The UCLA Bruins lost Dante Moore to the transfer portal, watching their best starting quarterback option for 20424 and a five-star recruit walk out the door. With Chip Kelly returning next season, the task at hand is diving into the transfer portal and finding the best option for the Bruins.
UCLA certainly would’ve been better off with Moore, a 247 Sports’ five-star recruit and the No. 4 overall player in the 2023 recruiting class. However, the 6-foot-2 quarterback realized there are better opportunities elsewhere and that leaves Kelly’s coaching staff in a difficult spot.
Let’s examine some of the best and most realistic UCLA Bruins quarterback options in the transfer portal.
UCLA Bruins transfer portal QB candidates
Maalik Murphy, Quarterback, Texas Longhorns
Once it was clear that both Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning were returning to the Texas Longhorns in 2024, the only place for quarterback Maalik Murphy to go was the transfer portal. While he received limited playing time at Texas, he’s a four-star transfer prospect with immediate appeal as a starter.
Murphy has already lined up visits to Oregon State, South Carolina, and Duke. UCLA is also reportedly interested, as are the Georgia Bulldogs and LSU Tigers. If LSU and Georgia land higher-end options, it’s reasonable to think UCLA could be an option for Murphy.
- Maalik Murphy stats 2023: 56.3% completion rate (40-of-71), 477 pass yards, 6.7 yards per attempt, 3-3 TD-INT, 1 sack taken
Murphy starred at Serra High School, just a 30-minute drive from UCLA’s campus. He did have some bright spots in relief for Texas, posting a 2-1 TD-INT ratio on deep passes this season with a 65.6 percent completion rate and 8.2 yards per attempt average on play-action, per Pro Football Focus. If UCLA wants a two-year starter, Murphy is an appealing choice.
Ty Thompson, Quarterback, Oregon Ducks
For a program like UCLA, which can’t afford the NIL deals required for top transfer portal targets, there needs to be a willingness to take chances. Ty Thompson was a five-star recruit and rated as the 10th-best player in the nation in the 2021 class. Unfortunately, he struggled to climb the Oregon Ducks depth chart in three seasons. The 6-foot-4 quarterback could have a different story with the Bruins.
- Ty Thompson stats (college career): 63.6% completion rate (42-of-66), 456 passing yards, 6.9 yards per attempt, 6-4 TD-INT, 139.5 QB rating
Thompson showed glimpses of starting-caliber talent and more effectiveness in clean-up duties this past season. He posted a 72.7 PFF grade and a 70 percent completion rate on 10 play-action attempts. He was effective against the blitz – 78.3 PFF grade, 90.9 percent completion rate on 11 attempts – and was outstanding when attacking the intermediate areas of the field (92.0 PFF grade, 3-1 TD-INT). There’s a chance it doesn’t work out, but Thompson offers the Bruins with upside.
KJ Jefferson, Quarterback, Arkansas Razorbacks
If UCLA wants someone proven, former Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson. While the 6-foot-3 quarterback never earned All-SEC honors at Arkansas, he was the MVP of the Outback Bowl and the Liberty Bowl. He also delivers a resume that should be appealing to Kelly.
- KJ Jefferson stats 2023: 2,107 pass yards, 19-8 TD-INT, 51.8 QBR, 447 rush yards, 2 TDs
Jefferson held up well against the blitz, completing 65.8 percent of his passes with an 8-2 TD-INT split. He was fairly effective on throws 20-plus yards downfield, racking up 527 passing yards with 6 touchdowns and a 91.1 PFF grade on 43 attempts. Of course, for a Bruins’ offense that attempted more than 40 percent of its passes within 0-9 yards of the line of scrimmage, Jefferson’s rushing ability and quick-game work also stand out for UCLA.
In 2023 with the Razorbacks, Jefferson completed 75.5 percent of his passes with a 7.2 ypa, 6=1 TD-INT ratio, and a 77.8 PFF grade on short throws (0-9 yards). All of his marks would’ve made him the Bruins’ best quarterback last season and he was just as good in 2022. While Jefferson would only be a one-year starter, he offers stability and Kelly needs that heading into a prove-it year.
Jordan McCloud, Quarterback, James Madison Dukes
There are plenty of marquee names in the transfer portal that the UCLA Bruins realistically don’t have a shot at landing. That’s why teams have to dig deeper, looking at the Group of 5 level for potential starting options. One of the top potential targets for UCLA should be James Madison quarterback Jordan McCloud, who thrived this season with the 11-1 Dukes.
- Jordan McCloud stats 2023: 3,400 passing yards, 68.9 percent completion rate, 9.0 yards per attempt, 32-9 TD-INT, 72.0 ESPN QBR
McCloud, a Florida native, has been all around the country. He struggled in two seasons with South Florida, completing just 58.4 percent of his passes, but managed a 21-10 TD-INT ratio with 5 rushing touchdowns. At his next stop, he was part of a quarterback committee at Arizona, struggling in their offense. He broke out with James Madison.
He was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country on play-action, per PFF, averaging 10.2 yards per attempt with a 10-3 TD-INT line and a 70.9 percent completion rate with an 85.9 PFF grade. He also showed phenomenal touch on downfield throws, completing 45.1 percent of his attempts with a 16.3 ypa average, a 10-2 TD-INT line, and a 93.1 PFF grade.
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McCloud also brings a dynamic element as a rusher. throughout his college career, he has rushed for 50-plus yards six times, including a 104-yard performance this season. The athleticism also makes him a threat near the goal line, as demonstrated by his 13 career rushing touchdowns. Similar to Jefferson, McCloud only has one season of eligibility left, but he’s a reliable starter and UCLA needs that in the Big Ten, especially with uncertainty on the defensive side of the ball.