Way-Too-Early Predictions for the Biggest CFB Names in 2020-21 Transfer Portal
The transfer portal continues to expand across college football, and while the next cycle is still a year away, a few big names could be heading to different programs after the 2020 season.
Immediate eligibility has become much more frequent for transferring players the past couple of years, but that could become even more widespread in the near future. The NCAA is currently considering allowing all Division I athletes a one-time transfer without any playing restrictions.
Such a dramatic change in the transfer rules could completely alter the landscape of college football, understandably making a lot of coaches nervous. However, it could allow the players to find new programs and better opportunities to show off their talents.
Regardless of whether this rule is implemented before the 2020 college football season ends, a ton of players will transfer to new schools next year. Let's take a look at a few who might consider moves after this season, whether due to a lack of opportunity or potential friction with their coaches.
James Blackman, QB, Florida State
To say that James Blackman has played during a tumultuous era for the Florida State Seminoles would be a massive understatement.
As a 3-star recruit in the class of 2017, Blackman was lured to play for the Seminoles under then-head coach Jimbo Fisher. He was named the starting quarterback as a true freshman and had a promising first season, passing for 2,230 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
However, things quickly started to unravel. Fisher left for Texas A&M before the end of the 2017 season, and new head coach Willie Taggart ended up benching Blackman for Deondre Francois in 2018.
Blackman was able to get back into the starting lineup under Taggart this past season, showing improved accuracy by increasing his completion percentage from 58.2 percent in 2017 to 63.0 percent in 2019.
Now, Blackman will be playing for yet another head coach in Mike Norvell this coming season. The soon-to-be redshirt junior struggled with the last coaching change, and that might be the case again with 4-star dual-threat quarterback Chubba Purdy coming to town.
The younger brother of Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy, Chubba actually flipped his commitment from Louisville to play for the Seminoles. Norvell was aggressive getting him, and the new head coach could want to start his tenure by playing one of his guys.
If that's the case, or Blackman simply gets exhausted by the constant coaching changes in Tallahassee, then it would be hard to blame the 6'5" quarterback for wanting to play at a different program in his final year of eligibility in 2021.
Markese Stepp, RB, USC
Playing in a crowded backfield can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it can keep a running back fresh and allow him to play at a high level for years to come. However, for the backs getting only a handful of carries, it can be hard to stand out on the national stage.
USC's Markese Stepp is in that exact situation right now.
Despite some legitimate flashes in 2019, Stepp was only able to get 48 carries for 307 yards and three touchdowns. Averaging 6.4 yards per carry was impressive, but it still wasn't enough to get him more reps.
That's pretty surprising considering Stepp was a 4-star recruit out of high school. He has a physical 6'0", 235-pound frame along with the balance and strength to pick up plenty of yards after contact. Unfortunately, the USC coaching staff hasn't totally trusted his ability in the offense, particularly offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.
That will make things even harder on Stepp heading into his redshirt sophomore season. Both Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai will likely still stay ahead of him on the depth chart, and that will keep him from getting a noteworthy workload.
Even after Carr and Malepeai graduate this season, there could be enough friction between Stepp and the coaching staff that he'll try to find a backfield elsewhere in which he'll get to run free. Of course, that could all depend on whether head coach Clay Helton and the rest of the staff are retained after this upcoming season.
Dylan McCaffrey, QB, Michigan
As the younger brother of Carolina Panthers superstar Christian McCaffrey, Dylan has been patiently waiting for his turn to shine in the national spotlight. If he doesn't get the chance to show off his talent for the Michigan Wolverines in 2020, then he may decide it's time to find somewhere else where he can.
McCaffrey was a 4-star recruit and the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in the country for the 2017 class, also earning All-American honors. However, he has hardly seen the field in his first two seasons with the Wolverines, totaling just 35 pass attempts. He has scored five total touchdowns in his limited time, including an exciting 44-yard rushing touchdown during garbage time against Wisconsin in 2018.
Shea Patterson transferring to Michigan kept McCaffrey from having the chance to start in Ann Arbor. Unfortunately, the first-string job still isn't guaranteed to go to him even though Patterson has graduated.
Redshirt sophomore Joe Milton will also have a chance to compete for the job. He has good size for the position at 6'5" and 245 pounds, along with excellent arm strength.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh has gone on the record saying he won't make any kind of announcement about the starter any time soon. If Milton is able to snag the job, or McCaffrey simply isn't able to get significant playing time, he could decide to find that opportunity elsewhere after this season.
Kennedy Lewis, WR, Texas
Though he's a young player with an opportunity to carve out a much larger role in the offense, Texas Longhorns wide receiver Kennedy Lewis is going to be a step behind the competition this spring.
Anwar Richardson of OrangeBloods.com reported Saturday morning that Lewis would be suspended from spring practice with the Longhorns and is expected to return in June. While there are no clear details about why he was suspended, missing spring practice could be a big blow to his development.
Lewis was a 3-star recruit out of high school in the 2019 class and ultimately decided to play for Tom Herman in Austin. He played in just two games last season, which allowed him to redshirt, and he caught only one pass for 37 yards against Rice.
With wide receivers Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay leaving the program to pursue their NFL dreams, the position battle is wide open right now. Unfortunately for Lewis, the rest of his teammates will get a big head start as they compete during spring practices.
If Lewis isn't able to secure a substantial role in the Longhorns offense in 2020, it would make sense for him to transfer elsewhere for a chance of scenery—and, hopefully, a larger role in the offense.
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Although he's entering the season as Alabama's expected starting quarterback, Mac Jones could be the biggest name in the transfer portal after the 2020 season is over.
The redshirt junior was thrust into the starting lineup last season when star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went down with a season-ending hip injury. He actually played quite well on the year, completing 68.8 percent of his passes for 1,503 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also had a big game against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl, throwing for 327 yards and three touchdowns in the 35-16 victory.
While Jones has played well enough to earn his spot as the starter, an elite quarterback recruit who could steal the job away is coming to Tuscaloosa. The No. 2 player nationally and the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2020 class, Bryce Young will be heading to campus looking to compete for a starting job right away.
Tua's younger brother, Taulia Tagovailoa, could also put some heat on Jones in spring practices.
Head coach Nick Saban hasn't been shy about putting young quarterbacks on the field. He even pulled the trigger with Tagovailoa in the second half of the 2018 national championship, benching Jalen Hurts.
Hurts ultimately decided to transfer to Oklahoma after Tagovailoa took the starting job the following season. If Jones doesn't play at a high-enough level early on, Young could take over and potentially have the redshirt junior consider playing somewhere else in his final season of eligibility.
All recruiting information via 247Sports.