Final Landing-Spot Predictions for Top Remaining 2020 CFB Transfer Targets

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2020

Final Landing-Spot Predictions for Top Remaining 2020 CFB Transfer Targets

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    The transfer portal giveth, and it taketh away. 

    But teams gutted by departures can still outfit their rosters with quality players from college football's version of free agency.

    As the sport's powers debate the merits of a one-time, frills-free transfer rule, it's business as usual in the "other" recruiting season. Once the dead period ends February 29, transferring athletes will schedule visits and try to determine where they'll finish their playing days.

    From skill-position players to readymade, plug-and-play defenders, the portal still has plenty of prospects who are waiting to tap into their potential at their next program. There are so many prospective impact guys that it's difficult to narrow them to 12.

    In some cases, transfers already have an idea where they're going. In others, it's still a crapshoot where they'll wind up, so some of these predictions are guesses based on need or geographic/positional fit.

    These are some of the top remaining players based on talent, production at previous stops and, in some cases, their upside if they get a bigger opportunity to showcase their skills elsewhere.

    Let's take a look at some final predictions of where the top remaining transfers will land.

Dee Anderson, WR

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    With all the NFL pass-catching talent that resided in the Bayou for the national champion LSU Tigers last season, you may have forgotten about a former Tiger loaded with potential: Dee Anderson.

    Coach Ed Orgeron suspended him because of conditioning issues in September, and he didn't play in 2019. 

    Anderson would have been yet another weapon for Joe Burrow after the receiver caught 20 passes for 274 yards and a touchdown in 2018. Can you imagine another stud alongside Ja'Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Terrace Marshall Jr. and Thaddeus Moss? Instead, Anderson watched and waited.

    The 6'6", 229-pound wideout is a graduate transfer with immediate eligibility and can improve his draft stock with a drama-free season.

    Cody Nagel of Go Pokes reported Anderson recently visited Oklahoma State. He would be an ideal complement for senior star Tylan Wallace, and with running back Chuba Hubbard and quarterback Spencer Sanders back, the Cowboys would love another standout.

    If Anderson lands with coach Mike Gundy's team, it would be yet another reason to like Oklahoma State's chances in the Big 12 in 2020. This seems like a no-brainer.

    Prediction: Oklahoma State

Tarik Black, WR

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    One of the hottest names in the portal is yet another receiver who could do big things with a change of scenery before heading to the NFL.

    Michigan pass-catcher Tarik Black would have been a huge part of coach Jim Harbaugh's plans this year after he finished 2019 with 25 catches for 323 yards and a touchdown.

    Instead, Black pursued a graduate transfer, meaning he can play right away. That makes him a valuable commodity, especially considering he has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

    Many Power Five programs are trying to lure him, including Arizona State, Texas, Virginia, Boston College and Miami, according to Michigan Insider's Brian Dohn. Though there haven't been any real reports on where he may head, this feels like a Longhorns-Hurricanes-Sun Devils battle.

    At any of those places, Black would have a seasoned signal-caller throwing him the ball.

    It's hard to count out Miami with the allure of South Beach and with the way Manny Diaz has milked the transfer portal. Getting new quarterback D'Eriq King an elite pass-catcher would be huge. Jayden Daniels needs a top target after Brandon Aiyuk left Arizona State too. 

    But Texas seems set up to rebound from a disappointing 2019 in a big way; the Longhorns just have to replace Devin Duvernay and Colin Johnson as Sam Ehlinger's top targets. Getting Black would help meet that need, and he could guide the team's talented youngsters.

    Miami will be tough to beat, but Tom Herman can do it.

    Prediction: Texas   

Anthony Brown, QB

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    Boston College quarterback Anthony Brown's destination hasn't been talked about much since he announced his intention to transfer in December.

    The electrifying-but-inconsistent dual-threat signal-caller threw for 4,738 yards, 40 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, completing 54.9 percent of his passes over parts of three seasons. He started 2019's first six games before he went down with a knee injury.

    He's looking to head elsewhere, a decision that likely only strengthened after BC coach Jeff Hafley landed Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec.

    With just one season of eligibility remaining, Brown will want to play immediately, but it's unclear what his market looks like.

    It would be an interesting fit for the New Jersey native to head home and play for new Rutgers coach Greg Schiano as he looks to rebuild the Scarlet Knights.

    Could a big-name school with quarterback uncertainty roll the dice, such as LSU or Oklahoma?

    If either of those schools comes calling, Brown would have to listen. Especially considering how well transfer quarterbacks fared at those schools recently.

    But a perfect fit would be for Brown to head over to East Lansing and help new Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker begin his regime with a veteran quarterback following Brian Lewerke's graduation. 

    Prediction: Michigan State

Rico Bussey Jr., WR

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    Much like Anderson, North Texas pass-catcher Rico Bussey Jr. is a forgotten talent who could make a major impact in 2020.

    At 6'2", 193 pounds, Bussey was a major part of the Mean Green's success in 2017 and '18 when he caught a ton of passes from quarterback Mason Fine and helped a program turnaround.

    As a sophomore, he made 47 catches for 677 yards and scored seven touchdowns. He followed it up in '18 with 68 catches for 1,017 yards and 12 scores.

    But he tore his ACL against California early last year and missed the rest of the season. With one year remaining, he may be the top receiver in the portal—even though Black is the bigger name.

    VT Scoop's Evan G. Watkins says Bussey should be a "top of the board" transfer option for the Hokies, and that's probably the case for several teams.

    A few other programs have been mentioned for Bussey, including Nebraska and Miami, and both would be strong choices. Considering he's from Lawton, Oklahoma, staying in the Midwest and picking the Cornhuskers is a possibility.

    If the Miami Hurricanes strike out with Black, though, Bussey could draw their interest. 

    "The new name that has kind of emerged as an option for Miami is North Texas wide receiver Rico Bussey," Ivins said on a Through the Smoke podcast (via Austin Nivison). "I don't know how much contact or who's talked with who, but according to people close to Bussey, the Hurricanes have at least made it known that they're interested in him. I think there is some mutual interest there."        

    Prediction: Miami

Nick McCloud, CB

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    Perhaps the best defensive back who will flip schools this offseason is North Carolina State's Nick McCloud.

    After a disappointing 2019, the Wolfpack and coach Dave Doeren are trying to rebound, but losing a player of McCloud's ilk is not a good beginning. The 6'1", 190-pound cornerback started for much of the 2017 and '18 seasons.

    A knee injury derailed his 2019 season, but McCloud could return to the form he had as a junior when he finished with 51 tackles, eight passes defended and a pair of interceptions. He was also a team captain for the defensive-minded Doeren, and that's a big deal.

    Whoever lands him will get a leader and a quality playmaker who can do a lot of things, including get after runners and track down passes.

    There haven't been any mentions of potential destinations for McCloud. Since he's a South Carolina native, it's possible he'll head to the Gamecocks and help Will Muschamp try to turn things around.

    If he stays in the ACC and Clemson is interested in him, getting a veteran presence wouldn't be a bad idea for coach Dabo Swinney, who has to replace a lot of upperclassmen in the secondary. 

    Plenty of teams could use a player like McCloud, but the guess here is he goes with a wild card and heads to LSU to join DBU.

    There's no evidence Orgeron is pursuing him, but he should. 

    Prediction: LSU

Chris Murray, UCLA OG

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    Teams almost always need help along the offensive front, and that's why one of the top interior linemen in the Pac-12 should be a hot commodity in the coming weeks.

    The UCLA Bruins haven't gotten going under coach Chip Kelly, and two-year starting guard Chris Murray is looking for a fresh start.

    He will likely have to sit out a season but will have two remaining years of eligibility, beginning in 2021, and could develop into a four-year Power Five starter and an NFL-caliber player. Losing him is a major blow to the Bruins.

    The 6'2", 298-pounder will receive interest from lots of teams, and popular transfer destination Miami (per FanSided) already has been thrown around. But the one that may have some legs is Florida State.

    The Seminoles desperately need quality offensive linemen as they rebuild for the Mike Norvell era. According to Murray's former teammate, tight end Jordan Wilson, there's mutual interest between FSU and both ex-Bruins.

    "My former teammate Chris Murray was contacted by coach [Alex] Atkins at FSU, and Coach Atkins followed me and has been in touch since," Wilson told NoleGameday's Nate Greer. "We are taking an official together to FSU in March."

    If everything checks out, that could be a terrific destination for both parties.

    Prediction: Florida State     

Peyton Ramsey, QB

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    Perhaps it seemed like a shock when Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey entered the transfer portal. But the Hoosiers leader, who had such a strong close to the season, didn't even begin it as the starter.

    He lost the job to Michael Penix Jr. as a redshirt junior and didn't win it back until Penix was lost for the year because of a clavicle injury in early November. So with Penix returning, Ramsey will play his final season of eligibility elsewhere.

    It's possible he's the best remaining signal-caller on the market.

    Ramsey is first all-time at IU in completion percentage (66.5 percent, minimum 200 attempts), second in completions (633) and fourth in passing yards (6,581 yards). He nearly gutted out a Gator Bowl win over Tennessee in his final game as a Hoosier too.

    There aren't any rumored potential destinations for Ramsey, though anybody needing a starter or depth would be wise to look his way. Michigan State, for one, would be a great spot, but we've already awarded the Spartans with Boston College transfer Anthony Brown.

    So, here is an out-of-the-box thought: Why not LSU? 

    The defending national champions were gutted by graduating seniors and early NFL departures, so building the roster with a few transfers would be wise.

    With Burrow gone, it's expected Myles Brennan will slide into the starting role. But behind him is a pair of freshmen. Why not bring in Ramsey, let him compete for the job and improve the quarterback room?

    The last Ohio native (Burrow) who transferred to the Bayou did pretty well.

    Prediction: LSU

Jason Shelley, QB

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    When Tyler Huntley went down for the year with a broken collarbone in November 2018, Jason Shelley did an admirable job in mop-up duty, looking like the Utes' signal-caller of the future.

    Coach Kyle Whittingham landed a big target when South Carolina transfer quarterback Jake Bentley elected in December to play his final season in Salt Lake City, though. That left Shelley without a job, and he moved briefly to the secondary.

    Apparently, Shelley sees himself as a quarterback, though, and he entered the transfer portal.

    Since he has two seasons of eligibility remaining, we'll see if Power Five programs give him a look. One team high on him out of high school was Virginia, and the Hoos will be looking for Bryce Perkins' replacement soon.

    If Bronco Mendenhall looks in Shelley's direction, that could be a nice match.

    His most logical destination, however, would be a Group of Five program nearer to his Frisco, Texas, home. Southern Mississippi would be a strong landing spot for him, as would Louisiana Tech. Shelley's slight 5'11" frame wouldn't be too much of a detriment in either spot.

    But a perfect marriage may be at SMU with coach Sonny Dykes. This season will be the final one for Texas transfer Shane Buechele, who has seen his career resurrected with the Mustangs. Shelley could replace Buechele in 2021 and slide in as the starter for a couple of seasons.

    No, Shelley isn't a typical Dykes quarterback, but he'd be a quality player in the AAC.

    Prediction: SMU

Ricky Slade, RB

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    When Penn State signed dynamo running back Ricky Slade in 2018, the 5-star prospect figured to have a bright future in Happy Valley.

    Things didn't work out that way.

    At 5'9", 198 pounds, the Virginia native isn't the biggest back, and though his durability hasn't been in question, he hasn't gotten the touches he wanted in a deep, talented Nittany Lions backfield.

    With Journey Brown, Noah Cain and Devyn Ford returning in what figures to be one of the nation's top running back groups, Slade probably didn't see a lot of daylight. Add Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee to the mix, and Penn State will have several viable options.

    Slade finished his sophomore season with 47 carries and 12 catches for 319 yards from scrimmage and a pair of touchdowns. Though he may not live up to his 5-star billing, he could be a major producer somewhere with an opportunity.

    PennLive.com's Greg Pickel speculated the Woodbridge, Virginia, native could head closer to home and play for Virginia Tech, FCS powerhouse James Madison or Old Dominion, where former Nittany Lion offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne is the head coach.

    Playing for the Monarchs and Rahne could be an intriguing option, and Slade could be the man there, but he's probably still convinced he can play Power Five football. That might happen under Hokies coach Justin Fuente, who doesn't have anybody like Slade.

    A Blacksburg landing is a good bet, even if Slade hasn't scheduled any visits yet.

    Prediction: Virginia Tech

Jarren Williams, QB

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    Jarren Williams is the kind of player around whom you can build a program.

    Yes, the Hurricanes instantly got better when King headed to Miami, but losing Williams is not a good byproduct.

    Some team will be the beneficiary of three remaining seasons of eligibility for the 6'2", 216-pound signal-caller. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, he completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 2,187 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

    Yes, he held on to the ball too long and had maddening moments, but it was his first year of playing major college football. He also had sensational outings, such as his six-touchdown performance against Louisville, and he showed the ability to make every throw with accuracy. 

    There are no reports about where he may land, but it would be great to see him switch places with King and head to Houston, where he would play for head coach Dana Holgorsen.

    He was committed to Kentucky for a long time as a high school prospect, and though the Wildcats recently signed Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood, Williams could go there and compete. He also could fling it around at Missouri for new coach Eli Drinkwitz.

    But here's an idea: What if he goes back home and plays for Georgia Tech?

    The Georgia native could help Geoff Collins accelerate the rebuild with the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech may not be far from winning, and though Collins signed an exciting duo in 4-star quarterback Jeff Sims and 3-star QB Tucker Gleason, Williams would mix things up.

    This is one of those who-knows-what-he's-thinking picks, but it makes sense for Williams to stay in the ACC and play for Tech.

    Prediction: Georgia Tech

Jovan Swann, DE

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    Stanford will have a difficult time with remaining a Pac-12 force if the Cardinal continue to lose transfers.

    They must replace key defensive linemen, including starting tackle Michael Williams and swingman Jovan Swann, who can play inside or out. Swann is perhaps the biggest loss. 

    The 6'2", 271-pound lineman is a super-quick player who likely will fit inside wherever he winds up. He's a graduate transfer who should be eligible to play immediately, and he will be coming off an impressive career in Palo Alto.

    In 2019, he played in 12 games, starting nine and finishing with 31 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 4.0 sacks. Swann was an honorable-mention all-conference player in 2018, and will be a plug-and-play guy no matter where he goes. At the very least, he'll give a good team quality depth.

    Swann was born in Big Ten country, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him head back there. The Michigan native heavily considered Indiana and Northwestern as a high school recruit, and the academic standards at both schools wouldn't be an issue coming from Stanford. IU is the better program.

    He also could head to East Lansing and help Mel Tucker's first year with the Spartans. But Swann should think bigger. During his recruiting days, he told Rivals.com's Brandon Brown he grew up a big Michigan fan.

    Even with a crowded Wolverines D-line returning, Swann could finish his career with the school of his dreams and compete for the Big Ten title. 

    Prediction: Michigan

JaTarvious Whitlow, RB

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    One of the biggest shockers of transfer-portal season came when Auburn's two-time consecutive leading rusher JaTarvious "Boobie" Whitlow left the Plains in early February.

    Gus Malzahn's Tigers return D.J. Williams and recruited elite high school player Cartavious "Tank" Bigsby, but Whitlow was still expected to be a bell cow for the AU offense for the next two seasons.

    He was one of college football's feel-good stories, nearly going to Tulane before Auburn swooped in at the last moment and signed the LaFayette, Alabama, native in 2017. After redshirting that year, Whitlow made the Freshman All-SEC team in 2018 and battled through injuries for another quality campaign last season.

    He's leaving Auburn, and if he isn't granted a waiver, he'll have to sit a season and have just one year of eligibility remaining. His decision is puzzling, to say the least. Sources told Auburn Undercover's Brandon Marcello, "Relationships had broken down between the player and staff members."

    Since the decision seems mutual, maybe it would build a case for Whitlow to get a waiver. Whoever lands him will get a legitimate every-down back who ran for 1,550 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry during the past two years.

    As with a lot of players on this list, there aren't any rumored destinations for Whitlow. One intriguing option would be for him to stay in the SEC West and play for new Arkansas coach Sam Pittman, who has a rugged style. Tennessee could use a power back, too, in the SEC East.

    But, depending on Whitlow's relationship with former Auburn offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, a great landing spot for him would be Florida State, where the coach is Mike Norvell's new assistant. The 'Noles could use a player of Whitlow's ilk, even if they have to wait a year for him.

    Prediction: Florida State

                      

    All recruiting information via 247Sports and stats courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.