Gold: Pac-12 transfer portal winners and losers
The biggest Pac-12 winner in the transfer portal is the conference itself.
No league has benefitted more from the new transfer landscape as USC once again hauled ’em in, Colorado buffed up and UCLA once again balled out.
Consider this: The Pac-12 claims the Nos. 4 (Colorado), 5 (USC), 7 (UCLA), 12 (Oregon) and 14 (Arizona State) in the 247Sports transfer portal rankings.
Will that lead to the league’s first College Football Playoff berth in a half-dozen years? It couldn’t hurt.
Here’s a look at the Pac-12’s winners and losers from the first transfer portal window of 2022-23.
Forget the Pac-12, the Buffaloes just might be the biggest transfer portal winner in all of college football.
There was just 1 5-star transfer portal entrant, Travis Hunter. Colorado got him. Of course, it wasn’t a huge stretch, considering Hunter played for Deion Sanders at Jackson State. But he had some major, major suitors, and snagging him was a score. The Buffaloes also scored by retooling their offense around fellow Jackson State transfer QB Shedeur Sanders, former USF wide receiver Jimmy Horn Jr. and former Arkansas State tight end Seydou Traore.
Maybe the biggest win for Coach Prime and Buffs were the reworking of transfer rules, which relaxed long-time policies to open Colorado up to a broader pool of talent.
Utah lost 9 players and brought in only 4, though former Stanford linebacker Levani Damuni is a solid prospect.
The Utes failed to capitalize on back-to-back Pac-12 championships in any meaningful way. Utah’s 2 Rose Bowl bids netted them just 3 players, including 2 3-stars?
I trust Kyle Whittingham to build the program from the ground up, but it just feels like a wasted opportunity when they couldn’t add some dynamic offensive players.
A year after setting the transfer portal on fire, USC came back down to earth a bit this year. Regardless, USC still boasts a strong incoming transfer class. The Trojans’ 90.60 average incoming transfer ranking leads the conference, and if not for the retooled Buffaloes, USC would be atop this league this year, as well, after adding key talent on both sides of the ball.
Wide receiver Dorian Singer (Arizona) and running back MarShawn Lloyd (the other USC) should make immediate impacts alongside returning Heisman winner Caleb Williams. And defensive linemen Anthony Lucas (Texas A&M) and Jack Sullivan (Purdue), defensive back Christian Roland-Wallace (Arizona) and linebacker Mason Cobb (Oklahoma State) should help the Trojans’ leaky defense take a step forward this year.
Of course, given what USC did in the late transfer portal window last year, it reasons that we may not have seen the last of Lincoln Riley this season.
A year after revamping the program in a big way through the portal, Jedd Fisch and the coaching staff were not as effective in 2023. Certainly not like adding Jayden de Laura and Jacob Cowing, like they did last season.
Arizona got some decent talent — notably former Oregon star recruit Justin Flowe — but losing the Pac-12’s leading receiver in Dorian Singer (and to USC, no less) really stings. And the Trojans also poached Roland-Wallace and Kyon Barrs from the Cats.
Not exactly the westward movement that Fisch was hoping for.
Winner: Arizona State
Arizona State added more than 2 dozen players through the portal as Kenny Dillingham went to work in a hurry, but the Sun Devils only brought in 1 4-star — offensive lineman Aaron Frost, who is set to replace LaDarius Henderson, who bolted for Michigan.
But while the Sun Devils didn’t shoot for the stars, they did retool their roster with players who are excited to be in Tempe and excited to play for an innovative young coach like Dillingham.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and ASU fans should just be happy Dillingham went to work that quickly.
This feels harsh, and we certainly recognize the limitations that are put on the Cardinal as it relates to the portal. But football ain’t exactly fair, especially football in the NIL era.
You have to feel for Troy Taylor, who takes over one of the most complicated programs in the country. Stanford fans got a taste of the good life under David Shaw and Jim Harbaugh, but this is not a traditionally strong program. It’s hard to imagine fans being patient for the fruits of a high school recruiting class that wasn’t particularly impressive, either.
The Bruins have a second straight impressive portal roster, ranking 7th in 247Sports’ transfer rankings.
They particularly succeeded in plucking talent from the MAC, where new workhorse running back Carson Steele led Ball State with 1,556 yards and 14 touchdowns. He should be a fine replacement for Zach Charbonnet, a fellow recruit from the upper Midwest who dominated for the Bruins. UCLA also snagged Collin Schlee from Kent State, and he should be in the mix for the starting quarterback position, as well as safety Jordan Anderson from Bowling Green.
Those 3 are among the Bruins’ top 4 transfers, while the other — former Cal wideout J. Michael Sturdivant — hails from a bit closer.
Justin Wilcox just hasn’t been able to make a major dent in the talent pool, and even worse, his top 2 quarterback options left for what might not even be greener pastures. Sure, Jack Plummer going to Louisville is intriguing because of his ties to the Brohm Brothers, but talented Kai Millner ending up at Northern Arizona? That’s a surprise.
Former TCU backup Sam Jackson is talented — he’s a former 4-star — and he very well could end up with the starting gig, and former Oregon running back Byron Cardwell should provide a nice balance with Jaydn Ott.
But losing Sturdivant is a huge blow to the Cal offense and to its ego.