We find ourselves at the end of January and there are few programs that have not felt either the gentle caress or the bitter sting (or both) of the transfer portal. We have seen records shattered for the number of players transferring over the last few months and there will surely be another national wave of transfers once we get to spring ball and players realize their path to playing time at their current school is steeper than they originally thought. But seeing as how the mayhem has slowed a little bit it seems like a good opportunity to stand and take stock of the changes.
Last summer I unveiled my system for grading transfers and looked at the impact of the Pac-12. At the time I put together a grading scale of up to 15 points for every transfer based on 3 criteria: initial recruiting ranking, playing time, and playing performance. The thought being that a player is desirable in the portal if they have raw athleticism, experience on the field, or have performed well in college. The better they fare in one of those categories the better the grade and you ideally would want a player that checks all 3 of those boxes. I’m still using those as my 3 base metrics but have upped the scoring to be on a scale of 0-100.
An example of a 0 would be an unrated walk-on who never played an offensive or defensive snap before entering the portal. An example of a 100 would be a former 5-star multi-year starter who has consistently played at a 1st team all-conference level. These aren’t absolutes but I would generally say here’s how you should assess a given player’s grade:
90-100: Former starter that’s a lock to start at new school and likely to perform at an all-conference level.
75-89: Very likely starter at new school who was at least a mid-tier recruit, former starter, and above average performer.
60-74: Probable starter at new school who has 2⁄3 of recruit ranking, playing time, or high performance but not all 3.
45-59: Clear rotation player at new school but at least one major hole on their resume.
31-44: Likely depth piece that has seen at least some on-field action but either is a former walk-on or didn’t start at their previous spot.
0-30: Wildcard that saw little to no playing time at previous stop but could have been a former highly rated recruit.
For every power conference school I added up the totals of every player they have added so far in the transfer portal and every one they have lost. That difference is going to be their score which makes up the rankings. However. I will also be providing context in my descriptions since in some cases a player very clearly has a reason why their grade should be lower or higher than it actually is. If a player suffered a serious injury since the last time they got on the field then that isn’t taken into account in the rankings. If a player was amazing earlier in their career but has regressed then that isn’t factored into the grade.
For Washington especially and other Pac-12 schools occasionally I know enough about the context to raise a flag for that type of player. I didn’t artificially change a player’s grade though since I don’t have that same level of knowledge for every P5 school and I wanted to keep the grading consistent.
Today we’ll go through schools 12 through 7 and be back later this week for the top half of the Pac-12 and then finally some awards across the entire country.
12. Colorado Buffaloes, -616 points
Highest Rated Addition: OL Tommy Brown (from Alabama), 81 points
Highest Rated Departure: S Christian Gonzalez (to Oregon), 79 points
Total Additions: 5 with average grade of 55.6
Total Departures: 21 with average grade of 42.6
Colorado wasn’t all that good to begin with in 2021 (yes, I know UW lost to them but that is still completely inexplicable even accounting for how bad UW was). Now Colorado has lost 8 players who scored at least a 55 including 3 wide receivers, their best running back, their starting safeties, and 2 rotation corners. Yikes.
Making matters even worse is that a lot of the losses have stayed in the conference. WR Brenden Rice (68) and CB Mekhi Blackmon (64) are both headed to USC while Christian Gonzalez is going to Oregon. An upgrade at QB does wonders if the Buffs are able to get it next year but it’s tough to imagine how they see an improvement with this talent drain. And that upgrade is very far from a guarantee since they didn’t bring in an experienced transfer at that position.
There were a few key additions at least. OL Tommy Brown never was able to start along Bama’s offensive line with future high draft picks ahead of him but he was a high 4-star recruit who performed well when he did get to play. There is playing time to be found at the WR spot and RJ Sneed from Baylor is a multi-year starter who was a little above average for the Bears and could help make up for the loss of one of Rice, Shenault, and Stanley. And today Colorado got a commitment from 3rd team FCS All-American Ramon Jefferson (58 pts) who averaged 6.7 yards per carry this past year to potentially help make up for the loss of Broussard.
11. Stanford Cardinal, -298 Points
Highest Rated Addition: S Patrick Fields (from Oklahoma), 65 points
Highest Rated Departure: RB Austin Jones (to USC), 84 points
Total Additions: 1 with average grade of 65.0
Total Departures: 6 with average grade of 60.5
It has always been an issue for Stanford that they struggle to bring players in via transfer due to eligibility requirements and it has certainly been a hindrance in the portal era. So far this season the only transfer they have brought in is Patrick Fields from Oklahoma. He was a 3-year starter for the Sooners but graded out with some real concerns in coverage each of the last 2 seasons. He should still have a great shot to start for Stanford but I’m sure there are some Oklahoma fans who won’t mind giving more playing time to the younger guys that were stuck underneath Fields.
At many schools you see a lot of players transferring who never saw the field. Stanford didn’t have that problem which means all of their losses were guys that made an impact. All 6 outgoing transfers had played at least 250 career snaps for the Cardinal and 4 of the 6 had a better than average grade from PFF. On the defensive side that includes super senior LB Gabe Reid (72 pts), and linemen Andres Fox (55 pts) and Ryan Johnson (45). Gabe and Fox are still available while Johnson is headed to Northwestern.
Stanford is also dealing with losing 3 members of their running backs room to the portal. Austin Jones and Nathaniel Peat (65 pts) combined to take about two-thirds of the carries for the Cardinal this season so losing both is a major blow. Jones in particular is headed to a California rival and was a major recruit which has to make it sting even worse. Finally, Houston Heimuli (42 pts) was a fullback and is headed to BYU.
10. California Golden Bears, -218 Points
Highest Rated Addition: QB Jack Plummer (from Purdue), 75 points
Highest Rated Departure: RB Christopher Brooks (to BYU), 83 points
Total Additions: 3 with average grade of 65.7
Total Departures: 8 with average grade of 51.9
Cal may come in at 10th in the rankings right now but I wouldn’t be too upset about the situation if I’m a Bears fan (are those a thing?). Brooks was their highest rated departure with his 4.6 yards per carry average but he was part of a running back rotation even if he was the most effective piece of it. 5 other contributors departed the program which will hurt the depth but none of them graded out as better than average per PFF. There’s a chance that Cal will be able to replace their production through their natural depth. Starting OL McKade Mettauer is headed to Oklahoma and EDGE JH Tevis to Indiana but the other losses are either uncommitted or headed to a non-power conference school.
Washington’s Jackson Sirmon (72 pts) narrowly missed out on being Cal’s top rated incoming transfer after essentially a year and a half of average production as a high 3-star recruit. Plummer had a slightly higher PFF grade on slightly fewer snaps with a slightly worse recruiting grade coming out of high school so it’s nearly a wash between them. He’s not quite good enough that I’m convinced he’ll be the guy on opening day for Cal but he’s definitely their most experienced option now. Utah’s Xavier Carlton (50 pts) is the last add for Cal as an edge rusher with plenty of raw talent who has yet to put it all together.
9. Washington State Cougars, -205 Points
Highest Rated Addition: S Jordan Lee (from Nevada), 63 points
Highest Rated Departure: QB Jayden de Laura (to Arizona), 84 points
Total Additions: 4 with average grade of 49.0
Total Departures: 12 with average grade of 33.4
It’s not exactly a surprise that the Cougars sustained heavy losses from the transfer portal given all the turmoil that program underwent this past season and the coaching change. The good news for Wazzu is that most of the losses were very replaceable which is evident in the average departing grade of 33.4. The Cougs lost 4 players who never played a snap for them plus a walk-on kicker who saw just enough action to stay above my “this is probably a walk-on so remove them from the equation” threshold although that kicker is now committed to Oregon.
Only one departure has committed to play for a power-conference school...but unfortunately that one player was their starting quarterback. Jayden de Laura is very good and he will instantly step in and be the guy in the QB room at Arizona as we’ll hear about in a bit. Losing him is huge and is the main reason they find themselves this low in the rankings.
Attempting to replace de Laura will be Cameron Ward (57 pts) who has a much lower score for a few reasons. The first of which is the pedigree isn’t there for Ward since he was an unranked player coming out of high school which caps his score at a 70. The efficiency stats just aren’t all that great either. Ward struggled with fumbles and his production isn’t better than de Laura’s except in touchdown rate despite playing in the FCS versus the Pac-12. Maybe the Cougars upgraded but it’s a trade I think they’re likely to lose.
Along similar lines, Washington State added a pair of Nevada defenders who were either unranked or 2-star players coming out of high school which puts a ceiling on their grades. But both S Jordan Lee (63 pts) and LB Daiyan Henley (54 pts) were all-Mountain West performers who should slot into starting roles in the Cougar defense from day one. Also a fun little note, the lowest rated player heading to a power conference team per PFF is DL Nusi Malani who had a 37.5 grade at Virginia in 180 career snaps. For context, generally a player gets a 60.0 grade if they don’t make an impact plays but also don’t screw up.
8. Washington Huskies, -172 Points
Highest Rated Addition: QB Michael Penix (from Indiana), 85 points
Highest Rated Departure: DL Sam Taimani (to Oregon), 82 points
Total Additions: 5 with average grade of 60.4
Total Departures: 9 with average grade of 52.7
As noted in the intro, if I were allowing myself the opportunity to tweak my definitions to more accurately capture the situation then there are a few changes I would make. There’s no adjustment for injury history and if you ignore that Laiatu Latu (65 pts) had to medically retire from UW then he would be a great get for UCLA. Given that he already was off scholarship it is probably most fair to remove him from UW’s score but I’m sure there are at least some other similar cases in other parts of the country I’m not accounting for so I’m leaving him in. Similarly, Will Latu (25 pts) never even went through a practice with the team so his inclusion is also dubious but he signed with Washington and is now in the transfer portal. If you want to add 90 points to UW’s score, I won’t argue.
There were 3 true losses the Huskies experienced with Taimani, Sirmon, and WR Terrell Bynum (78 pts) who were all multi-year starters and now head to Pac-12 competition. The Huskies found a replacement option for Sirmon and have young WR talent to try to replace Bynum with but those are all blows. The rest of the transfers Tafisi (39 pts), Redman (39 pts), Horn (38 pts), and McDonald (36 pts) all showed potential at some point but ultimately none of them had an extended stretch of above average performance.
Given Michael Penix’s injury history at Indiana I think it would be fair to say that his grade is a little bit inflated. I didn’t make an adjustment to weight more recent years’ of performance more highly so Penix being a few years removed from his best season with more injuries in between them certainly raises a red flag and the possibility he can’t live up to his grade.
Linebacker Cam Bright (72 pts) was held by back by his low 3-star ranking coming out of high school but received 64 of 70 possible points based on his on-field performance which personally I would prefer rather than a higher ranked prospect with less on their college resume. Similarly, CB Jordan Perryman (65 pts) wasn’t rated out of high school but still is in a range where he can reasonably be expected to step in as a starter. RB Aaron Dumas (55 pts) didn’t have enough snaps at New Mexico to make the system feel confident he can become an instant impact guy but at the very least will make the case to be part of the running back rotation and could pop. Finally, WR Junior Alexander (25 pts) never got on the field at Arizona State and essentially cancels out the loss of Will Latu.
7. Arizona Wildcats, -157 Points
Highest Rated Addition: QB Jayden de Laura (from Washington State), 84 points
Highest Rated Departure: WR Jalen “Boobie” Curry (to Buffalo), 58 points
Total Additions: 7 with average grade of 57.2
Total Departures: 18 with average grade of 31.0
This is a tough one because I think it’s entirely reasonable to say that the Wildcats are one of the big winners of the portal in the conference. Would you rather have 1 player with a transfer grade of 90 or 2 that have grades of 50? I think most people would rather have the superstar than multiple depth rotation pieces. That’s kind of what this entire class is like for Arizona. They lost an astounding 18 players to the portal so far. None of them have committed to another power conference school and 15 of them remain uncommitted.
There wasn’t much talent to begin with on this Arizona roster but it seems clear that they didn’t lose any of it to the portal. It’s not quite as simple as saying that Arizona essentially cut loose the bottom 15-20% of their roster but that’s pretty close to what happened.
In exchange the Wildcats added some serious talent as well as a few wildcards. The big prize is snagging Jayden de Laura from the Cougars. He should instantly be the best quarterback on the roster and if de Laura stays healthy he might be worth a 2 win bump just by himself given how bad Arizona’s quarterback play was last year. To help him out they also brought in UTEP’s Jacob Cowing (70 pts) who was a low 2-star coming out of high school but earned 68 out of 70 possible points based on his production and could be an all-Pac-12 guy next year.
The defense also is getting a remodel with 4 pieces added from major programs (2x UCLA, USC, and Michigan) all of whom have played at least a little at their previous stop. Hunter Echols (70 pts) is the headliner of that group as he was a reasonable edge rotation piece for the Trojans before moving on to Arizona. The Wildcats may only be 7th here but the upgrade to the offense from adding de Laura and Cowing is worth the rest of the subtractions in my book.
Next time we’ll look at schools 6 through 1 in the Pac-12.