is certainly a change of pace for the All-Big 12 gunslinger. But if offers similar to Batch’s become commonplace in the future college football landscape, Eastern Michigan could land a major transfer quarterback in the future.
With the lack of depth at quarterback due to the departures of Bryant and Hutchinson, it seems imminent the Eagles will test the waters of the portal this offseason. But if Eastern Michigan pulls off the unthinkable and lands the former 5-star prospect, the Eagles will draw in viewership, engagement, and a national spotlight unlike the program has ever seen, meaning the NIL/transfer portal can benefit programs like the one in Ypsilanti.