USC freshman quarterback Ricky Town will reportedly transfer, in a surprise that comes just months into Town's career as a Trojan.
Town was a four-star prospect and the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, but failed to distance himself from fellow freshman Sam Darnold (a four-star player ranked the No. 5 dual-threat passer in the 2015 class) in the race to back up incumbent starter Cody Kessler in Steve Sarkisian's program. And rather than stick out his freshman year at USC, Town is already seeking greener pastures, it seems.
The surprising news is that those pastures might be in Florida, and involve him wearing orange and blue. Yahoo!'s Charles Robinson and Huffington Post sports columnist (those exist, apparently!) Jordan Schultz each tweeted that Town's pre-existing relationship with Doug Nussmeier could lead him to joining the Gators.
I'm hearing USC transfer QB Ricky Town strongly considering Florida. Apparently has relationship w their OC. Town committed to Bama pre-USC.— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) August 17, 2015
The backstory here is that Town committed to Alabama in August 2013, when Nussmeier was entering his second season as the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator (a position he took over after the departure of Jim McElwain for Colorado State). After an uneven 2013 season in that role, Nussmeier was hired in the same role by Michigan on January 8, 2014 — and after Alabama hired Lane Kiffin to replace Nussmeier two days later, Town spent just two more weeks as an Alabama commit, flipping to USC before the end of the month.
At the time, that was spun as a big-time Southern California player — Town was a five-star quarterback then, and hails from Ventura, 90 minutes from USC's campus in theoretically perfect SoCal traffic — picking the "hometown" team more than Town finding a new home after Nussmeier's departure. But Town also had a rough senior year (at least by the standards of elite prep quarterbacks), and fell slightly from his perch as arguably the cream of the 2015 class to a rung where "another very good passer" made more sense as a descriptor — and his decision to transfer so soon into his USC career certainly casts his motives in a different light.
Town now becomes a 2016 recruit in all but name, essentially. He would have to sit out the fall of 2015 unless he gets a wholly implausible NCAA waiver to compete immediately at another school — though that doesn't even matter, because there's zero chance he would step into any program worth its salt as a starter midway through fall practice, anyway. (I can't imagine the revolt staged by players in a program that would abandon its current plan at QB to chase a pipe dream with Town playing in 2015 — and given that Town has committed to Alabama and enrolled at USC, he's pretty clearly not looking for a low-profile school that might roll the dice just that way.)
But Florida would seem to fit Town quite well. The pre-existing relationship with Nussmeier is a foot in the door, of course, but Florida is also likely to run what amounts to a pro-style offense under the McElwain-Nussmeier brain trust, McElwain's last three starting quarterbacks have all made NFL rosters, and Florida's program is undoubtedly still one of the more prestigious in college football. Florida's also gone after (Everett Golson) and reeled in (Joshua Grady and Luke Del Rio) transfer quarterbacks to fix its depth, so there's little doubt that McElwain and Co. will continue to monitor the transfer market for QBs in the future.
And there's no doubt that the Gators are still in pursuit of another quarterback in the 2016 class. Why wouldn't Florida now include Town as an option on a list with enough long shots as to require backup plans to backup plans?
I don't know that I would prefer Town to, say, Feleipe Franks, or to Jack Allison. But he's clearly a prospect held in higher esteem by scouts than Kyle Trask, with all due respect to Florida's only 2016 commit at quarterback. And with the prospect of a transfer by the loser of the Will Grier-Treon Harris quarterback competition likely to loom through the fall, it behooves McElwain and Nussmeier to maintain as many options as possible for continuing to build depth at football's most important position.