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Final 2023 Pac-12 Transfer Rankings: Part I

Counting down spots 12 through 7 to eventually crown the 2023 Pac-12 portal king

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 22 Washington Spring Game Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It has been a busy last 7 months. During that time I’ve kept track of every transfer I could and compiled the necessary stats to come up with my patented* transfer rating system.

*not actually patented

Players are graded on 3 criteria which align with what the average fan would most likely to see from an incoming transfer. How much did they play? How well did they play? And how much raw talent do they have? I’ve combined recruiting rankings, snaps data, and PFF Grades to help answer those questions and each player has a transfer rating on a scale of 0-100. This year’s top recruit earned a 93 and any scholarship player coming into or from a power conference school generally scores at least a 25. Anyone who earns at least a 60 generally has a pretty good shot to compete for a starting job.

These rankings are entirely based on numbers. If you bring in a player with a grade of 80 but lose 2 players with a grade of 40 then it cancels out to 0. Maybe you’re able to replace that second 40 with a highly rated high school player but there’s a real cost to losing a player on the roster who has been in the program.

If for comparison’s sake you want to check out the pre-spring edition of the rankings you can find the countdown from 12 to 7 right here and the countdown from 6 to 1 right here.

12- Stanford Cardinal, -821 points (12th, -757 points in pre-spring)

Additions: 4 with average grade of 49.1; Highest: LB Gaethan Bernadel (from Florida International), 69 points

Departures: 18 with average grade of 56.5; Highest: EDGE Stephen Herron Jr. (to Louisville), 82 points

Stanford is hot on the high school recruiting trail right now and that’s good news for Troy Taylor because the talent drain from the Cardinal has been extreme. Even in the new era it seems that Stanford will have a tough time bringing in transfers with their academic standards which means we can likely expect to see Stanford near the bottom of these rankings just about every year.

During the Harbaugh/Shaw era, the two mainstays of Stanford football were a mauling offensive line and giant tight ends playing smashmouth football. Well that offensive line is just about entirely gone. Four starters are departed with a pair headed to Michigan plus one each to Oklahoma and Duke. They also lost another pair of reserve OL to Cal and Central Florida. Replacing them are a pair of Ivy League starters with Alec Bank coming in from Harvard and Trevor Mayberry from Penn.

Troy Taylor may be a great offensive coach but it’s tough to imagine that the Stanford QB is going to be kept upright very well this season which means he’s got his work cut out for him.

11- Arizona Wildcats, -778 points (11th, -734 points in pre-spring)

Additions: 8 with average grade of 50.1; Highest: DL Tyler Manoa (from UCLA), 70 points

Departures: 27 with average grade of 43.7; Highest: CB Christian Roland-Wallace (to USC), 80 points

It’s a great recruiting day as the Wildcats are expected to keep local 5-star edge rusher Elijah Rushing home but they often got worked in the portal. Arizona lost 5 players that played 500+ snaps for them last seasons including arguably their best offensive and defensive player heading to USC in CB Christian Roland-Wallace and WR Dorian Singer.

There was certainly a degree of clearing out the dregs from the bottom of the roster as well. 12 players left that scored a 40.0 or below in the ratings and all of them are either uncommitted or headed to UMass which made Arizona a feeder school for them after former Zona DC Don Brown took over. You could argue that the general churn is good for the roster but there was enough high end talent lost to make it a clear loss.

That’s because the additions aren’t all that impressive. Most of them are castoffs who couldn’t quite break through on the depth chart for their previous Pac-12 school. That includes DL Tyler Manoa (UCLA), WR Montana Lemonious-Craig (Colorado), ED Orin Patu (Cal), LB Justin Flowe (Oregon), and LB Daniel Heimuli (Washington). It will be interesting to see how many of them earn starting jobs and if they’re able to prove to their former schools that mistakes were made once conference season picks up in earnest.

10- Oregon Ducks, -678 points (10th, -408 points in pre-spring)

Additions: 14 with average grade of 68.9; Highest: OL Junior Angilau (from Texas), 93 points

Departures: 32 with average grade of 51.4; Highest: RB Byron Cardwell (to Cal), 83 points

I mentioned in the last edition of these rankings that Oregon fans would dispute this placement and there’s legitimate reason for criticism. The Ducks finished with the best average incoming transfer addition in the conference with USC coming in right behind them.

The reason for this placement is that only Colorado lost more players to the portal than the Ducks among all P5 programs. With Dan Lanning entering his 2nd year there’s definitely an element of trying to cut guys brought in by the previous regime who didn’t look like future contributors. 18 players departed who scored a 50.0 or below. Those players will surely eventually be replaced by highly rated high school recruits but in the short-term it means Oregon’s depth for this upcoming season got slashed significantly if they happen to have a string of injuries at the same position.

Plus, not all of those guys who left were hopeless cases. RB Byron Cardwell fell behind a pair of transfers and dealt with injuries but has been very good when he’s played and stayed in the former Pac-12 North at Cal. WR Dont’e Thornton played 300+ snaps for Oregon last year and now will compete for a starting job at Tennessee. Front 7 players ended up at UCLA, LSU, and Louisville.

Finally, to be fair let’s acknowledge that the additions were almost universally excellent. There are likely 3 new starters along the offensive line (Junior Angilau- Texas, Ajani Cornelius- Rhode Island, and Nishad Strother- East Carolina). A trio of receivers will compete to play alongside star Troy Franklin (Traeshon Holden- Arizona, Gary Bryant- USC, and Tez Johnson- Troy). A pair of potential starting safeties have signed on (Tysheem Johnson- Ole Miss and Evan Williams- Fresno State). Plus the partridge in a pair tree is former 5-star edge rusher Jordan Burch from South Carolina. If guys stay healthy then there are proven entities, even if not at Oregon yet, absolutely everywhere on this roster.

9- Washington State Cougars, -535 points (9th, -384 points in pre-spring)

Additions: 7 with average grade of 53.0; Highest: WR Kyle Williams (from UNLV), 73 points

Departures: 23 with average grade of 39.4; Highest: LB Travion Brown (to Arizona State), 78 points

We’re still well into the bottom half of the rankings which means plenty of teams who saw the bottom 10-20% of their roster abandon ship via the portal. 12 of Washington State’s 23 exiting players scored below a 40.0 in my rating system which suggests they’re below the threshold for even an expected rotation player at the P5 level.

There was also as you might expect for the Cougs some clear cases where they got poached. USC came in and took their best offensive lineman (Jarrett Kingston). A pair of starting linebackers went to other major programs in sunnier locations (Travion Brown to ASU and Francisco Mauigoa to Miami). They also lost two of their better wide receivers to the Big 12 at Oklahoma State and Cincinnati.

The portal work the Cougars managed was to try to rebuild that recently mentioned wide receiver room. Kyle Williams (UNLV), Joshua Kelly (Fresno State), and Isaiah Hamilton (San Jose State) all upgraded from the Mountain West and should make up the majority of the WR rotation in Pullman this year. The offensive line gets a bit of an experienced boost with FCS transfer Christy Nkanu likely stepping into a starting role. Otherwise, it’s definitely a much less impressive incoming squad than most Pac-12 teams were able to put together.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 22 Washington Spring Game Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

8- Washington Huskies, -234 points (5th, -10 points in pre-spring)

Additions: 9 with average grade of 63.8; Highest: RB Dillon Johnson (from Mississippi State), 86 points

Departures: 18 with average grade of 44.9; Highest: S Cam Williams (to Georgia Southern), 80 points

When the last edition of the rankings came out it was fairly obvious that Washington would inevitably slide a bit in the final version. The Huskies were over by several scholarships for most of the spring and some attrition had to be coming without much space for further additions. The spring saw the transfers of WR Taj Davis (Cal), ED Sav’ell Smalls (Colorado), and OL Myles Murao among others. Smalls and Davis became the only 2 players to enter the portal that played more than 60 offensive or defensive snaps last season.

The spring additions they did make through the portal don’t appear to be nearly as impactful as the previous year when RB Wayne Taulapapa and LB Kris Moll were late pickups. The Huskies brought in CB Darren Barkins from Oregon and OL Jalen Klemm from Kansas State but each now rate as UW’s lowest 2 additions with 40 combined snaps in college.

If Washington had stood pat they actually would’ve surpassed Oregon for the highest rated average addition. Running backs Dillon Johnson (Mississippi State) and Daniyel Ngata (Arizona State) are at the top of the list for impact adds. Both have strong track records and a chance to instantly break into the rotation and compete for a starting spot. CB Jabbar Muhammad from Oklahoma State backed up the thought that he’d immediately pencil in as a starter given his play during spring ball. It’s also likely that WR Germie Bernard (Michigan St), LB Ralen Goforth (USC), TE Josh Cuevas (Cal Poly), and ED Zach Durfee (Sioux Falls) also all see the field this year although likely none as starters barring injury.

7- USC Trojans, -96 points (4th, +140 points in pre-spring)

Additions: 14 with average grade of 67.3; Highest: DL Bear Alexander (from Georgia), 86 points

Departures: 20 with average grade of 51.9; Highest: CB Latrell McCutchin (to Houston), 81 points

Last season USC was the clear winner in the conference’s portal kombat season bringing in eventual Heisman winner QB Caleb Williams among many other star pieces. It wasn’t quite the same level of success this year although there are still plenty of major adds. The big move of the spring was getting Georgia DL Bear Alexander to transfer despite coming off a National title as a true freshman.

Most of the other major pieces were in place by the time of the last rankings. More help for the offense is on the way via a pair of players we already mentioned (WR Dorian Singer and OL Jarrett Kingston) plus a pair from the SEC (RB MarShawn Lloyd from South Carolina and OL Michael Tarquin from Florida). All will at least be major rotation players if not starters from the get go. The defensive side also added a likely starting CB plus 3 more front 7 players that have a chance to lock down starting roles as well.

Cornerback Latrell McCutchin was a post-spring portal addition who now heads to Houston after playing a major role in reserve the last 2 seasons. The wide receiver core saw four former top-75 recruits all leave and each ended up at another P5 school. The Trojans have the depth to withstand that kind of movement but it’s still ridiculous to say out loud. In the end only Stanford had a worse average outgoing rating so this definitely wasn’t merely a case of Lincoln Riley trimming the fat off the roster. USC still probably got better from the portal overall but it’s closer than you might expect.