Predicting the Next 10 High-Profile CFB Transfers and Where They'll Land
If you're a college football fan, you've probably familiarized yourself with the sport's latest buzz phrase: the transfer portal.
With the flurry of player activity and the "in" thing being bolting school rather than competing for playing time, the sport may eventually have to tweak its transfer rules. Until it does, though, it looks like it will be a free-for-all.
It's college football's version of free agency, and it's coming to a favorite team near you.
From a slew of talented signal-callers who've fallen behind stars to a group of wide receivers who'll be on everybody's list as they look to boost their talent pools, there are a lot of high-profile collegians out there looking for a new home.
One of them was once the hopeful savior of Texas football—until he wasn't. Another led his SEC team in receiving yards. Yet another was once rated the nation's top high school player.
Some schools will get excellent bargains this offseason. Let's take a look at the next 10 big-ticket transfers and where they'll land.
Zach Abercrumbia, Rice Defensive Tackle
Getting recruited the second time around is going much better for Rice defensive tackle Zach Abercrumbia, a 247Sports 3-star recruit in 2015.
Last year, the biggest transfer from the Owls was Calvin Anderson, who helped fortify the Texas Longhorns offensive line. This year, Abercrumbia can do the same on the other side of the trenches.
It looks like the 6'2", 286-pound graduate transfer who was a disruptive force in Conference USA in '18 with 55 tackles—including 4.5 for a loss and two fumble recoveries—will be a major coup for somebody, and the competition is heavy.
According to Trevor Woods of MaizeandBrew.com, Michigan, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Texas, Penn State, Memphis, TCU, Toledo, Tulane, Vanderbilt and Oregon State all have gauged Abercrumbia's interest, and he doesn't seem close to making a decision. He also has visits to Iowa and Mississippi State lined up.
Michigan coaches Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown "said with the departure of some key guys up front I would have a possibility of coming in and getting tremendous playing time if I beat out the competition," Abercrumbia told Woods.
It appears the Wolverines are making him a priority, and though things could go anywhere, it has to be intriguing for Abercrumbia to think about playing for the team's defensive coordinator, Brown.
The SEC will have its say, and if the Longhorns push, it could be tough to pull him from his home state, but this feels like a battle Big Blue can win.
Braxton Burmeister, Oregon Quarterback
The potential quarterback of the future in Eugene, Oregon, will be somebody else's signal-caller soon.
When Oregon Ducks starter Justin Herbert announced he'd return for his senior season, primary backup Braxton Burmeister entered his name into the transfer portal.
Burmeister will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after he played sporadically in just four games in 2018. As a freshman in '17, Burmeister started five contests when Herbert broke his collarbone, and his youth showed. He completed just 44 of 77 passes for 330 yards, two touchdowns and six picks.
He also had three rushing scores, but the Ducks were 1-4 in his time as a starter.
Redshirt freshman Tyler Shough and true freshman Cale Millen need to be developed, but what about Burmeister's future?
The former 4-star prospect from San Diego hasn't noted any favorites, so it's anybody's guess where he'll go. Could it be UCLA, where coach Chip Kelly may be able to bring out his dual-threat abilities? Or, will he get out of the Pac-12 altogether?
It's difficult to judge Burmeister based on five starts as a true freshman. He may wind up being a dynamic quarterback even though the small sample set didn't show as much.
But perhaps it would be best for him to transfer a rung lower, get a little closer to home in Southern California and still have a fine college career for a stellar program. Since there haven't been any rumors on Burmeister, let's create one: He'd be perfect as a San Diego State Aztec.
Prediction: San Diego State
Shane Buechele, Texas Quarterback
There's nothing wrong with Shane Buechele's three-year career as the on-again, off-again starting quarterback for the Texas Longhorns. The bottom line: He isn't as good as Sam Ehlinger.
A lot of signal-callers fall in that category.
Buechele will be a major steal for somebody, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him remain in the Lone Star State. In his time with the Longhorns, Buechele completed 62.2 percent of his passes for 4,636 yards, 30 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
He added 268 yards and four touchdowns on the ground to do just enough to move the pocket around, too.
"There's certainly a lot of confidence that Sam had earned in his teammates, but based off what Shane Buechele has done in his career here, there's nobody that doubts that we can win games with him and win big games with him," Texas head coach Tom Herman said of Buechele last year, according to Horns Illustrated's Habeab Kurdi.
Buechele's numbers would translate extremely well to a place such as SMU. The Mustangs just lost all-time leading passer Ben Hicks to Arkansas, where he will re-join his former coach, Chad Morris, in Fayetteville.
ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach cited sources indicating SMU is a possible destination for Buechele, and it makes perfect sense. He could stay in Texas and keep flinging darts near home.
Is it possible a program such as TCU could come calling? Buechele has a lot of talent, so it's not out of the question. The Longhorns better hope Ehlinger stays healthy, as both Buechele and Cameron Rising (Utah) are leaving.
One of them already has a landing spot; it's just a matter of seeing where Buechele settles.
Lawrence Cager, Miami Wide Receiver
The mass exodus of Miami Hurricanes commitments was troubling in this past cycle, and it probably had something to do with coach Mark Richt's retirement.
The team will have to move on without one of its best receivers as well, as Lawrence Cager will finish his career elsewhere. That's a tough blow for new coach Manny Diaz as he tries to build an offense that is as opportunistic as the defense he helmed for the past few years.
Cager is a 6'5", 220-pound, big-bodied receiver who improved every year he was in Coral Gables. In 2018, he finished with 21 catches for 374 yards and six touchdowns and was easily the most prominent big-play threat on an offense that lacked defined playmakers.
As a former Maryland high school standout, Cager has no real pull to keep him in the South, and he's looking all over for his last college destination before he heads to the NFL.
He could replace Hakeem Butler as Brock Purdy's top target at Iowa State, where he is visiting in the coming days, per Matthew Bain of the Des Moines Register. Georgia has interest in him, which would match him with new coordinator James Coley in Athens. His home-state Terrapins and new coach Mike Locksley are interested, per the Omaha World-Herald's Sam McKewon.
It's also intriguing to think of him going to Oregon, where Herbert remains.
But Cager's best fit is in Nebraska, where he can be a jewel in Scott Frost's offense, giving QB Adrian Martinez a red-zone target and putting up big numbers for a Cornhuskers team that would no doubt feature him.
Cager told McKewon he likes Martinez and how the Huskers used Stanley Morgan, and he raved about the fanbase. Were those just kind words, or is Nebraska on his mind?
It should be. The Huskers are a perfect fit.
Juwan Johnson, Penn State Wide Receiver
What's going on at Penn State?
The Nittany Lions are dealing with their share of transfer portal hubbub, as two potential huge pieces to their 2019 team are exploring their options: receiver Juwan Johnson and safety Lamont Wade.
The 6'4", 225-pound Johnson was expected to be a breakout star next to QB Trace McSorley in 2018, but that never happened. As a sophomore in '17, he finished with 54 catches for 701 yards and a touchdown.
He played in just eight games this past year, finishing with 25 catches for 352 yards and one more score.
A big-bodied pass-catcher like him must be utilized more in the red zone, and it looks like somebody besides Penn State head coach James Franklin will have the opportunity to do that.
While it may be a long shot for Johnson to wind up at Oregon, it's an intriguing situation. The Oregonian's Andrew Nemec wrote that Johnson is visiting Eugene. Herbert would be an ideal marriage for the pass-catcher.
With Ducks leading receiver Dillon Mitchell leaving college a year early for the NFL, Herbert needs a Robin to his Batman. Coach Mario Cristobal is trying to find him one.
According to Nemec, Cristobal was Johnson's primary recruiter during his time as the offensive line coach at Alabama, and that long-standing relationship could pay major dividends for an Oregon team that looks like it's on the cusp of competing for the Pac-12 title.
Herbert's return, coupled with an elite recruiting class should have Ducks fans excited about '19. Getting Johnson would make it even better.
La'Michael Pettway, Arkansas Wide Receiver
The 2018 season was forgettable for the Arkansas Razorbacks and first-year coach Chad Morris, as they won just two games and got dominated by North Texas.
What followed that 2-10 campaign is even more alarming, as 10 players have left the program. With a huge, talented recruiting class coming in, it may not be such a bad idea to replace some of the guys from the old regime.
One of the biggest losses, though, is leading receiver La'Michael Pettway, who won't play for the Hogs in 2019, even though they're getting transfer Ben Hicks to come over and throw passes to what looks like a good young stable of receivers.
Pettway finished 2018 with 30 catches for 499 yards and four touchdowns, but the former Arkansas high school standout will leave. So, where will he land?
Potential destinations haven't surfaced yet, but Pettway is an Alabama native despite playing his high school ball in Arkansas. With the ties Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has to that state, is it possible Pettway will return to it?
He doesn't appear to be in a hurry to make a decision, and while there are any number of places that would love to have him, it's a natural connection for him to head to the Plains and play for AU.
It would be a big deal for the Tigers, who will be breaking in a new quarterback after Jarrett Stidham bolted to the NFL draft. Will the lack of an established signal-caller deter Pettway from making that leap? It's possible, but we'll roll with the Tigers.
Jaelan Phillips, UCLA Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
Once upon a time as a 6'5", 253-pound defensive end/outside linebacker, Jaelan Phillips was the nation's top-ranked high school player in the class of 2017.
After playing for Jim Mora Jr. and Chip Kelly, Phillips withdrew from UCLA following multiple injuries, and it was unclear if he would play football again. But according to 247Sports' Chris Hummer, he's considering a transfer to Stanford or USC.
Those aren't the only places he's looking at, though.
The Athletic's Bruce Feldman reported Phillips will visit Miami this weekend, and though a cross-country destination may seem like a long shot, it makes sense when you consider Phillips' interest in a music career and Miami's history with that, according to Cane Warning's Alan Rubenstein.
When Phillips was healthy, he was a force in the Bruins' 3-4 scheme. His problem was staying on the field. He also has three years of eligibility remaining.
It would make plenty of sense for him to remain on the West Coast and play for the Trojans or the Cardinal, but USC coach Clay Helton's future is unclear, and Palo Alto isn't exactly hopping on the music scene.
If Phillips and Miami hit it off this weekend, it would be a perfect match with defensive-minded coach Manny Diaz, and the outside linebacker could resurrect what's still a promising career.
R.J. Proctor, Virginia Offensive Guard
Remember when Herman dipped into the transfer pool last year and convinced Rice's Anderson to help fortify his offensive front?
It could happen again.
Massive Virginia guard R.J. Proctor is seeking another place to conclude his collegiate career, and the 6'4", 335-pound offensive lineman may surface in Austin. If he does, he'll perhaps have a chance to compete for a national championship and get plenty of pro visibility in the process.
Proctor started six games at left guard in 2018 and was a big boost once he returned from the knee injury he suffered in fall camp.
The Longhorns have open spots along the front, and Proctor would fill a major need in a big year for Herman's program, which is looking to take a leap forward after it upset Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Proctor is expected to visit Ohio State, Oklahoma and Florida State, and already has visited Texas, per 247Sports' E.J. Holland. But Proctor likes what he's hearing from Texas O-line coach Herb Hand.
"He said that he doesn't promise two things—a starting job or going to the NFL—because an individual has to work to get both of those. It was a pretty good talk," Proctor told Holland.
It's too early to make a call, and with teams like the Buckeyes and Sooners coming after him, there's no telling where he will play in '19. But the Longhorns have experienced success in the transfer market before, and players gravitate toward Hand.
Drew Richmond, Tennessee Offensive Tackle
Another offensive lineman whose name has surfaced with Texas is Tennessee graduate transfer Drew Richmond, per 247Sports' Patrick Brown.
The Memphis native struggled during his time with the Vols but showed flashes of competence. Despite the ups and downs, he's started 25 games over his career, mostly because of UT's line struggles.
If the Longhorns get Proctor, they may not turn up the heat on Richmond. But there's a possibility both could wind up in Austin.
But it's no fun giving Herman both big-ticket offensive linemen, is it?
Josh Newberg of 247Sports reported Florida State and Richmond have had contact, and the senior would be going from one terrible offensive line situation to another in Tallahassee.
Entering your name in the transfer portal does not guarantee a transfer, and Richmond could wind up returning to Knoxville, where he could help mentor a group of young, talented linemen.
Perhaps a change of scenery may be best for Richmond, though. Another coach may be able to help him unlock some of the potential that was obvious when he was the nation's third-ranked offensive tackle coming out of high school in 2015.
If he leaves, it'll probably be for the Seminoles or Longhorns. All things considered, he'd likely choose Texas, but will the 'Horns get him and Proctor? Nah.
Prediction: Florida State
Ty Storey, Arkansas Quarterback
With Hicks' transfer to Arkansas, Ty Storey's departure isn't as big of a deal. But the Hogs' primary starter, who completed 56.7 percent of his passes for 1,584 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, is still a noteworthy departure.
It will be interesting to see where the 6'2", 215-pound graduate transfer surfaces.
Storey is a former Arkansas high school standout who was recruited to play for his home-state team by former offensive coordinator and current Tennessee assistant Jim Chaney, who just left Georgia to become the Vols' offensive coordinator.
But the Vols aren't in the market for Storey. So, who is?
There haven't been any reports about where Storey could be leaning or even visiting, so any guess is a swing in the dark. When that's the case, it's important to look for on-field fits.
Two ACC programs are in desperate need of a quarterback.
The first is Louisville, where head coach Scott Satterfield has Jawon Pass and Malik Cunningham. Both are talented, but neither has shown consistency. Another potential fit is Georgia Tech, where new coach Geoff Collins is transitioning to a pro-style scheme.
Still, Storey isn't talented enough to overtake Pass or Cunningham. If he goes to the Yellow Jackets, he'd stand a strong chance of winning a job. So, with no real options, let's take a wild card and predict he'll go to Georgia Tech.
Prediction: Georgia Tech
All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.