The transfer portal has become a staple of college football roster management since it formed in the fall of 2018. Before, players were required to sit a year before becoming eligible; now, the NCAA grants players a one-time waiver to transfer without penalty and with immediate eligibility.
In 2020, 10.6% of FBS starters were transfers, according to SportSource Analytics. But in 2022, that number nearly doubled, as 20.9% of FBS starters were transfers.
Many teams have used the portal to their betterment. More than half of Lincoln Riley’s starting production came via the transfer portal, including Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams. Players from the portal helped rebuild USC from a 4-8 team in 2021 to an 11-3 squad that played in a New Year’s Six game in 2022.
But the transfer portal doesn’t always equate to success. Nearly 30% of Oklahoma‘s starting production, for example, came via the portal, yet the Sooners, under first-year coach Brent Venables, went 6-7 despite entering the season as the No. 9-ranked team.
Still, some teams have found ways to win without greatly using the portal. Two-time defending national champion Georgia had over 98% of its starting production come via recruited players. (After all, coach Kirby Smart has landed seven straight top-three recruiting classes.)
More than 2,500 players entered the portal once it opened on Dec. 5, and the portal closed for new entrants on Wednesday (though players currently in the portal are still able to pick a new school at any point).
Our group of college football reporters broke down the biggest impact departures and newcomers for each team in the Way-Too-Early Top 25, and Tom VanHaaren graded each team’s success — or lack thereof — in using the portal this cycle.
Biggest departures: Georgia has the best tight end in the country returning in Brock Bowers, but the Dawgs also had three tight ends transfer out — Arik Gilbert, Brett Seither and Ryland Goede. Gilbert, a former five-star recruit, is the most talented of the three, but played sparingly in his two seasons at Georgia. Receiver Dominick Blaylock is also gone. He was a big part of the Dawgs’ offense in 2019 as a freshman, but tore his ACL in the SEC championship game. He missed the 2020 season and didn’t play much in 2021. Blaylock had 15 catches and a touchdown this past season. Adonai Mitchell, another receiver who struggled with injuries in 2022 but bounced back with key catches in the College Football Playoff, was a late addition to the portal.
Biggest newcomers: The Dawgs stayed within the SEC confines to get two of the best receivers in the portal: Mississippi State’s Rara Thomas and Missouri’s Dominic Lovett. Between them, they combined for 100 catches, 1,472 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last season. With Ladd McConkey electing to return for another season, Georgia should be stacked at receiver. In addition, the Bulldogs are bringing in cornerback Smoke Bouie, who was a part of Texas A&M’s heralded 2022 signing class and originally from the state of Georgia.
Remaining holes: One of the question marks will be on the offensive line, where starting tackles Broderick Jones and Warren McClendon are both off to the NFL. Warren Ericson is also turning pro after playing some at guard and center the past two seasons. — Chris Low
VanHaaren’s grade: B+. This grade would be higher, but the Dawgs have nine players on the way out, including former five-star corner Jaheim Singletary, as well as linebackers Trezmen Marshall and MJ Sherman and defensive lineman Bill Norton. Lovett was one of the best players to enter the portal this cycle, so adding him, Thomas and Bouie raise the Bulldogs’ grade.
Biggest departures: Ohio State lost several defenders to Power 5 teams, including some with starting experience, like linebacker Teradja Mitchell (Florida) and defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste (Notre Dame). But most of the core pieces return for coordinator Jim Knowles, who must get more production and fewer breakdowns in the biggest games from his group. The Buckeyes haven’t lost an offensive player to the portal.
Biggest newcomer: The Buckeyes have added only one transfer in the cycle, but he’s a potential big one in Syracuse safety Ja’Had Carter, a three-year starter who earned honorable mention All-ACC honors this past season. Carter led Syracuse with three interceptions and had five for his career with 138 tackles in 28 starts. Ohio State added some offensive line depth with Victor Cutler, who started at both tackle spots for Louisiana-Monroe. The Buckeyes are set to add former Oregon State quarterback Tristan Gebbia, who is entering his sixth season.
Remaining holes: Ohio State’s defense can’t get enough help after struggling against Michigan and Georgia. The Buckeyes could add another defensive back and perhaps a lineman to complement J.T. Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Ty Hamilton and others. Running back largely was a mess in 2022 because of injuries, but Ohio State likely will push forward with its remaining group and hope for better health. — Adam Rittenberg
VanHaaren’s grade: C. The Buckeyes lost some role and depth players to the portal, but it wasn’t an enormous amount that will impact the two deep. Carter should be able to help the secondary immediately, and the staff added kicker Casey Magyar from Kent State. It’s not great, but not bad either.
Biggest departures: Tight end Erick All and quarterback Cade McNamara, two mainstays for Michigan’s offense in 2021, are both headed to Iowa. All, who had 38 receptions for Michigan’s first CFP team, missed most of this past season after undergoing spine surgery. McNamara was not going to overtake J.J. McCarthy if he stayed but could have provided key depth. Michigan also lost several reserves in the defensive front seven, including Eyabi Okie and Taylor Upshaw.
Biggest newcomers: Michigan continues to be a major portal player, adding key players on both sides of the ball. Offensive linemen LaDarius Henderson (Arizona State), Myles Hinton (Stanford) and others should help fill holes and provide depth. The Wolverines also added defensive playmakers like Coastal Carolina’s Josaiah Stewart and Nebraska’s Ernest Hausmann. Tight end AJ Barner (Indiana) should help a group that will miss NFL-bound Luke Schoonmaker.
Remaining holes: Michigan should continue to look for help on defense, especially after losing linemen Mazi Smith and Mike Morris, and cornerback DJ Turner. Another veteran defensive back could help a talented young group featuring cornerback Will Johnson and safety Rod Moore. Stewart should help offset the pass-rushing loss of Morris and Okie, but the Wolverines could use another piece up front. — Rittenberg
VanHaaren’s grade: A. The Wolverines were more active in the portal than usual, and it was a good thing they were, as the program saw 10 players enter the portal since the end of November, including McNamara, All, Okie, defensive lineman George Rooks and receiver Andrel Anthony. But adding Stewart, Hausman, Barner and a few good offensive linemen this offseason help bolster the roster.
Biggest departure: The biggest departure is running back Treshaun Ward, who finished second on the team with 628 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. With Trey Benson‘s decision to return for one more season, it made sense why Ward would want to find another place to play. Florida State also lost multiple receivers — including former four-star Malik McClain — and depth in the secondary, as four reserve defensive backs also entered the portal.
Biggest newcomers: Coach Mike Norvell has done an exceptional job making the most of his transfer portal additions, and this group he has landed so far looks to be filled with the same potential. The secondary is one area that needed help, so getting Virginia cornerback Fentrell Cypress II is big. Added depth on the defensive line was important, too, with the additions of Darrell Jackson Jr. (Miami) and Braden Fiske (Western Michigan). Tight end Jaheim Bell (South Carolina) should also fit in nicely on offense.
Remaining holes: Florida State has done a good job addressing several positions of need in the portal, including offensive and defensive lines. One more key area worth keeping an eye on is safety, with Jammie Robinson off to the NFL. — Andrea Adelson
VanHaaren’s grade: A+. The Seminoles have addressed quite a few needs this offseason through the portal and have added some big pieces. Fiske is a great addition up front, Cypress was one of the top corners in the portal this offseason and adding in tight ends Bell and Kyle Morlock (from Division II Shorter) give the staff two good options at the position. This haul will help the coaches continue to push the program forward.
Biggest departures: Apparently there’s a portal within the portal linking Alabama to TCU. Three reserves joined the Horned Frogs: running back Trey Sanders, wide receiver JoJo Earle and offensive lineman Tommy Brockermeyer. Earle was the most accomplished of the trio with 24 catches for 303 yards and two touchdowns in 18 games. Sanders, who came back from a horrific car accident in 2020, saw his production decrease from 396 rushing yards in 2021 to 80 rushing yards in 2022. Brockermeyer, who was the No. 1-ranked offensive tackle and the No. 2 overall prospect in the 2021 Class, played only 19 snaps this past season.
Biggest newcomer: The loss of tight end Cameron Latu to the NFL was going to loom large over the summer. He’d been one of the team’s most dependable pass-catcher’s the last two seasons with a combined 56 receptions and 12 touchdowns. But getting CJ Dippre from Maryland helps solidify the outlook of the position. Dippre, who is 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, chose Alabama over Ohio State. As a sophomore last season, he had 30 receptions for 314 yards and three touchdowns.
Remaining holes: The receiver room needed to get better, not worse. Last season revealed a lack of playmakers at the position. Now, Aaron Anderson, Earle, Christian Leary and Traeshon Holden are all gone. And no transfers have been brought in to replace them. Either the coaching staff is confident in the young talent still on campus — Shazz Preston, Isaiah Bond and incoming freshman Jalen Hale, to name a few — or they’re planning on getting some late help in the portal. — Alex Scarborough
VanHaaren’s grade: D. This grade might be deceiving, as Alabama has the No. 1-ranked recruiting class and didn’t go after a ton of transfers. That said, the staff saw 18 players enter the transfer portal since the end of November, an abnormally large number for the program, and is the reason for the low grade with only bringing in one transfer in Dippre.
Biggest departure: The Sean Clifford era in State College has finally concluded after a Rose Bowl Game victory over Utah. Christian Veilleux, a former four-star quarterback in the 2021 class, decided to leave for in-state Pittsburgh rather than battling it out with Drew Allar, who was No. 51 in the 2022 ESPN 300. Veilleux has thrown for 282 yards and three touchdowns in five games.
Biggest newcomer: Cornerback Storm Duck will be a welcomed addition to defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s unit with Joey Porter Jr. off to the NFL. Duck had 46 tackles (36 solo) with three interceptions for North Carolina this season. For his career, Duck owns 103 tackles, 18 passes defended and five interceptions. The Nittany Lions’ defense ranked in the top 20 nationally in total defense, scoring defense and run defense on the way to winning 11 games in 2022.
Remaining holes: Depth at the running back position behind the two stellar soon-to-be sophomores — Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen — could be looked at. With Keyvone Lee entering the transfer portal, the Nittany Lions only have two other scholarship running backs on the roster – 2023 ESPN 300 member London Montgomery (No. 234 overall) and three-star Cameron Wallace. A veteran running back with experience to join the ranks can provide insurance in case of an injury to Singleton or Allen. — Blake Baumgartner
VanHaaren’s grade: C. Penn State bringing in Duck was a big win for the staff, but the reason for the grade is because of who is on the way out. Linebacker Jamari Buddin, running backs Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee, defensive end Ken Talley, defensive lineman Rodney McGraw and Veilleux are among those leaving the program. Though none are big names, depth is important, and they aren’t being replaced with anyone through the portal.
Biggest departure: Kyle Ford. The wide receiver room at USC remains stellar even after the departures of Jordan Addison to the draft as well as Gary Bryant Jr. and CJ Williams to the portal. The Trojans added Arizona’s Dorian Singer but did lose Ford — a four-star — who showed many flashes of potential this past season and could have added to the depth of the room.
Biggest newcomers: Anthony Lucas and Jack Sullivan. Defensive line was one of many priorities on that side of the ball for the Trojans this offseason. Adding Lucas (a four-star from Texas A&M) and Sullivan (a four-star from Purdue) to the line, as well as three-star Kyon Barrs from Arizona, were big gets for a team that needs size and speed up front after All-American Tuli Tuipulotu declared for the NFL draft.
Remaining holes: The defense. There’s incoming young talent for USC and some transfer additions already as mentioned above, but given the state of that unit last season — and the fact that this will be Caleb Williams’ final year at USC — there’s an impetus to make an immediate leap in not just talent but quality and production at every single position, especially when it comes to pass defense. The Trojans’ College Football Playoff chances next season depend on it. — Paolo Uggetti
VanHaaren’s grade: A. The Trojans have added quite a few big pieces for next year’s roster. The staff will replace star receiver Addison, a first-round NFL talent, with Singer, who led the Pac-12 in receiving yards last year. The coaches also landed South Carolina running back MarShawn Lloyd, Oklahoma State linebacker Mason Cobb and Arizona corner Christian Roland-Wallace, among others.
Biggest departure: Retaining Walker Howard was a big deal for Brian Kelly and his staff once they took over a year ago. He was the No. 3-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2022 class and a possible building block for the future. But last week, we learned that he planned to enter the portal. He could follow another key departure — wide receiver Jack Bech, who had four touchdowns over the last two seasons — to TCU.
Biggest newcomers: Speaking of Bech heading to the Horned Frogs, don’t forget that LSU also lost star receiver Kayshon Boutte to the NFL. Boutte, a first-round talent, was originally planning on coming back for another year but reversed course before the Tigers’ bowl game. Helping make up for those losses is the addition of Aaron Anderson, a New Orleans native and the No. 8-ranked receiver in the 2022 class who redshirted during his only season at Alabama. Getting cornerback JK Johnson from Ohio State was another big move.
Remaining holes: Getting Ovie Oghoufo from Texas and Jordan Jefferson from West Virginia was a good start, but the Tigers could use even more depth up front on defense. The line was inconsistent last season, and then BJ Ojulari, Ali Gaye and Jaquelin Roy opted out of the Citrus Bowl to prepare for the draft. Getting injured defensive tackle Maason Smith back after a season-ending injury will be a huge help, but adding another experienced veteran to the mix would go a long way in solidifying the defense. — Scarborough
VanHaaren’s grade: B+. This grade would have been higher, but Howard entering the transfer portal knocks the Tigers down a few notches. He’s a big loss for the future of the quarterback position as he was a top recruit in the 2022 class. The staff is bringing in Anderson, Johnson, Syracuse corner Duce Chestnut and Texas A&M corner Denver Harris, among others.
Biggest departure: When linebacker Justin Flowe arrived at Oregon prior to the 2020 season he was one of the highest-ranked recruits in the country — akin to what the Ducks got with Kayvon Thibodeaux. Sometimes things just don’t work out. Injuries limited to just one game in each of his first two seasons, and the breakout season didn’t come in 2022 as he appeared in 10 games. For the Ducks, his time in Eugene will be remembered as what-could-have-been.
Biggest newcomer: Quite literally the biggest incoming player, offensive lineman Ajani Cornelius, who is transferring from Rhode Island, might be the Ducks’ best find and best backstory. Cornelius didn’t have any FBS offers in high school despite playing on back-to-back state championship teams in New York, but quickly emerged as one of the best FCS players in the country in his two years in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Remaining holes: In just over two years, coach Dan Lanning has remade a large majority of the roster he inherited from Mario Cristobal. His ability to recruit was a major factor in getting the job, and that skill set has translated well in the portal. They’ve swapped seven out for seven in and raised the talent level in the process. — Kyle Bonagura
VanHaaren’s grade: A-. Oregon had quite a few players transfer out, which is what is holding them back from having a straight A. That said, the talent the coaches are bringing is impressive with South Carolina defensive end Jordan Burch, Cornelius, Alabama corner Khyree Jackson and Alabama receiver Traeshon Holden, among others.
Biggest departure: Tennessee’s quarterback depth took a hit when Tayven Jackson left for Indiana. It was probably expected, though, with ESPN 300 freshman Nicholaus Iamaleava coming aboard. The Vols also lost some depth at linebacker with Juwan Mitchell hitting the portal. Tennessee’s two most talented receivers are off to the NFL (Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman), so the wide receiver room will take on a different look with Walker Merrill and Jimmy Holiday transferring.
Biggest newcomer: The Vols cashed in at several positions of need. They brought in John Campbell Jr. (Miami) at offensive tackle, Omarr Norman-Lott (Arizona State) at defensive tackle, Keenan Pili (BYU) at linebacker and Dont’e Thornton (Oregon) at receiver. One of the most underrated additions may be tight end McCallan Castles of UC Davis. The 6-5 Castles should be a perfect fit in Josh Heupel’s offense.
Remaining holes: The Vols had one of the worst pass defenses in the country last season (127th nationally) and gave up 151 passes of 10 yards or longer (tied for next-to-last nationally). So they could desperately use another cornerback (or two), not to mention an edge rusher who can get to the quarterback. — Low
VanHaaren’s grade: C. There weren’t a ton of big names going out, but there also aren’t a lot of big names transferring in, either. It’s a good class for depth, but with a top-15 recruiting class coming in, this wasn’t a make or break transfer class for the staff.
Biggest departure: The Huskies have lost a couple of defensive backs and a wide receiver in the portal, as well as a tight end, but when it comes to looking ahead to next season, having a reliable backup behind Michael Penix Jr. just became a question they’ll have to answer. Four-star quarterback Sam Huard entered the transfer portal recently after Penix decided to return to Seattle for one more season, and that has left the Huskies with only two scholarship quarterbacks.
Biggest newcomers: Jabbar Muhammad and Germie Bernard. On each side of the ball, the Huskies have added one player who will be immediately helpful. Washington has a track record of producing great defensive backs, and Muhammad, a four-star cornerback from Oklahoma State, will fit right in and play right away. Bernard, a four-star by way of Michigan State, will give returning Heisman contender Penix another great reliable target as he tries to build on his stellar season.
Remaining holes: Despite the crucial addition of Muhammad, the secondary still remains an area of need for the Huskies. Only USC and Colorado allowed more yards per pass attempt in the Pac-12 last season. Scoring was almost never an issue for Kalen DeBoer’s team, but stopping the other team from doing so largely contributed to their two losses. To continue to build on DeBoer’s debut season, it’ll have to be that side of the ball that takes a leap. — Uggetti
VanHaaren’s grade: B+. This grade would’ve been higher, but Huard’s recent departure knocks it down a notch. Beyond him, Washington has had a good offseason in the portal, bringing in running backs Daniyel Ngata and Dillon Johnson, receiver Germie Bernard, linebacker Ralen Goforth and a handful of other players that should contribute next season.
Biggest departure: The Horned Frogs’ losses mostly came to graduation and the draft after their storybook season. The biggest hit in the portal came when quarterback Sam Jackson, a dynamic athlete who was No. 201 in the 2021 ESPN 300, opted to transfer to Cal. With the loss of Max Duggan to the draft, Chandler Morris, who originally beat out Duggan for the job, could be next in line, but he was lost to injury early in the year, and the Frogs could use depth at the position, so they will be in the hunt for a transfer.
Biggest newcomer: TCU landed a handful of elite transfers from Alabama, LSU and Florida, among others, but the biggest need, with star receiver Quentin Johnston heading to the NFL, is filled by former Crimson Tide WR JoJo Earle, from nearby Aledo, Texas. Earle, a 5-9, 170-pound sophomore, was No. 73 in the 2021 ESPN 300, but caught just 24 passes in two seasons in Tuscaloosa after suffering a foot injury last year and a leg injury in 2021.
Remaining holes: The Frogs got the most out of their offensive line last year, but struggled mightily to block Texas or Georgia. To play in those kinds of games, they’ll need more depth and heft up front, which they aided by landing tackle Tommy Brockermeyer from Alabama, if he can stay healthy. At linebacker, TCU loses playmaker Dee Winters after Johnny Hodges, a portal addition a year ago, led the team in tackles this year. They signed three in the early signing period, but the Frogs could use more experience at the position. — Dave Wilson
VanHaaren’s grade: A-. TCU has had just seven players enter the transfer portal since December and were able to add some really good pieces after making the playoff this season, namely Brockermeyer, Earle and running back Trey Sanders, also from Alabama. And, the Horned Frogs added Florida corner Avery Helm and LSU receiver Jack Bech.
Biggest departure: After rushing for over 500 yards in each of the last two seasons, Micah Bernard entered the portal shortly after the Utes played in their second consecutive Rose Bowl. Bernard was a major part of the Utes offense — he played more offensive snaps than any other running back (436) — but his role didn’t expand in the way many predicted it would. The primary ball carrier next year figures to be Ja’Quinden Jackson, the former quarterback who emerged late in the season.
Biggest newcomer: A team captain at Stanford in 2022, linebacker Levani Damuni will return to his home state for his final season of eligibility. In four years for the Cardinal, Damuni recorded 207 tackles and figures to be an instant-impact player for the Utes.
Remaining holes: Nine players left via the portal, with four incoming can be interpreted to indicate coach Kyle Whittingham feels pretty good about the makeup of the roster. This was still a relatively youthful team with a nice mix of veterans in key positions in 2022, and with Cameron Rising and Brant Kuithe passing on the chance to enter the draft, the Utes will again be among the favorites in the Pac-12. — Bonagura
VanHaaren’s grade: B-. Utah lost a handful of role players in the portal and were able to add some talent that should contribute early on. Damuni, Ole Miss corner Miles Battle and BYU defensive end Logan Fano stand out among others.
Biggest departure: That depends on your perspective. The biggest name departure is quarterback Drew Pyne, who started 10 games for the Irish this past season. But with the addition of Sam Hartman from Wake Forest (more on that in a minute), Pyne’s departure has the potential to be greatly mitigated. It should come as no surprise Notre Dame was going to be in the market for a transfer quarterback considering the inconsistency from Pyne this season. He has moved on to Arizona State.
Biggest newcomer: The answer here is obviously Hartman, who had a stellar career at Wake Forest but opted to use his sixth year of eligibility to go elsewhere. Hartman just set the ACC record with 107 career touchdown passes and has thrown for 12,687 in his career. The biggest question is how he will fare in a different offensive system that does not feature the slow mesh that Wake Forest does so well.
Remaining holes: The Irish have worked hard to address their struggles at receiver, both with the 2023 recruiting class and in the portal, with the addition of Kaleb Smith from Virginia Tech. But this is still a position that’s lacking big-play ability. — Adelson
VanHaaren’s grade: A-. Hartman is an A+ signing because he fills an immediate need at the position. The Irish were able to get Hartman, Oklahoma State safety Thomas Harper, Ohio State linebacker Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Smith. It’s a good haul overall, but Hartman is the headliner.
Biggest departure: The biggest name to leave was QB DJ Uiagalelei, but there was no longer a home for him at Clemson. Instead, the bigger concerns are departures at areas that were already thin — receiver and DB. Clemson waved goodbye to EJ Williams, Dacari Collins and Fred Davis II — all of whom had significant playing time under their belt. None had been difference-makers, but given Clemson’s refusal to add via the portal, it turns over more snaps to inexperienced players at two positions where the Tigers have already been overly reliant on youth.
Biggest newcomer: Does Garrett Riley count? Clemson’s only real addition came through the coaching equivalent of the portal, but the bigger question is whether Riley — the Tigers’ new offensive coordinator — might push to add some veteran talent on the O-line or receiving corps (or as a backup to Cade Klubnik at QB) in the portal. Dabo Swinney has made it clear he’s not averse to adding a player or two, but he’s prioritized high school prospects and said he’ll only take elite transfers, of which there simply aren’t many remaining.
Remaining holes: Clemson’s most productive receivers in the past two years have all been true freshmen. That may portend better production in 2023 from youngsters like Beaux Collins, Antonio Williams and Cole Turner, but the past two seasons have also offered a reminder that the offense desperately needed a consistent, veteran threat. Are any of the younger guys ready to step into that role? They may have to. — David M. Hale
VanHaaren’s grade: INC. It doesn’t seem fair to grade a team if its coach is vocal about not using the transfer portal, so we will go with an incomplete rather than a failing grade. The Tigers saw Uiagalelei, Williams, Kobe Pace, LaVonta Bentley, Davis and Sergio Allen, among others, leave the program without replacing them through the portal. They have the No. 11 recruiting class in the 2023 cycle.
Biggest departure: Ovie Oghoufo, who departed for LSU, was a dependable, experienced player for Texas over the past two seasons after transferring from Notre Dame. The 6-3, 240-pound linebacker/edge rusher had 53 tackles (7.5 for loss) and 1.5 sacks last year at a position the Longhorns have been working to shore up. Texas signed several players who will buffer the loss, like five-star LB Anthony Hill and edge rushers Colton Vasek and Derion Gullette, but Oghoufo’s experience will be missed.
Biggest newcomer: CB Gavin Holmes could land a starting role after arriving from Wake Forest, facing competition with young corners like sophomore Terrance Brooks and four-star signee Malik Muhammad, who was No. 49 in the 2023 ESPN 300. Holmes had 45 tackles, 2 INTs, 13 pass breakups and a forced fumble for the Demon Deacons last season.
Remaining holes: The Longhorns have stacked two impressive recruiting classes back to back, so there aren’t a lot of glaring holes, particularly after they shored up the offensive line last season. But they are thin in the secondary and could use more bodies and experience there, even with the key addition of safety Jalen Catalon from Arkansas, who could fill a big role for Texas in 2023. And on the defensive line, Texas signed just one on early signing day and with the SEC move looming, they’ll always need linemen. — Wilson
VanHaaren’s grade: C-. The Longhorns have had 17 players enter the transfer portal since November and are bringing in three transfers. Catalon is the headliner and is joined by Holmes and Stanford safety Ryan Sanborn. But compared to the number of players leaving, it’s too lopsided.
Biggest departure: Linebacker Omar Speights. The three-star inside linebacker had outplayed his rating in Corvallis, earning an All-Pac-12 First Team selection in 2022 thanks to 83 total tackles this past season. Speights did a little bit of everything for the Beavers defense, and with one year left of eligibility, his departure will be felt throughout the unit heading into next season.
Biggest newcomer: DJ Uiagalelei. Despite DJU’s tumultuous tenure at Clemson, he’s still one of the biggest gets Oregon State has ever had. In a conference full of talented quarterbacks, Uiagalelei will get a chance to redeem his college career as part of a program that has been rising under Jonathan Smith. DJU could be exactly the kind of dynamic and talented player the Beavers need to not fly under the radar in the conference, and the nation, anymore.
Remaining holes: Secondary. Oregon State is losing its two starting cornerbacks, Alex Austin and Rejzohn Wright, and have yet to add at the position via the portal. There are young players in the wings like Alton Julian and Jaden Robinson who are set to take on bigger roles, but adding a veteran at the position from the portal wouldn’t hurt either. — Uggetti
VanHaaren’s grade: B. Landing Uiagalelei is a low-risk move that could pay off if he can find consistency and what most people saw from him out of high school. Outside of quarterback, the staff added Utah linebacker Mason Tufaga, tight end Jermaine Terry II, receiver Trevor Pope and offensive lineman Grant Starck.
Biggest departure: The Wildcats have had multiple backups enter the transfer portal, which might impact depth, but perhaps the most significant contributor to leave is safety TJ Smith, a one-time starter who played in 28 total games in his career before transferring to Georgia Southern.
Biggest newcomer: With leading rusher Deuce Vaughn headed to the NFL draft, running back was a position of need, and it appears the Wildcats filled it with Florida State veteran Treshaun Ward. The former walk-on blossomed over the last two seasons with the Seminoles. He was their starter in 2022 before an injury in early October slowed him. Still, Ward had a strong performance in the Cheez-It Bowl (81 yards, 2 TDs), is a hard runner and will bring a veteran presence to the position.
Remaining holes: After the early signing date, coach Chris Klieman said there would still be some spots to fill down the road, including defensive tackle, safety/corner or running back. It appears the Wildcats have addressed running back with the Ward addition, but keep an eye on the other two positions. — Adelson
VanHaaren’s grade: C. Ward is a great pickup for the Wildcats, and the staff added Iowa receiver Keagan Johnson and North Dakota State corner Marques Sigle. However, the depth leaving the program is greater than the talent coming in.
Biggest departure: Wide receiver Dea Dea McDougle came to Tulane after spending his first two years at Maryland. McDougle caught 23 passes for 236 yards and one touchdown this season as he appeared in nine games for the Green Wave. He would have been competing with Jha’Quan Jackson and Lawrence Keys III for playing time, with Shae Wyatt and Duece Watts having graduated.
Biggest newcomer: Cameron Wire comes from LSU as a graduate transfer to boost the Green Wave’s offensive line. The former four-star offensive tackle started 11 of his 28 career games for the Tigers (nine at left tackle). Tulane’s running game averaged 204.8 yards, finishing third in the AAC, and will need to reload with Tyjae Spears off to the NFL.
Remaining holes: Tulane loses its top five tacklers from a 12-win team that won the AAC and the Cotton Bowl. The secondary got hit hard because of graduation, with its top three safeties now gone. Darius Swanson (190 career tackles, seven interceptions and 16 passes defended) transferred in from D-II Nebraska Kearney, and the former All-American should provide some immediate help there. — Baumgartner
VanHaaren’s grade: C+. This is almost a wholesale trade for Tulane, who lost an offensive lineman, but added an offensive lineman, lost a receiver and a corner and added a receiver and corner. Not bad, not great.
Biggest departures: The Rebels’ secondary took a hit with safety Tysheem Johnson announcing on Jan. 13 that he was entering the portal. Johnson started nine games last season and was third on the team in total tackles (78). In addition, cornerback Davison Igbinosun entered his name into the portal after a promising true freshman season, along with veteran Miles Battle, who’s transferring to Utah after playing both receiver and defensive back at Ole Miss. A last-minute addition to the portal was veteran linebacker Ashanti Cistrunk, who was fifth on the team in tackles in 2022.
Biggest newcomer: Quarterbacks are always at a premium, which makes Walker Howard such a big get for the Rebels. He has four seasons of eligibility remaining after coming over from LSU. Other key additions include Washington offensive tackle Victor Curne, as well as a trio of pass-catchers — Louisiana Tech receiver Tre Harris (10 TDs in 2022), Texas A&M receiver Chris Marshall (part of the Aggies’ touted 2022 class) and Memphis tight end Caden Prieskorn (48 catches/seven TDs in 2022).
Remaining holes: Ole Miss gave up way too many big plays a year ago and had its problems stopping the run, meaning the Rebels need some more playmakers on defense, particularly guys who can tackle and make plays in space. — Low
VanHaaren’s grade: B+. Lane Kiffin dubbed himself the ‘Portal King’, but Ole Miss had 25 players enter the transfer portal since Dec. 5. The staff brought in some good players with Marshall and Harris, and one of the biggest quarterbacks in Howard, who was a top-50 prospect in the 2022 class. Still, the number of players going out is more than the number coming in and keeps it lopsided.
Biggest departures: North Carolina may not be shedding a ton of tears over the losses of players who simply hadn’t developed as the Tar Heels hoped, but it’s still hard to overlook the sheer quantity of departures in the secondary. Established starters Tony Grimes, Storm Duck and Cam’Ron Kelly, along with freshmen Tymir Brown, Dontavius Nash and Dontae Balfour all hit the portal, as UNC also parted ways with cornerbacks coach Dre Bly. There’s something to be said for erasing the blackboard and starting fresh, but UNC’s defense needs to hope there’s a genuine addition-by-subtraction possibility here.
Biggest newcomers: Addressing the vacancies in the secondary was a priority, and UNC did get a couple of good ones. Antavious Lane arrives from Georgia State (where he forced two fumbles last year in a game against North Carolina), Alijah Huzzie from East Tennessee State, Derrik Allen from Georgia Tech and Armani Chatman from Virginia Tech. Chatman, in particular, could be a big addition after a solid career with the Hokies. He knows the ACC and brings a veteran presence to a position group that will need strong leadership.
Remaining holes: The Heels filled a need at receiver with Nate McCollum and Devontez Walker, but given some of the issues supporting Drake Maye up front and in the backfield, it might be nice to see a few more additions to the line and tailback. Maye will be the centerpiece again, but in the post-Phil Longo era, Carolina might benefit from some more offensive balance, and that needs to start with a better support system around its star QB. — Hale
VanHaaren’s grade: B+. North Carolina lost cornerbacks Grimes and Duck, safety Nash and linebacker Rara Dillworth, among others. But the coaches brought in quite a bit of talent with Kent State receiver Walker, Georgia Tech safety Allen and Florida State linebacker Amari Gainer. The grade would be higher if the number of players leaving was lower than what it is.
Biggest departure: There aren’t really any groundbreaking transfers out of this squad, though with three of their top four tacklers departing, one could perhaps look to the transfer of linebacker Caden Holt, who appeared in 13 games for the Roadrunners as being notable. Holt was a three-star recruit ranked 70th at his position in his class.
Biggest newcomer: He’s probably not going to be somebody that plays immediately given UTSA will have quarterback Frank Harris back for a seventh season after throwing for 4,059 yards and 41 total touchdowns, but incoming transfer Owen McCown (son of former NFL quarterback Josh) gives them a backup quarterback with intrigue. Plus, after Cam Peters transferred out, it only made sense for the Roadrunners to add another quarterback.
Remaining holes: Offensively, things are looking good for the Roadrunners with eight returning starters. However, with three interior lineman moving on in Ahofitu Maka, Terrell Haynes, and Kevin Davis, that will be a group to keep an eye on. As of now, UTSA hasn’t made any outside additions to the group. — Harry Lyles Jr.
VanHaaren’s grade: C+. UTSA is adding Vanderbilt running back Rocko Griffin, McCown from Colorado and Sam Houston corner Kameryn Alexander. The staff is losing some pieces, though, so the grade isn’t higher because of the losses.
Biggest departure: With safety Marquis Waters gone, the transfer of Reggie Pearson Jr. stings a little more. Pearson transferred to Oklahoma after being the sixth-leading tackler for Texas Tech (and second in interceptions with two). With losses at linebacker in Kosi Eldridge and Krishon Merriweather, the defense has some holes to fill despite returning seven starters.
Biggest newcomer: A deep Red Raider receiving corps got deeper with the addition of Austin Peay WR Drae McCray. McCray was one of the most explosive players in all of FCS last season, putting together 75 receptions for 1,021 yards and nine touchdowns. With quarterback Tyler Shough coming back, the Texas Tech offense is set up for plenty of success in 2023.
Remaining holes: The aforementioned departures of Eldridge and Merriweather at the linebacker position might be the most glaring. The two led the team in tackles and were also two of the team’s more effective players at getting behind the line of scrimmage. — Lyles
VanHaaren’s grade: B. Texas Tech lost a few big names, including Pearson, but the staff did a nice job bringing in talent as well. McCray is one of the faster players that was in the portal this offseason. He, along with Syracuse defensive end Steve Linton and San Diego State safety CJ Baskerville, are among the transfers to commit to the Red Raiders.
Biggest departure: Short of players who are out of eligibility, the Dukes don’t have any major transfer departures. Interior offensive lineman Andrew Adair is perhaps the most notable.
Biggest newcomers: I’m going to cheat here and put both quarterback arrivals. With quarterback Todd Centeio gone, transfers Jordan McCloud (Arizona) and Brett Griffis (Wake Forest) will compete for the starting job on an offense that also loses its leading rusher and four of its top five wide receivers.
Remaining holes: It might not remain a hole, but watching how a new receiving room develops will be something to keep an eye on. The Dukes added Phoenix Sproles (North Dakota State), Omarion Dollison (South Florida) and Elijah Sarratt (St. Francis Pa.)). James Madison is going to have plenty of new faces offensively, and this group is affected more than any. — Lyles
VanHaaren’s grade: B-. After finishing its first season at the FBS level with an 8-3 record, James Madison was active in the portal and added a couple Power 5 players Griffis and Pitt tight end Kyi Wright. The staff added a few other pieces that should help fill some voids on the roster as well.
Biggest departure: Quarterbacks Alex Padilla and Carson May sat behind Spencer Petras as the offense struggled to find consistent footing. Padilla (821 career passing yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions) saw action in two games in 2022 in relief of Petras. With Petras undergoing shoulder surgery and unsure if he’ll use his extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hawkeyes’ quarterback room will certainly have a different look in 2023.
Biggest newcomer: A pair of Michigan transfers — quarterback Cade McNamara and tight end Erick All — will look to jumpstart an offense that needs a jolt after finishing last in the Big Ten in total offense (251.6 ypg) and only averaging 17.7 points. McNamara (3,181 career passing yards, 21 TDs, seven interceptions) led the Wolverines to the Big Ten title and College Football Playoff in 2021.
Remaining holes: Wide receivers Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce IV deciding to move on could leave the Hawkeyes a little short on the outside, even with the addition of All. Johnson and Bruce have combined for 64 career catches for 759 yards and four TDs. The Hawkeyes’ passing game finished 13th in the Big Ten (156.7 ypg). — Baumgartner
VanHaaren’s grade: B-. McNamara and All were big wins to upgrade a struggling offense, especially under center. The staff is bringing in a few good pieces, but there are some players transferring out that bring the grade down to a B-.