B/R Recruiting: Potential Impact CFB Players in the Transfer Portal, Part 1

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2021

B/R Recruiting: Potential Impact CFB Players in the Transfer Portal, Part 1

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    For anybody who doesn't take the transfer portal seriously by now, well, come out from the dark ages. The portal watch essentially became a separate college football recruiting season with the passing of the immediate-eligibility, one-time transfer rule in April.

    While the portal can be overused and doesn't always include happy endings for the entrants, it's far from a scrap heap.

    Massive producers who played elsewhere a year ago are everywhere. From Heisman Trophy front-runner Kenneth Walker III to Alabama Biletnikoff Award semifinalist Jameson Williams, some of the biggest stars of 2021 were portal finds.

    Crimson Tide linebacker Henry To'oto'o, Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, Kentucky quarterback Will Levis and receiver Wan'dale Robinson, Oklahoma State's Jaylen Warren and Tay Martin and SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai are a few more, and that's just guys from the past year. 

    So, who are some candidates to be this year's prize finds? Several potential impact players are already in the portal, and questions surround big names such as Spencer Rattler and Quinn Ewers.

    Check back next week for a look at 11 more transfers in Part II of this series.

Harrison Bailey, Quarterback

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    Coming out of Marietta High School in the 2020 class, Harrison Bailey was a top-100 recruit who won a state championship in Georgia's highest classification alongside stars such as Georgia tight end Arik Gilbert, LSU linebacker BJ Ojulari and Michigan State receiver Ricky White.

    He saw action in six games, starting three, as a true freshman at Tennessee under former head coach Jeremy Pruitt in 2020. But when Josh Heupel arrived in Knoxville, the pro-style signal-caller couldn't beat transfers Joe Milton or Hendon Hooker.

    After falling to third on the depth chart, Bailey is leaving the school. He's a talented player who would be a better fit for a team looking for a one-dimensional signal-caller with little mobility.

    Heupel told the Knoxville News Sentinel's Mike Wilson that Bailey was a "really good teammate" even while standing on the sideline.

    "Because of who he is and what he has been about, I love both the person and the player," Heupel said. "I wish him a ton of success [if] he moves on."

    He may not have to go far. Hailing from SEC country, he could have options with another school in the conference or perhaps in the ACC. While Bailey isn't the best at moving the pocket, he can make all the throws and still has four seasons of eligibility.

    With that type of upside and that many years left, he could make an immediate impact. 

Marcus Banks, Cornerback

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    One of the biggest names in the transfer portal you may not have heard of will be on the lips of coaches across the country.

    That's Alabama cornerback Marcus Banks, who is one of just two players 247Sports has rated as a 4-star in its transfer portal rankings.

    The 6'0", 180-pound defensive back from Houston was a top-150 player in the 2019 recruiting class and is a junior with two seasons of eligibility remaining. He actually started a game for the Crimson Tide this year (against Mercer) and saw action in several more contests.

    As always, the Tide are loaded with elite playmakers in the secondary, and Banks was passed on the depth chart by some talented players such as Kool-Aid McKinstry from the 2021 recruiting cycle.

    Banks mainly played special teams while in Tuscaloosa but will have suitors from all over. Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech are just a few of the teams closer to his Texas home that could use his skill set.

    There's no shame in failing to climb the depth chart in a place like UA, where the best of the best go play for Nick Saban. Expect Banks to choose from a healthy group of teams where he can star and still play in big-time games.

Jalen Berger, Running Back

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    It wasn't long ago when many thought Jalen Berger was the future of Wisconsin's running back position.

    Those words aren't written lightly, either, considering how many star ball-carriers have gone through Camp Randall. Berger seemed well on his way to being the next, racking up 301 yards on 60 carries and scoring a pair of touchdowns over four games in a stunted 2020 season.

    When head coach Paul Chryst brought in former Clemson running back Chez Mellusi, Berger bristled, according to the Wisconsin State Journal's Colten Bartholomew, and even though he was friends with Mellusi, it reportedly was the start of Berger's "unhappiness and defiance of team rules."

    Chryst ultimately dismissed the former leading rusher from the team.

    Despite that, Berger is far too talented for somebody not to take a swing on. According to Saturday Tradition, Berger visited Michigan State this past weekend, and the 6'0", 190-pound New Jersey product is the type of lead back who can make an impact wherever he goes.

    It'll be interesting to see if Rutgers' Greg Schiano makes a run at the local product, or if Berger leaves the Big Ten for a change of scenery.

    He could even have four remaining years of eligibility, considering he left Madison after only three games this year. 

Myles Brennan, Quarterback

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    After Joe Burrow shattered records on his way to the greatest season ever for a college football quarterback in leading LSU to a national title in 2019, the Bayou Bengals had to start over.

    While the past couple of years will not be looked at fondly by Tigers faithful, quarterback Myles Brennan was a bright spot when he was on the field. Unfortunately, that wasn't often.

    In the three games last season, Brennan threw for 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns in a 1-2 start but suffered a bizarre abdomen injury that kept him out for the rest of the season. Then an off-field fall before this season left him with a broken arm.

    With Max Johnson and Garrett Nussmeier looking like the future in the Bayou and 5-star Walker Howard coming in, the new LSU coach will inherit a QB room that won't include Brennan.

    The Long Beach, Mississippi, native could be the perfect one-year bridge for a program losing a starter and looking to give youngsters more time in the system before handing them the reins.

    As a fifth-year senior, he will have just one year of eligibility, and while picking him up would be a gamble, he's a high-upside player if he can stay healthy. This is a quarterback who could play on Sundays.

Khafre Brown, Wide Receiver

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    Before this season, Khafre Brown looked like he could be a breakout star for the North Carolina Tar Heels.

    With Dazz Newsome and Brown's brother, Dyami, leaving Chapel Hill for the NFL and with quarterback Sam Howell returning, Brown figured to load up on catches alongside Josh Downs. A season ago as a redshirt freshman, the younger Brown finished with 15 catches for 337 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

    However, a lower-body injury suffered over the summer kept him from developing the way he needed to, and he caught just one pass for 75 yards and a touchdown this season.

    At 6'0", 180 pounds, Brown possesses the size to be an instant-impact player, and he has the pedigree with brother Dyami being a former Tar Heels star who was a third-round pick of the Washington Football Team.

    The way head coach Mack Brown has recruited, some guys will be unhappy with playing time, and Brown had a few drops early this season that could have kept him from seeing the field as much as he wanted.

    Coach Brown told Inside Carolina's Ross Martin in the preseason Khafre Brown was "the fastest guy we've got," and that attribute, coupled with his production from a season ago means he has as high an upside as anybody in the portal.

    Brown will be a star no matter where he lands.

Joseph Charleston, Clemson Safety

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    It isn't every year you can get a starter from a College Football Playoff participant in the transfer portal, but there's one out there this season.

    Clemson safety Joseph Charleston started six games for the Tigers in 2020, registering 44 tackles, the third-most on the team. He added two tackles for a loss and two pass breakups in 10 games.

    The 6'0", 200-pound junior from Milton, Georgia, had two of his biggest outings in the ACC Championship Game win over Notre Dame (four tackles) and a team-high six tackles in a Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State.

    Yet, even with the season-ending shoulder injury to Lannden Zanders, Charleston's playing time was down.

    Somebody will get a player who can anchor the back end of a defense immediately in 2022. So, who's on the list?

    According to Rivals' Mike Farrell, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Nebraska, Mississippi State, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

    It would make sense for Charleston to follow in the footsteps of former Clemson teammate Derion Kendrick and join a loaded Dawgs defensive backfield. If he heads even closer to home, Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins could use him with the Yellow Jackets.

Lyn-J Dixon, Running Back

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    Speaking of the Clemson Tigers and guys who thought they'd waited their turn to star, the next guy on this list is basically Charleston on the offensive side.

    Lyn-J Dixon waited three years behind the greatest runner in Clemson history, Travis Etienne, and was a perfect complementary back much of the time.

    The senior enjoyed his biggest season in 2019 as Etienne's primary backup, rushing for 635 yards on 104 carries (6.1 average) and scoring six times. That was following a freshman year when he posted 547 yards and five scores.

    The past two years, though, Dixon has been phased out of the rotation. After gaining just 190 yards rushing in limited action a season ago, he was nowhere to be found early this season except for in mop-up duty. So, the 5'10", 195-pound senior is seeking somewhere else to play out his final year of eligibility.

    Dixon ranks second all-time (behind Etienne) in school history in yards per carry at 6.5.

    His final days at Clemson were marred by disagreements with the coaching staff. He only appeared in the fourth quarter of the season-opening loss to Georgia because of team discipline and had four carries against South Carolina State the following week.

    "He just needs to grow up," head coach Dabo Swinney said after the latter game, according to SI.com's Zach Lentz. "Needs to grow up. It's just that simple. He needs to be a team player. And just grow up. He's a very good player, obviously. Need him to stay out of [running backs coach C.J.] Spiller's doghouse. That's really it."

    Somebody will get an experienced player with a lot of burst and the ability to break a run wide open. Maybe the change of scenery will do him good.

Simi Moala, Offensive Lineman

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    It's been a long, winding road for offensive tackle Simi Moala, and plenty of turns remain in his college career.

    The next one may be his biggest yet. The 6'7", 312-pound Utah offensive tackle will be one of the most sought-after players in the portal.

    Originally part of the 2015 recruiting class, Moala signed with Oregon State before going on a two-year Mormon mission. He then signed with coach Kyle Whittingham's Utes as a defensive lineman before moving to the offensive line, where he was quickly a star.

    As a redshirt freshman in 2019, Moala started 12 of 14 games and was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention.

    Now he'll play his final three seasons of eligibility elsewhere, and the massive mauler who is a terrific right tackle prospect—and could wind up playing on Sundays—should have plenty of suitors.

    After all, this is a player who has 18 starts in 21 games with the Utes. Everybody needs impactful offensive linemen, and there aren't many with the experience and remaining eligibility of Moala. He's a grown man who already has an NFL body.

    He has spent time at left tackle, too, so he has shown the versatility to play a couple of spots on the line. If he stays in the portal, he will have inquiries from all across the country.

Joshua Moore, Wide Receiver

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    Already, we've discussed Wisconsin running back Jalen Berger and Clemson ball-carrier Lyn-J Dixon's failure to see eye-to-eye with their staffs. The same can be said for former Texas receiver Joshua Moore.

    It wasn't long ago the pass-catcher was firmly in the rotation, taking some of the pressure off Xavier Worthy and Jordan Whittington while getting some major run in huge games.

    In October 9's thrilling loss to Oklahoma, Moore caught four passes for 70 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. This season, the junior had 24 catches for 265 yards and three scores.

    Earlier this month, however, reports surfaced Moore had an altercation with head coach Steve Sarkisian and other members of the coaching staff, according to Horns247's Chip Brown. It didn't take long for Moore's exit.

    "The plan is for Josh to go into the portal," Sarkisian said, according to SI.com's Matt Galatzan. "That's his option and opportunity to do that, that's what college football provides, and we wish him the best of luck."

    With two years of eligibility remaining and plenty of talent, Moore will get a lot of looks for a second chance.

Sevion Morrison, Running Back

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    The Scott Frost era with the Cornhuskers has had more potholes than a dirt road through a Nebraska cornfield. The head coach has had success with recruiting talent to his alma mater, but it's keeping it there and developing it that has been the issue.

    Big Red lost another big piece to the future puzzle this week when freshman running back Sevion Morrison entered the portal.

    The Oklahoma native was a 4-star prospect in the 2020 class. In six games this year, Morrison had 30 carries for 116 yards and three touchdowns. The 6'0", 210-pound prospect had offers from Arkansas, Baylor, Georgia Tech and others.

    "I love all these kids," Frost said, per Omaha's 3News Now. "I love Sev. Not everybody can play. This is the way college football is going to be. I'll certainly bend over backwards to try to help anybody that's been here and does things the right way. We're going to lose some and get some back. That's the way it's going to be every year."

    Morrison dealt with injuries and COVID-19 a year ago and didn't play. He is a former top-350 prospect who is almost certain to get a lot of looks from quality programs.

    Considering how well he performed in high school in Tulsa, his breakaway speed and the fact that he has the build to be a three-down back, he'll make his next team happy. 

Navonteque Strong, Linebacker

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    The Ed Orgeron fallout at LSU has given rise to plenty of recruiting uncertainty, and several players have entered the transfer portal.

    The second Bayou Bengals player on this list is linebacker Navonteque Strong.

    The 6'0", 230-pound former 3-star JUCO transfer nicknamed "Bugg" was a major contributor this year, totaling 17 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one pass breakup. He will have at least two years of eligibility remaining.

    In JUCO, he had 13.5 sacks and has shown a propensity to get after quarterbacks, possessing the type of speed that can crack a starting rotation at most programs. The Mississippi native could have other SEC opportunities too.

    He can run sideline to sideline and is big enough to be a force against the run. According to LSUCountry's Glen West, Orgeron was high on Strong when he arrived, calling him "one of the best tackling linebackers on the roster" in the spring. 

    He could be an immediate high-level Power Five starter and anchor a defense for a couple of seasons.

                 

    All stats courtesy of CFBStats and Sports Reference. Recruiting rankings via 247Sports' composite rankings unless otherwise noted.

    Follow Brad Shepard on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.

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