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Evaluating Last Season’s Transfer Rankings

On the eve of portal season we look at how well our transfer rankings from last year performed

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 Indiana at Penn State Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Two years ago I debuted my transfer portal rankings system as a way to try to objectively measure the strength of transfer additions and subtractions. I’ll be running out regular updates this year starting sometime later this week but first wanted to go back and try to assess how well my system seemed to work based on the regular season we just saw and whether it needs any tweaks.

This was my breakdown for what a given score meant about the likelihood of contributing for a power conference team after entering the portal.

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.


QB Michael Penix Jr.- 85

LB Cam Bright- 69

CB Jordan Perryman- 65

LB Kris Moll- 64

RB Aaron Dumas- 62

RB Wayne Taulapapa- 59

WR Junior Alexander- 42

RB Will Nixon- 39

P Kevin Ryan- 12

Overall, I think the system did a pretty good job of identifying the talent that the Huskies added. Penix Jr. ended up as one of the handful of best quarterbacks in the country. His grade ultimately should’ve been higher than an 85. At the same time though, he had never played more than 6 games in a season and was coming off an objectively terrible year even if it was because he played in a terrible offense. No one predicted that Penix would lead the country in passing so I don’t think it’s that big a miss to not have had him as one of the two or three best transfers in the country.

This is what I had to say about Penix in my first version last January where I made the case I was probably overrating Penix (I wasn’t).

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.

There were 4 players that ended up in my “likely starter” category and one who was barely outside of it.

Both Cam Bright and Jordan Perryman started essentially all season when healthy but both were underwhelming based on their on-field performance. I still think Perryman never got fully healthy all year but there’s no doubt he didn’t live up to expectations from the preseason.

Kris Moll played extensively as a backup linebacker and was the one that had the best coverage skills and so played more often in 3rd and long situations. He didn’t start but was a major piece of the rotation.

Where things went wrong for the evaluation was the running back situation. Dumas slotted in just ahead of Wayne Taulapapa. Instead, Dumas never saw a single snap this year while Taulapapa started. It’s still technically possible my system gets this correct. Dumas has 3 more years of eligibility to emerge while Taulapapa was a grad student and is one and done at Washington. Still, Taulapapa probably ended up underrated here.

Finally, I didn’t see Junior Alexander or Will Nixon getting much run since neither really played at all at their previous stop. That was mostly true as Nixon played a little early as a pass catching back while Alexander only really appeared in garbage time. Both though have remaining eligibility and could break through in the future.

I didn’t adapt the system for specialists so punters and kickers ended up with low grades but Kevin Ryan didn’t even end up winning the punting job as he was beaten out by a walk-on freshman.


DL Sam Taimani- 81 (Oregon)

WR Terrell Bynum- 74 (USC)

LB Jackson Sirmon- 70 (California)

EDGE Laiatu Latu- 59 (UCLA)

CB Jacobe Covington- 50 (USC)

TE Mark Redman- 46 (San Diego State)

EDGE Cooper McDonald- 39 (San Diego State)

K Tim Horn- 33 (Rice)

RB Caleb Berry- 29 (Incarnate Word)

LB MJ Tafisi- 27 (Utah State)

Washington’s 7 highest rated transfers in my system all ended up at other Pac-12 schools or San Diego State (maybe a future Pac-12 school). The players who had the biggest impact at their new school were Jackson Sirmon and Laiatu Latu. Each seems likely to end up as a 1st team all-conference performer when those awards are handed out next week. Sirmon finished 3rd in the conference in total tackles with 104 and added in 3.5 sacks, plus one each of a fumble forced, fumble recovery, and interception. Meanwhile, Latu finished 2nd in the conference with 9.5 sacks plus 3 fumbles forced. Latu’s grade was artificially lowered due to his lack of playing time with his injury situation.

In hindsight it doesn’t seem like Taimani should’ve been as highly listed here. He only played 274 defensive snaps as a reserve DL for Oregon and had 8 tackles and 0 snaps. His playing time was higher at UW mainly because of a depleted DT unit. Bynum likely would’ve put up big stats on just about any other team but he was the backup for last year’s Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison and ended up with just 14 catches for 141 yards. Jacobe Covington also at USC only started their last game and otherwise was a reserve corner finishing with 10 tackles and 3 pass breakups. He certainly would’ve played more at UW given all their injuries at that spot.

The San Diego State duo transferred down a level which has to be taken into account. Cooper McDonald started the first 6 games and finished with 41 tackles and 2 sacks. His PFF grade was solid but he would’ve been at best 4th on UW’s depth chart this year. Redman started 11 games for the Aztecs and caught fewer than 50% of his targets for 224 yards and 1 TD. I really thought he’d be a stud when he was coming out of high school but it hasn’t happened for him. MJ Tafisi had a good year for Utah State as their starting middle linebacker in the MWC. Happy for him after the scary neck injury he sustained at UW.

Kicker Tim Horn didn’t win the job at Rice and missed his only field goal attempt of the season. Similarly, Caleb Berry played only a handful of snaps for Incarnate Word.


QB Spencer Rattler- 98 (Oklahoma to South Carolina)

QB Caleb Williams- 96 (Oklahoma to USC)

QB Jayden Daniels- 96 (Arizona State to LSU)

RB Jahmyr Gibbs- 95 (Georgia Tech to Alabama)

WR Jordan Addison- 94 (Pittsburgh to USC)

CB Eli Ricks- 94 (LSU to Alabama)

QB Emory Jones- 93 (Florida to Arizona State)

QB Bo Nix- 92 (Auburn to Oregon)

WR Mario Williams- 92 (Oklahoma to USC)

RB Zach Evans- 92 (TCU to Ole Miss)

The top of this list certainly looks a little better now than it did 3 weeks ago after South Carolina upset Tennessee and Clemson in consecutive games to finish off the year. Still, no one would’ve taken Rattler #1 after he put up 16 TDs against 11 INTs this season. He was a 5-star prospect who had a career 90.1 PFF grade before this season but it seems clear some of his success was propped up by Lincoln Riley’s offense.

Caleb Williams on the other hand got to stay in that offense and have it supplemented by an absurd amount of skill position talent including 2 of the other names on this list. He’s almost certain to win the Heisman. Bo Nix was in that conversation until the Huskies beat him and he was injured late in that game. Jayden Daniels took a lot of sacks but he was the quarterback behind a turn around that got LSU to a division title in arguably the best division in the sport.

Both Addison and Williams missed 3 games as receivers at USC but Addison when he was healthy lived up to the hype while Williams was fine but not great. Jahmyr Gibbs was good at Alabama with 850 yards on 6+ yards per carry plus another nearly 400 receiving yards but came nowhere close to his preseason Heisman candidate hype. A similar story for Zach Evans at Ole Miss who also played in 11 games and averaged better than 6 yards per carry but couldn’t eclipse 900 total rushing yards.

The two biggest “busts” from the top-ten were Eli Ricks at Alabama and Emory Jones at Arizona State. Ricks ended up starting only 3 games and had 6 tackles and 0 interceptions. Jones suffered a concussion in the 1st quarter against Washington and his former walk-on backup led the Sun Devils to their biggest win of the season (pain). Bourget and Jones played almost an equal number of snaps and Jones took 3x as many sacks and had a lower completion percentage (although a higher yards per attempt). He added a little more with his legs but there’s no way Jones was better than other transfers that finished below him like Penix, Adrian Martinez, Jaxson Dart, Dillon Gabriel, or Jayden de Laura.


The following players who transferred to a Pac-12 school last offseason were good enough that they should at least compete for honorable mention honors.

Quarterback: Caleb Williams- 96 (USC), Bo Nix- 92 (Oregon), Jayden de Laura- 86 (Arizona), Michael Penix- 85 (UW)

Running Back: Bucky Irving- 84 (Oregon), Travis Dye- 77 (USC), Xazavian Valladay- 77 (ASU), Wayne Taulapapa- 59 (UW)

Wide Receiver: Jordan Addison- 94 (USC), Jacob Cowing- 70 (Arizona), Jake Bobo- 70 (UCLA)

Offensive Line: None

Defensive Line: Nesta Jade Silvera- 88 (ASU), Jacob Sykes- 65 (UCLA)

Edge Rusher: Grayson Murphy- 72 (UCLA), Laiatu Latu- 59 (UCLA)

Linebacker: Jackson Sirmon- 70 (Cal), Daiyan Henley- 48 (WSU)

Cornerback: Christian Gonzalez- 80 (Oregon), Mekhi Blackmon- 61 (USC)

Safety: None

That’s a total of 19 players in the conference that you could say were true instant impact players. 8 of them had at least an 80 grade. 14 of them had at least a 70 grade, and 16 had at least a 60 grade. That was my initial cutoff for players likely to start at their new school and 2 of the remaining 3 were at a 59 so just missed my arbitrary line.

I talked about both Taulapapa and Latu in the transfer in/out section for UW and I was probably generous to include Taulapapa as being eligible for honorable mention consideration. But he did end up 7th in the conference in rushing yards and 4th among running backs in rushing TDs.

The only true miss was Daiyan Henley who ended up one of the finalists for the Butkus award for the best linebacker in the country. Henley was a 2-star recruit out of high school who had never had higher than a 66.4 PFF grade in his previous 4 years at Nevada. He had 0 career sacks coming into the year, had 5 combined against Idaho and Colorado State, and then had 0 the rest of the season. I’m not saying Henley wasn’t good this year but he probably was a little overrated due to his hot start against bad competition and I don’t think there’s anything in his profile that suggests my system made a grievous mistake.

Just like in regular recruiting, the transfer portal is a bit of a crapshoot. Overall though I’m encouraged with how my system performed. Changes in systems can cause wide variation but if someone ended up with at least a 70 then it pretty accurately captured that they at least should be flagged as a potential all-conference performer.