The transfer portal is as important as high school recruiting — for some schools. Michigan State is a great example of this, and it leads the Big Ten again. Here are my rankings of that conference.
The top class in the conference, the Spartans have added both high-end talent and depth at key positions. We already saw what Mel Tucker is capable of doing with transfers after a Doak Walker-winning season from former Wake Forest tailback Kenneth Walker, so expect more big things from this group of transfers.
Additions: Casey Thompson (Texas), Chubba Purdy (Florida State), Omar Brown (Northern Iowa), Deondre Jackson (Texas A&M), Trey Palmer (LSU), Tommi Hill (Arizona State), Hunter Anthony (Oklahoma State), Brian Buschini (Montana), Kevin Williams (Northern Colorado), Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda (New Mexico State)
The Huskers are in need of a reset as much as any program in the country, so it makes sense that they’ve been very active. They were able to get their QB for this season and beyond in the duo of Thompson and Purdy, as well as potential starters at corner in Hill and Brown. And the super-talented Palmer at wide receiver is one to watch. A really great class.
Additions: Connor Bazelak (Missouri), JH Tevis (Cal), Jared Casey (Kentucky), Shaun Shivers (Auburn), Patrick Lucas (Ole Miss), LeDarrius Cox (Ole Miss), Myles Jackson (UCLA), Bradley Jennings (Miami), Emery Simmons (UNC), Josh Henderson (UNC)
Indiana has hit the portal as hard as any team in the country, and has picked up some very solid players along the way, most notably former Missouri starting QB Bazelak. He’ll step in as the presumed starter immediately.
It’s very clear what the Scarlet Knights were doing in the portal – going after offensive linemen. Four of the six players they brought in are the big boys up front, headlined by FCS All-American DiRenzo, who is an absolute mauler. Harris is a sneaky pickup from Syracuse who has big play potential.
Wisconsin lost its entire starting secondary to graduation, so it made sense that the Badgers went after defensive backs, and Shaw was one of the best cornerbacks available in the country. Dort and Clark will both have a chance to start, and Lewis fills in a hole at receiver after losing their top two players at that position from last season.
Additions: Chuck Filiaga (Michigan), Quinn Carroll (Notre Dame), Darnell Jefferies (Clemson), Shannon Bishop (Western Kentucky), Lorenza Surgers (Vanderbilt), Chris Smith (Harvard), Ryan Stapp (Abilene Christian), Jacob Lewis (Ball State)
The Gophers beefed up on the offensive line with Carroll and Filiaga, and added an under-the-radar star at corner in Bishop. A nice group for coach PJ Fleck.
7. Ohio State
Only two additions for the Buckeyes, but they’re both more than likely starters. McCalister was one of the top cornerbacks in the Big 12, and he’s following his defensive coordinator, Jim Knowles, from Stillwater to Columbus, where he projects as an all-conference performer.
Only one addition for the Wolverines, but Oluwatimi might be the most impactful non-QB in the entire portal. The Second Team All-American center from Virginia will step in to replace Andrew Vastardis, who is off to the draft.
A small haul for the Terps, but Copeland is a huge get for Mike Locksley and his staff. He’s got a chance to be WR1 from the jump.
Purdue picked up a pair of receivers who should contribute early in Tracy and Canion. Taylor has a chance to be a strong addition at linebacker as well.
11. Penn State
Tinsley put up massive numbers in the Hilltoppers’ Air Raid attack last season. He’ll be expected to pick up where Jahan Dotson left off. Meanwhile, Penn State beat out Iowa for Nourzad.
Despite needs across the roster, the Wildcats failed to address a ton of them. Davis is a nice piece at linebacker, and Akers has really high upside at kicker, but that’s really about it.
Illinois needed to address the QB position and it did by picking up former Syracuse starter DeVito, and Edwards should add depth on the defensive line.
The Hawkeyes have yet to get any players in the portal, so they’re obviously going to be in last here. But they may target depth on the defensive line after they see how spring ball shakes out.
MARK WHIPPLE: The former UMass coach was reborn last season as one of the best offensive coordinators in the country at Pitt, where he turned Kenny Pickett into one of the top quarterbacks in the country. He has a tall task ahead of him at Nebraska and will need to get transfers Casey Thompson and Chubba Purdy up to speed quickly if he’s going to replicate that success in Lincoln.
DEREK MASON: One of the many casualties of the tumult at Auburn, the former Vanderbilt head coach is now replacing Jim Knowles at Oklahoma State. He’ll be a calming presence in Stillwater, and he’ll need to keep the secondary on the top of their game if the Cowboys are going to compete again in the Big 12.
AL GOLDEN: Golden’s time at Miami was not what most would call successful, but he’s got a chance to rewrite the narrative as Notre Dame‘s new defensive coordinator. He has the chance to break in slowly in South Bend, as he’s working under the Irish’s former D.C. Marcus Freeman, who ascended to head coach after Brian Kelly departed for LSU.
MANNY DIAZ: After being unceremoniously dismissed at Miami, Diaz landed at Penn State as the defensive coordinator under James Franklin. The Nittany Lions’ defense waned in the second half of last season, but he’ll have plenty of talent to work with.
CHARLIE STRONG: The former head coach at Louisville, Texas and USF is now at The U as the linebackers coach and he’s a perfect fit for the Hurricanes. He’s a fantastic recruiter and knows the state of Florida as well as anyone. He adds to a staff that is already flush with great recruiters.