B/R CFB Recruiting: Winners and Losers of the Transfer Portal Part 2

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured Columnist IVAugust 24, 2022

B/R CFB Recruiting: Winners and Losers of the Transfer Portal Part 2

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    College football's transfer portal can be a positive or negative game-changer, but no matter how you feel about the players your team did or didn't get, they've still got to play the games.

    Triumphs and disappointments abound across the sport as coaches attempt (or, in some cases, refuse) to navigate the choppy waters.

    While it's obvious some teams like USC and Alabama struck portal gold, the jury's still out on others. That doesn't keep us from anointing the biggest winners and losers from the past offseason of drama.

    Click here to view the first set of transfer winners and losers, and here's the final batch as we prepare to kick off the season with Week Zero this week.

Winner: Brent Venables

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    It's a bit far-fetched to christen the Oklahoma Sooners a transfer-portal winner after all the tumult they encountered following Lincoln Riley's thief-in-the-night exit to USC.

    Any time you lose the wealth of talent they did—including all-world freshman signal-caller Caleb Williams and young playmakers Mario Williams and Jadon Haselwood, among several others—there's going to be a rebuild and even a rebrand.

    But that was always going to be the case in the post-Riley world, anyway.

    New coach Brent Venables adapted in a hurry, and though he and new offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby ultimately couldn't keep Williams around, the first-time coach made the most of a bad situation with a resounding response.

    The Sooners wound up with the fourth-best haul of transfers, according to the 247Sports rankings, and that included a potential big pull in former Central Florida quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who reunites with former offensive coordinator Lebby.

    When the reshuffling of a depleted roster ended, Venables added 14 players, including 4-star offensive lineman McKade Mettauer, who started three years at Cal, and talented Arizona State receiver LV Bunkley-Shelton.

    On defense, linemen Jeffery Johnson and Jonah Laulu will make immediate impacts and should quickly become stars in Norman.

    Any time you lose some star power, you go to work, and that's exactly what Venables did. This was an impressive first step to keeping OU competing for titles.

Loser: Dabo Swinney

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    The 2021 football season was forgettable for the Clemson Tigers.

    Not only did a program used to completing for national titles fail to make the ACC championship game, coach Dabo Swinney also lost vaunted coordinators Brent Venables (Oklahoma) and Tony Elliott (Virginia) to Power 5 coaching gigs.

    While you always want staff opportunities, it doesn't change the potential struggles that could come with turnover. Factor in the poor offensive display, and you'd think a program of Clemson's ilk would reload through the transfer portal, right?

    Well, that would be the case if Swinney didn't seem slow to warm to the idea of the transfer portal. It could wind up further denting the armor of the proud powerhouse.

    Other programs around the nation outfit their roster with elite talent, but Swinney staunchly stood still when several elite players probably would have lined up to play for him.

    “My transfer portal is right there in that locker room, because if I’m constantly going out every year and adding guys from the transfer portal, I’m telling all those guys in that locker room that I don’t believe in them, that I don’t think they can play,” Swinney told ESPN's Chris Low. “We’re also not doing our job as coaches and recruiters if we’re bringing in a bunch of transfers. We’re not going to build our roster on transfers.”

    The thought is commendable, but the belief is going to burn Swinney if he isn't careful. He needs to get with the times on the transfer portal because it appears it's here to stay.

Winner: John Rhys Plumlee

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    AP Photo/Thomas Graning

    One of the neatest unheralded storylines of the offseason is the latest twist in the career arc of talented quarterback John Rhys Plumlee.

    After playing both baseball and football at Ole Miss, the 6'0", 200-pound two-sport star couldn't ever stay ahead of Matt Corral in the battle to be the Rebels' signal-caller.

    Despite completing 52.7 percent of his passes for 910 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions and rushing for 1,023 more yards in an exciting, dual-threat debut, Plumlee lost the job to Corral when pass-oriented Lane Kiffin became the head coach.

    Unselfishly, Plumlee moved to receiver where he caught 19 passes for 201 yards a season ago. But he always wanted the opportunity to play quarterback, so in the offseason, he transferred to UCF to reboot his career with coach Gus Malzahn.

    Following a frenzied battle with Mikey Keene, Plumlee won the job as the Knights' starting quarterback. The nation needs to take notice of the Plumlee's possibilities.

    The speedy, athletic quarterback gives Malzahn one of those run-first options in the offense that led to some of the coach's best years when he was at Auburn. The thoughts of what Plumlee may be able to do in the AAC are tantalizing, as the coach and the proud program look to get back in the national conversation as the best Group of Five team yet again.

    If you want an under-the-radar star pick, Plumlee is a good buy.

Loser: The Nasty Jordan Addison Transfer

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    The one-time transfer rule was implemented to benefit the student-athlete and give them the opportunity to find the situation best for them in a fluid environment.

    But it's not always a smooth departure; there's definitely an ugly side to the transfer portal.

    Jordan Addison's self-proclaimed "strictly business" decision to transfer from Pittsburgh to USC and play for Lincoln Riley this offseason was rocky, at best (h/t the Los Angeles Times' Thuc Nhi Nguyen).

    Any time you lose the Biletnikoff Award-winning player who was the nation's top receiver, you're going to have some hard feelings. That was certainly the case here.

    Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi reportedly made multiple, irritated calls to the Trojans and Riley. Allegations of "tampering" were thrown around, which is when a coach recruits a player who is on a roster and not declared for the transfer portal.

    Addison was well within his NCAA rights to leave one program for another, but there were definitely not a lot of happy vibes surrounding the situation. Somehow, Narduzzi, Riley and Addison all came out of the ordeal looking bad.

    None of that will matter for the Trojans and their fans if Addison shows out in Hollywood though, will it? The star pass-catcher could help escalate the turnaround, and with an NFL career on the horizon, it's hard to blame him for leaving a program that had to replace star quarterback Kenny Pickett.

    Addison chose Riley over Narduzzi, quarterback Caleb Williams over new Pitt signal-caller (and USC transfer) Kedon Slovis. It may have been a messy divorce, but that's today's world of college football.

Winner: South Carolina Gamecocks

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    Some of second-year South Carolina coach Shane Beamer's off-the-field moments like his Twitter videos may seem hokey to some, but it appears he's resonating with recruits.

    Not only are the Gamecocks proving they can recruit at a high level (their 2023 class is currently ranked 16th in 247Sports' composite rankings), but he also did a stand-up job in the transfer portal this offseason, using previous relationships as a catalyst.

    With essentially a skeleton-crew roster and a revolving door of unknowns at quarterback a season ago, Beamer mustered a winning record. In his second season in Columbia, he won't have to worry about a cast of no-names.

    Former Oklahoma starting signal-caller Spencer Rattler, who was a Heisman Trophy hopeful a season ago, will start for the former Sooners assistant at Carolina this year, and he's hoping to have a major bounce-back season from a year ago. Former OU tight end Austin Stogner is a Gamecock, too.

    But the portal wins go beyond that pair for Beamer, too. Former Wake Forest running back Christian Beal-Smith could be a quality every-down back the team desperately needs, and several other recruiting wins—like getting former Central Michigan safety Devonni Reed in town—could pay dividends, too.

    The SEC East is going to be strong this year with a rejuvenated Tennessee and Kentucky joining defending national champion Georgia, and Billy Napier could have Florida back in the mix, too. But don't count out Beamer Ball in Columbia. They'll look like a different team that could put all the pieces together.

Loser: Lyn-J Dixon

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    The long-and-winding odyssey of former Clemson running back Lyn-J Dixon is looking for a place to finish.

    If the offseason is any indication, it may be difficult for him to find any takers.

    You always hate when players get multiple opportunities to shine and still can't make the most of them, but that seems to be the case with the talented former Tiger who burst on to the scene with 547 yards and an 8.8 average in 2018 and 635 more in '19 as Travis Etienne's backup.

    Since then, Dixon's career has been full of potholes.

    First, he lost carries with the Tigers because of several issues, leading Clemson coach Dabo Swinney to tell the Greenville News' Todd Shanesy that Dixon "needs to grow up." Rather than hang around and battle for carries anymore with the ACC powerhouse, Dixon bolted for Morgantown, West Virginia.

    Though he went through spring drills with West Virginia, the Mountaineers parted ways with him after just seven months, leading him to head to Tennessee, where the Vols needed running back depth behind Jabari Small, Jaylen Wright and others.

    That experiment lasted less than three weeks as reports surfaced this week Dixon is no longer with the Vols, marking "the third time in Dixon's career that he has seen a stop come to an abrupt, unexpected end," according to SI.com's Matt Ray.

    Maybe Dixon will find another opportunity to showcase his talents in order to get a shot at the NFL, but he's running out of options. And time.

Winner: Scott Frost's Last Husker Hurrah

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    How much longer is Scott Frost going to get in Lincoln?

    The Nebraska Cornhuskers' favorite son was deemed the program's savior when he came over from UCF, but a 15-29 record in five seasons won't do much for fostering goodwill. Last year, the Huskers were a putrid 3-9, but at least there were signs of life as no losses were by more than nine points.

    Are they close or still so frustratingly far away? This year may tell the story and could determine Frost's fate.

    They've moved on from the roller-coaster Adrian Martinez era as the quarterback left the program and will now be Kansas State's starting quarterback. Replacing him is Casey Thompson, who left Texas after Quinn Ewers headed to Austin.

    Thompson has a lot of potential, plenty of starting experience and actually led the Big 12 in touchdown passes a season ago. He needed a fresh start after an equally disappointing first season from Steve Sarkisian at Austin.

    Frost also landed Nebraska's potential quarterback of the future in former Florida State underclassman Chubba Purdy, the younger brother of Iowa State's Brock.

    Defensive difference-maker Ochaun Mathis was a huge pull from the portal after the edge rusher decided to leave TCU, and when you toss in defensive backs like Tommi Hill (Arizona State) and Omar Brown (Northern Iowa) it's obvious Frost upgraded the roster.

    But it needs to resonate in the wins column.

Loser: Auburn Tigers

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    The Bryan Harsin era is off to an awful start at Auburn. The former Boise State coach seemed a culture stretch coming from the Pacific Northwest, and after a blah first year on the plains, a drama-ridden offseason followed.

    As if the off-field rumor situation and fallout wasn't bad enough, the Tigers are also dealing with player unrest in the rugged SEC West.

    That's never a good thing with hated rival Alabama the best team in the nation, along with up-and-comers like Texas A&M and Arkansas looking strong, too.

    Bo Nix had a topsy-turvy career with Auburn, but the dude made plays and was a legacy whose dad, Patrick, is deeply involved with the program, so when he left for Oregon, it signified deeper-rooted issues.

    Leading receiver Kobe Hudson resurfaced at UCF after getting booted from the team, and projected starting offensive guard Tashawn Manning decided to leave for Kentucky.

    Defenders bolted the Plains, too. Edge rusher Romello Height is going to be a big part of the defensive rebuild for Lincoln Riley's USC Trojans, and safety Ladarius Tennison departed for conference foe Ole Miss.

    While the Tigers didn't lose any starting defensive linemen, Lee Hunter, JJ Pegues, Ian Mathews and others left, gutting the depth on that side of the ball.

    Harsin has a chance to get things going in the right direction and change his fate, but Auburn is going to have to reverse the trend of so much talent leaving, or it's going to be a two-and-through situation for the coach in the SEC West.

Winner: Jaxon Player

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    Plenty of players got to enhance their collegiate experiences by going from smaller-tiered programs to having the opportunity to play big-time college football.

    When you see guys like quarterback Cameron Ward leave Incarnate Word for Washington State and Jared Verse exit Albany and wind up at Florida State, you see the benefits of the portal.

    But few guys can say they will get to play top-tier football and get to go home. That's the unique situation of former Tulsa defensive line standout Jaxon Player.

    The fifth-year senior was a force for the Golden Hurricane the past two years and earned back-to-back first-team All-AAC honors. He terrorized offenses last year to the tune of 14 tackles for a loss.

    Player paid his dues in the Group of Five, had some massive years and left Tulsa in a good spot. Now, he gets to go back to his hometown of Waco, Texas, and finish his career with the Big 12 champion Baylor Bears and a brilliant defensive mind in coach Dave Aranda.

    “I’m a big family guy, I come from a big family and with [them] being eight minutes away from me down the road…I can go relax with them,” Player told SI.com's Collier Logan. “It’s way better than being six hours away like I was [at Tulsa].”

    Not only does Player get the chance to keep the rejuvenated program on top, but he could also elevate his NFL potential, which is exactly the type of situation that benefits players. Plus he gets to "rep the green and gold," like he told Logan. That's a storybook situation.

Loser: Oklahoma State's Vaunted Defense

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    Staying in the Big 12, not everything was a happy ending for the conference's powerhouses from a season ago.

    Baylor may have gotten a big portal win in Jaxon Player, but the Bears are going to have to replace a lot of departed talent off last year's roster. The conference runner-up Oklahoma State Cowboys saw plenty of regression from the portal, as well.

    That's going to make things wide-open in the Big 12 this year.

    Mike Gundy lost elite defensive coordinator Jim Knowles to Ohio State, where he took the Buckeyes job leading the defense and coaching linebackers. The Cowboys saw several guys follow suit.

    Defensive back Tanner McCalister departed Stillwater for Columbus, following Knowles to the Big Ten powerhouse where he'll try to settle what was a terrible defensive backfield a season ago. Oklahoma State also lost starting cornerback Jarrick Bernard to LSU.

    It's going to be a major undertaking replacing a pair of lockdown guys like McCalister and Bernard, and if the Cowboys are going to battle for the title again this year, it's essential.

    Defensive lineman Jayden Jernigan also left Oklahoma State and wound up at Missouri, so while the Cowboys didn't see mass defections from last year's team, they're going to have to fill three major voids on that side of the ball.

    If they do, they may be the favorites in the Big 12.

Winner: Michigan State's Post-Kenneth Walker Backfield

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    Mel Tucker struck portal gold when Michigan State landed former Wake Forest running back Kenneth Walker III before last season.

    All he did with the Spartans a season ago was win the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation's top running back, and get selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the second round of the NFL draft.

    The post-Walker era of the Michigan State offensive backfield is in good hands, though, thanks to the transfer portal efforts of Tucker.

    Michigan State landed former Wisconsin running back Jalen Berger—who rushed for 301 yards as a true freshman in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season and could play four more seasons in East Lansing—and he has a high upside.

    But Berger wasn't the only portal victory. Jarek Broussard will try to recapture the success he had in Colorado in '20, the season after Tucker left for the Spartans. That year, he averaged 162.6 per game, totaling 895 yards on 156 carries with five touchdowns to become first-team all-conference, win the league's offensive player of the year award and become an honorable-mention All-American.

    Berger and Broussard aren't the only running backs in the crowded, talent-laden group of runners Tucker has stockpiled in East Lansing, but they have already experienced some success in Power 5 programs and could produce huge bounce-back seasons.

    It's an ideal situation for Michigan State and for the duo looking for fresh starts to bolster their careers.


    All stats courtesy of CFBStats and Sports Reference. Player rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

    Follow Brad Shepard on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.

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