A year ago, Michigan State Coach Mel Tucker responded to a 2-5 campaign by betting big on the transfer portal. Suddenly the Spartans were 11-2, Peach Bowl champions, and a model for any program hoping for an instant turnover.
After a tumultuous offseason, 36 FBS programs added 10 or more transfers to rebuild their rosters. Five of the top eight classes of this type involved new coaches trying to bring their own flavor to a program. However, the sheer number of quality FBS staff meant the programs could change by the fall.
Here are five college football programs that will rise in 2022 thanks to the transfer portal, from national contenders to the coaching staff that just needs a few breaks.
Notable additions: QB Caleb Williams (Oklahoma), WR Jordan Addison (Pitt), RB Travis Dye (Oregon), LB Eric Gentry (Arizona State), CB Mekhi Blackmon (Colorado)
If there was any doubt, USC has no interest in waiting to compete for the college football playoffs after stealing Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley. The Trojans made 19 transfers – four more than any other program – including two of the top four players in the class.
Quarterback Caleb Williams is making history after following Oklahoma’s Riley, but Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison made headlines after joining the Trojans last week. The combination immediately rivals CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba among the top QB-WR combinations in college football. Also, don’t think Riley skimped on defense. Eleven defenders come to Los Angeles via the transfer portal.
USC’s roster has already been underestimated after collapsing following Clay Helton’s sacking. With the influx of talent into Heritage Hall, the Trojans will quickly raise expectations to challenge the Pac-12.
Notable additions: QB Jaxson Dart (Ole Miss), RB Zach Evans (TCU), EDGE Jared Ivey (Georgia Tech), TE Michael Trigg (USC)
The Rebels ranked No. 2 in the 247Sports transfer rankings after signing nine prospects with a four-star recruit rating or higher, trailing only Alabama and Texas in the average recruit rating. Dart headlines the group as #3 overall draft and a worthy successor to NFL draft pick Matt Corral.
In addition, the rebels used dexterity talents to give dart weapons. Running backs Ulysses Bentley IV and Evans played on either side of the Battle of the Iron Pan. Receivers Malik Heath, Jaylon Robinson and Jordan Watkins are proven commodities.
Ole Miss won 10 regular-season games in 2021 for the first time in program history. The Rebels have a transition year ahead with so many new faces, but Lane Kiffin has Ole Miss ready for competition.
Notable additions: QB Casey Thompson (Texas), QB Chubba Purdy (Florida State), DL Stephon Wynn (Alabama), DE Ochaun Mathis (TCU)
The Cornhuskers went through the portal quantitatively, adding 14 transfers with more potentially on the horizon. Nine of the transfers came from Power Five institutions, including two defenders from Alabama in recent days.
Nebraska went strong on offense after an inconsistent unit cost them numerous one-score games during a shocking 2021 campaign. Thompson should do the job under center, but FSU transfer Chubba Purdy gives Nebraska a long-term option. Receivers Trey Palmer and Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda join forces with Omar Manning to give the outside a makeover.
The Cornhuskers have continually struggled to achieve the speed and separation required to play Scott Frost’s spread system. Between the transfers and new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, Nebraska is better prepared to enter competitive games.
4. Texas Longhorns
Notable additions: QB Quinn Ewers (Ohio State), WR Agiye Hall (Alabama), WR Isaiah Neyor (Wyoming), CB Ryan Watts (Ohio State), TE Jahleel Billingsley (Alabama)
The Longhorns added just five transfers, but few teams will rely on their signings as much as Texas. Ewers was the first perfect 1,0000 quarterback recruit since Vince Young and immediately changed the mood around a program that went 5-7 in 2021.
Texas coach Steve Sarkisian beefed up his skill groups after fielding 1,000-yard rusher Bijan Robinson and nearly 1,000-yard receiver Xavier Worthy in 2021. Neyor rushed for 878 yards and 12 touchdowns in Wyoming, while Hall and Billingsley both expected to make important contributions to Alabama in 2022.
If Texas can make strides on defense and offense — neither of which are guarantees — the Longhorns could emerge as the Big 12 favorite. However, every transfer must hit.
Notable additions: QB Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma), S. Devonni Reed (Central Michigan), WR Antwane Wells (James Madison), TE Austin Stogner (Oklahoma)
The Gamecocks even surprised themselves at times in 2021 by turning an exhausted roster and quarterback carousel into a promising 7-6 campaign. Getting timed tanking times in Florida and Auburn played a crucial role, but South Carolina coach Shane Beamer turned the shocking success into a true roster success.
Rattler was the draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, entering the last season before a tumultuous season in Oklahoma faded. Still possessing perhaps the best arm talent in college football, Rattler should offer an incredible upgrade. Beamer did well to surround him with goals, adding 1,200-yard receiver Wells from James Madison and 800-yard receiver Corey Rucker from Arkansas State.
The SEC East will take another step forward as Tennessee and Kentucky brace for special seasons, but South Carolina could take a step toward the top of the league if Beamer’s growth continues. To say the Gamecocks’ offensive talent has transformed is an understatement.