There are plenty of college football players still in the transfer portal but for the most part it seems that things are finally starting to die down. The vast majority of the major players have already committed to new schools and thus I think it’s a reasonable time to start figuring out who the biggest winners and losers have been.
We aren’t the first to try to come up with some form of transfer rankings but hopefully we can try to be the most objective. There’s a lot of inherent bias that comes with trying to rank players that have decided to transfer. Oh look, a former 5-star! He must be dominant. But wait a second, he couldn’t see the field for his last school, maybe he actually sucks. No, but that school was Alabama so he could still be really good and not get playing time... On and on the excuses can go.
I’ve used 3 main criteria to come up with the rankings: recruiting rankings, snaps played, and PFF performance grades. A player who was a former 5-star but never played a snap is more likely to see success at their new school than a former walk-on in the same situation. However, I’d still rather have a walk-on that was a highly productive starter than the uber-talented recruit that has never proven anything at the college level.
For each of those 3 categories I’ve set up a 0-5 ranking system based purely on the numbers which means that a player can have a score anywhere between 0 and 15. If a team adds a player with a transfer grade of 10 then they get +10. If they lose two players with a transfer grade of 5 then they get -10. If those were the only 3 portal interactions the team had then they would end up with a net +0. The higher the listed absolute number below, the better the transfer but all additions will have a plus and all subtractions will have a minus.
With that, let’s get to the rankings. Kind of...
These are actually going to be a ranking of 10 teams rather than 12 though. Two programs in the conference have not brought in a single player via transfer this offseason: Stanford and Oregon. The Cardinal had a ton of attrition from players going pro but mostly avoided getting hit at all by the transfer portal. They had just 2 players leave for a transfer score of -8. Neither player went to a power conference school (Appalachian State and Northern Iowa) and while one of them saw nearly 500 defensive snaps while at Stanford they also had a terrible grade per PFF. I didn’t go through the entirety of college football but it’s tough to imagine a team less impacted by the portal than Stanford this year.
Oregon also brought in 0 new transfers but saw much more widespread losses to the portal. The Ducks had 11 players leave for a transfer score of -56. A few of those players were major contributors. Tyler Shough obviously started for the majority of the season at QB even if he ended the season on the bench. At the very worst he would’ve been a valuable experienced backup option for them. RB Cyrus Habibi-Likio was a very highly graded backup running back who followed Andy Avalos to Boise State. Both had a -9 score which hurt. However Oregon also had 5 former 3-stars who had yet to play a snap who transferred who were quickly recruited over in the incoming freshman class.
The Wire has given us many lessons but clearly Oregon and Stanford came away with this one:
(Side note: given the way the end of Washington’s 2020 season turned out in comparison to Oregon’s with regards to the Pac-12 championship, this is blatantly false)
10. Washington State: -54
Highest Ranked Incoming Transfer: QB Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee (+15)
Highest Ranked Departing Transfer: DL Lamonte McDougle, Portal (-11)
Transfer Additions: 5, average score of +8.8
Transfer Departures: 21, average score of -4.7
The Cougars had an astounding 21 players leave the program although 5 of them were unranked coming out of high school walk-ons. After one full (sorta) year of the Nick Rolovich experience there were a lot of players saying stop the ride, I want to get off. Part of that was likely schematic. The Mike Leach air raid stocked the cupboard with wide receivers and although the run and shoot is also passing-based there was still a lot of attrition. 6 WRs transferred out of Pullman this offseason while only one was added to take their place. Jamire Calvin (-10), Rodrick Fisher (-7), Mike Pettway (-6), and Kassidy Woods (-6) were all losses that hurt the depth while only Lincoln Victor from Hawaii (+6) joined.
However despite finishing in last place here mostly because of volume, Washington State brought in the only +15 player in the entire conference in Tennessee QB Jarrett Guarantano. He may not be an All-American but he’s a 4-year starter from the SEC that was a near 5-star recruit and put up at least above average PFF grades every year. He should substantially raise the floor of the QB play that the Cougs get next year.
Most of the Cougar losses were manageable attrition with 11 of the 20 transfers scoring between a 0 and -4. Their biggest loss per the transfer grade (Lamonte McDougle) had his best season while at West Virginia and only played in 2019 for the Cougars so doesn’t reflect as a true loss from the group that took the field this past fall.
9. California: -43
Highest Ranked Incoming Transfer: S Raymond Woodie III, Florida State (+9)
Highest Ranked Departing Transfer: RB Bradrick Shaw, Northern Iowa (-9)
Transfer Additions: 1, average score of +9.0
Transfer Departures: 10, average score of -5.2
The Golden Bears were very close to also inhabiting the can’t lose if you don’t play zone but did bring in one solitary transfer. Raymond Woodie III out of Florida State was a former 4-star who started a pair of games for the Seminoles this past fall and played double digit snaps in another 10 over the past few seasons. His PFF grades were pretty close to exactly average but there’s reason to think he should be able to come in and challenge for a starting safety spot right away.
Most of the losses for Cal came at the offensive skill positions as their top-6 highest graded transfers were all QBs, RBs, and WRs (2 apiece). None of them were absolutely essential starters but if Cal experiences injuries at any of those spots then it could certainly hurt their depth. Shaw was the highest graded loss but he accumulated most of his stats while at Wisconsin and only played 25 snaps for Cal last year. WR Makai Polk is probably the bigger name as a mostly starter for them the past 2 seasons who accumulated 460 yards and 3 TDs in the last 9 games that Cal played.
8. Colorado: -26
Highest Ranked Incoming Transfer: LB Robert Barnes, Oklahoma (+13)
Highest Ranked Departing Transfer: WR K.D Nixon, USC (-11)
Transfer Additions: 7, average score of +7.1
Transfer Departures: 13, average score of -5.8
Colorado under Karl Dorrell clearly is willing to take chances on raw talent. The Buffs brought in 4 players who were ranked as a 4-star talent coming out of high school and 3 of them had a 0.945 or better 247 composite score. The headliner is Robert Barnes from Oklahoma who was a starting safety for the Sooners back in 2018. However, incoming talent pushed him out of the rotation as a junior and he moved to linebacker to get playing time this past year.
They also have added OL Max Wray from Ohio State and LB Jack Lamb from Notre Dame who were similarly stud players entering college. Neither was able to secure more than a backup role at their first schools but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see either become at least an average starter at Colorado given the relative strength of the depth charts from OSU/ND to Boulder.
Like every program, Colorado lost some non-contributors with 6 players departing that combined to play 1 total snap. But they also lost some key pieces. WR K.D Nixon finished either 2nd or 3rd in targets in each of the past 3 seasons. Safety Derrion Rakestraw is a 2 year starter even though he didn’t grade out particularly highly per PFF. Another 3 players all saw between 350 and 800 career snaps at Colorado and were at least significant depth pieces over the last few years.
7. Utah: -22
Highest Ranked Incoming Transfer: WR Theo Howard, Oklahoma (+14)
Highest Ranked Departing Transfer: QB Jake Bentley, South Alabama (-12)
Transfer Additions: 7, average score of +9.1
Transfer Departures: 14, average score of -6.1
This spot may come as a surprise to many who have seen the Utes bring in an impressive list of transfers this offseason. The reason lies in the transfer departure column as the Utes have lost twice as many players to the portal as they’ve brought in. 6 of those players received between a -1 and -4 and so could be considered fringe depth that didn’t meaningfully impact the roster. There were some legitimate defections though. Bentley was at least a passable experienced option at QB even if he’s better served as a backup. Receivers Bryan Thompson and Samson Nacua each finished within the top-4 in targets among Utah wide receivers each of the past 2 seasons. Utah is also losing its 2nd and 3rd leaders in rushing attempts.
I’m sure in most Utah fans’ minds however the exchange was a net plus and it probably was. Incoming QB Charlie Brewer is a clear upgrade from Bentley after putting up really good numbers at Baylor. WR Theo Howard struggled to see the field at loaded Oklahoma but was very good for 2 years at UCLA before that. RB T.J Pledger is a former high 4-star that averaged better than 5 yards per carry for his career at Oklahoma on over 100 carries. That triumvirate’s ceiling is higher than the respective losses at those 3 spots even if the depth may have been hurt by the sheer number of bodies headed out.
Husky fans of course recognize S Brandon McKinney (+8) and Josh Calvert (+4) among Utah’s additions but neither was an impact player for Washington and Calvert never saw the field. Both were 4-stars coming out of high school however and Utah is hoping that a change of scenery will help them unlock some of that potential.
We’re already over 1500 words so in the interest of preserving sanity I’m going to divide this into 2 parts with the next one coming out tomorrow.