Winners and Losers of the College Football Transfer Portal so Far
More than 100 quarterbacks and easily more than 1,000 players entered college football's transfer portal, and some programs have fared much better with that roster-building option than others.
For the most part, the transfer portal is for scarcely used players who are looking for a chance to show what they are capable of doing. For whatever reason, things didn't work out at their first school, and they need a change of scenery just to see the field.
But when that scarcely used player is a former 5-star or 4-star recruit, that could be a huge deal for the team that acquires him. Or in the case of Florida, the team that acquires three of them.
At any rate, transferring certainly worked out nicely for the last three Heisman winners: Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Joe Burrow.
Our list of the biggest winners and losers of the transfer portal is solely based on what teams have gained and lost via transfer. For instance, we have Cincinnati as a winner and Alabama as a loser. Although we wouldn't pick the Bearcats to beat the Crimson Tide on a neutral field in 2020, Cincy improved its roster by adding transfers, while Bama lost more talent to the portal than most other schools.
Teams are not listed in any particular order, but we do alternate between winners and losers.
Winner: Miami Hurricanes
Key Acquisitions: D'Eriq King (QB, Houston); Isaiah Walker Jr. (OT, Florida); Jarrid Williams (OT, Houston); Quincy Roche (EDGE, Temple); Jose Borregales (K, FIU)
Key Departures: Jarren Williams (QB); Lorenzo Lingard (RB); Realus George (RB); Brian Hightower (WR); Evidence Njoku (WR); Michael Irvin II (WR); Brian Polendey (TE); George Brown (OT); Scott Patchan (DE); Tyreic Martin (DT); Shawn Walker (LB); Nigel Bethel (CB); Derrick Smith (S); Bubba Baxa (K); Chauncy Smart (ATH)
For the second consecutive year, Miami appears to be one of the top beneficiaries of the transfer portal. And now that the biggest star of last year's haul (former UCLA DE/OLB and 2017's No. 1 overall recruit Jaelan Phillips) is eligible to take the field, the U could bounce back beautifully from last year's 6-7 mess.
Phillips will be one of several anchors on what should be a loaded defensive front seven, as the Hurricanes also have two of the best edge-rushers in the nation. Gregory Rousseau (15.5 sacks in 2019; way-too-early projected top-10 pick in 2021 NFL draft) is the one they already had on the roster, and now they add Roche, who had 13.0 sacks last year and 26.0 sacks over the past three seasons.
Not only will Miami improve in the pass-rushing department, but it should be much better in the passing and rushing departments with the addition of King at quarterback.
King was one of the most unstoppable forces in 2018, throwing for 36 touchdowns and running for 14 more in the span of 10.5 games. Quite the pickup for a team that struggled on offense last season and that has had significantly more questions than answers at quarterback over the last three years.
As far as the outgoing players are concerned, the only ones that made even a somewhat significant impact last year were Williams and Patchan—and they both became superfluous when King and Roche joined the fray.
Losing Lingard stings a bit, mostly because he was a 5-star recruit in 2018. Thanks in large part to a torn MCL suffered in October 2018, though, he only recorded 17 carries in his two seasons at Miami. It's a shame his potential never materialized for the U, but the Hurricanes backfield should be just fine with Cam'Ron Harris, a mobile quarterback and a quality pair of true freshmen (Jaylan Knighton and Donald Chaney Jr.).
Loser: Penn State Nittany Lions
Key Acquisitions: None
Key Departures: Ricky Slade (RB); Justin Shorter (WR); Mac Hippenhammer (WR); Daniel Joseph (DE); Ellison Jordan (DT); Damion Barber (DT); Denver Light (LB); C.J. Holmes (S); John Petrishen (S); D.J. Brown (CB); Dalton Daddona (OG); Hunter Kelly (C); Austin Sullivan (LS)
Miami is one of the biggest transfer portal winners for the second straight year, and Penn State is a big loser in back-to-back "free agency" cycles.
Of course, the first thing we should point out is that it hasn't hurt the Nittany Lions. They improved from 9-4 in 2018 to 11-2 last year and are projected by basically everyone to be a Top 10 team for the upcoming season. But they lost 19 transfers while only gaining one last year and have a 13-to-0 ratio in those categories thus far this year. Hardly seems like a sustainable strategy.
And this time around, Penn State is losing two guys who were expected to be anchors of the offense by now.
Shorter was the highest-rated wide receiver and the No. 8 overall recruit in the 2018 class. Slade was also a 5-star recruit and the third-highest-rated running back that same year. But after two years in Happy Valley, they were barely even tertiary contributors. Slade ranked eighth on the team in total yards from scrimmage (319) last year while Shorter (137) ranked 11th.
Slade's usage was unlikely to improve with Journey Brown, Noah Cain and Devyn Ford all returning, but Shorter should have been in line for a huge increase in 2020 with KJ Hamler (904 receiving yards) off to the NFL. But he'll be taking his five stars down to Florida instead.
However, the losses along the defensive line are arguably even more troubling.
With Yetur Gross-Matos and Robert Windsor out of the picture, former 4-star recruits Joseph, Jordan and Barber were in line to move up the depth chart. Maybe they weren't going to be starters, but all three were strong candidates for backup jobs.
Winner: Florida Gators
Key Acquisitions: Justin Shorter (WR, Penn State); Lorenzo Lingard (RB, Miami); Jordan Pouncey (WR, Texas); Stewart Reese (OG, Mississippi State); Brenton Cox (LB, Georgia); Noah Keeter (LB, UCLA); Zack Sessa (K, Georgia Southern)
Key Departures: Feleipe Franks (QB); Nick Sproles (QB); Lucas Krull (TE); Issiah Walker Jr. (OT); Chris Bleich (OG); Umstead Sanders (LB); John Huggins (S)
Florida snagged a former 5-star recruit from each of the two schools we've already discussed and grabbed a third one from an SEC East rival.
I'd call that a pretty big win for Dan Mullen and Co.
Cox made the move from Georgia to Florida in early August 2019, just days after being dismissed by the Dawgs. Not sure why 247Sports counts that as a move during the 2020 cycle, but that's what we'll roll with in this discussion. Either way, he'll be eligible to suit up for the Gators defense this coming season, which could be huge.
Lingard will also be eligible this year, which wasn't a sure thing until late May. Considering Florida lost the best running back (Lamical Perine) from what was already one of the most anemic running games in the SEC, that news could be a major difference-maker. Lingard might even be the starter in Week 1 if he's able to show that he has fully recovered from his 2018 knee injury.
The Gators are also hopeful that Shorter will have his transfer waiver granted, which would mean they're adding the No. 8, No. 23 and No. 25 recruits in 2018 to the active roster.
That's quite the influx in talent for a program that didn't sign a single 5-star recruit out of high school from 2016 to '19.
Loser: USC Trojans
Key Acquisitions: Mo Hasan (QB, Vanderbilt)
Key Departures: JT Daniels (QB); Jack Sears (QB); Thomas Fitts (QB); Velus Jones Jr. (WR); Devon Williams (WR); Clayton Bradley (OT); C.J. Pollard (S)
If the Trojans can stay healthy, they won't be negatively impacted by these departures.
Kedon Slovis won the starting QB job last year, and it should remain his for at least the next two seasons. Truth be told, I like his chances of winning the Heisman in 2020. And USC does still have Matt Fink as a viable backup if Slovis gets banged up.
But losing Daniels and Sears decimated the depth chart.
The former was the starter throughout 2018 and started the first game of last season before suffering a torn ACL. The latter checked in just outside the top 100 in the 2017 recruiting class and performed admirably the one time he was forced into action two years ago against Arizona State.
It'd be one thing if they also signed a noteworthy quarterback, but unless you count Hasan, the Trojans didn't add any quarterbacks in this year's recruiting class. Thus, losing two quarterbacks of that caliber could be a major problem.
The wide receivers are even less of a concern, but still noteworthy.
USC still has Tyler Vaughns, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Drake London, who had a combined 190 receptions for 2,521 yards last year. They also have talented redshirt freshmen Bru McCoy and Kyle Ford and true freshman Gary Bryant Jr., any of whom could play his way into a starting job in a hurry. Between Jones and Williams, all the Trojans are really losing is a kick returner (Jones). But if there's a rash of injuries at wide receiver, that duo could be missed.
Winner: Georgia Bulldogs
Key Acquisitions: JT Daniels (QB, USC); Jamie Newman (QB, Wake Forest); Austin Kirksey (QB, Nevada); Tre' McKitty (TE, Florida State)
Key Departures: Cade Mays (OT); Brenton Cox (LB); Otis Reese (S); Joshua Moran (WR)
Mays is a big loss, both literally and figuratively. A 5-star recruit in the 2018 class, Mays started 18 games over the past two seasons, seeing action at all five positions along the offensive line. And with tackles Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson both off to the NFL (as first-round drafts picks), all signs pointed toward Mays becoming an anchor in the trenches in 2020. Instead, he's with Tennessee now, waiting to find out if his waiver for immediate eligibility will be granted.
Nevertheless, Georgia is a big winner for the acquisitions made elsewhere on offense.
Initially, Newman was the big splash for Kirby Smart and Co. The former Demon Deacon was a "don't look now but" type of Heisman Trophy candidate by the end of September, averaging 304.2 passing yards and 52.4 rushing yards and accounting for 3.4 touchdowns per game during Wake Forest's 5-0 start. His mobility was expected to add a new wrinkle to the offense after the past three seasons of Jake Fromm's statuesque presence in the pocket.
More recently, the Dawgs landed Daniels from USC. It's unclear whether he'll be ruled eligible or if he's just going to become the leader in the clubhouse for the 2021 gig. Either way, the 5-star recruit is a welcome addition to what is suddenly a loaded quarterback room.
And don't sleep on the possibility McKitty will make a significant impact. The tight end made 49 receptions for 497 yards over the past two seasons with Florida State. True freshman Darnell Washington is the future at tight end for Georgia, but McKitty should thrive in this offense in 2020.
Loser: Stanford Cardinal
Key Acquisitions: None
Key Departures: K.J. Costello (QB); Jack Richardson (QB); Trevor Speights (RB); Donald Stewart (WR); Devery Hamilton (OT); Henry Hattis (OT); Dylan Powell (G); Michael Williams (DT); Bo Peek (DT); Jovan Swann (DE); Anthony Trinh (LB); Obi Eboh (CB); Collin Riccitelli (K)
Instead of starting with the departures on offense, let's mix things up and first focus on the defense.
After all, that's where Stanford has the most work to do.
Swann (32 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks), Williams (24 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 1 sack) and Eboh (23 tackles) were major contributors last year. Swann made nine starts as one of the top pass-rushers. Williams started all 12 games at nose tackle. And Eboh started six games in the secondary.
And they figured to become even more important in 2020 on a defense needing to replace two of its three leading tacklers in Andrew Pryts and Casey Toohill. Alas, they've all committed to other schools, leaving the Cardinal with more holes than initially expected.
Costello's relocation to Mississippi State could also be a huge problem.
In an ideal world, 5-star recruit Davis Mills will stay fully healthy as the starting quarterback, or highly touted 2018 signee Tanner McKee will be ready and able to run the offense in case of a Mills injury. But Mills has missed a lot of potential playing time over the past four years due to a variety of knee injuries, making him more of an injury concern than most quarterbacks. Moreover, there's a good chance McKee is rusty after spending the past two years serving a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mission.
Winner: Cincinnati Bearcats
Key Acquisitions: Jerome Ford (RB, Alabama); Michael Young (WR, Notre Dame)
Key Departures: Tavion Thomas (RB); Malick Mbodj (WR)
Two years ago, Cincinnati had one of the best running games in the nation. But with Mike Warren off to the NFL, Thomas in the transfer portal and Charles McClelland's status unclear after he missed 2019 with a torn ACL, the Bearcats were in need of an immediate-impact running back.
Enter Jerome Ford.
Ford didn't have much of an opportunity over the past two years as part of Alabama's loaded backfield, though he did surprisingly lead the Crimson Tide in rushing yards in the 2019 season opener against Duke. But there's a good chance he'll make the transition from barely an afterthought on the Alabama depth chart to primary offensive weapon for Cincinnati.
Ford is eligible this year and has three years of eligibility remaining, so this may end up being the most important acquisition made by any team in this portal cycle.
Young might also be a critical pickup, as Cincinnati has only two returning players (Alec Pierce and Jayshon Jackson) who caught more than eight passes last season. Like Ford at Alabama, Young didn't get many touches at Notre Dame—just 17 receptions over the past three years. However, it wouldn't be a surprise if he locks down a starting job in his lone season with the Group of Five Bearcats.
Loser: Alabama Crimson Tide
Key Acquisitions: Carl Tucker (TE, North Carolina)
Key Departures: Taulia Tagovailoa (QB); Jerome Ford (RB); Tyrell Shavers (WR); Scott Lashley (OT); Markail Benton (LB)
As a reminder, winners of the transfer portal aren't necessarily in better shape than the losers. Case in point, Alabama is clearly one of the top candidates to win the national championship, but there's also no question the Crimson Tide lost more talent than they gained via transfers.
Of course, when you sign a top-five recruiting class year after year after year, who needs transfers?
For the most part, these departures mean nothing for Alabama. As great as his brother was, Tagovailoa wasn't going to be the starter or the primary backup this season. Ford likely would have been fourth or fifth on the depth chart. Lashley was a backup right tackle for the past two years, and that was unlikely to change in 2020. Benton played a decent amount at middle linebacker, but with Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillon back after missing last season, Benton was barely going to see the field.
The one possible exception to the rule is Shavers, who waited until early June to put his name in the transfer portal.
DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are the obvious candidates to lead Alabama in receiving in 2020, but the role of No. 3 wide receiver was up for grabs with Shavers, John Metchie III and Slade Bolden expected to compete for the job. Even with Shavers' departure, though, Nick Saban still has plenty of options.
Recruiting info via 247Sports unless otherwise noted.