Last week I started counting down from worst towards first the teams that have done the best in the transfer portal so far this year taking into account both losses and gains. If you missed part one you can find it right here. Today I’m continuing on starting with #6 and ending with the team you can probably guess is in first place...
6- Arizona Wildcats (7th in January), -149 points
Additions: 7 with average grade of 58.4; Highest: QB Jayden de Laura (from Wash St), 86 points
Departures: 23 with average grade of 27.1; Highest: WR Jalen Curry (to Buffalo), 60 points
I think it’s fair to raise issue with this ranking for Arizona. They lost 23 transfers which was the most in the Pac-12 but the average of 27.1 for those losses was the lowest in the conference. There weren’t very many good players on this roster to begin with and they didn’t really lose any of them. The only Arizona transfers that latched on at other power conference schools went to Colorado, Boston College, and Kansas State. There wasn’t exactly high demand for their services.
Bringing in de Laura at QB will be a massive boost as the Wildcats suffered several injuries and had substandard play at the position all year. They also added UTEP’s star WR Jacob Cowing (70) for Jayden to throw to and he’s a player that would’ve been much higher if not for his 2-star recruiting grade out of high school. 4 new members of the defense come from major programs including 3 from the L.A schools who all had a 40+ transfer grade and will likely all start on the Arizona defense. It’s reasonable to make the argument that Arizona gained 6 starters and lost only 2. But it does feel like there has to be at least some penalty for flipping over 1/4th of the roster even if it’s the bottom quarter.
5- Washington Huskies (8th in January), -111 points
Additions: 9 with average grade of 55.2; Highest: QB Michael Penix (from Indiana), 85 points
Departures: 14 with average grade of 43.4; Highest: DL Taki Taimani (to Oregon), 81 points
Washington has been one of the big winners in the portal since January as they moved up 3 spots in the rankings despite some concerns of an exodus after spring ball with the new coaching staff. In the end CB Jacobe Covington (50, USC) was the biggest of the recent losses while 4 more former Dawgs (only 2 scholarship) departed with transfer scores under 35. The Huskies countered with 3 springtime transfer additions with a score of at least 39 headlined by LB Kris Moll (64, UAB).
Overall, Washington brought in 6 players with a score of at least 59 which is around the cutoff for what I would expect to represent at least a heavy rotation piece. Michael Penix Jr. is of course the headliner and is the favorite to start week 1 at quarterback. After him come 3 defenders with Cam Bright (69, Pittsburgh), Jordan Perryman (65, UC Davis), and Moll. All 3 will expect to start although Moll is a bit of a question mark given he wasn’t there for spring ball and I could see him instead slotting in as rotation depth if the younger guys emerge. The running back duo of Aaron Dumas (62, New Mexico) and Wayne Taulapapa (59, Virginia) provide depth at a spot that is in turmoil under the new regime. There’s also a chance WR Junior Alexander (42, Arizona St) will crack the rotation at receiver after looking good in spring despite not playing as a true freshman in Tempe.
I mentioned this in the January edition but it’s even more true now. It would be very reasonable to adjust the losses Washington suffered to boost the Huskies to a positive score. Edge Laiatu Latu (59) medically retired from Washington, wasn’t counting against UW’s scholarship count, and was never going to play in Seattle again before transferring to UCLA. Linebacker Will Latu (42) never suited up for the Huskies before stepping away from the program just before his first fall camp. Finally walk-on DBs Kasen Kinchen and Meki Pei each scored a 12 in the grading system which is just above my cutoff assuming a player is a walk-on.
In each of those cases I think you would be justified to remove the player from counting against them in this system but because I don’t have that level of knowledge for every school I decided it would be most fair for me to leave them in and not add in the surrounding context. Following the rules I set for every other team that’s -125 towards Washington’s overall total. But if you want to bump the Huskies up to a +14 score in your head by taking them out I won’t stop you.
4- Utah Utes (4th in January), -101 points
Additions: 5 with average grade of 55.0; Highest: LB Gabe Reid (from Stanford), 70 points
Departures: 11 with average grade of 34.1; Highest: QB Charlie Brewer (to Liberty), 79 points
After losing do-everything linebacker Devin Lloyd to the NFL draft, the Utes gave their corps a makeover with the additions of Stanford’s Gabe Reid (70) and Florida’s Mohamoud Diabate (67). Neither is likely to be an all-conference performer but at the very least they should reinforce the position. Another defensive contributor should come from Illinois State in safety Clayton Isbell (59) while Idaho tight end Logan Kendall (57) provides depth at a position that’s key for the Utes offense. Overall though there isn’t the star addition that many other Pac-12 programs have.
There’s also not much in the way of a major loss. Quarterback Charlie Brewer left the team midseason after getting benched and the Utes went on a miraculous run afterwards. Despite being their highest graded loss he certainly won’t be missed at all by Utah fans as he replaces Malik Willis at Liberty. The only other departing player over a score of 50 was Edge Xavier Carlton who is now at Cal. Carlton is the only Utah transfer who got picked up by another power conference school which helps explain why Utah had the 3rd lowest average departing transfer score of any Pac-12 program. Bringing in 4 rotation players and losing only 3, two of whom were actively bad for Utah, is good enough in the current environment to secure 3rd place.
3- Oregon Ducks (5th in January), -87 points
Additions: 12 with average grade of 54.1; Highest: QB Bo Nix (from Auburn), 92 points
Departures: 15 with average grade of 49.1; Highest: RB Travis Dye (to USC), 77 points
New head coach Dan Lanning did quite a bit of roster flipping once he got to town, some of it intentional and some of it not. 5 losses in particular hurt the most for the Ducks. OL Kingsley Suamataia (59, BYU) and CB Jaylin Davies (57, UCLA) were both very highly rated class of 2021 players who spent less than a full year in Eugene before moving back closer to home. Meanwhile 3 departing Oregon players scored with at least a 70 in RB Travis Dye, CB DJ James (75, Auburn), and WR Mycah Pittman (71, Florida State). Each of them was in line to start this season had they stayed at Oregon. Unsurprisingly given the loss of former lineman head coach Mario Cristobal we also saw 4 underclassman offensive linemen transfer out.
While it wasn’t exactly a position for position swap, Oregon for the most part was able to bring in an equal piece to the ones that they lost. Bo Nix (92) will almost certainly start at quarterback and while he’s erratic at times he is more competent than last year’s starter Anthony Brown. 3 other power conference transfers scored an 80+ with Minnesota RB Mar’Keise Irving (84), UW DL Taki Taimani (81), and Colorado S Christian Gonzalez (80). Expect all 3 to slot in as instant impact guys as well. I would say starters but Oregon returns the best DT duo in the conference so Taimani may not start even if he’ll still play quite a bit.
Three other skill position players appear to be potential contributors right away. At running back the Ducks also brought in Noah Whittington (64) from Western Kentucky who will compete for the #2 spot with Irving and the returning Sean Dollars. At receiver Oregon brought in a lot of C’s with UCLA’s Chase Cota (64) and Texas A&M’s Caleb Chapman (56). Cota has gotten on the field more but Chapman has been more efficient with his opportunities and is a true red zone threat.
2-UCLA Bruins (3rd in January), -37 points
Additions: 12 with average grade of 61.9; Highest: EDGE Grayson Murphy (from North Texas), 74 points
Departures: 18 with average grade of 43.3; Highest: LB Mitchell Agude (to Miami), 84 points
There was a ton of turnover in Los Angeles this offseason with the top-two finishers both coming from that city. The Bruins definitely lost a lot of quality pieces but for the most part were able to match each departure with a quality addition. The biggest losses come on the defensive side of the ball. 6 of the 7 outgoing UCLA transfers with a score of at least 50 came on that side after Chip Kelly was forced to replace his long-time defensive coordinator.
Starting linebackers Mitchell Agude (84) and Caleb Johnson (64) both took advantage of the NIL situation in Miami and headed out to the ACC. Starting corner Jay Shaw (75) moved on to Wisconsin. Finally, a trio of transfers stayed within the Pac-12 as DL Tiaoalii Savea (60) and S DJ Warnell (52) both are now at Arizona. Wide receiver Chase Cota (64) was mentioned in the above section.
The headliners to replace that group were pass rushing twins Grayson (74) and Gabriel Murphy (72) from North Texas where they combined for 18 sacks last season. Receiver Jake Bobo (70) out of Duke is an upgrade over Cota and Azizi Hearn (68, Wyoming) should do a decent job filling in for Shaw. Another 7 players earned between a 57 and 65 score which signifies players that should at least crack the rotation if healthy including a few (Laiatu Latu, Jaylin Davies) mentioned in the above paragraphs. From outside the conference the front 7 trio of Jacob Sykes (65, Harvard), Gary Smith (62, Duke), and Darius Musasau (61, Hawaii) will likely stabilize the losses they sustained.
It shouldn’t necessarily be surprising considering their score was almost 0 but it really does feel like UCLA held just about even in the portal this cycle. The Bruins lost 9 players that combined for 25 career snaps and averaged a score of 29. They also lost 9 serious contributors that averaged a score of 58. UCLA’s 12 additions averaged just over that 51 number so if you consider that bottom grouping as the true bottom end of the roster then UCLA ended up essentially +3 potential rotation players.
1-USC Trojans (1st in January), +271 points
Additions: 18 with average grade of 69.5; Highest: QB Caleb Williams (from Oklahoma), 96 points
Departures: 21 with average grade of 46.7; Highest: QB Jaxson Dart (to Ole Miss), 88 points
There was never a doubt. USC has done one of the biggest one-year roster remodels in college football history and have added an unbelievable amount of talent particularly on offense. There are 21 transfers who scored at least a 72 in my system who will be at Pac-12 schools next year. 10 of them are headed to USC and 7 of those play either QB, RB, or WR. The wide receiver corps lost Drake London to the draft but will be bringing in Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison from Pitt (94), Former 5-star Mario Williams (92), UW’s Terrell Bynum (74), and Colorado’s Brenden Rice (72). Those 4 alone probably make up the best receiving group in the country and they’ll be paired with what USC already had on the roster.
The quarterback position will be lacking depth after losing both Jaxson Dart (88, Ole Miss) and Kedon Slovis (86, Pitt) but Caleb Williams tied as the 2nd highest graded transfer this cycle in the system. He’s a former 5-star who excelled on the field and started half the season as a true freshman for USC’s head coach. It seems pretty difficult to imagine him not being superb with the talent around him. That includes the presumptive starting running backs from both Oregon and Stanford with Travis Dye (77) and Austin Jones (86). There will still be question marks on the offensive line where Virginia’s Bobby Haskins (52) was the only transfer addition as essentially an average level 2-year starter.
The defense didn’t get quite the same facelift of supreme talent but still added pieces. Ohio State’s S Bryson Shaw (77) was the highest rated add but Arizona State LB Eric Gentry (74) and Oklahoma CB Latrell McCutcheon (74) also project as instant starters. Throw in Colorado’s Mekhi Blackmon (61) and UW’s Jacob Covington (50) and the Trojans revamped their secondary with other pieces from around the conference.
It wasn’t 100% upside. 21 players are departing headlined by the pair of quarterbacks who have led the team for the past several seasons. Despite that the average departing transfer had a lower score than at ASU, Oregon, or Stanford. 15 of those departures scored below a 55 and were probably rotation pieces at best if they had stayed. The only power conference school to lose more cumulatively from transfers were West Virginia and Auburn but the talent brought in by USC was #1 by a mile. Their 1,251 incoming transfer points was about 33% higher than 2nd place Ole Miss’ 975 total.
It’s unlikely we see this kind of transformation every year from USC given that Riley has already reshaped the roster in his image. But it’s very clear that from here on out the Trojans will be a threat to end up with the best players on any roster across the country in the coming years. As long as Riley isn’t infected by whatever has been oozing out of heritage hall over the last decade.