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Final 2023 Pac-12 Transfer Rankings: Part II

Determining which Pac-12 school officially won the portal season.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Kent State at Washington Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you missed part one of our transfer rankings countdown you can find it right here. We counted down schools 12 through 7 and conclude here with the top half of the Pac-12 including a few schools that mostly stayed quiet in the portal and a few that completely remade their roster. Plus one that just saw steady improvement take them to the top of the rankings.

6- Oregon State Beavers, -35 points (6th, -18 points in pre-spring)

Additions: 6 with average grade of 58.9; Highest: QB D.J Uiagelelei (from Clemson), 93 points

Departures: 8 with average grade of 48.5; Highest: QB Chance Nolan (TCU), 86 points

You might expect a program like Oregon State, which struggles to recruit to Corvallis, to focus heavily on the portal. They’ve actually been infrequent users compared to most of the Pac-12 as Jonathan Smith has focused mainly on development and brought in the occasional former highly-rated, distressed asset.

This year’s prize in that regard is Clemson QB D.J Uiagelelei who once upon a time was one of the 2 best QB recruits in the country alongside Bryce Young. Obviously that worked out better for Young. Still, Oregon State got almost nothing from the QB position last year so there’s a chance that DJU breaks out in a big way in OSU’s offense and has the chance to elevate them to new offensive heights. Besides D.J, the pickings were slim. Offensive tackle Grant Starck should slot in as a starter along the O-line but no one else is a sure thing based on performances at their previous school.

Somehow the Beavers lost a pair of QBs in the transfer portal to teams that made the CFP last year and both lost to Georgia (Chance Nolan to TCU and Tristan Gebbia to Ohio State). And somehow neither of them were OSU’s starter for the last half of the year although that was partly due to injury. That hurts the Beavs’ QB depth but otherwise there was only one other major loss. Although it was a big one. Linebacker Omar Speights transferred to LSU after 4 years of being the lynchpin in the middle of their defense. We’ll see if they’re able to replace him although the counting stats have always looked better than the advanced stats with regards to Speights.

5- Utah Utes, -31 points (7th, -76 points in pre-spring)

Additions: 8 with average grade of 56.8; Highest: WR Mycah Pittman (from Florida State), 83 points

Departures: 13 with average grade of 37.3; Highest: OL Paul Maile (to BYU), 69 points

The Utes very rarely lose anyone to the portal of note and that’s the case again this season. Of their 13 departures, 10 of them averaged just 7 career snaps played to this point of their college career. That means only 3 of them had ever meaningfully seen the field in Salt Lake City before. Starting OC Paul Maile switched sides in the Holy War going to BYU and former starter CB Malone Mataele also moved in-state going to Utah State. Other than that, we’ll have to wait a few years to see if the Utes have any regrets.

The wide receiver position was the primary area that Utah targeted with their portal additions. Mycah Pittman comes from Florida State and before that Oregon where he started the past 2 seasons. They also added a starter from Indiana in Emery Simmons and those two will compete for major reps this fall. On the defensive side Miles Battle should start at corner coming from Ole Miss while Stanford LB Levani Damuni will at the very least be a major depth piece.

It wasn’t exactly portal fireworks but that’s Utah for you. Those were our two low-volume portal users and now we kick things into next gear.

4- California Golden Bears, +19 points (8th, -306 points in pre-spring)

Additions: 19 with average grade of 53.2; Highest: RB Byron Cardwell (from Oregon), 83 points

Departures: 21 with average grade of 47.2; Highest: WR J. Michael Sturdivant (to UCLA), 87 points

No Pac-12 team did a better job this spring in the portal than Cal which shot up from 8th place to 4th. The Bears brought in 8 players that entered the portal during the spring cycle to shore up positions of need. That includes 3 offensive linemen, 2 defensive backs, and 2 wide receivers (plus a quarterback). OG Matthew Wykoff started last year for Texas A&M but often struggled on the field and will look to regain form in the Pac-12. Husky fans know all about WR Taj Davis of course while S Patrick McMorris was a quality starter at San Diego State and will compete in a loaded Bears secondary.

It was also a solid incoming transfer class to begin with. Cal already has one of the best young running backs in the league but added Byron Cardwell from Oregon plus Montana State (and Bellevue High) star Isaiah Ifanse to supercharge the position. WR Brian Hightower comes in from Illinois as a likely starter and CBs Nohl Williams (UNLV) and Kaylin Moore (Colorado) should both be at least major rotation pieces. The big upside play is QB Sam Jackson coming in from TCU to compete for the starting job under center. HE didn’t play a lot for the national runners-up but played well when he got in the game.

Cal certainly wasn’t immune to losing key pieces as well. UCLA took a pair of starters in WR J. Michael Sturdivant (their best receiver) and LB Femi Oladejo. Arizona State got 3 players including a starting offensive lineman and their kicker. Louisville, Fresno State, Oregon State, Arizona, and Kansas all brought in rotation players off last year’s Cal team and Nevada imported a trio of Golden Bears. All told though it seems clear that Cal upgraded just about everywhere except probably wide receiver and kicker.

3- Colorado Buffaloes, +237 points (1st, +938 points in pre-spring)

Additions: 45 with average grade of 57.1; Highest: CB Travis Hunter (from Jackson State), 94 points

Departures: 55 with average grade of 42.4; Highest: QB Brendon Lewis (to Nevada), 77 points

Oh boy. If you need to take a bathroom break, this is the time. Coming into the spring it looked like Colorado was the slam dunk portal winner of the century. Then...their entire roster left. Almost literally. It says something though about what a massive lead they held that their score dropped about 700 points and they still wound up in 3rd place.

It’s not really even worth trying to talk about their departures in any meaningful way. For the most part, if they were on the team last year then they aren’t on the team anymore. Only 9 of those 55 outgoing transfers have signed on with another power conference program so far as 2 went to Oregon plus 1 each to Arizona, ASU, Cal, BYU, Houston, Michigan St, and Utah. The top-4 rated of those players that ended up at a bigger school were all in the passing game with 2 each from the WR and CB spots.

The additions of course are astounding. Colorado added my two top-rated players both joining Deion from his previous school and one from his household (CB Travis Hunter and his son QB Shedeur Sanders). There are also above average starters coming in at wide receiver, cornerback, safety, and running back. Pass rushers shouldn’t be an issue. Colorado is bringing in 10 of them including former Husky 5-star Sav’ell Smalls.

Perhaps more of an issue will be offensive and defensive linemen. The Buffs have added 5 OL so far but none from a P5 school and only 3 from FBS. There are 4 new players on the defensive interior including a pair from other P5 schools. Except those 2 players have combined for 6 total defensive snaps in college.

This team definitely has more elite level talent on it than it did last season. But there’s a reason that many are skeptical that there’s enough talent on either side of the trenches to do anything meaningful this season besides hope for havoc plays.

2- Arizona State Sun Devils, +428 points (3rd, +318 points in pre-spring)

Additions: 30 with average grade of 54.7; Highest: OT Ben Coleman (from California), 81 points

Departures: 26 with average grade of 46.6; Highest: QB Emory Jones (to Cincinnati), 90 points

Under new head coach Kenny Dillingham (formerly Oregon’s OC) the Sun Devils attempted the poor man’s version of Deion’s complete roster remodel. The 30 new players through the portal is 2nd behind only Colorado. Although the average incoming recruit for Arizona State was worse than Colorado and their average outgoing recruit was better. Fewer overall departures helped them to 2nd place here.

It also probably doesn’t hurt that ASU fans were happy to drive their highest rated departure to the airport. QB Emory Jones dealt with injuries trying to take over as the starter and generally played worse than former walk-on Trent Bourguet. Other hits to the offense were more meaningful. In last edition we mentioned UW prying away RB Daniyel Ngata plus a pair of starting offensive linemen departed to the Big Ten in Michigan and Nebraska. Joining them in the Midwest exodus was WR Cam Johnson who is headed to Northwestern. Losses were less heavy on the defensive side of the ball as ED Joe Moore III was the most important and he ended up at Missouri after initially committing to Washington then switching course.

Dillingham did his best to raid the rest of the conference as 8 former Pac-12 players join ASU including what should be a starting OL, LB, plus 2x WR. The starting QB will either be Bourguet, incoming Notre Dame transfer Drew Pyne who had so-so results starting for the Irish last season, or true freshman Jaden Rashada. Interestingly, 2 of ASU’s highest 8 rated incoming transfers were both defensive backs from FCS Austin Peay. Sure.

All in all, Dillingham bet on raw talent. 8 of their additions were former 4-star players including a pair of adds from each of USC and Texas. If Dillingham can get the offense to perform anything like he did during his single season as the OC in Oregon then look out.

1- UCLA Bruins, +596 points (2nd, +606 points in pre-spring)

Additions: 14 with average grade of 63.5; Highest: WR J. Michael Sturdivant (from California), 87 points

Departures: 8 with average grade of 30.0; Highest: DL Tyler Manoa (to Arizona), 70 points

The Bruins had one of the quietest portal season of any team in the country but they end up the undisputed winner across the power conferences. The losses were almost all inconsequential. They lost DL Tyler Manoa to Arizona who had been mostly a depth piece plus a kicker to Mississippi State. Other than that, only Matt Sykes had ever played any meaningful snaps for UCLA and he ended up at Rice.

Meanwhile, the additions don’t completely knock your socks off but all of them have a chance to contribute right away. The wide receiver corps gets a shot in the arm of athleticism with Cal’s J. Michael Sturdivant plus USC’s Kyle Ford. DL Keanu Williams and TE Moliki Matavao were both rotation players at Oregon. OL Spencer Holstege and Khadere Kounta started at Purdue and Old Dominion respectively. Edge rusher Jake Heimlicher was the leading sacker in the Ivy League last season at Penn.

And that’s before we get to UCLA’s pillaging of the MAC. Husky fans are familiar with QB Collin Schlee who started against Washington in the season opener last year and will compete with incoming freshman Dante Moore to succeed Dorian Thompson-Robinson under center (under shotgun?). Running back Carson Steele ran for over 1,550 yards and 14 TDs last season for Ball State and should take over nicely for now-Seahawk Zach Charbonnet. Bowling Green’s Jordan Anderson was one of the highest rated G5 safeties in the country by Pro Football Focus the past 2 seasons.

Every single new player for UCLA played at least 100 snaps last season so they didn’t take any gambles on unproven raw talent. There’s at least one new player at every spot except for cornerback and punter. That’s a pretty good job with the shopping list. Well played, Chip.