Predictions for Calvin Anderson, C.J. Fuller and CFB's Top 2018 Free Agents

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2018

Predictions for Calvin Anderson, C.J. Fuller and CFB's Top 2018 Free Agents

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    College football's transfer market is already in full swing, and we haven't even gotten into spring practice yet. There are always players bolting after falling on depth charts across the nation.

    Already, some dominoes have tumbled. Tennessee nabbed graduate transfer signal-caller Keller Chryst, Memphis received a pledge from former Arizona State quarterback Brady White to help ease the transition from the Riley Ferguson era, and KJ Carta-Samuels flipped Pac-12 programs from Washington to UCLA.

    The biggest coup came when the Huskies won the Jacob Eason sweepstakes after Jake Fromm beat his former teammate out at Georgia. Though Eason will have to sit out 2018, there are multiple years of eligibility remaining.

    There are still plenty of capable gap-fillers on the market, too. Former Michigan starting quarterback Wilton Speight announced in November he'd transfer, though a January report from Detroit Free Press reporter Nick Baumgardner noted he would be open to returning to Ann Arbor if Shea Patterson isn't eligible. 

    So he didn't make the list because of his in-limbo status. Another transfer whose name hasn't surfaced anywhere yet due to off-the-field issues is Iowa State quarterback Jacob Park. You can possibly add those two names to this list soon.

    Other players such as former Tennessee quarterback Quinten Dormady and N.C. State signal-caller Jalan McClendon are out there, too.

    Many guys are bound to surface elsewhere. Let's take a look at college football's current top "free agents" and where they may wind up finishing their careers.

Terrence Alexander, Cornerback

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    The graduate-transfer dynamic is changing the landscape of college football, and several programs have benefitted recently in convincing kids to finish their careers elsewhere.

    Though LSU hasn't experienced any trouble recruiting in recent years, the 2018 class wasn't up to the normal standards. With so many upperclassmen leaving Baton Rouge, coach Ed Orgeron may begin to feel the heat if he doesn't start to win soon.

    The Tigers will have help in former Texas Tech defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko, who they plucked off the transfer market last year, they will seek assistance in the secondary, too. That's where Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver left major voids.

    Stanford graduate transfer Terrence Alexander could boost the talent level back there in a major way, right away. While landing him won't take away the sting of losing 5-star Patrick Surtain Jr. to Alabama, it may help matters.

    Alexander is a former John Curtis High School star, and he had 57 total tackles and one interception during his Cardinal career. As a sophomore in 2015, he finished with 30 total tackles and deflected four passes.

    He was supposed to be a senior in 2017, but he missed the entire year with an injury. Though other teams are engaging him about finishing his career there, the lure of LSU is normally strong on Bayou boys, and according to college football analyst Jimmy Smith, the Tigers are interested.

    This seems like a no-brainer match.


    Prediction: LSU

Calvin Anderson, Offensive Tackle

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    There's no more highly coveted player out there on the market than Rice offensive tackle Calvin Anderson. 

    The 6'5", 300-pound anchor could be a plug-and-play option anywhere, even at the top programs in the nation. That's why he's got the offer list he has, including schools such as Texas, Alabama, TCU, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Auburn, Oklahoma and others.

    Anderson is a former Austin (Texas) Westlake product who wasn't highly recruited coming out of high school, but the second time around, it's a different story. Other schools like Tennessee are trying to get into the picture, and Anderson told 247Sports' Brian Perroni recently he wants a Notre Dame offer.

    He referred to the Fighting Irish as "O-line U."

    But after visiting Texas and Auburn, this feels like it will come down to one of those schools or perhaps Michigan and Oklahoma. He'd step right in for Orlando Brown in Norman, and the Wolverines have produced some stellar linemen recently, too.

    He told Perroni in January he would like to have his decision made by March 25, and while he has some stellar options, Austin is home. That seems to be a huge check mark in the favor of Texas and coach Tom Herman.

    With so much young talent around which to build, Herman would love nothing more than to insert a senior who started 36 consecutive games for the Owls to anchor his offensive line. This one is still wide open, but the prediction is home wins in the end.


    Prediction: Texas

Brandon Dawkins, Quarterback

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    Though Brandon Dawkins has never been the most consistent quarterback, he's shown flashes of brilliance during his time in Tucson and made a lot of plays for the Wildcats over the past three seasons.

    The 6'3", 209-pound dual-threat signal-caller completed nearly 57 percent of his passes for 2,418 yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and added 1,582 rushing yards and 20 more scores on the ground. With that kind of production, somebody will snatch him up.

    If it wasn't for all-world athlete Khalil Tate emerging as one of the college football's most lethal weapons, Dawkins would still be the dude in the desert. Instead, that's Tate's show as coach Kevin Sumlin takes over for Rich Rodriguez. And Dawkins is looking for another home.

    Dawkins has been linked to several spots already, but one report from IlliniInquirer's Jeremy Warner quoted the quarterback as saying Illinois is an option for him. His former quarterbacks coach, Rod Smith, is now there, and Dawkins said: "I can definitely see (Illinois) as a possibility."

    Lovie Smith may be in trouble if he doesn't show signs of turning things around this year, and hiring Smith as the offensive coordinator needs to pay dividends. With Cam Thomas the only scholarship quarterback on the roster and three more players coming in this class, the opportunity is obvious for Dawkins.

    No, Dawkins isn't a great passer, but since Illinois finished 122nd nationally in rush offense a season ago, it could use help in that area. It seems he is an option.

    A curve ball could come if a West Coast school ramps up interest because Dawkins spent most of his life in California and Hawaii, but the familiarity of Smith could be a huge draw. Right now, he sounds like the Fighting Illini's to lose.

    Prediction: Illinois

C.J. Fuller, Running Back

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    When you stockpile talented playmakers the way coach Dabo Swinney has at Clemson, it's virtually impossible to keep everybody happy with touches.

    A couple of amicable splits this offseason came when the Tigers said goodbye to quarterback Zerrick Cooper and graduate transfer running back C.J. Fuller. The former already surfaced at Football Championship Subdivision Jacksonville State, but the latter's journey is only just beginning.

    There hasn't even been any chatter about where the Easley, South Carolina, product will finish his career after 754 total yards and six touchdowns while at Clemson.

    Much like Cooper couldn't see daylight on the depth chart with Kelly Bryant and Hunter Johnson ahead of him and stud Trevor Lawrence coming in, Fuller had been passed by younger talent. Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster both surpassed Fuller a season ago.

    That's why the 5'10", 205-pound runner will try to find options elsewhere.

    Though picking any destination would be a complete guess right now without any solid information out there, there's no fun in abstaining from a prediction, right? 

    It's doubtful Fuller will transfer inside the ACC. He could wind up at Notre Dame where the Fighting Irish needs depth. But a guess right now is Tennessee, where the Vols lost John Kelly a year early to the NFL draft. New coach Jeremy Pruitt is transitioning to a pro-style offense and needs power-runners.

    Maybe he needs offensive linemen more, but would he turn down a player of Fuller's ilk?

    It looks like sophomore Ty Chandler will be the starter entering the spring, but the only power back UT has is incoming freshman Jeremy Banks.

    If UT could make a run at Fuller, it would make a lot of sense for both sides, even if there hasn't been any talk between the two parties yet that we know of.


    Prediction: Tennessee

Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, Texas

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    With a youth movement and rebuild in full effect in Austin and all those star recruits coming in, coach Tom Herman didn't want to lose one of his most promising young offensive playmakers.

    But that's what happened to the Longhorns when second-leading receiver and star return man Reggie Hemphill-Mapps announced he was leaving Texas. Maybe he just didn't fit in with the new regime, but it certainly wasn't for a lack of touches.

    He finished 2017 with 37 catches for 402 yards and added 17 punt returns for 180 yards and a touchdown. The 6'1", 185-pound pass-catcher isn't returning, and it's something Herman told 247Sports' Jeff Howe was "disappointing" news.

    The news just surfaced on national signing day, so this is another transfer with little news of a destination, so any prediction out there is just a guess. Hemphill-Mapps has the type of size and speed that will make him a hot commodity.

    It's unclear whether he'll go the JUCO route or go somewhere and sit out a season, but after redshirting a year ago, he has the potential of at least two more years to play wherever he surfaces.

    Hemphill-Mapps was recruited by Charlie Strong, so it's possible he could head to South Florida and play for the coaching staff where he originally pledged. But Texas kids stay in Texas oftentimes, and that's why the guess will come in that state.

    He would be a great fit in Kendal Briles' new offense at Houston, so it'll be interesting to see if the Cougars pursue. But a perfect fit would be Baylor, where Matt Rhule is trying to rebuild the program from the ground up.

    Quarterback Charlie Brewer would be an attractive option for any receiver, so watch for Hemphill-Mapps to be linked there.


    Prediction: Baylor

Madre London, Running Back

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    A couple of years ago, it looked like Madre London may be part of the future for Michigan State as coach Mark Dantonio helped the Spartans to a superb rebound season after the 2016 debacle.

    Though he's never been a game-breaking back, London saw playing time in each of his first three years in East Lansing, finishing with 924 yards and eight touchdowns in three seasons. He had his best year as a freshman, gaining 500 yards. 

    But once LJ Scott took over after London's injury, he hasn't relinquished the job in two years. In that same span, Scott had 2,591 yards and 25 scores for the Spartans, and with him returning for his final season, London probably didn't want to play second fiddle in his last year.

    So he'll go elsewhere.

    The problem for London is he's not going to be the No. 1 guy at any strong program. He's only averaged four yards per carry in his career, and at 6'1", 218 pounds, he's a between-the-tackles player who can move the chains in short-yardage situation.

    There's a niche for that, but it's not an every-down back. With Jarvion Franklin out of eligibility at Western Michigan, it's possible London could go there and get a lot of carries. The same could be said for Central Michigan as well.

    But London could emerge as a possibility at Notre Dame. The Irish must replace stud Josh Adams, who declared for the NFL draft. Deon McIntosh and C.J. Holmes were dismissed from the program, too.

    So, even though Notre Dame will be turning to talented freshmen, getting a rugged, experienced option such as London or Fuller would be a smart move. There should be mutual interest.


    Prediction: Notre Dame

Patrick Nelson, Safety

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    It's hard to find instant-impact playmakers at a position such as safety, which is why Patrick Nelson's phone is likely to be ringing plenty after he decided to transfer from Illinois.

    The 6'2", 210-pound Chicago product contributed both years with the Illini, but he was one of the many players who left during the Lovie Smith tenure. Though there haven't been a lot of destinations rumored out there, it's safe to say Nelson will have solid options.

    He has already been mentioned in offseason articles as a transfer who would help Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Louisville. Other programs across the country are in need of depth and talent on the back end of the defense as well. Nelson brings both.

    Those four programs are as good a place as any for a jumping point when talking about Nelson's landing spot. In his first two seasons in Champaign, he registered 140 tackles, including five for a loss and two fumble recoveries. He's a tackling machine and a force against the run.

    If he went to Willie Taggart's Seminoles, they could insert him in Derwin James' spot, and he'd fit just fine there. With Clemson loaded at virtually every position on defense except for the back end, Nelson would be an ideal fit. If those two programs come calling, they'll probably be in the mix.

    But Nelson just looks like a Bud Foster player. He's physical, and he loves to play in the box. He can step up against the run, but he's not lost covering receivers, either. Nelson is the kind of player who can roam all over the field and is the type of athlete who could be an NFL player down the road.

    Any school would be lucky to have him, and the Hokies would be smart to pursue.

    Prediction: Virginia Tech

C.J. Sanders, Wide Receiver

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    When he was coming out of high school in the Nashville area, C.J. Sanders was a player who was on a lot of schools' hot boards. He wound up heading north to play for Notre Dame.

    His only year to make an impact on offense for the Fighting Irish was in 2016 when he finished with 24 catches for 293 yards and two touchdowns. He's undersized at 5'8", 181 pounds, but Sanders could make an impact in the right kind of situation.

    Perhaps his biggest asset comes in the return game, where he had 86 kick returns for a 23.5 average and three touchdowns in his career at South Bend. He added 307 punt return yards for an 8.8 average and another score.

    A potential good destination for Sanders would be Vanderbilt, which is near to his alma mater of Brentwood Academy. His father played for the Titans, so Tennessee runs in Sanders' blood. He would be able to step in immediately for Derek Mason's team, and he could make an impact.

    Another option that would be close to Sanders' home is Middle Tennessee State, where Rick Stockstill has posted strong offenses in the past three years.

    It should also be a bonus for Vandy in Sanders' eyes that Kyle Shurmur continues to improve each year for the Commodores, who could have a strong passing game in 2018.

    Mason already is scouring the transfer market, signing Rutger Reitmaier, who left Oregon, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who left Illinois, and Ohio State receiver Alex Stump (last year). He also could pursue Hawaii transfer receiver Dylan Collie, the younger brother of former NFL receiver Austin, according to the Deseret News' Jeff Call.

    But Sanders is an option, according to the Tennessean's Adam Sparks. It would be a move that makes the most sense for everybody.


    Prediction: Vanderbilt

Evan Shirreffs, Quarterback

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    A player who has already experienced his share of drama since announcing he wasn't going to be a part of Mark Richt's program in Coral Gables anymore is former Miami quarterback Evan Shirreffs. 

    Though Richt initially blocked Shirreffs from going anywhere in the ACC despite the signal-caller graduating in three years, he protested and will now get to transfer to either Duke, North Carolina or Virginia, if he so desires, according to CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd.

    For Shirreffs, football is important, but going to one of the top MBA programs nationally is, too. Dodd reported the quarterback is on track to get a degree in business finance and plans to seek admission to a top MBA program to continue his education.

    That's why the Blue Devils, Tar Heels and Cavs could be a winner in all this.

    Shirreffs is an unproven commodity on the field, having thrown just seven passes thus far in his career, completing two of them. He's never been able to get close to the top of the depth chart with Brad Kaaya leading the Hurricanes in 2016 and Malik Rosier taking over last year.

    You have to figure since Shirreffs fought the initial transfer restrictions he has an ACC school on his mind.

    He'll obviously focus on academics, but if Shirreffs wants to factor into the quarterback race at any of those programs, there's only one real choiceVirginia. Kurt Benkert exhausted his eligibility, and he is a perfect example that coach Bronco Mendenhall isn't shy about transfers.

    Benkert began his career at East Carolina. 

    So, if Shirreffs is the next transfer signal-caller to suit up for the Hoos, he'll have a legitimate chance to compete for the job. And he'll get an exceptional education.


    Prediction: Virginia

    Unless otherwise noted, stats are courtesy of Sports Reference and, and recruiting data is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.   

    Brad Shepard covers college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @Brad_Shepard.


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