Yesterday I started the countdown of which schools in the Pac-12 football programs have done the best job navigating the transfer portal. You can find that part one right here. Today we continue with the top half of the conference. If you’re looking for the methodology I recommend going back and reading yesterday’s edition. Because we’ve got 2,000 words to get through starting right now.
6. Oregon State: -16
Highest Ranked Incoming Transfer: CB Elijah Jones, Kansas (+9)
Highest Ranked Departing Transfer: DT Jordan Whittley, Michigan (-9)
Transfer Additions: 5, average score of +5.8
Transfer Departures: 12, average score of -3.8
While Oregon State is losing 2.5x as many players to transfer as they brought in, they aren’t losing a whole lot of major contributors. The biggest both literally and figuratively is 358 lb DT Jordan Whittley who the Huskies will face off against in the 2nd game of the year now that he has transferred to Michigan. He sat out the 2020 season due to a heart condition but was a key piece to their DL rotation in 2019 after coming in from JUCO. Similarly, CB Kaleb Hayes was a plus starter in 2018 but injuries have led him to only have 9 snaps over the past 2 seasons. Otherwise, 7 of the 12 Oregon State transfers out of Corvallis had yet to play a snap for the Beavers and the highest recruiting ranking in the 247 sports composite from that group was 0.855 which is a low to mid 3-star.
With Jermar Jefferson off to the Detroit Lions the Beavers are clearly looking for help at the running back spot and have South Carolina’s Deshaun Fenwick (+9 transfer grade) incoming. Fenwick averaged 5.4 yards per carry on almost 100 carries as the backup for the Gamecocks and should emerge as a realistic starting option. Kansas’ Elijah Jones also had a +9 transfer grade and while there aren’t many good players on the Jayhawks roster at any one time, Jones was one of them. He finished with a well above average PFF grade starting 8 games this past year with 6 breakups on 22 targets. Expect Jones to start at one outside corner spot in Corvallis this fall.
5. Washington: -11
Highest Ranked Incoming Transfer: CB Brendan Radley-Hiles, Oklahoma (+14)
Highest Ranked Departing Transfer: WR Ty Jones, Fresno State (-11)
Transfer Additions: 5, average score of +10.2
Transfer Departures: 10, average score of -6.2
The average incoming transfer score of 10.2 actually ended up the highest of any school in the Pac-12. Washington didn’t bring in a ton of players via the portal but the ones they did bring in should all end up making an impact if they see the field. The biggest addition was Oklahoma nickel back Brendan Radley-Hiles who was a former high 4-star recruit and 3-year starter. The only thing keeping him from a perfect score was a bad PFF grade as a true freshman. If Bookie were had performed at the same level he did as a junior earlier in his career then he’d join Guarantano as the only 15’s in the conference.
QB Patrick O’Brien (+12) won’t play if everything goes right this year but he has the requisite pedigree and experience to raise the floor of the Husky quarterback room. OLB Jeremiah Martin (+8) plus WRs Giles Jackson (+10) and Ja’Lynn Polk (+7) all have enough in their backgrounds to think that at least one of them really breaks out. Jackson in particular would likely grade even higher if I focused on his special teams exploits rather than just the offensive snaps.
There’s no question that the losses at the receiver spot will hurt. Ty Jones (-11), Puka Nacua (-10), Jordan Chin (-7), Marquis Spiker (-6), and Austin Osborne (-5) represent an even bigger drain than Wazzu experienced at that position. Jones finishes as a bigger loss in the score because he’s played more than 4x as many snaps as Puka even though it’s clear that Nacua has the higher upside if healthy and has more eligibility remaining. The losses at the QB position with Jacob Sirmon (-6) and Ethan Garbers (-5) were more manageable since neither has shown anything on a college football field yet even if both were highly rated entering Washington.
The Huskies under Jimmy Lake haven’t suddenly become a program that’s dependent on the transfer portal to sustain it. However he has shown that he is very much willing to pick his spots and pluck out the occasional key contributor to patch any holes on the roster.
4. UCLA: -1
Highest Ranked Incoming Transfer: RB Zach Charbonnet, Michigan (+11)
Highest Ranked Departing Transfer: S Elijah Gates, Fresno State (-13)
Transfer Additions: 6, average score of +7.5
Transfer Departures: 6, average score of -7.6
This particular scoring system shows that UCLA’s transfer portal endeavors have resulted in almost a complete wash. They brought in and lost 6 players apiece and my transfer score showed the inflow and outflow were essentially identical. 4 of the 6 players that UCLA brought in were 4-stars coming out of high school and 3 of those had at least a 0.945 rating in the 247 composite. The biggest names for Husky fans are the two wild cards. QB Ethan Garbers spent only about 6 months in Seattle before bolting to UCLA while Ale Kaho spent even less time before 3 years of special teams duty in Tuscaloosa. The talent in each case is worth the Bruins betting on but the lack of production on the field means neither scored beyond a +5.
Charbonnet from Michigan had the highest transfer score after rushing for 5.1 yards per carry over the last 2 seasons in Ann Arbor alongside a very high recruiting pedigree. Cam Johnson from North Texas was a borderline 2/3 star but has started 2 years at CB for the Mean Green and put up high PFF grades that could lead to him stepping right into a starting role for UCLA.
There are snaps available in the secondary after safety Elijah Gates opted to head to Fresno State. Gates was a 2-year starter but mostly came off the bench in 2020 and was an elite run defender his entire career. None of the other UCLA defectors had quite the same impact but both Rayshad Williams and Jaylen Erwin have over 550 career snaps so both have been serious rotation players in the past. Unfortunately the Njoku brothers of Charles and Evidence never were able to play more than 100 snaps for UCLA as former high 3-stars before transferring.
3. Arizona: +3
Highest Ranked Incoming Transfer: QB Jordan McCloud, South Florida (+9)
Highest Ranked Departing Transfer: DE Kylan Wilborn, UNLV (-10)
Transfer Additions: 14, average score of +5.1
Transfer Departures: 12, average score of -5.7
Shortly after the Jedd Fisch hire was announced it would’ve seemed like a miracle for Arizona to wind up #3 in these rankings. It still basically does. The Wildcats though are the only school in the Pac-12 to bring in more players via the portal than they lost which outweighed the slight negative imbalance in average transfer grade. That volume was necessary since 4 outgoing players had the same or better transfer grade as their best incoming player.
The biggest name is QB Grant Gunnell who definitely showed flashes for the Wildcats in 6 starts over the past 2 seasons who is now headed off to Memphis. The highest graded loss though was defensive end Kylan Wilborn who started 21 games for Arizona in 3 seasons but decided to transfer when it looked like the Pac-12 wasn’t having a season this fall and ended up at UNLV for 2021. RB Nathan Tilford (-9) is the other name casual fans may recognize as he rushed for nearly 7 yards per carry albeit on just 58 carries in his Zona career as a former 4-star recruit and is still in the portal.
Arizona will try to replace Gunnell with South Florida QB Jordan McCloud (+9) who only threw for 6.6 yards per attempt as a starter the last 2 years but with a better than 2 to 1 TD/INT ratio. RB Drake Anderson (+8) from Northwestern has almost 250 career carries but only managed 4.1 yards per attempt on them so is likely best as a backup option. Another 4 players enter on the defensive side of the ball with transfer grades between +6 and +8 that likely project as depth pieces. All have at least 400 career defensive snaps under their belt and were rated below a 0.83 coming out of high school. Clearly the hope is they will at least be able to add a veteran presence to the front 7 even if they don’t provide a ton of upside.
t-1. USC: +5
Highest Ranked Incoming Transfer: RB Keaontay Ingram, Texas (+14)
Highest Ranked Departing Transfer: RB Stephen Carr, Indiana (-13)
Transfer Additions: 7, average score of +9.1
Transfer Departures: 7, average score of -8.4
I was going to give USC the top spot as the deciding tiebreaker but on Wednesday night it was announced that class of 2021 4-star DT Jay Toia had entered the transfer portal. I’m not including 2021 guys since it’s kind of more of a decommit than a transfer if they never even made it to a fall camp but I’ll use it to break the tie and at least have USC go second in the write-up.
The intrigue for the Trojans revolved around the running back position where USC lost both Stephen Carr (-13) and Markese Stepp (-10) to the Big 10. However, they picked up Texas’ Keaontay Ingram who should allow them not to feel a drop-off with his career 2,000+ yards from scrimmage on better than 5 yards per carry. Ingram only became available because Bijan Robinson might be the best running back in college football while Ingram might merely be in the top-20.
Otherwise it was the defense that took a hit with 4 transfers leaving who combined for nearly 1,600 career snaps including former 5-star starting LB Palaie Gaoteote IV. USC will likely feel the hit to their depth chart but none of the losses were bonafide star players and the expectation is that they will simply be able to recruit their way out of the departures.
There are some reinforcements on the way with defensive additions from Texas (S Xavier Alford), Auburn (CB Chris Thompson Jr), and Alabama (DT Ismael Sopsher). Those 3 players have combined for just 87 defensive snaps at the college level but all are former 4-star recruits and so we’ll see if the USC staff is able to coach them up to reach their full potential. Wait, why are you laughing?
Along with the running backs, USC added to the offense with Colorado’s KD Nixon who was mentioned in yesterday’s write-up as well as Memphis WR Tahj Washington. Both are smaller guys that stand in contrast to the prototypical USC receiver (6’1-6’4 fast as hell former 5-star). However in combination with Drake London, Bru McCoy, and Gary Bryant they should ensure that the Trojans will once again have the best receiving unit in the conference.
t-1. Arizona State: +5
Highest Ranked Incoming Transfer: WR Bryan Thompson, Utah (+11)
Highest Ranked Departing Transfer: WR Jordan Kerley, SMU (-6)
Transfer Additions: 7, average score of +5.6
Transfer Departures: 14, average score of -2.4
USC and UCLA got to where they were in the rankings by generally both adding and subtracting a number of high profile players. That isn’t how Arizona State got to the top here. ASU lost twice as many players to the portal as they gained but they saw almost no one of true significance depart the roster. The highest ranked losses were WR Jordan Kerley and TE Nolan Matthews who share a surprising amount in common. Both had about 200 career offensive snaps at ASU, were mid 3-star recruits, had below average PFF grades, transferred to SMU, and had a transfer grade of -6.
The biggest pick-up was WR Bryan Thompson from Utah who was a serious deep threat for the Utes with a career 22.9 yards per reception. Additional receiving help is on the way from Mississippi State in TE Geor’quarius Spivey (what a name) who unsurprisingly didn’t find the Mike Leach air raid very tight end friendly and so transferred out. He wasn’t great at Miss St but should help provide some depth at that spot. On the defensive end the Sun Devils have LSU DE Travez Moore entering the picture who fits the mold of a talented pass rusher that hasn’t quite been able to put it all together on the field yet.
It’s a bit of an anti-climactic #1 spot given that Arizona State didn’t add a single player from out of conference that a casual fan might recognize. But this is ultimately about making the roster better. 7 of the 14 players that transferred out of ASU never played an offensive/defensive snap and only 2 of them had played more than 50 in their career. None of them were 4-star players coming out of high school.
It’s not a tough case to make that the Sun Devils lost 0 players who realistically would’ve been a part of the 2-deep in 2021 except for their kicker who got beat out by the end of last season. Even if none of Thompson, Spivey, and Moore (plus their 4 other transfers in) wind up as more than backups this season it still winds up being just about all upside.