Winners and Losers of the College Football Transfer Portal after 2022-23 Season's End

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 18, 2023

Winners and Losers of the College Football Transfer Portal after 2022-23 Season's End

0 of 13

    FILE - Deion Sanders speaks after being introduced as the new head football coach at the University of Colorado during a news conference Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in Boulder, Colo. The University of Colorado introduced a pilot program that makes the credit review for transfer students a more seamless process. It may have been the move that ultimately lured Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders to Boulder. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
    AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File

    The transfer portal has forever changed college football as we know it—or at least until there is some sort of legislation to alter it.

    That doesn't appear to be coming anytime soon.

    So, not only are coaches having to build recruiting classes year-round, but they also must convince the players already on their team to wait their turn or play them enough to keep them happy.

    Of course, factoring money into the equation with name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities adds another dimension to it altogether.

    For us as fans and writers, it means a lot more drama, many more headlines and the ability for your favorite team to replenish its roster or fall into the abyss at any time. One thing's for certain, though: It makes things a lot more interesting.

    Those who learn to navigate the transfer portal and NIL the best will stand on top of the college football world. Those who don't won't hang around long. Who has benefited (and been victimized) the most from the portal so far ahead of the 2023 season?

Winner: Sam Hartman

1 of 13

    TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 23: Sam Hartman #10 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons reacts after receiving the most valuable player award following the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on December 23, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. The Wake Forest Demon Deacons defeated the Missouri Tigers 27-17. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
    Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

    Sam Hartman's move to Notre Dame is a win-win.

    Not only do the Fighting Irish take the sweepstakes for the top-rated signal-caller in the portal, a guy who massively upgrades their quarterback room, but Hartman can do a victory lap, too, because of the national platform on which his talent will be showcased.

    There's nothing wrong with Wake Forest. Coach Dave Clawson has built a great program in Winston-Salem while adhering to the school's rigorous academic standards.

    Within that framework, Hartman has thrown for 12,967 yards and 110 touchdowns while leading the Demon Deacons to unprecedented program heights, including bowl wins and peaks in the AP Top 10 each of the last two seasons.

    Now, he gets to do that on the biggest stage possible with better players around him, and a huge year in South Bend will not only improve his NFL draft prospects but also endear him to one of the nation's largest fanbases.

    The college football world will get a front-row seat to one of the best quarterbacks most have rarely gotten to see.

Loser: Texas A&M Aggies

2 of 13

    Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher
    Aggies head coach Jimbo FisherCarmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Around this time in 2022, the talk of college football was the remarkable recruiting class Jimbo Fisher was putting together at Texas A&M.

    Now, a chunk of that class is departing College Station like postgame traffic from Kyle Field following a losing season filled with coaching question marks, on-field ineptitude and off-the-field tumult.

    A whopping 28 players have left the Aggies, which equates to an entire recruiting class. It isn't just depth fodder leaving, either. A lot of these players were supposed to be big parts of a bright future.

    The hardest blow was defensive lineman Anthony Lucas leaving for USC, but there are other wince-worthy departures too.

    The defensive back trio of Smoke Bouie (Georgia), Denver Harris (LSU) and Marquis Groves-Killebrew (Louisville) from last year's class found strong landing spots. So did electric receiver Chris Marshall (Ole Miss). Quarterbacks Haynes King (Georgia Tech) and Eli Stowers (New Mexico State) left, too.

    The Aggies added some talent in the secondary in former North Carolina star Tony Grimes and Florida State starter Sam McCall, but it's a huge net loss for Fisher and Co.

Winner: Auburn Tigers

3 of 13

    Tigers head coach Hugh Freeze
    Tigers head coach Hugh FreezeMichael Chang/Getty Images

    Following a strong close to the early signing period in which the Auburn Tigers won some big recruiting battles, head coach Hugh Freeze has continued rebuilding through the portal what Bryan Harsin tore down.

    Auburn's 13 transfer portal commits include nine 4-star recruits, and while there's nothing flashy about the commitments, they're solid, team-building wins.

    The signings of offensive line trio Dillon Wade (Tulsa), Avery Jones (East Carolina) and Gunner Britton (Western Kentucky) represent a terrific job scouting of smaller schools and bringing in program fits, as do productive Florida International tight end Rivaldo Fairweather and South Florida running back Brian Battie.

    Defensive pulls such as linebacker DeMario Tolan (LSU), veteran edge-rusher Mosiah Nasili-Kite (Maryland) and defensive tackle Justin Rogers (Kentucky) will contribute right away too.

    Watch out for Auburn.

Loser: Other Mass SEC Exoduses

4 of 13

    Jalen Catalon of the Arkansas Razorbacks (foreground)
    Jalen Catalon of the Arkansas Razorbacks (foreground)Photo by Wesley Hitt

    Every year, the top of the recruiting rankings is filled with SEC teams.

    But when you bring in classes filled with top-shelf players who don't get to play right away, or if you experience the slightest bit of uncertainty, the portal offers the opportunity to bolt.

    Several SEC teams are seeing huge numbers of portal departures.

    To date, Arkansas' 27 exits only trails Texas A&M's 28. The Hogs are doing some quality work in adding players to fill gaps, but it's tough to make up for losses such as safeties Jalen Catalon (Texas) and Myles Slusher (Colorado) and tight end Trey Knox (South Carolina).

    Billy Napier's Florida Gators (22 losses) have been gutted for the second straight year, and while they've brought in former Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz and hit on a couple of potentially quality O-linemen in the past week, depth will be a major issue.

    LSU has taken some hits, such as former 5-star quarterback Walker Howard (Ole Miss), but the work coach Brian Kelly is doing in luring guys to Baton Rouge is offsetting that.

    Finally, Lane Kiffin dubbed himself the "portal king" a year ago, but after a major drop-off for the Rebels to close 2022, several have hit the trail from Oxford. It's been a revolving door.

Winner: Prime Connections

5 of 13

    Colorado head coach Deion Sanders
    Colorado head coach Deion SandersKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    You always knew with Deion Sanders' Hall of Fame energy, personality and magnetism, and the fact that he was an idol to an entire generation because of his two-sport brilliance, he could be a nice gamble for some team once he went into coaching.

    He's off to a great start at Colorado.

    The Buffaloes made the biggest national splash when they lured Coach Prime from Jackson State, where he'd turned around that once-struggling program.

    Now, he has made a long-dormant Pac-12 also-ran from Boulder the buzz among recruits, flipping the roster with a whopping 23 portal commits.

    Last year's top-rated overall player, Travis Hunter (and the top player in this year's portal), shocked the world a season ago when he committed to Sanders at Jackson State. Now, he's following him to Colorado, along with the coach's son and quarterback, Shedeur.

    Offensive lineman Yousef Mugharbil (Florida), receiver Jimmy Horn Jr. (South Florida), running back Kavosiey Smoke (Kentucky) and tight end Seydou Traore (Arkansas State) are just a few of the potential difference-makers Sanders has pulled to try to help him rebuild.

    Edge-rushers Marshawn Kneeland (Western Michigan) and Taijh Alston (West Virginia) have talent too.

    This won't be an overnight turnaround for the Buffs, but the talent injection will be fun to watch.

Loser: QB Depth Across the Nation

6 of 13

    QB Devin Leary, formerly of NC State
    QB Devin Leary, formerly of NC StateEakin Howard/Getty Images

    It's a new era, and even the nation's top programs are seeing kids hit the portal quickly rather than wait their turn or battle for a starting job.

    The days of teams having two quality former starting quarterbacks like Tennessee had in 2022 with Hendon Hooker and Joe Milton III are a thing of the past.

    The Vols found out firsthand Friday when redshirt freshman Tayven Jackson entered the portal rather than wait behind Milton and battle 5-star Nico Iamaleava for positioning.

    Not long ago, Cade McNamara was in the College Football Playoffs with Michigan, but after sitting behind J.J. McCarthy, he's off to Iowa. Drew Pyne started most of the year for Notre Dame but left for Arizona State. Same with Graham Mertz at Wisconsin, who is moving on to Florida.

    Hudson Card waited it out after Quinn Ewers arrived at Texas a year ago, but with Arch Manning arriving mid-term, the former starter left for Purdue rather than sit on the bench once again. DJ Uiagalelei lost his Clemson starting job to freshman Cade Klubnik and left for Oregon State.

    The list goes on and on. So, coaches had better hit on quarterback scouting evaluations and hope everybody stays healthy.

Winner: More Pac-12 Reinforcements

7 of 13

    QB DJ Uiagalelei, formerly of Clemson
    QB DJ Uiagalelei, formerly of ClemsonEakin Howard/Getty Images

    With the opposite of the SEC's catch-all for negative departures, the Pac-12 is experiencing a bit of a resurgence this offseason.

    Even though USC and UCLA are leaving the league for the Big Ten in 2024, it's been a banner portal appearance for the current member institutions. Five of the top 10 in the 247Sports transfer rankings hail from in the conference.

    It's no secret that if USC is going to make the leap to the playoffs, Alex Grinch's defense must improve. The Trojans (No. 2 transfer class) added linemen Anthony Lucas (Texas A&M) and Jack Sullivan (Purdue), cornerback Christian Roland-Wallace (Arizona) and linebacker Mason Cobb (Oklahoma State) to help.

    Hated rival UCLA has done exceptional work, too, getting former Cal receiver J.Michael Sturdivant to go along with a potential steal in quarterback Collin Schlee (Kent State). Former Ball State running back Carson Steele could be a huge addition too.

    With new coach Kenny Dillingham at Arizona State, the Sun Devils have added 25 players to assist with the departures of so many after the messy end to the Herm Edwards era. That's the most in the nation.

    Oregon State made a big splash with the addition of DJ Uiagalelei. Oregon's in the top 10 transfer classes, too, and Arizona got a potential defensive star in former Oregon Duck Justin Flowe.

    It's been a good offseason.

Loser: The 'TCU Is a 1-Hit Wonder' Crowd

8 of 13

    TCU coach Sonny Dykes
    TCU coach Sonny DykesJamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

    If TCU is trying to become "Alabama South," well, that isn't such a bad idea, is it?

    The Horned Frogs have a long way to go after a 65-7 beatdown in the national championship game by Georgia, but the fact is they got there in coach Sonny Dykes' first season.

    Now, with quarterback Max Duggan, running backs Emari Demercado and Kendre Miller, and receiver Quentin Johnston off to the NFL, they've got to restock the shelves in Fort Worth.

    Dykes is doing that in the portal.

    Other teams are ranked higher, but the Horned Frogs are filling some crucial gaps, such as adding tight end Jack Bech (LSU), as well as the former Alabama trio of receiver JoJo Earle, offensive lineman Tommy Brockermeyer and running back Trey Sanders.

    All those guys were once elite prospects who will try to rekindle that magic under Dykes. They definitely could use another quarterback, though.

    TCU is being discussed as a possible transfer destination for former LSU 5-star signal-caller Walker Howard. The Horned Frogs and Ole Miss have the buzz right now, per 247Sports' Chris Hummer.

    That will be a stiff battle, but if they can get Howard to Fort Worth, it would bolster an already strong start to the portal haul.

Winner: Michigan (Despite the Harbaugh Rumors)

9 of 13

    LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 05: Defensive end Caleb Tannor #2 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers celebrates a stop with linebacker Ernest Hausmann #15 and defensive lineman Ty Robinson #99 against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium on November 5, 2022 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
    Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

    If any blue blood program needed to have a great portal showing, it was Big Blue.

    Despite back-to-back trips to the College Football Playoffs, the Michigan Wolverines struggled throughout this year's recruiting cycle and have the No. 17 class (non-transfers) in the nation.

    While that's not a bad spot, it's not up to the standard coach Jim Harbaugh is used to in Ann Arbor. Despite some NFL rumors again surrounding him this year, the Wolverines are having a stellar go at it in the portal.

    This is a bit of new territory for Michigan, which hasn't mined the portal all that much over the past couple of years. But with defensive defections, the arrivals of talented former Nebraska linebacker Ernest Hausmann and talented Coastal Carolina edge-rusher Josaiah Stewart were huge.

    Michigan has employed the nation's top offensive line in the past couple of years, and getting Stanford's Myles Hinton and Drake Nugent, along with former Arizona State guard LaDarius Henderson will help replenish the front.

    Jack Tuttle is heading over from Indiana to back up QB J.J. McCarthy, too. There's nothing flashy about this group, but it's strong.

Loser: Kent State Getting Poached

10 of 13

    Former Kent State quarterback Collin Schlee
    Former Kent State quarterback Collin SchleeFrank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    There are a lot of positives with the transfer portal, which allows young men a do-over if things aren't working out or if they just need a change of scenery.

    But there's a downside to it.

    The gulf between the "haves" and the "have-nots" sometimes gets wider because star players in smaller divisions seek brighter lights when opportunities present themselves. While that's great for the players (which is the point), it's tough for the program.

    The Kent State Golden Flashes have been this year's victim.

    When head coach Sean Lewis left to become Deion Sanders' offensive coordinator in Colorado, the Flashes lost a ton of top-notch talent.

    Quarterback Collin Schlee is off to UCLA to try to win the job for Chip Kelly, and his top three pass-catchers are gone, too. Devontez Walker (North Carolina), Dante Cephas (Penn State) and Ja'Shaun Poke (West Virginia) are all out.

    So is back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher Marquez Cooper, who is now at Ball State. Offensive tackle Savion Washington is off to Colorado, as well, so the new coaching staff will have a complete overhaul on that side of the ball.

Winner: Dont'e Thornton

11 of 13

    CORVALLIS, OR - NOVEMBER 26:  Wide receiver Dont'e Thornton #2 of the Oregon Ducks reacts during the first half of the game against the Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Corvallis, Oregon. (Photo by Ali Gradischer/Getty Images)
    Ali Gradischer/Getty Images

    Dont'e Thornton has to feel like he just hit the lottery.

    The Baltimore native went cross-country to play his college football at Oregon, and now, he's moving all the way back the other direction for his final two years at Tennessee.

    Getting a 6'5", 185-pound, speedy receiver with a ton of ability to settle into the slot in coach Josh Heupel's explosive offense on Rocky Top is a big deal for the Vols, but it's got to be even bigger for Thornton, who has the perfect spot to showcase his skills.

    Not only is he going from low on the Ducks depth chart to the Vols rotation, he's likely to play the same position Jalin Hyatt vacated. Hyatt just won the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the nation's top receiver.

    With Hyatt and Cedric Tillman gone pro, there are catches to go around, and Thornton has a huge catch radius and can take the top off defenses.

    He will team with Bru McCoy, Ramel Keyton and Marquarius "Squirrel" White to give the Vols some filthy weapons again in '23. Who knows? Thornton has the skill set and ability to take home some more hardware for Tennessee.

Loser: Oklahoma State Cowboys

12 of 13

    Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy
    Oklahoma State head coach Mike GundyChris Coduto/Getty Images

    The encore to Oklahoma State's sterling 2021 season wasn't so great. After a strong start, the Cowboys free-fell the second half of the campaign and wound up 7-6.

    Things aren't trending in the right direction in Stillwater for 2023 either.

    Perhaps no Power Five team lost the sheer amount of production on both sides of the ball than that of coach Mike Gundy's Cowboys, who will have to rebuild with youth and try to power through.

    There are some portal wins such as the arrivals of Michigan and former Texas Tech quarterback Alan Bowman, Texas State offensive tackle Dalton Cooper and Washington State receiver De'Zhaun Stribling, but they are losing tons of playmakers.

    On offense, team leader Spencer Sanders is gone after starting at QB the past four years. Leading rusher Dominic Richardson (Baylor) is out, too, as are receivers Bryson Green (Wisconsin), Braylin Presley (Tulsa), Stephon Johnson Jr. (Houston) and John Paul Richardson (TCU).

    Defensively, Trace Ford is heading to Bedlam rival Oklahoma, and Mason Cobb will play at USC. Jabbar Muhammad is going to play in the Pac-12 as well with Washington.

    There's no way Gundy can replicate the lost production in '23.

Winner: Florida State (Again)

13 of 13

    Former Virginia cornerback Fentrell Cypress II
    Former Virginia cornerback Fentrell Cypress II Justin Casterline/Getty Images

    Few do the portal as well as Florida State coach Mike Norvell.

    Yes, the Florida State Seminoles have suffered some recruiting losses over the past couple of years, but they've also signed some difference-makers. Supplementing through the portal has been their forte.

    They're a sleeper to make the College Football Playoffs next year because of that good work.

    Just look at some of the stars from this past year who weren't Seminoles in '21. Guys such as defensive end Jared Verse, running back Trey Benson and the receiving duo of Johnny Wilson and Mycah Pittman were all portal finds and key contributors in '22.

    This year, they're back at it with five of the portal's top 50.

    Former Virginia cornerback Fentrell Cypress II was the most productive defensive back available, and the tight end duo of Jaheim Bell and Kyle Morlock could team up to be a special combo.

    Braden Fiske is a little-known defensive lineman from Western Michigan who many wanted when he entered the portal, but he's headed to Tallahassee. Former UTEP offensive tackle Jeremiah Byers and former South Carolina edge-rusher Gilber Edmond are also among the top 50.

    Darrell Jackson Jr. is a big D-lineman from Miami who will be a key addition too.

    Florida State has the top-ranked portal class in the nation for a reason. It has a lot of instant-impact playmakers.

    Recruit ratings via 247Sports' composite list.