College Football Transfers Making the Biggest Impact on Their Team in 2021

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2021

College Football Transfers Making the Biggest Impact on Their Team in 2021

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    Kenneth Walker III
    Kenneth Walker IIINam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Transfers have become a foundational piece of college football. For many reasonswhether good, bad or in betweenhundreds of players are switching schools every offseason in hopes of finding a better opportunity.

    The unfortunate truth is that doesn't always happen. Sometimes, though, a player nails the decision to transfer.

    And in 2021, several have already emerged as key contributors at their new program.

    The list is limited to those who transferred leading up to the 2021 season. Jake Haener, for example, is not included because he left Washington and played for Fresno State in 2020.

More to Know

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    Zach Charbonnet
    Zach CharbonnetMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
    • Henry To'oTo'o, LB, Alabama (from Tennessee)
    • Will Levis, QB, Kentucky (from Penn State)
    • Charleston Rambo, WR, Miami (from Oklahoma)
    • Blaze Alldredge, LB, Missouri (from Rice)
    • Jaylen Warren, RB, Oklahoma State (from Utah State)
    • Arnold Ebiketie, DE, Penn State (from Temple)
    • Zeb Noland, QB, South Carolina (from North Dakota State)
    • Tyler Shough, QB, Texas Tech (from Oregon)
    • Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA (from Michigan)
    • Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky (from Houston Baptist)
    • Chez Mellusi, RB, Wisconsin (from Clemson)

Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

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    At his previous school, Ohio State, Jameson Williams faced a stacked receiving room. In 2021, the Buckeyes returned top wideouts Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson as well as a handful of well-regarded young receivers.

    Williams likely wouldn't have logged as many snaps in Columbus. Instead, he's a key member of Alabama's offense.

    The wideout quickly endeared himself to the Crimson Tide, catching a 94-yard touchdown in his debut opposite Miami. He followed that with a touchdown against Mercer and grabbed four passes for a team-high 61 yards in the 31-29 victory at Florida.

    If he continues to perform at this level, Alabama should be able to lean on Williams and John Metchie III to carry a receiving corps that is otherwise very young.

Jermaine Johnson II, DE, Florida State

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    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    From a team perspective, this is a considerable drop for Jermaine Johnson II. Georgia is 3-0 and ranked No. 2 nationally, while Florida State is 0-3 for the first time in 45 years.

    But the decision to become a Seminole is paying off individually.

    "Jermaine Johnson, he's gonna be one of the best players in the whole conference," Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson said of the defensive end's potential in the ACC, per Curt Weiler of the Tallahassee Democrat.

    In 20 appearances for UGA, Johnson totaled 36 stops with seven tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Despite the Seminoles' winless start, he's racked up 28 tackles with 6.5 for loss and 4.5 sackswhich is already the most for an FSU defensive end since 2018.

Wan'Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky

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    Michael Clubb/Associated Press

    Though not overlooked at Nebraska, Wan'Dale Robinson didn't receive the proper level of recognition while there. That's the nature of playing for a program that mustered an 8-12 record in the last two years.

    However, the spotlight may shine brightly on him soon. Kentucky will take on Florida and Georgia in October, and both defenses can clearly see he is UK's top playmaker.

    Robinson caught five passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns in his team debut against Louisiana-Monroe. He racked up 101 receiving and 73 rushing yards in a win over Missouri, and then recorded eight receptions for 111 yards opposite Chattanooga.

    Heading into Week 4, Robinson ranks 11th nationally with 136.7 all-purpose yards per game.

Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State

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    Miami defenders will probably be seeing running back Kenneth Walker III hit a cutback lane in their nightmares for weeks.

    The transfer from Wake Forest has exploded onto the national scene at Michigan State. In his debut against Northwestern, Walker sprinted 75 yards for a touchdown on his first carry. He finished that contest with 264 yards and four scores.

    Michigan State limited his workload in a comfortable win over Youngstown State, but he still picked up 57 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries. And then last weekend, Walker shredded Miami. He gashed the 'Canes for 172 yards on the ground and caught three passes for 17 yards and a score.

    Walker leads the FBS with 164.3 rushing yards per game and is an integral piece of MSU's 3-0 start.

Jack Coan, QB, Notre Dame

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Jack Coan will have a mini-reunion in Week 4 when Notre Dame takes on Wisconsin, his former team.

    The quarterback would've started for the Badgers last year, but a foot injury sidelined him for the season and resulted in Graham Mertz taking the job. Coan bolted for Notre Dame, which needed a replacement for longtime starter Ian Book.

    Although it's occasionally been difficult behind a rough offensive line, Coan basically has played up to expectations. While it's true Notre Dame has three semi-concerning wins over Florida State, Toledo and Purdue, they're nonetheless all wins.

    Coan threw four touchdowns at FSU, two against Toledoincluding a go-ahead score after dislocating a fingerand two more opposite Purdue. He's averaging 8.4 yards per attempt and 276.0 per game.

    Whether the Irish have legitimate College Football Playoff upside is a fair question, but Coan has kept them in the conversation.

Tanner Mordecai, QB, SMU

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    While at Oklahoma, quarterback Tanner Mordecai held a backup role behind Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts and Spencer Rattler. But after three seasons of watching from the sideline, Mordecai wanted a chance to start. That wasn't going to happen with Rattler returning this fall.

    Virginia's Brennan Armstrong and LSU's Max Johnson are tied for second nationally with 11 touchdown passes in 2021.

    And they're still five behind Mordecai.

    He scorched Abilene Christian for seven touchdowns in SMU's opener and then tossed four scores against North Texas and five against Louisiana Tech. Most notably, Mordecai found a little luck with a game-winning Hail Mary as time expired at Louisiana Tech.

    Overall, the junior has completed 73 percent of his 111 passes for 1,023 yardsa strong 9.2 yards per attempt.

Justin Rice, LB, Utah State

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    Justin Rice seems destined to become an answer to a trivia question.

    Two years ago, he landed first-team All-Mountain West honors at Fresno State. Rice amassed 112 tackles, forced four fumblesrecovering twoand intercepted two passes.

    After that campaign, Rice transferred to Arkansas State. He secured first-team All-Sun Belt recognition with 76 tackles, including an FBS-high 18.5 for loss. And because the NCAA didn't count 2020 as a year of eligibility, he could stick around for 2021.

    The linebacker followed former ASU coach Blake Anderson to Utah State. In just three games back in the Mountain West, Rice has tallied 30 stops, four tackles for loss and three interceptions.

    At this rate, Rice should become a first-team all-conference defender at three different FBS schools.


    Statistics via Sports Reference and CFBStats