We’re in the era of The Portal.
In this new era, player movement is at an all-time high. As such, more players of a higher caliber are finding new homes. Some are betting on themselves in the hopes of finding the right situation to boost their draft stock, some are looking for a fresh start under a new coaching staff, and others are simply leveraging their remaining eligibility to get a jump on a graduate degree. Regardless of individual circumstances, opportunities are out there as coaching staffs scour the Portal to fill gaps and upgrade talent on their roster.
With a new coaching staff on Montlake with a new vision of how they want to build a competitive program, Kalen DeBoer and Courtney Morgan have leaned on the Portal to fill key spots on the roster. In total, UW’s added 9 transfers at different positions, from different regions, and with different levels of experience through the Portal in the 2022 cycle. We sought out RBs and LBs in particular with 3 RBs (Wayne Taulapapa, Aaron Dumas, and Will Nixon) and 2 LBs (Cam Bright and Kristopher Moll), but we also brought in key transfers at QB (Michael Penix Jr.) and CB (Jordan Perryman) who could end up as Week 1 starters.
For the sake of this exercise, I’m defining impact in terms of potential production within the context of their role, position, and what we would’ve been had they not joined the team. For example, we brought in Kevin Ryan from Idaho State as a punter, but even if he wins the job and plays at an All-Conference level, the overall impact of his transfer is still probably less than if Penix wins the job and plays at a league average level. Another example is Junior Alexander. Even if he earns a rotational role at WR, his impact would probably be less than if Aaron Dumas wins a similar rotational role at RB because of how stacked we are at WR compared to RB.
I’m also going to take Penix out of contention for this exercise because of how impactful the QB position is to a team. I want to get a good debate going and not just speculate about if he’ll win the starting QB job.
With all that being said, let’s take a look at the candidates:
Cam Bright, LB
Bright is the first of two transfer LBs that I have on this list, and he’s in a great position to earn a significant role. With Jackson Sirmon’s transfer to Cal, Eddie Ulofoshio missing the early portion of the season due to injury, and little returning experience after Carson Bruener, the LB competition is wide open for a new comer to seize the opportunity.
As a 6th year transfer from Pitt, Bright brings experience and a proven record of production to Montlake with 21 starts to his name as Pitt’s “Star” LB (a specialized ILB/OLB/Slot position) in Pat Narduzzi’s suffocating Quarters defense. In a smart personnel move, Narduzzi’s defensive structure is very similar to the one that Inge and Morrell are installing at UW, so Bright also brings schematic familiarity and a known fit that should smoothen his transition into our defense.
On the field, Bright was a menace in the offensive backfield with 23.5 TFLs and 9 sacks in his 3 years as a starter, and while he’s slightly undersized in conventional ILB terms, at 6-0 and 225 lbs with explosive short area burst and sideline-to-sideline speed, Bright’s the prototypical modern linebacker. The area of his game that will make the biggest difference to our defense is his ability to play in space. In the Star LB role at Pitt, Bright was asked to play in the alley and over the slot a lot (similar to Hampton’s usage late last season) because of Narduzzi’s preference to stay in base 4-3 personnel rather than play nickel personnel. Because of this, Bright is more comfortable playing in space than most of our returning LBs. We probably won’t ask him to play over the slot as much since we are a base nickel defense, but his ability to play both in the box and out in space gives Inge and Morrell a lot of options in the blitz package and underneath coverages.
In my opinion, he’s the most likely new comer at LB to earn a starting role.
Kristopher Moll, LB
The second of our two new comers at LB, Kris Moll took a circuitous route to arrive at UW. As he laid out to Max Olson of The Athletic in a fantastic feature, Moll was a lightly recruited and undersized player coming out of HS, but he excelled almost immediately once he stepped on the field at UAB. After 5 seasons at UAB where he earned multiple first team All-Conference USA selections, Moll looked to bet on himself and make the jump up to the Power 5 level. For a variety of reasons, he failed to find a new home immediately despite significant interest from schools like Louisville, SMU, and UCF. Fortunately for both Moll and UW, he ended up on Montlake.
Much like Bright’s recruitment to Seattle, the staff identified Moll as a priority transfer target due to what he brings to the table as an experienced space LB. Moll started his career at UAB as a nickel DB where he earned significant snaps as a sophomore on a conference championship team. While his tenure as a DB certainly accelerated Moll’s development as a space player, his roots are really at LB. Once he bulked up enough, he moved back to MLB and immediately earned All-Conference honors. He totaled a combined 20 TFLs and 11 sacks over his two All-Conference seasons as UAB’s do-it-all LB. Moll’s athleticism, experience playing in space as a DB, and his comfort playing in and around the trenches makes him a good fit in Inge’s defense where there’s a big push to upgrade team speed and an emphasis on an attacking LB corp.
As I mentioned before, the LB competition is wide open for Moll to make a name for himself. He won’t have the luxury of spring practices or a familiar scheme, but it’ll be a new scheme for everyone except for Bright, so it’ll be a fairly even playing field for the rest of the group. Moll’s a stud, and studs find a way to get on the field.
Jordan Perryman, CB
Perryman is probably the biggest unknown of the guys I’ve included on this list. Transferring in from UC Davis, most UW fans didn’t have Perryman on their radar or even considered him as a potential impact player after he announced his transfer to UW. However, don’t be fooled, Perryman has what it takes to win a starting role at CB.
As a first team All-Big Sky and third team All-America honoree at the FCS level, Perryman knows what it takes to play at a high level. As we seen over the last decade in the Pac-12/Big Sky circle of mediocrity, the elite teams and players from the FCS can stand toe-to-toe with Pac-12 talent when experienced Big Sky teams play flawed Pac-12 schools. Perryman brings the perfect blend of talent and experience to fill in as a bridge CB while we restock the secondary. Standing at 6-0 and 202 lbs, Perry man has the size, and more importantly length, to be successful in Morrell and Brown’s press-heavy Quarters coverage schemes. While Perryman might not be the type of blanket man-coverage corner that we’ve become accustomed to, Quarters corners don’t need Murphy or McDuffie-type of elite lateral agility. They need to have short area burst, solid long speed, and sound technique. Perryman checks all of those boxes.
With both Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon off to the NFL, our secondary is open to any and all who can step up. Mishael Powell picked up a few starts and lots of playing time last year, and he seems to have the inside track to win one of the starting CB spots, but that’s pretty much where our experience at CB ends. Guys like Elijah Jackson, Davon Banks, and Zakhari Spears looked good in the spring, but none of the three are locks for one of the starting spots.
Wayne Taulapapa, RB
I might be a little biased including him in this list and not Dumas as I’ve known Taulapapa for the better part of a decade at this point and have been following his career since his HS JV days. However there’s a good reason why he’s my favorite transfer RB. From the moment he stepped foot on Montlake, Taulapapa was the most experienced and well-rounded RB on the team. As a multi-year starter and team captain at UVA with 27 career starts in 40 career games played, Taulapapa should be a stabilizing force in an offensive backfield that’s struggled to find a consistent lead back since Salvon Ahmed left for the NFL after the 2019 season.
As a ball carrier, Taulapapa isn’t a game breaker, but he’s efficient and picks up the hidden extra yardage that keeps the offense ahead of the sticks. He has good vision on interior runs, smooth footwork to weave through the smallest creases, and great contact balance that helps him pick up the tough yardage. He isn’t a bruising runner, but he’s definitely tough to bring down. That combination is what made him UVA’s go-to short yardage back, and its the same traits that Richard Newton exhibited during the 2019 season when he first broke through as UW’s short yardage back. In fact, Taulapapa and Newton’s 2019 stats were almost identical in similar roles (116 carries for 473 yds and 12 TDs for Taulapapa vs. 117 carries for 498 yds and 10 TDs for Newton).
However, what separates Taulapapa from Newton and the other backs on the roster is his versatile skill set. While he isn’t a dynamic receiver, he averaged similar ypc and utilization rates as our returning RBs while also performing well in pass protection. Barring a major improvement from the returning RBs in the receiving game or pass protection, Taulapapa should be the favorite for a 3rd down role. Even in an 2-RB rotation where he splits a large portion of reps with another back, Taulapapa could produce stats that would put him in the running for All-Conference honorable mention territory as our go-to short yardage and 3rd down back with a ton of TDs.
Coach B’s Pick: Wayne Taulapapa, RB
Which transfer will make the biggest impact?
This poll is closed