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PROVO — The coaching carousel is slowing down in college football, but the transfer portal is just getting warmed up.
Could a native son of Utah return to the Wasatch Front with it?
USC quarterback Jaxson Dart entered the portal Monday morning, an expected decision by many as new Trojans coach Lincoln Riley pursues several prime transfer candidates, including several that Riley himself coached and recruited to Oklahoma prior to replacing Clay Helton as USC boss.
The former four-star recruit from Corner Canyon High School is just the latest in an active transfer cycle as players can take advantage of a full cycle for the first time featuring new NCAA legislation allowing transfers to play right away if they haven't transferred before.
That, plus Dart's appearance that was first reported by Yahoo's Pete Thamel and followed by seemingly every college football reporter from The Athletic to 247Sports to Rivals, led to speculation that Oklahoma's Caleb Williams was nearing a decision to rejoin Riley and play in the Coliseum in preparation for his own NFL career.
If nothing else, Dart's entry into the transfer portal is an insurance policy in case Williams opts for Southern California climes over Norman, Oklahoma.
USC's Jaxson Dart has entered the NCAA transfer portal. He immediately becomes one of the top quarterback talents in the portal. He was a @Rivals No. 5 dual threat QB coming out of high school last year.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) January 10, 2022
"I spoke to several sources within the football program over the weekend and they said Dart is already looking at colleges for a potential transfer," wrote veteran USC reporter Scott Wolf, "in case Williams transfers to USC."
That was Sunday night. By Monday morning, Dart was available to be contacted by other NCAA programs for a potential transfer.
Life moves fast in the college football offseason.
Dart, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound native of Kaysville who also played at Roy, is the latest casualty in a transfer cycle that has overcome college football. Even before Monday night's championship game between Alabama and Georgia, hundreds of players have already begun moving from one amateur athletic outfit to another, chasing academic success, playing time, NFL potential, or all of the above.
The more coaches move, the more players follow.
Dart threw for 1,353 yards with nine touchdowns and five interceptions in his first collegiate season, a 61.9% passer who took over for previous starter Kedon Slovis — who has since transferred to Pitt — and never really gave interim head coach Donte Williams a reason to take him out of the lineup other than injuries.
The Trojans weren't overly successful under Dart's steed, including losing their final four games of the 2021 campaign. But that was hardly the fault of Dart, whose performances included a 23-of-35 performance for 248 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and no sacks taken in a 35-31 loss to then-No. 13 BYU in the home finale.
Rated the No. 5 quarterback nationally by Rivals.com and No. 10 by 247Sports during an ascendent senior season at Corner Canyon, breaking Utah high school records while churning through an offer sheet that grew from BYU and Utah State to Arizona State, Iowa State, TCU, UCLA, USC and Washington State.
The Cougars were among Dart's first FBS offers, about two months before Utah State entered the fray for the son of former Utah safety Brandon Dart, according to 247Sports. How much BYU factored into the signal caller's final decision is unknown, though Dart did mention BYU specifically when he signed in the early signing period Dec. 16, 2020, before enrolling in time for the spring semester.
Among Dart's classmates at Corner Canyon was BYU freshman defensive lineman Mikey Petty. He also knows current BYU signee Parker Kingston from his time at Roy; the duo played together before Dart transferred to play his final season with the Chargers.
"I know a lot of guys on the team," Dart said before the Trojans faced the Cougars. "BYU was the first school to offer me. I have a good relationship with their coaching staff, and being a hometown kid, there are a little bit of ties with that and wanting to beat them, for sure."
As of Monday morning, Dart is the No. 3 overall prospect in 247 Sports' transfer portal rankings — behind only Williams and Ohio State-to-Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers. The move leaves USC with just two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, including former four-star freshman Miller Moss.
BYU recently lost backup quarterback Baylor Romney to the transfer portal, though it's unclear if graduated senior will opt to play football again or hang up the cleats. Still, the Cougars' quarterback room isn't one actively searching for bodies behind incumbent starter Jaren Hall.
With Romney's departure, former four-star recruit Jacob Conover will presumably enter spring practices as the top backup, though fellow freshman Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters could be right behind him, as is Boise State transfer Cade Fennegan. Walk-ons Rhett Reilly and Nick Billoups, who briefly spent time at Utah, are also in the group.
But the former Deseret News Mr. Football and Gatorade National Player of the Year would be an intriguing prospect that BYU coach Kalani Sitake would certainly refuse to turn down — if there is any interest.