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 role model for every 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 such classes involved new coaches trying to put their own spin on a program. However, the large number of quality FBS contributors meant the programs could transform by the fall.
Here are five college football programs poised to rise through the Transfer Portal in 2022, ranging from national contenders to coaching staff who only need 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 make the college football playoffs after stealing Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma. The Trojans have made 19 transfers – four more than any other program – including two of the top four players in the class.
Quarterback Caleb Williams is history after trailing Riley from Oklahoma, but Biletnikoff-winning receiver Jordan Addison made headlines after joining the Trojans last week. The combination immediately rivals CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba as the best QB-WR combos in college football. Also, don’t think Riley skimped on defense. Eleven defenders arrive in Los Angeles through the transfer portal.
USC’s roster was already underrated after collapsing after Clay Helton was fired. With the influx of talent heading to Heritage Hall, the Trojans will quickly have expectations to defy for the Pac-12.
Notable additions: QB Jaxson Dart (Ole Miss), RB Zach Evans (TCU), EDGE Jared Ivey (Georgia Tech), TE Michael Trigg (USC)
Rebels ranked No. 2 in the 247Sports Transfer Ranking after shaking off nine prospects rated four-star or higher transfer rookies, trailing only Alabama and Texas in average rookie rating. Dart is the headliner of the group as the No. 3 overall rookie and a worthy successor to NFL draft pick Matt Corral.
Additionally, the Rebels relied on talent to give Dart weapons. Running backs Ulysses Bentley IV and Evans played on both sides of the Battle for the Iron Skillet. Receivers Malik Heath, Jaylon Robinson and Jordan Watkins are proven products.
Ole Miss won 10 regular season games for the first time in program history in 2021. The Rebels are having a transitional year with so many new faces, but Lane Kiffin has Ole Miss ready to compete.
Notable additions: QB Casey Thompson (Texas), QB Chubba Purdy (Florida State), DL Stephon Wynn (Alabama), DE Ochaun Mathis (TCU)
The Cornhuskers have been through the portal in quantity, adding 14 transfers with more potentially on the horizon. Nine of the transfers were from Power Five institutions, including a pair of Alabama defensemen in recent days.
Nebraska went on offense after an inconsistent unit cost them numerous one-scored games in a shocking 2021 campaign. Thompson is expected to settle the job under center, but the transfer from FSU, Chubba Purdy, gives Nebraska a long-term option. Receivers Trey Palmer and Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda team up with Omar Manning to give the outside a new look.
The Cornhuskers constantly struggled to generate the speed and separation needed to play Scott Frost’s spread system. Between 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 only added five transfers, but few teams will rely on their new additions quite like Texas. Ewers was the first perfect 1,0000 quarterback rookie since Vince Young and immediately changed the vibes around a program that went 5-7 in 2021.
Texas coach Steve Sarkisian bolstered his skill groups after fielding 1,000-yard rusher Bijan Robinson and near-1,000-yard receiver Xavier Worthy in 2021. Neyor posted 878 yards and 12 touchdowns at Wyoming , while Hall and Billingsley both expected to be major contributors for Alabama in 2022.
If Texas can make progress on defense and on the offensive line — which isn’t guaranteed — the Longhorns can become Big 12 favorites. However, every transfer must be made.
Notable additions: QB Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma), S Devonni Reed (Central Michigan), WR Antwane Wells (James Madison), TE Austin Stogner (Oklahoma)
The Gamecocks have even surprised themselves at times in 2021 by turning a depleted roster and quarterback carousel into a promising 7-6 campaign. Catching Florida and Auburn’s times at the right time played a vital role, but South Carolina coach Shane Beamer leveraged that shocking success to make it a real roster hit.
Rattler was the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft heading into last season before a tumultuous Oklahoma season sent his value plummeting. Rattler may still have the best overall arm talent in college football and should provide an incredible upgrade. Beamer did well to surround him with targets, 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 with Tennessee and Kentucky set for special seasons, but South Carolina could take a step to the top of the league if Beamer’s growth continues. To call the Gamecocks’ offensive talent transformed is an understatement.