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Pre-Spring Pac-12 Transfer Portal Rankings: Part II

Finishing our look at the teams in the conference who have finished in the top half at navigating the transfer portal this offseason

Texas v Oklahoma State Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

If you missed part one on Monday which has teams 12 through 7 plus the methodology used then you can catch up on it right here then come back. Otherwise we have nearly 3,000 words to get through the top half of the Pac-12. Onward!

6- Oregon State Beavers, -18 points

Additions: 5 with average grade of 55.3; Highest: QB D.J Uiagelelei (from Clemson), 92 points

Departures: 7 with average grade of 45.9; Highest: QB Chance Nolan (Uncommitted), 84 points

I ended the last article with Utah so it’s perhaps fitting that I’m starting here with Oregon State. Both teams ended in the top-20 of the final AP Poll and have done so largely on the back of player development. While the Beavers haven’t been all that active in the transfer portal compared to most schools, they did revamp their QB room. Out are Tristan Gebbia (Ohio State, 63) and Chance Nolan (Uncommitted, 84) who each started over the past 2 years before suffering injuries and losing their spots. In comes former top-5 overall prospect D.J Uiagelelei (Clemson, 92). That means the state of Oregon is bringing in 3 of my 7 top-rated transfers in the entire country and another 2 are headed to the #1 school on this list. Not bad for a dying conference.

It’s reasonable to think that my system is overrating DJU’s impact. He has the ultimate pedigree but PFF was a lot higher on his performance last year than the counting stats or the opinions of the Clemson coaching staff who benched him at points. It’s certainly possible that this ends up being a Jack Plummer at Cal or Emory Jones at Arizona State situation where he spends one year in Corvallis and continues on to search for the right home. It’s also one heck of a lottery ticket that Jonathan Smith acquired.

Beyond DJU, the Beavers are bringing in a likely starting OL piece with Grant Starck from Nevada (72) and a trio of depth prospects. The most intriguing of those is former Cal tight end Jermaine Terry (56) who was highly rated out of high school but had some terrible PFF numbers in college.

Going out are the two quarterbacks and really only one other significant contributor. Unfortunately that one contributor was LB Omar Speights (74) who has been one of the leading tacklers in the Pac-12 since he arrived in Corvallis and now heads to LSU. He has been the heart and soul of OSU’s surprisingly stout defense but if there’s any consolation for Beaver fans, his PFF numbers were quite underwhelming compared to his total tackle stats. So there’s a chance replacing him might not be quite as difficult as it appears.

5- Washington Huskies, -10 points

Additions: 7 with average grade of 68.5; Highest: RB Dillon Johnson (from Mississippi State), 85 points

Departures: 11 with average grade of 44.5; Highest: S Cam Williams (to Georgia Southern), 78 points

When we go through this exercise again in the summer there’s a good chance the Huskies will ultimately fall further down the list. That’s because the Huskies are still several scholarships over the limit of 85 which means you can expect to see further transfers out of the program after spring ball is over.

However much Husky fans hate being compared to Oregon, their transfer profiles this year are quite similar but in a less extreme way for UW. Washington is bringing in the 2nd highest rated average incoming transfer only behind the Ducks and that evens out a little when Oregon’s average departing transfer is a little higher rated.

You could easily argue that the Huskies are losing nothing off of their 2022 team that went 11-2. Cam Williams (Georgia Southern, 78) only played in the first few games and picked up the stats that made him the highest rated departing UW player in previous years under a different coaching staff. The same is mostly true for OL Victor Curne (Ole Miss, 75) who might’ve been a top half of the Pac-12 offensive tackle but the 4th best one on the Husky roster last year. The only other player who scored over a 50 that’s departing is QB Sam Huard (Cal Poly). While he obviously has a deeper importance to Husky fans, he also was the 3rd string QB and has yet to positively contribute at the college level. Washington’s other 8 transfers combined for 500 career snaps.

It took a lot of work to maintain the commitment but the incoming group is led by RB Dillon Johnson (85) who was my system’s #1 rated running back. He’s joined in the backfield by Daniyel Ngata (Arizona State, 75) who has flashed mainly in a reserve role after coming into Tempe with a strong pedigree. The offense also got reinforcements from WR Germie Bernard (Michigan State, 71) who saw the error of his ways after changing up his commitment from UW to MSU the previous winter and TE Josh Cuevas (Cal Poly, 58).

The most likely high impact transfer though was CB Jabbar Muhammad from Oklahoma State (78) who was one of the highest rated corners by PFF in the Big 12 last season but has a mid 3-star recruiting background. Still, the proof of concept there is a lot stronger than it was for Jordan Perryman coming up from the FCS level last year. The final 2 additions on the defense were from Ralen Goforth (USC, 57) and Zach Durfee (Sioux Falls, 56). They ended up with similar scores but with very different profiles. Goforth is a veteran Pac-12 presence who had poor PFF grades despite a lot of snaps for USC. There aren’t PFF grades for Durfee so I had to conservatively estimate based on his counting snaps but he dominated for a single year at a much lower level and represents a lottery ticket for the coaching staff.

4- USC Trojans, +140 points

Additions: 12 with average grade of 67.0; Highest: RB MarShawn Lloyd (from USC), 80 points

Departures: 14 with average grade of 47.4; Highest: WR Gary Bryant Jr. (Uncommitted), 73 points

This wasn’t quite the transfer haul that USC had last year where the Trojans essentially assembled a super-team offense when Lincoln Riley came in to coach. They still did okay for themselves though. The most intriguing thing about USC’s portal forays was the abandonment of the the local 4/5-star receiver. The four highest rated transfers out of the program were all former top-100 overall WRs out of Southern California high schools. 3 of them have wound up at other P5 schools already and the 4th, Gary Bryant (73), is currently uncommitted but has taken several visits to major programs while searching for the right fit. It will be interesting to see if USC’s tendency to portal for their WRs ultimately affects their ability to recruit local stud players at that position.

Except for the receivers though there wasn’t a lot lost in the portal. The aforementioned Ralen Goforth heading to UW is the only starter departing and 8 of 10 of the non-WRs had a score below a 50.0. Safety Xavion Alford (55) played a depth role and now moves on to the next school on this list. Everyone below him though either remains uncommitted or dropped down to a group of 5 or FCS school.

There are some nice pieces among the additions but no one who ranked in my top-50 overall this year. USC brought in Travis Dye from Oregon and Austin Jones from Stanford at running back last year but with Dye having graduated they’ve imported South Carolina RB MarShawn Lloyd (80) to fill his spot. After a slow start to his career as a high 4-star recruit, Lloyd was exceptional last year and should thrive in Riley’s offense. The offense also adds Pac-12 1st team WR Dorian Singer (Arizona, 77) who would be higher if not for his mid 3-star background. With several departures along the O-line, USC tried to replace them with Ethan White (Florida, 76), Michael Tarquin (Florida, 70), and Jarrett Kingston (Wazzu, 64). All 3 should be expected to step in and start or at least push for the job. That’s needed on a line that is losing 4 starters to graduation/early entry.

USC’s big problem last year was defense and they didn’t really look as much to the portal to fix it. Adding starting Arizona corner Christian Roland-Wallace (79) is the big piece and he should finally get the credit he deserves in L.A. Otherwise no other defensive player scored above a 70.0 although 3 defenders finished between 60 and 70 which suggests they are likely major contributors but maybe don’t scream instant difference maker. The one potential exception is DL Anthony Lucas (61) who was a top-60 prospect in last year’s class before becoming part of the exodus from Texas A&M. It’s not a surprise he wasn’t all-conference caliber as a true freshman and could break out eventually with USC.

3- Arizona State Sun Devils, +318 points

Additions: 24 with average grade of 52.6; Highest: OT Ben Coleman (from California), 79 points

Departures: 18 with average grade of 52.5; Highest: QB Emory Jones (to Cincinnati), 89 points

Perhaps no school underwent as much true portal roster churn as the Sun Devils trying to purge the Herm Edwards regime under new head coach Kenny Dillingham. ASU’s 42 combined transfers in and out was 1st among P5 schools although barely in front of Colorado’s 41 (next most was Ole Miss at 36). The Buffs, who we’ll get to shortly, though clearly upgraded roster talent. ASU’s outgoing and incoming average transfer had almost identical scores. The massive amount of turnover was more about getting the right guys that fit the system rather than just adding talent however it comes.

With 24 new additions it makes it hard to talk about each one individually. Perhaps a more useful breakdown is that those new faces come in the following buckets:

75-80 score (clear starters, potential all-conference): 5

60-70 score (likely starters): 4

50-60 score (likely depth pieces): 6

Below 50 (little to no college experience or a specialist): 10

That top group is headlined by Notre Dame QB Drew Pyne who was solid but not spectacular leading an underwhelming Irish offense last fall. He should battle much discussed true freshman QB Jaden Rashada for the starting job. A trio of Pac-12 imports in OL Ben Coleman (Cal, 79), LB Travion Brown (WSU, 76), and WR Jake Smith (USC, 68) should all be starters. There’s a good chance too for small school risers like CB Shemari Simmons (Austin Peay, 67), RB Cameron Skattebo (Sac State, 63), and WR Xavier Guillory (Idaho St, 58). There are also 9 P5 transfers that didn’t really play at their previous stop who the coaches hope will break out for ASU.

Despite having a new offensive head coach, most of the departures come from the offense. ASU’s 5 highest rated players leaving are on that side of the ball and all are now at schools that will be in the P5 next season. However I’m sure ASU fans aren’t particularly sad to see QB Emory Jones (89) head to Cincinnati despite him having the best score of the group given that he was eventually replaced by a former walk-on. In all, ASU loses 7 players who finished with a 60+ transfer score which doesn’t include all-conference punter Edward Czaplicki (USC, 49).

2- UCLA Bruins, +606 points

Additions: 13 with average grade of 62.8; Highest: WR J. Michael Sturdivant (from California), 85 points

Departures: 7 with average grade of 30.1; Highest: DL Tyler Manoa (to Arizona), 63 points

No school in the Pac-12, or maybe any P5 school, lost as little in the portal as UCLA both in terms of total number of players and the average outgoing transfer. No one who left UCLA in the portal last year played more than 175 snaps for the Bruins. You could argue the biggest loss is actually kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira (Mississippi State, 29). The only other player to end up at a fellow P5 school is DL Tyler Manoa (63) heading to Arizona but his playing time last season was way down from his snap counts as a freshman and sophomore.

Meanwhile, UCLA brought in some serious talent even if the high end isn’t quite there. Of UCLA’s 13 additions, only 2 of them scored higher than a 70 but only 3 scored lower than a 60. That means there are 8 players in the middle who are likely starters but it would be a surprise to see any one of them challenge for an all-conference spot.

UCLA lost a lot of their offense to graduation last year so holes abound. There’s a chance that the Bruin backfield next season will be made up of the MAC duo of Collin Schlee (Kent State, 63) and RB Carson Steele (Ball State, 68) although neither is guaranteed the job. There are also a trio of Pac-12 additions that should be expected to be a heavy part of UCLA’s pass catching rotation with WR J. Michael Sturdivant (Ca,l 85), WR Kyle Ford (USC, 69), and TE Moliki Motavao (Oregon, 66).

There were some additions to the defense as well although they weren’t as numerous as on the other side of the ball. Oregon’s Keanu Williams (76) comes in as the highest graded defender after playing well in reserve this past season as a redshirt freshman. The other 2 highest ranked defenders are moving up from smaller schools. Safety Jordan Anderson (68) was an all-MAC caliber defender the past 2 seasons while Jake Heimlicher (Penn, 61) will try to make the move from the Ivy League.

I would put money on J. Michael Sturdivant being the most likely breakout star from this incoming transfer class but watch out for Carson Steele. He ran for 1,500+ yards last season for Ball State and even if he’s no Zach Charbonnet he should put up numbers.

1- Colorado Buffaloes, +938 points

Additions: 27 with average grade of 58.7; Highest: CB Travis Hunter (from Jackson State), 93 points

Departures: 14 with average grade of 46.3; Highest: QB Brendon Lewis (to Nevada), 74 points

We finally get to the Fighting Coach Primes. This one was easy to put at #1. Even though Colorado was 7th in the conference in average score for both their incoming and outgoing transfers. It doesn’t matter. Because overall volume of each matters and being able to bring in true difference makers matters. Especially for a team that had essentially 0 on their entire roster all of last season.

We start of course with the headliners. Deion Sanders brought along from Jackson State both his son QB Shedeur Sanders (93) and the class of 2022’s #1 overall recruit CB Travis Hunter (93). Hunter ended up narrowly finishing as my top overall transfer this cycle which means Sanders finished 2nd. Bringing in the top-2 rated transfers of the offseason automatically makes you the biggest winner.

I acknowledge my methodology has a tough time handling players like Hunter and Sanders. Normally if you go to an FCS school it means you’re either unrated or a 2-star recruit coming out of high school. If you excel there then the recruiting ranking part of the formula automatically lowers your score which helps account for the difference in competition since that isn’t factored into PFF grades. But a player like Hunter was the #1 recruit in the country then had a fantastic PFF grade as a true freshman. Every other 5-star played against P5 competition battling for playing time on a P5 roster. Could they have done the same thing playing against Jackson State’s schedule? There’s no way to know but I’d feel more comfortable putting them #1 and #2 if they’d done it at say Florida State instead.

Still, even if you discount the 5 Jackson State players that rated a 70 or higher in my system there are still 9 players that rated between a 62 and an 81 score. Plus another 3 in the high 50’s. Given how bad Colorado’s roster was last year it’s not a stretch to think that fully half of the Buffs’ starters against TCU next fall will have been imported through the portal this cycle. It may not be good enough to make them Pac-12 contenders but it tremendously raises the floor.

To close out we’ll spend just a little bit of time talking about the departures off Colorado’s roster. There are a few pieces that Deion maybe wishes he could keep. The Buffs lost QBs Brendon Lewis (Nevada, 74) and J.T Shrout (Arkansas State, 39) but they aren’t among those that will be greatly missed despite Lewis being solid back in 2021. Cornerback Kaylin Moore (California, 64) is getting replaced by Travis Hunter but was one of Colorado’s best defenders. Casey Roddick (64) was Colorado’s best offensive lineman and now will be blocking for a potential ACC title contender at Florida State. And...that’s about it. 11 of Colorado’s 14 departures finished with a score of 54 or worse.

Not everyone likes the way that Deion has treated the roster he inherited but there’s no question he has made the roster much better than just about any other coach could have in 2 short months. We’ll see if he can do the same once practices and games start.