College football transfer portal superlatives: Alabama, Michigan among teams in focus as spring window opens



College football’s spring transfer portal window is just days away from its Tuesday, April 16, opening. That window, the first for undergraduate players entering the portal since January, will run through April 30, and it projects to be a chaotic period on the college football calendar.

More than 1,000 FBS players transferred during the spring window last year, and the movement this cycle could be even more robust thanks to a NCAA rule change that allows undergraduate players to transfer multiple times in their career without a year-in-residence penalty.

Throw in more transfer-needy teams than usual — a late-moving 2023 coaching cycle will have a spillover effect on the spring window — and it’s a recipe for potentially seismic movement.

But why wait for that movement to happen when it’s easy to project the future? Let’s go ahead and hand out some pre-portal superlatives and foreshadow what will be the most notable storylines from the spring window. 

Team that could define the cycle

Alabama: We already saw a preview of this, right? There hasn’t been a more notable piece of roster news this spring than True Freshman All-American offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor reneging on his Iowa enrollment with the intention of re-entering the transfer portal and ending up back at Alabama. That type of addition would be a mic-drop moment for most teams. But it will likely be one of several splashes for the Crimson Tide. 

Alabama’s roster is still loaded, but there are some legitimate holes across the two-deep because of losses the team suffered in the wake of Nick Saban’s retirement. The Tide lost 24 scholarship players to power-conference schools in the winter window and added only eight. They’ve got a lot of room to operate, and sources across the country have described the Crimson Tide as being extremely active in backchanneling for potential portal players over the last few weeks. New coach Kalen DeBoer knows his fanbase won’t allow for much of a dropoff and is preparing accordingly. 

Alabama needs cornerback help (multiple players). Alabama needs offensive line help (multiple players). Alabama wants a tight end. Alabama could maybe add another receiver. Alabama might see some movement in its QB room – talented backups don’t tend to wait around nowadays – and could need to bolster its numbers there.

Top 25 team with the most work to do

Washington: There was a need in Seattle for a transfer talent injection even before DeBoer departed. The Huskies reached the College Football Playoff National Championship with a starting 22 that featured just one underclassman. That group was always going to leave en masse, it just accelerated when DeBoer left for Alabama. The Huskies returned only three starters this spring — all on defense — which means a rapid overhaul is necessary in the portal as they prepare for a move to the Big Ten. 

Washington did add 15 players during the winter window, including quarterback Will Rogers from Mississippi State. But needs still remain, especially along the lines of scrimmage. The Huskies have just 10 scholarship offensive linemen on the roster, which means adding multiple bodies over the next few weeks. There’s a similar need along the defensive front, especially along the interior, where the Huskies have already hosted coveted Indiana transfer Philip Blidi. Don’t be shocked to see Washington attempt to address the wide receiver and tight end position, too.

New coach Jedd Fisch is among the more aggressive coaches in the country when it comes to his use of the transfer portal. Expect the Huskies to come up a lot the next few weeks. 

Most in-demand position

Defensive tackle: It’s not even close. Big bodies along the defensive interior are always in demand, but there’s a particularly pressing need at DT for many contenders right now. Oklahoma needs one. Auburn needs one. Texas A&M needs one. Texas needs one, maybe two. LSU needs multiple big bodies inside. Even Georgia would probably take the right D-lineman if they were to pop up in the portal. And that’s just the SEC! 

There are teams peppered across the power-conference ranks that need to upgrade the interior of their defensive line, if they can find an available option. It’s going to be by far the most competitive position on the open market. There will be bidding wars.

Least in-demand position

Quarterback: It’s just not going to be an active quarterback market. Most QB-needy teams added one in the winter window. It’s more difficult for quarterbacks than any other position to arrive somewhere in the summer and earn a starting job. You need to learn an offense in such a short amount of time. Thus, expect this window to mostly be defined by power-conference backups on the move and teams looking to add competitive depth. 

There are some schools that need a starter. Northwestern does. But beyond the Wildcats, you move to a group of teams like Iowa, Texas Tech, Georgia or UCLA looking to potentially add an experienced and competitive backup. Barring a major surprise, which could happen, this should be a slower QB cycle. 

Team that could jumpstart the QB market

Michigan: There is one program that could turbocharge the quarterback market — the defending national champions.

With Jim Harbaugh and J.J. McCarthy not making their NFL decisions until mid-January, the Wolverines never really had the opportunity to aggressively explore the quarterback market. They’ve gone through spring with junior quarterback Alex Orji looking like the most likely option to emerge as a starter. The returns within the Michigan program are extremely positive around Orji. There’s a belief he’s earned a bigger role in 2024; he served as a dynamic change-of-pace ball carrier last season. But will it be as the starter? That depends on what Michigan chooses to do in the portal. 

I don’t think the Wolverines move on for just anyone. But if a big-time QB entered the portal? It’d be an interesting conversation in Ann Arbor. My 247Sports colleague Matt Zenitz delivered more on Michigan (and even USC’s) tepid pursuit of a transfer quarterback earlier this week. 

Position with the most big names

Running Back: There are some notable teams looking to add an upper-echelon running back, including Ole Miss and Miami. Those programs happen to be among the most aggressive NIL practitioners in the country, and you could potentially see some fireworks at the running back position. We’ve already seen that come to fruition with Oregon State running back Damien Martinez — who previously stated his intention to stay in Corvallis after Jonathan Smith’s departure — announcing his intention to enter the portal last week. Martinez is a true star back. He ran for 1,185 yards and nine TDs on 6.1 yards per carry last year. 247Sports already assigned him a 93 transfer rating, which places him behind only Quinshon Judkins this cycle at the running back position.

But Martinez might not be alone in the portal. Some of the biggest rumored portal additions over the past few weeks are running backs. They likely won’t all enter, but even one or two will set off some bidding wars. 

Team with potential to make a big splash

Miami: The Hurricanes went all-in to pursue Washington State QB Cameron Ward during the winter window. They landed him after a protracted process, giving them the frontman for what could be a dangerous offense. The Hurricanes have an elite QB, an elite OL and a pair of excellent receiving options (Xavier Restrepo, Jacolby George), but it’s expected they’ll also pursue a top-tier running back and perhaps another receiver as well. Throw in a need along the edge, and Miami will be big-game hunting as it tries to take advantage of a one-year window with Ward. 

Conference most upset with its own rules

SEC: There’s an interesting wrinkle to the spring transfer portal window: Any SEC player who enters the portal cannot transfer to another SEC school. The SEC has long had more restrictive intraconference transfer rules compared to other leagues, and that is still the case as the conference bars intraconference movement after the winter window. 

That means many of the high-profile players who enter the portal from the SEC will have limited options. It also means that SEC schools with needs will have to aggressively look outside their own footprint. 

Teams who are spring cleaning

Everybody: Don’t expect to see a Colorado-level culling from anyone this spring. Deion Sanders came in and cut his roster to the point where only 10 scholarship players returned from 2022 for the 2023 season. You won’t see anything that extreme this cycle, but many schools will be aggressively managing their rosters to get under the 85-scholarship cap. There will be some stars in the portal, sure, but this is the window in which schools are managing the back end of their roster, which often means cleaning out the things you haven’t used much in the garage since you bought them two to four years ago.

Team that could surprise

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have some needs, including running back, and will surprise folks by being in the mix for some big-named players. New coach Jeff Lebby has an ultra-aggressive offense that’s attractive to skill players, and the Bulldogs’ NIL efforts are rapidly picking up steam. That combination could lead to Mississippi State being in the mix for some players you might not expect.

More Transfer Portal Content: Positions of need for each power-conference team. 





Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top