Transfer Portal: 14 Dream Pac-12/Big Ten Transfers to Teams Playing in 2020
So far in this coronavirus-era landscape, the Big Ten and Pac-12 have shuttered their efforts to play in 2020, but the ACC, Big 12 and SEC are moving forward with plans to hit the gridiron.
But the only certainty with college football, given the heightened concern over the pandemic, is there are no guarantees.
If that holds true and those three conferences suit up, will the transfer portal churn so much that we see smoke rising from the gears? Could the NCAA allow instant eligibility and an open season for guys wanting to bolt from programs not playing to those that are?
That seems doubtful. But it's fun to speculate, right?
In a dream world of immediate-impact free agents who could take the field right away for another program, who would we love to see switch team colors in 2020?
Weighing need, impact, championship potential and professional/national exposure, let's take a look at some dream destinations for Big Ten and Pac-12 players. There's no indication of any transfer movement yet, but these are ideal marriages in a fantasy world, so open your mind and enjoy.
This list doesn't include players who had already opted out of the season such as Penn State's Micah Parsons, Purdue's Rondale Moore and Minnesota's Rashod Bateman. But there are still plenty of stars who will let you close your eyes and think of the endless possibilities.
David Bell to Miami
Rondale Moore would have been a perfect choice here, but he elected to sit out the season (before it was announced all the Purdue Boilermakers and the rest of the Big Ten wouldn't play) to focus on the NFL draft.
So, why not replace him with the super-sub star who stepped in with Moore injured a season ago?
As a true freshman in 2019, David Bell burst onto the scene for head coach Jeff Brohm's team in a down season that saw the offense ravaged by injuries. The former 4-star prospect and recruiting coup from Indianapolis corralled 86 passes for 1,035 yards and seven touchdowns.
Though Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz is a defensive-minded guru, he has proved himself a master at luring transfers on both sides of the ball to Coral Gables. A lot of folks are excited about The U's potential turnaround this year with former Houston signal-caller D'Eriq King now behind center.
Can they actually compete with Clemson in the ACC? If so, they need some offensive firepower.
King can do a lot of things by himself, and the 'Canes added some major puzzle pieces in the backfield through recruiting, but the biggest question mark is on the perimeter. Add Bell and they have a major answer.
The best part about him leaving West Lafayette, Indiana, for the Sunshine State would be that the rising sophomore would be able to play beyond '20. Bell is a 6'3", 210-pound target who would be an instant offensive threat for a team needing such players in order to take the next step forward.
He'd be an ideal fit.
Journey Brown to Texas A&M
Year 3 of the Jimbo Fisher era is going to have as much hype surrounding it as the cautiousness of the pandemic will allow. If Texas A&M actually gets to play football, it's reasonable to expect big things.
Senior quarterback Kellen Mond has the ability to be a star, even in the rugged SEC West. He has an abundance of playmakers to catch his passes even with the NFL departures of Quartney Davis and Kendrick Rogers. The offensive line is more experienced, too.
But the Aggies failed to provide electric true freshman running back Isaiah Spiller any help on the depth chart to give him a viable breather a season ago.
By last December, transfers had crippled the Aggies at the position, leaving them with just one scholarship back in Spiller, so they moved Ainias Smith for depth in the Texas Bowl against Oklahoma State. Spiller's great season (10 rushing touchdowns and 1,149 yards from scrimmage) is exciting to project forward, but he needs help.
Getting a dynamite running back such as home-run hitter Journey Brown of Penn State would be a massive pickup that would fortify the backfield and give Fisher another reason to believe he can compete with LSU and Alabama in the West.
It would also allow Brown some breathers as he's never had to be an every-down back in Happy Valley.
Brown averaged 6.9 yards per carry in 2019, amassing 1,024 total offensive yards and 13 touchdowns. He would be a potential All-SEC running back in that Aggies offense while giving A&M the league's best one-two punch, and he could ride a huge season into the NFL.
Without him, depth in the offensive backfield remains a huge question mark for the Aggies.
Justin Fields to Oklahoma
Any preseason Heisman Trophy discussion centered around junior quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence of Clemson and Justin Fields of Ohio State. Now, Lawrence will have to find other contenders unless something drastic happens.
When the Big Ten announced it wouldn't be playing this fall, Fields needed just three letters to express his frustration on Twitter, firing off an "Smh" on social media.
In his first season leading head coach Ryan Day's offense in Columbus, Fields was brilliant. The Heisman finalist threw for 3,273 yards, 41 touchdowns and three interceptions, adding 484 rushing yards and 10 scores to lead the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff semifinals.
The former Georgia quarterback found a home at Ohio State right away after transferring and figured to continue his legendary status this year for the national title contenders, but that will have to wait. Why not send him to the recent QBU to work with head coach Lincoln Riley?
That seems like a match made in college football fan heaven.
Riley mentored back-to-back NFL No. 1 overall picks in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, and the Sooners were a playoff team again last year after winning the Jalen Hurts sweepstakes once he transferred from Alabama. Hurts had a fantastic final collegiate season, too.
There are no sure things in Norman during 2020, though. Tanner Mordecai and Spencer Rattler are slated to battle it out for the starting job. Inserting Fields into the equation would not only give Lawrence more competition for college football's top individual award, but it may also help Riley's Sooners win their first title.
George Karlaftis to North Carolina
So much excitement surrounds Mack Brown's program in Chapel Hill right now, especially after the Tar Heels finished their head coach's return season with a 7-6 record in 2019.
Sophomore quarterback Sam Howell is one of the best young players in the game, and he has a bunch of talent surrounding him on offense that will help Carolina continue to take steps forward in the ACC. They nearly got a signature win by scaring Clemson a season ago.
Brown is recruiting at an extremely high level right now as he tries to build back the program he took to heights back in the 1990s before bolting for Texas. He returns a talented team with a lot of experience this year, and every position provides reasons for excitement.
One of the areas where the Heels could use help, however, is rushing the passer. They are looking to true freshmen like Myles Murphy, Kedrick Bingley-Jones (who is currently injured) and Clyde Pinder Jr. to fill that void. But in a dream world, they'd get an elite rusher who could wreak havoc on signal-callers right away.
Enter George Karlaftis, the second Purdue player on this list.
As a true freshman a season ago, Karlaftis finished with 8.5 sacks and an exceptional 60 quarterback pressures (per CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli). He was going to be the top returning sack artist in the Big Ten—and arguably the league's best returning front-seven defender with Penn State's Micah Parsons electing to sit out.
If you could add him to the UNC roster, he'd be an immediate difference-maker.
It seems a matter of "when" and not "if" Brown will have the Heels playing at a high level. An addition like Karlaftis would speed up the timetable.
Walker Little to Florida
Injuries are a part of football, but one of the biggest disappointments a season ago happened in Stanford's opener against Northwestern when elite offensive tackle Walker Little was lost for the year with a knee injury.
Now, during a massive season in which he was going to try to prove to NFL scouts he should still be a high first-round draft pick, Little will have to wait and watch to see whether the Cardinal play a spring football season. It's a decision that could cost him a lot of money if he wants to be in the NFL in 2021.
The 6'7", 320-pounder from Texas was one of college football's top blind-side blockers before injuries, and Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller still views him as that kind of talent.
"Protecting franchise quarterback Justin Herbert on the edges of the line has to be the No. 1 priority for an underrated duo running the Chargers in general manager Tom Telesco and head coach Anthony Lynn," he wrote. "Walker Little has some injury questions, but if those are cleared up, he’s a legit first-rounder.”
It's great to hear analysts still believe in Little's ability, but getting another year to show what he can do would be huge. It would also be massive for the Florida Gators if he could shift down to Dan Mullen's team and fortify an offensive line that has its share of questions.
The Gators return redshirt senior Brett Heggie at center, and Mississippi State transfer Stewart Reese started 34 games for the Bulldogs, but neither are of the same caliber as Little. Adding him would create a trio of quality players up front.
While trying to unseat Georgia in the SEC East, the Gators need help fixing that line, opening up holes for their running backs and protecting quarterback Kyle Trask.
Little would fill that huge need and help Florida in its quest to regain its form as the top team in the division.
Elijah Molden to Oklahoma State
When running back Chuba Hubbard and receiver Tylan Wallace decided to eschew the NFL and return to Stillwater for another year, it signified plenty of hope Mike Gundy's Cowboys may be able to contend with the rival Sooners in the Big 12.
Throw in quarterback Spencer Sanders and an experienced offensive line, and OSU is loaded on that side of the ball. Plenty of scoreboard lights should work overtime for the Cowboys in 2020.
Though they return plenty of talent and experience on defense, the Cowboys were far from a national power on that side of the ball a season ago. They were the No. 102 pass defense in the country and must replace one of their best players in cornerback A.J. Green.
What better way to address that than by adding one of the two best Pac-12 cornerbacks in either Washington's Elijah Molden or Stanford's Paulson Adebo? In this case, Molden is the best all-around defensive back. The son of former Oregon defender and NFL veteran Alex Molden has carved out quite a name for himself.
Rather than head to the NFL, Molden elected to return for his senior season to anchor new head coach Jimmy Lake's team after he moved over from defensive coordinator to replace Chris Petersen. Molden broke up 12 passes, grabbed four interceptions and forced three fumbles a season ago.
Adding him to a talented secondary that needs an elite force on the boundary would be huge for the Cowboys. Gundy's defensive back corps already boasts Kolby Harvell-Peel and Rodarius Williams, and adding Molden would sew up that unit.
The Washington defender could make a difference right away and shoot up draft boards if he held his own in the pass-happy Big 12.
Tanner Morgan to Tennessee
Jeremy Pruitt's Tennessee Volunteers rebounded from an embarrassing start to 2019 that included losses to Georgia State and BYU to finish the year 8-5, and big things are expected moving forward.
The Vols are still a tier back from Florida and Georgia, but they've still got some pieces to contend. Though several players could make a major difference, such as Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth or Michigan linebacker Cameron McGrone, there's a much more pressing need in Knoxville.
The biggest Vols concern remains at quarterback, where the talented but inconsistent Jarrett Guarantano enters his senior season. With standout freshman Harrison Bailey waiting in the wings, UT doesn't need a long-term solution like Arizona State's Jayden Daniels.
Why not give them consistent junior Tanner Morgan of Minnesota?
Athletically, nothing jumps off the page about Morgan, a 6'2", 215-pound signal-caller who hails from SEC country in Union, Kentucky, but he just wins for P.J. Fleck's Golden Gophers. It wouldn't hurt Tennessee for him to row that boat down to Rocky Top and dock with the Vol Navy outside Neyland Stadium.
Morgan finished his sophomore season with 3,253 yards, 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions, helping the Gophers become one of college football's biggest surprises. In marquee games against Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa and Auburn, he completed 82 of 122 passes (67.2 percent) for 1,281 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions.
When the game is bigger, Morgan rises to the occasion.
With the Vols missing NFL receivers Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway this season, they could use a steady hand under center.
Wyatt Davis to Iowa State
One of the most hyped young coaches in college football is Iowa State's Matt Campbell, but the question remains if he will ever truly be able to take Iowa State from a middling Big 12 program to a seasonal contender.
After coming over from Toledo, Campbell started his Cyclones career with a 3-9 mark before consecutive 8-5 seasons. But last year, they slid a notch to 7-6.
With junior quarterback Brock Purdy and exciting sophomore running back Breece Hall, though, Iowa State could contend with Oklahoma in 2020 if the Cyclones can find some missing links to success. The biggest of those gaps come on the offensive line.
It's vital Campbell finds guys who can protect Purdy and open holes for Hall.
With some solid pieces returning like left tackle Joey Ramos, guard Trevor Downing and center Colin Newell, the Cyclones have one big spot on the inside and outside of the line to fill.
You could give them any of the Ohio State Buckeyes' offensive linemen since that group had the potential to be the nation's best—and perhaps even the best in the storied history of the program. Some candidates to head to Ames could have been tackle Thayer Munford, center Josh Myers or guard Harry Miller.
But perhaps the most talented guard is Wyatt Davis, and the Cyclones have a major void to fill to the right of their center, so this seems like the ideal fit. The 6'4", 315-pound interior lineman started all 14 games for OSU last year and was a consensus All-American who could have made millions in the NFL.
Instead, he stuck around for another season that now won't happen. Slide in an NFL-ready mauler like Davis and Iowa State would instantly get a ton better on offense. This is a perfect marriage since he's somebody who can help Hall find daylight and keep Purdy upright, as well.
Penei Sewell to Georgia
It may not be a sexy pick to have offensive linemen on this list, but you can see their importance based on the number featured and the plethora of contenders who still need them. You can never have too many exceptional offensive linemen.
Arguably the nation's best won't be taking the field this year. Instead of playing his junior year in Eugene, Oregon's Penei Sewell, the 6'6", 330-pound tackle who won the Outland Trophy as the nation's top lineman a season ago, will prepare for what is certain to be a huge NFL payday.
But if he were still able to play right away, nothing would be better for him than to head to Athens and finish his career for the Georgia Bulldogs, who look like they have all the pieces to win a national championship.
Head coach Kirby Smart answered the quarterback conundrum by replacing departed Jake Fromm with Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman and USC transfer JT Daniels, and the Dawgs have blossoming playmakers on offense like George Pickens and Zamir White for new coordinator Todd Monken to mold.
Defensively, there may not be a better unit in the nation.
But UGA does have some questions along the offensive front. Sure, the Bulldogs have recruited as well as anybody nationally and have 16 scholarship players, including many former top recruits. But gone to the NFL a year early are left tackle Andrew Thomas, right tackle Isaiah Wilson and guard Solomon Kindley.
Toss in part-time starter Cade Mays, who transferred to Tennessee, and there are many starts to be had. Smart has a lot of exciting options with which to play and did a tremendous job recruiting to the position, but Sewell would start for anybody in the nation right away.
Adding the best offensive lineman in perhaps the last three years of college football may just give UGA its first national title since 1980.
Kedon Slovis to LSU
Remember the last transfer quarterback from a blue-blood program who decided to finish his career on the Bayou?
Yeah, that worked out pretty well for Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, who bolted Ohio State and wound up having arguably the best passing season ever while leading LSU to last year's national title. Now, the Tigers have to find a way to replace the top overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft.
And while head coach Ed Orgeron must move on from an unprecedented seven senior starters and nine early entrants going to the NFL draft (not to mention passing game coordinator Joe Brady and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda), there's no bigger concern than replacing Burrow.
The job will be Myles Brennan's unless something drastic happens. Since we're all about "drastic" here, why not open up the transfer floodgates and let Kedon Slovis in?
That would shake up college football, give the nation's top receiver (Ja'Marr Chase) a viable signal-caller to get him the ball and make LSU an immediate threat to repeat. Orgeron has done a good enough job recruiting all other spots that they can fill the gaps.
Give the Tigers Slovis and the SEC is even more interesting.
The unheralded redshirt freshman had an amazing season for head coach Clay Helton and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, completing 71.9 percent of his passes for 3,502 yards, 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Though Brady isn't around to draw up passing plays, coordinator Steve Ensminger is, and the veteran probably learned even more wrinkles last season. Slovis would be in good hands on a program used to winning and expecting to compete again despite the talent losses.
While we're having fun, this seems like a no-brainer.
Amon-Ra St. Brown to Notre Dame
Let's stay with the USC Trojans, who were going to trot out a pretty prolific offense in 2020 with Kedon Slovis and all those receiving weapons.
With the Pac-12 sitting at home and waiting out the pandemic, why not give the Notre Dame Fighting Irish a star playmaker like Amon-Ra St. Brown? After all, he could have wound up in South Bend anyway.
Head coach Brian Kelly was deep into the recruiting battle for Amon-Ra, especially after his older brother, Equanimeous, played for the Irish before moving on to the NFL, where he now suits up for the Green Bay Packers.
Instead of heading to Notre Dame, though, the younger St. Brown decided to stay home and play for the Trojans. After a freshman year in 2018 during which he caught 60 balls for 750 yards and three touchdowns, he improved a season ago with 77 grabs for 1,042 yards and six scores.
The silky-smooth former Mater Dei High School standout could fill a huge void for Kelly this year as the Irish are playing ACC competition with a dearth of proven offensive skill players. With Chase Claypool and Chris Finke gone, they have no legit receiving targets who've shown anything on the field.
Senior running back Jafar Armstrong is the returning leading rusher with 505 career yards, too. Questions abound around quarterback Ian Book.
But giving him St. Brown to go along with budding possible standout Kevin Austin (if he gets healthy following foot surgery) and Braden Lenzy would be huge. Add elite receiving recruit Jordan Johnson and the Irish could be OK there, but St. Brown following in his brother's footsteps would be massive.
He would shred ACC secondaries.
Kayvon Thibodeaux to Alabama
Another massive move that would pretty much shut down any other college football news for a day or two would be dynamic pass-rushing phenom Kayvon Thibodeaux leaving Oregon to play for Nick Saban at Alabama.
There's not enough ink in the nation to make the bold-font headlines that move would necessitate.
The truth is, the Crimson Tide defense was very un-Saban-like a season ago, and part of the reason was its inability to get after opposing quarterbacks. It was 43rd nationally and sixth in the SEC with just 32 sacks. Coordinator Pete Golding's unit wasn't consistently good anywhere, though.
The Tide were decimated by major injuries and return potential difference-makers like linebackers Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillon, along with defensive end LaBryan Ray, who could be a major star in 2020.
But there is no bigger alpha dog on defense in the nation than Thibodeaux, who Saban (and virtually everybody else) aggressively recruited out of Thousand Oaks, California, before Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal won his signature.
Despite a bit of a slow start while he got acclimated a season ago, Thibodeaux was an unstoppable force late in the year, and especially in the Pac-12 championship game against Utah. He also wreaked havoc against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
Once the light came on, it was a beam that could be seen all around the country.
Thibodeaux is an ideal playmaker for the 3-4 defense and can put his hand down or get after quarterbacks from a stand-up position. Saban would make sure he was put into a position to make tons of plays, and he would have the ability to be the nation's top defender.
Doing so in Tuscaloosa would help the Tide get the defense back on track and battle for another national title.
Hamilcar Rashed Jr. to Texas
Few players in the nation were more underrated than Oregon State's Hamilcar Rashed Jr. last season.
Perhaps it was because he was overshadowed by the more flashy Kayvon Thibodeaux at rival Oregon. But it's most likely because he played on an atrocious Oregon State defense.
Still, the Beavers know what they have in the outside linebacker, and he wasn't going to remain one of the nation's best-kept secrets had they played this season.
The 6'4", 238-pound defender was a force no matter who he played against in the Pac-12 and evolved into a legitimate star as a redshirt junior. He finished the season with a school-record 22.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks and was picked as an All-American by some.
With another huge season, Rashed could have proved to the NFL it didn't matter he was a lightly regarded recruit; he's worthy of being a first-round pick. Instead, he must hope his body of work is enough unless he decides to come back for another season.
If the NCAA allowed immediately eligible transfers, there would be no better place for Rashed to showcase his skills than on a Texas team in need of impact players on the second level of the defense.
New coordinator Chris Ash could think of tons of ways to use the versatility of a player like Rashed, and though the Longhorns have some possible quality players like Juwan Mitchell, DeMarvion Overshown and Ayodele Adeoye, the current Beaver would be the showcase player on the entire defense.
This is a pivotal season in the Tom Herman era, and Ash (the former Rutgers head coach) needs to acclimate himself to the personnel early and make a huge difference on a defense that has been porous the past two years. Adding Rashed would help shore things up quickly.
Shaun Wade to Clemson
With so many stars back like quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne, head coach Dabo Swinney's Tigers are expected to be the favorite for the title in 2020.
Even with the terrible news that receiver Justyn Ross has to miss the year following spinal surgery (he's doing well, per 247Sports' Anna Hickey), there are enough playmakers all over that the offense should be terrific.
The Tigers also have former elite prospects throughout the defense given the way Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables have recruited, but there are many more questions on that side of the ball.
Who is going to rush the passer? That's a big one, but the secondary may be an even bigger question mark. Gone are do-it-all, line-up-anywhere playmaker Isaiah Simmons, cornerback A.J. Terrell and safeties Tanner Muse and K'Von Wallace.
Adding arguably the nation's top cornerback prospect in Shaun Wade would be a huge boon for Swinney's Tigers as they look to cobble together enough on the back end of the defense to stay dominant.
Wade elected to return to Columbus for his senior season instead of heading to the NFL, where he would have been a fringe first-round pick and would probably have slid to at least the second round. He watched Jeff Okudah get selected early in the first round by the Detroit Lions and was expected to play his position.
Wade played slot corner for the Buckeyes a season ago and was set to move to Okudah's outside position this year, so he has the versatility to play all over the field, including on the boundary. Putting him in Venables' secondary would be huge for Clemson—and for Wade's NFL exposure.
This would be a match made in heaven if college football would allow things like this to happen.
Follow Brad Shepard on Twitter at @Brad_Shepard.