Biggest Winners and Losers of CFB's Transfer Portal Thus Far

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2019

Biggest Winners and Losers of CFB's Transfer Portal Thus Far

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    The transfer portal is affecting virtually every college football team, and if the sport doesn't do something about it, players flipping schools is going become more and more prevalent.

    It's an instant-gratification world, and with the big business of recruiting convincing these kids they're immediate-impact players, waiting a couple of years before getting on the field isn't going to be as normal as it used to be.

    Quarterbacks especially are jumping ship early and often. Depth charts at the likes of Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Texas are now worth watching because of it. 

    While schools such as Miami and Oklahoma look like major winners, Penn State, USC and Louisville are scrambling to replace playmakers.

    The transfer portal is changing the landscape of college football, and transfer season is becoming every bit as important as recruiting. On January 30, 247Sports even launched its first transfer rankings.

Winner: Miami Hurricanes

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    There is no bigger winner in the transfer portal sweepstakes so far than Miami.

    And, boy, did the Hurricanes need it.

    After their recruiting class fell apart, leading to Mark Richt's retirement and the hiring of former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to replace him, The U was reeling.

    Now, they've rejuvenated things through the transfer portal. Diaz told The Athletic's Bruce Feldman in a podcast (via the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson) why Miami has been hot on the transfer market:

    "There's a couple of things that make us unique; we didn't have the best December. I kind of contributed to that with leaving when I did. We had some extra scholarships for the second signing day, and that is part of it. Secondly, our senior class right now is the class that signed with the transition from [Al] Golden to [Mark] Richt."

    Regardless, Miami is a big ticket for guys looking for fresh starts.

    Tate Martell is the big prize, and he should compete with Jarren Williams and N'Kosi Perry to be the starting quarterback in 2020. But there are other reinforcements ready to play right now.

    Butler offensive tackle transfer Tommy Kennedy is a potential pro prospect who should start right away. Buffalo receiver K.J. Osborn can add a speed element to the offense that didn't exist previously. Defensive tackle Chigozie Nnoruka left UCLA with 10 games of starting experience on his resume.

    Then there's speedy Auburn running back Asa Martin, who was highly recruited. Still a possibility is big prize Jaelan Phillips, who was formerly the top-ranked prospect in the nation and will have three years of eligibility remaining after transferring from UCLA. Virginia Tech defensive end Trevon Hill is still available too.

    The Canes could wind up restocking their roster with instant-impact players for now and the future.

Loser: Bru McCoy

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    Credit: 247Sports

    There's nothing wrong with 5-star athlete Bru McCoy, who could be a major college star as a receiver on offense or an outside linebacker or safety on defense.

    "There aren't many high school football players that can impact a game the way McCoy can," 247Sports director of scouting Barton Simmons wrote. "That versatility keeps him in the top-10 range as we can envision a lot of different ways he can evolve on the next level."

    There's nothing wrong with McCoy going to Texas either. The Longhorns are an up-and-coming program, and coach Tom Herman is recruiting with the best in the country. McCoy is just another centerpiece around which Herman can build a championship program.

    No, the only reason why McCoy gets a "loser" grade here is his measly timing.

    The Mater Dei High School product announced in early January at the Army All-American Bowl that he'd signed with the USC Trojans. At the time, USC had offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury in place, and former high school teammates JT Daniels and Amon Ra St. Brown made Southern Cal a logical choice.

    Then Kingsbury became the Arizona Cardinals head coach.

    Unfortunately for McCoy, he was a mid-term enrollee who signed a national letter of intent and already attended classes in Los Angeles for two weeks. So, when he elected to enter the transfer portal and leave for runner-up Texas, he'll have to sit for the 2019 season unless USC sets him free.

    On one hand, the Trojans probably should, thanks to all the turmoil surrounding their staff. But players also should pay the price if they don't follow through with the commitment.

    If he's eligible in '19, McCoy and Texas become immediate major winners. If he isn't, it'll be a decision he should have made a month earlier.

Winner: Jalen Hurts

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    If you don't like Jalen Hurts, you are what's wrong with college football fans.

    Plain and simple, Hurts did everything the right way during his three years in Tuscaloosa. As a star quarterback during his freshman and sophomore seasons, he led the Crimson Tide to the top of the college football world.

    When he lost his job to Tua Tagovailoa in last year's national title game, he cheered and said all the right things as the freshman led Alabama to a victory.

    After staying and battling for the job he'd lose, Hurts stuck with the Tide through his junior season, even leading them to another win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.

    But he needed to move on and play his final season of eligibility at a place where he could show how much he'd developed as a quarterback. To be picked in the NFL draft, Hurts needs to be able to show he can lead a major program to wins with his arm as well as his feet.

    The SEC title game was a big step toward doing that after he developed under Alabama quarterbacks coach (and current Miami offensive coordinator) Dan Enos. Now, he gets to go to Norman, where coach Lincoln Riley has helped mold Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray into Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks in two consecutive seasons.

    Mayfield went first in 2018's NFL draft, and Murray appears to be testing the waters this season.

    It's the best-case scenario for Hurts, who has a ton of talent and has handled himself in the classiest of manners, which would make any NFL team happy for him to be the face of the franchise. A big year with the Sooners on the field will help him prove he can be.

Loser: Arkansas Razorbacks

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    One thing is certain about Arkansas coach Chad Morris: He's going to have his own team very quickly in Fayetteville.

    Since he replaced former coach Bret Bielema, 28 players left the program. That continued this offseason when seven players, including starting quarterback Ty Storey and leading receiver La'Michael Pettway, led a group of eight players who have decided to play elsewhere.

    Is that a bad thing for a team that went 2-10 in 2018?

    Pettway, Maleek Williams, quarterbacks Storey and Cole Kelley and receiver Jonathan Nance are the biggest losses for a team that needs weapons on both sides of the ball.

    Morris has 21 talented players coming into a class that is currently ranked 22nd nationally in the 247Sports Composite rankings, and that's not bad at all for a team that had such a forgettable season.

    Record-setting SMU quarterback Ben Hicks will finish his career by reuniting with Morris after the two worked together at SMU, so that offsets some of the sting of losing so much talent.

    On one hand, there are a lot of players who produced after leaving Fayetteville for other places, and it is never a good thing to lose depth and talent. But at least Morris is offsetting some of it by bringing in fresh faces Hogs fans should be excited about.

    He's got to eventually stop the exodus if he wants to build a quality program, though, and this year has continued the trend.

Winner: Ohio State Coach Ryan Day

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    This is a tenuous winner bet at best because everything would have to fall just right for Ohio State first-year coach Ryan Day to come out on top of the transfer news. If Justin Fields gets an NCAA waiver to play immediately, the Buckeyes are major beneficiaries.

    Fields is the biggest prize in the transfer portal because of his three years of eligibility and limitless upside.

    While it would have been fun for everybody to see a Fields-Tate Martell battle for the chance to replace Dwayne Haskins in Columbus, Martell's initial reaction to Fields didn't bode well for team chemistry.

    Martell quickly jumped ship to Miami, and while the Buckeyes still need the resounding decision of Fields' immediate eligibility, all parties could come out winners. Day didn't need to have to deal with controversy immediately upon replacing Urban Meyer.

    Fields has a ton to prove as a college quarterback, but the former 5-star talent has all the tools to be a program-changing player after serving as a spot player at Georgia as a freshman. If he can make a J.T. Barrett-type impact for the Buckeyes, it would be huge.

    Of course, if Fields isn't cleared by the NCAA, Day looks like a loser because he brought in Fields in the first place. But a talent like him is worth the gamble.

    If he's ready to go, a recharging year for OSU may be revitalized with the marriage of Day, Fields and new coordinator Mike Yurcich.

Loser: Scott Satterfield

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    Scott Satterfield is going to be successful at Louisville eventually; he's just too good of a coach.

    But it's going to take a lot of time to rebuild what Bobby Petrino tore down. The Cardinals landed four commitments January 27 in Vanderbilt graduate transfer Ean Pfeifer, offensive linemen Josh Black and Jackson Gregory and JUCO linebacker Monty Montgomery.

    Louisville is still ranked No. 123 nationally in recruiting.

    Even worse, Satterfield lost two players who actually could have been big-time difference-makers during a 2019 season that looks cringe-worthy on paper.

    Quarterback Jordan Travis is a dual-threat quarterback with a ton of upside who decided to go back to his home state of Florida and play for Willie Taggart at Florida State. The best defender on the team, Jonathan Greenard, will finish his career at Florida.

    Running back Trey Smith entered the transfer portal as well, and he's the oldest back on the team.

    After such an awful 2018 in Petrino's final season, it seems there are several players who don't want to be a part of a rebuilding project for a once-proud program. Satterfield is one of the best hires of the entire offseason, though, and he'll get the most out of the guys on campus. His career at Appalachian State is evidence of that.

    Unfortunately for the Cardinals, though, some of the real ACC talent on the roster left.

Winner: Tate Martell

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    College football can be a cutthroat world, especially at the top of the rankings.

    When it became evident high-profile quarterback transfer Justin Fields wanted to leave Georgia for Ohio State, it left Tate Martell dangling in the balance. Martell was once a blue-chip talent in his own right, redshirted while J.T. Barrett finished his career and had spot duty behind Dwayne Haskins in 2018.

    Both quarterbacks were elite playmakers, and '19 was supposed to be Martell's time to carry Ohio State. 

    Rather than compete with Fields, though, Martell decided to bolt for clearer playing time. Maybe he found it at Miami, but with Jarren Williams and N'Kosi Perry already in the quarterbacks room, it's not guaranteed.

    One thing that is certain is Martell will be playing for a noted quarterbacks guru in Dan Enos, whom new Miami coach Manny Diaz plucked from under Nick Saban's nose at Alabama. 

    Enos helped develop elite Heisman runner-up Tua Tagovailoa and improved Jalen Hurts as an all-around signal-caller, and his pedigree dates back to his time as an assistant at Central Michigan and Arkansas too.

    Enos knows quarterbacks, and Martell is a great talent who should thrive in Coral Gables. Martell can run, pass, and he has that edge on the field than can turn into quality leadership skills if he matures and harnesses it the right way.

    If there's any assistant who can squeeze out Martell's ability, it's Enos. That's going to be a fun duo to watch for the 'Canes moving forward.

Loser: Texas' Quarterbacks Room

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    There's no question Sam Ehlinger is the superstar quarterback who has the potential to carry Texas to a national championship and win a Heisman Trophy in the process.

    Yes, he's that good.

    But what about if something happens to him? Tom Herman is recruiting well enough that they'll have some talent behind him now that Casey Thompson isn't going anywhere. Dual-threat quarterback Roschon Johnson has ability too, even if he's raw.

    It's going to hurt the immediate depth if Ehlinger goes down because Shane Buechele and Cameron Rising are set to transfer. Both are good enough to lead their own programs, so they won't stick around and get garbage time behind Ehlinger.

    Rising already made a decision that his next destination will be the Utah Utes to play for coach Kyle Whittingham. With Tyler Huntley returning and almost certain to start, Rising will battle with Jason Shelley to be the Utes' next man up. Shelley looked good at times after Huntley's season-ending injury in 2018.

    Buechele was the every-game starter for the Longhorns in 2016 and split time in '17 before watching much of Ehlinger's rise to glory from the sideline this past season. Wherever he transfers, Buechele will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

    Both Rising and Buechele likely will gain starting experience by leaving Ehlinger's shadow, but it makes things dicey for the 'Horns if Ehlinger goes down with injury. He's sturdy and durable, but Ehlinger's dual-threat game lends itself to bumps and bruises.

    Texas needs to keep him upright.

Winner: Missouri's Quarterbacks Room

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    Mike Stewart/Associated Press

    No Drew Lock? No problem.

    The Missouri Tigers must move on from program-changing quarterback Lock, who was overshadowed by Tua Tagovailoa in 2018 but still had a brilliant season as a senior for his home-state Tigers.

    With him off to the NFL, the future of the signal-caller position looked dicey at best for coach Barry Odom and offensive coordinator Derek Dooley. That's no longer the case thanks to the transfer market.

    The first real splash name in the transfer portal was Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant, who didn't want to stick around and be Trevor Lawrence's backup on Dabo Swinney's squad. He'll play his final collegiate season in '18 in Columbia for Odom.

    That's a major coup for Mizzou.

    Once he leaves, there are reinforcements on the way. TCU signal-caller Shawn Robinson elected to leave Fort Worth, and he'll sit out the '19 season and have two years of eligibility remaining. Robinson completed nearly 61 percent of his passes for 1,334 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions for the Horned Frogs.

    Despite the NCAA decision keeping Mizzou out of a bowl in 2019, Bryant isn't planning on leaving, at least not right now, according to The State's Matt Connolly.

    With Lock, Mizzou proved it isn't shy flinging the ball around to a group of quality receivers. That pedigree should continue, and it's an attractive destination for quarterbacks wanting to play in the SEC and get the opportunity to post big numbers.

    With Bryant and Robinson, nobody besides Ohio State and Oklahoma set itself up better than the Tigers. It's going to be fun to watch those two get their chance in the nation's most rugged conference.

Loser: James Franklin

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    No other team has been hit as hard as the Penn State Nittany Lions by the transfer portal.

    An eye-popping 12 players have decided to transfer from Happy Valley since the end of the regular season, and a program that seemed on the rise just 12 months ago now looks to be in rebuilding mode, according to CentreDaily's John McGonigal.

    The transfers include tight end Danny Dalton (Boston College), offensive linemen Alex Gellerstedt (Virginia) and Sterling Jenkins (Duquense), defensive end Torrence Brown (Southern Miss), linebackers Jarvis Miller (UMass), Brelin Faison-Walden (Charlotte) and Dae'Lun Darien (Delaware) and defensive back Isaiah Humphries (Cal). 

    Star receiver Juwan Johnson and fellow wideout Brandon Polk are in the portal but haven't declared anywhere, along with defensive backs Zech McPhearson and Ayron Monroe. Safety Lamont Wade put his name in the portal but withdrew it recently.

    That's a ton of players moving along; it makes you wonder what's going on in coach James Franklin's regime.

    "Every situation is different," punter and 2018 captain Blake Gillikin told McGonigal. "Guys move on every year for different reasons, and I think most of our guys have graduated and made that decision for themselves."

    It's difficult to replace so much turnover, and with Ohio State and Michigan reloading and teams such as Iowa, Nebraska and Purdue on the rise, the Lions could fall behind.

    Franklin has to rally and stop the trickle of players out of the program.

Winner: Aubrey Solomon

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    Considering Aubrey Solomon looked to be in line for a starting spot on Michigan's dynamic defense in 2019 after all the departures from a stellar unit, it's hard to believe he wanted to look elsewhere.

    But the former 5-star defensive tackle from the 2017 recruiting class wanted to get closer to his Georgia home, and he found a spot that seems to fit him perfectly.

    That would be at Tennessee, where the Vols have several coaches on the staff who were his primary recruiters when Solomon was the nation's No. 23-ranked overall player out of Lee County High School in Leesburg, Georgia.

    Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt was his top recruiter when he was defensive coordinator at Alabama, while UT defensive coordinator Kevin Sherrer and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker were his primary recruiters when both assistants were at Georgia.

    Though UT lost safeties coach Charles Kelly, who recruited Solomon to Florida State in '17, the Vols picked up Solomon's top recruiter from USC in new offensive assistant Tee Martin.

    It's safe to say there are plenty of familiar faces for Solomon in Knoxville.

    There's also major opportunity. Though it's no slam-dunk the 6'3", 297-pound defensive tackle will be eligible right away, he will have two seasons left to play in Knoxville. With UT losing starting defensive tackles Shy Tuttle and Alexis Johnson, the opportunity is there for him to be a playmaker on a young defense.

    Tennessee needs Solomon to play right away, and he needs the chance to flash the skills that made him one of the top players in the class just a couple of years ago. The Vols are hoping to revitalize his career, along with Georgia transfer DeAngelo Gibbs.

Loser: Clay Helton

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    The hits just keep on coming for embattled USC head coach Clay Helton.

    Sure, he's still got his job, and that is quite a story considering the Trojans failed to make a bowl game in 2018.

    But after USC made the splash hire of the offseason with offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, the former Texas Tech head coach was courted by the NFL's Arizona Cardinals and wound up getting hired by them, leaving before he ever coached a down for the Trojans.

    Helton made a quality hire in North Texas offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, but it was too late to save face with several players.

    Bru McCoy already has been discussed, and he's the biggest name to enter the transfer portal and emerge elsewhere. There are another couple of offensive players with high upside who are leaving too.

    Former 4-star receivers Trevon Sidney and Josh Imatorbhebhe are also in the transfer portal and will seek somewhere else to finish their college careers.

    As mentioned, stud safety Bubba Bolden left L.A. for Miami, where he'll be a force in Manny Diaz's defense.

    It continues to be a trying time for a proud program, and though the Trojans are still bringing in plenty of talent, they're losing their share too. Will it be too much for Helton to rebound?

Winner: Zach Abercrumbia

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    The first time around in Zach Abercrumbia's recruitment, he chose the Rice Owls.

    This time, things are different; much, much different.

    The 6'2", 286-pound first-team Conference USA defender and graduate transfer was a co-captain for the Owls a season ago and finished with 55 tackles (4.5 for loss). That kind of production has led to elevated interest.

    It's very similar to Owls graduate transfer offensive tackle Calvin Anderson, who helped fortify Texas' offensive line this year after leaving Rice. Abercrumbia has a list of suitors that would make any 5-star prospect proud.

    According to Burnt Orange Nation's Wescott Eberts in mid-January, Abercrumbia was scheduled to visit Mississippi State and Iowa officially and planned to visit SMU too. Michigan, Memphis, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Oregon State, Penn State, TCU, Toledo, Tulane, and Vanderbilt also have contacted him, per Eberts.

    Abercrumbia recently met with Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive line coach Shaun Nua, and he felt it went well.

    "They seemed like they were able to see big picture for me," Abercrumbia told Maize n Brew's Trevor Woods. "They seemed very honest and that they truly want to see me do well."

    It's an impressive group of suitors for Abercrumbia, who has proved on a moderately large stage that he can do well. At the very least, he'll be a rotational piece for a major program in the second time around, and the transfer portal has been a big deal to him.

Loser: Virginia Tech's Quarterback Depth Chart

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    When star quarterback Josh Jackson went down with a season-ending injury in 2018, Virginia Tech's season took a downward spiral until Ryan Willis did his best to save it.

    The Hokies finished with a losing record following a bowl loss, but Willis salvaged a decent year. He'll have to do it again in '19.

    Jackson won't return to Blacksburg after announcing he's leaving to finish his career elsewhere. Former 4-star prospect Hendon Hooker won't be back either. The pair of departures leaves rising senior Willis and redshirt freshman Quincy Patterson as the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.

    Without a quarterback in the 2019 class, this could be a big problem for coach Justin Fuente, not only in '19 but in the future.

    Willis will be fine unless he gets hurt, but as Jackson's situation shows, availability is not guaranteed. At 6'4", 232 pounds, Patterson is a former 4-star prospect with a high upside, but Hokies fans need him to be a can't-miss prospect.

    The way the transfer portal is working, it guts depth at already-shallow positions like quarterback, and it's the reason why quarterback-less classes like this one for Fuente needs not to be the norm in the future.

    Jackson should have stuck around and won back his job, but since he didn't, it's a precarious position for Fuente and the Hokies next season.


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

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