Transfers will determine which teams win the Power Five conferences, which teams advance to the College Football Playoff and which team wins the national championship.
This isn’t a wild prediction.
The transfer portal has revolutionized the Bowl Subdivision for better and for worse, simultaneously giving student-athletes newfound freedom to switch schools without penalty while deeply complicating how coaches and programs attack roster management and retention.
But there’s no way to overstate the role transfers will play during the 2023 season. In some cases — Colorado, Arizona State, Nebraska — the portal has helped new coaches almost completely flip the roster in advance of spring practice.
Some of the teams chasing two-time defending champion Georgia will lean on transfers to close the gap. Notre Dame’s playoff odds look much better after bringing in Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman as the new starting quarterback. Michigan’s portal class should help keep the Wolverines at or near the top of the Big Ten.
Eight others join the Irish and Wolverines when it comes to this year’s top transfer classes:
Best transfer: OL Jeremiah Byers (Texas-El Paso)
Byers is one of several offensive linemen set to start or play major roles as FSU prepares to make a playoff run. Colorado transfer Casey Roddick should start at one of the two guard spots and Auburn transfer Keiondre Jones will help in the run game after starting 22 games for the Tigers. The Seminoles also grabbed a pair of tight ends in South Carolina’s Jaheim Bell and Shorter University’s Kyle Morlock. Another South Carolina transfer, edge rusher Gilber Edmond, led the Gamecocks with nine tackles for loss in 2022.
Best transfer: LB Omar Speights (Oregon State)
All but one of LSU’s 11 transfers come from the Power Five; the one exception, Southeastern cornerback Zy Alexander, was a two-time Football Championship Subdivision All-America pick. While Alabama receiver Aaron Anderson is a very strong prospect who could contribute as soon as this season, the class is focused on defenders capable of improving last year’s ninth-place finish in the SEC in yards given up per play. Alexander is joined by Speights, Syracuse cornerback Duce Chestnut and others in remaking the Tigers’ back seven.
Best transfer: DB Travis Hunter (Jackson State)
Twenty-four transfers join Colorado’s traditional recruiting class to remake the depth chart and add depth heading into coach Deion Sanders’ first season. Most transfers arrive from the Power Five, chasing playing time after failing to crack the depth charts at Alabama, Michigan, Florida or Arkansas. But the biggest additions come from Jackson State, where Sanders had spent the previous three years. One is his son, Shedeur, the Buffaloes’ likely starting quarterback. And there’s Hunter, the top prospect in the 2022 class and one of the most promising young talents in the sport.
MAKING STATEMENT:Colorado’s Sanders assembles strong recruiting class
Best transfer: LB Dasan McCullough (Indiana)
This is another solid transfer class for Brent Venables, this time joining one of the top-ranked traditional recruiting classes in the FBS. Stanford transfer Walter Rouse pencils into one of the open spots at left or right tackle after spending four season as the Cardinal’s starter on the blind side. After one season at South Carolina, tight end Austin Stogner has rejoined the program and figures to be the Sooners’ top option at the position. Former Michigan wide receiver Andrel Anthony had moments of brilliance with the Wolverines and will have the chance to play a major role as OU tries to replace roughly two-thirds of last year’s receiving yardage. Lastly, McCullough was one of the top freshmen defenders in the Power Five in 2022.
Best transfer: DL Jordan Burch (South Carolina)
Oregon’s newcomers has the potential to remake a defense that ranked 88th nationally in yards allowed per play last season. Burch is an NFL talent who should demand attention and free up the rest of the Ducks’ front seven. At linebacker, Oregon brought in Iowa transfer Jestin Jacobs in the hope that he can remain healthy and produce at an all-conference level. Another three transfers may start in the secondary: Khyree Jackson (Alabama) at cornerback and Tysheem Johnson (Mississippi) and Evan Williams (Fresno State) at safety.
Best transfer: DB Christian Roland-Wallace (Arizona)
This transfer class leans a little more toward the defensive side of the ball after Lincoln Riley snatched up Caleb Williams and others to fix the offense heading into his debut season. It includes two starters off Arizona’s defense: defensive tackle Kyon Barrs, a former all-conference pick, and Roland-Wallace, a four-year starter. There are several other pieces set to join Williams and the Trojans’ offense, beginning with former South Carolina running back MarShawn Lloyd. Look for former Florida guard Ethan White to step into the starting role at left guard.
Best transfer: LB Monty Montgomery (Louisville)
Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders will push incumbent starter Jaxson Dart while LSU transfer Walker Howard takes over as the Rebels’ presumed quarterback of the future. There’s also help on the way at wide receiver in Louisiana Tech transfer Tre Harris (935 receiving yards in 2022) and former five-star Texas A&M recruit Chris Marshall. Bringing in Montgomery and Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste from Central Florida will help the defense at a need area..
Best transfer: LB Ernest Hausmann (Nebraska)
Hausmann is one of three Big Ten transfers set to join Michigan, along with quarterback Jack Tuttle and tight end AJ Barner from Indiana. Only a rising sophomore, Hausmann was one of the few bright spots for the Cornhuskers in 2022 and played his best game in a blowout loss to the Wolverines. Jim Harbaugh again went into the portal for offensive linemen, nabbing Myles Hinton and Blake Nugent from Stanford and Arizona State’s LaDarius Henderson. Edge rusher Josiah Stewart was one of the top defenders in the portal and is a lock to play major snaps for the Wolverines’ defense.
Best transfer: RB Brian Battle (South Florida)
Auburn’s transfer group has an SEC flair, with additions coming in from Mississippi (linebacker Austin Keys), Kentucky (defensive lineman Justin Rogers), LSU (linebacker DeMario Tolan) and Vanderbilt (edge rusher Elijah McCallister). Most of the remaining transfers come on the offensive side of the ball, including three Group of Five linemen with starting experience. Battle checks in after finishing third in the American in rushing yards and fourth in yards per carry in 2022.
Best transfer: RB Carson Steele (Ball State)
UCLA may have a found a replacement for quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson in Kent State transfer Collin Schlee, who tossed 13 touchdowns for the Golden Flashes last season and could keep the seat warm for five-star incoming freshman Dante Moore. Steele brings experience and production to the backfield as the Bruins’ running game aims to replace the combined 2,004 yards and 26 touchdowns compiled by Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet in 2022. Former California wide receiver J. Michael Sturdivant (65 receptions for 755 yards) is a plug-and-play addition to the passing game.