The NCAA transfer market includes positions beyond quarterback.
College football transfers at other positions often get lost because of the media’s pervasive coverage of the QB transfers.
That’s particularly the case in 2019, when schools like Oklahoma (Jalen Hurts), Ohio State (Justin Fields), Miami (Tate Martell), Washington (Jacob Eason) and UCF (Brandon Wimbush) are expected to start transfer quarterbacks from big-time programs.
But one has to imagine the betting market has fully accounted for those major changes.
There are a number of transfers outside of quarterback who could influence a team’s season win total, Power 5 division and conference championships, and even the College Football Playoff picture.
After studying the transfer market for the last week, here are the six non-quarterbacks that I think will make the biggest impact for their respective new teams, as well as some other notes on the transfer market:
1. G Parker Braun (Texas): Last year, offensive line coach Herb Hand snagged Rice grad transfer Calvin Anderson (beating out his former team Auburn), and Texas got a good starting left tackle. This year, the Longhorns again landed the best available offensive lineman in the country in the former Georgia Tech guard Braun. A two-time All-ACC player, Braun also is a tough mauler who will start at left guard. He may not be a high-round NFL draft prospect, but at the college level, he’ll make a huge impact for a team that rushed for just 3.8 ypc last season (104th).
2. DT Darrion Daniels (Nebraska): Lost in the hype of coach Scott Frost’s Nebraska team is the fact that last year’s defense ranked 112th in rushing S&P+. The Cornhuskers’ defensive starters have a lot of work to do to earn the traditional “Blackshirts” nickname. But Daniels, who started for Oklahoma State in ’17 before a season-ending injury, could be an important step in that progression. He’s a physical presence and a run-stuffer who will start at nose guard. He transferred to Nebraska in part to play with his younger brother, who is his backup at the position.
3. OLB Jonathan Greenard (Florida): He made 15.5 TFLs for Louisville in 2017 and missed last season due to injury after being named a team captain. He’ll replace Jachai Polite, who made 19.5 TFLs and 11 sacks for the Gators last year as a first-team All-SEC selection and a third-round NFL draft choice. Greenard will play the rush end position for maniac defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. The two were at Louisville together. Despite losing Polite, don’t expect a drop-off in Florida’s pass rush.
4. WR Jalen McClesky (Tulane): The former Oklahoma State receiver made 123 catches for 1,457 yards and 12 TDs in ’16 and ’17. He was headed for another big season in ’18 (15 catches, 3 TDs in four games) before quitting the team. Tulane normally would never get a player of McClesky’s caliber, but his dad coaches defensive backs for the Green Wave. That’s great news for Tulane, which is aiming for back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1997 and 1998 in a super competitive American Athletic Conference.
5. RB Tavien Feaster (undecided): For the last two years at Clemson, Feaster has been stuck behind Travis Etienne, arguably one of the two or three best RBs in all of college football. Feaster managed 222 carries for 1,330 yards (6.0 ypc) and 15 TDs at Clemson the last three years. He also caught 23 passes. He’s reportedly deciding between South Carolina and Virginia Tech when he graduates in August, and he’ll be eligible immediately. He’s likely to be a starter and a huge impact player for either team.
6. WR Isaiah Zuber (Mississippi State): He’s an excellent route-runner with great hands who can also run after the catch (and has played as a returner). Think that sounds good to Bulldogs fans after their atrocious passing game last season? He doesn’t have an NFL type body, but if he’s 100 percent coming off hip surgery, he should be Mississippi State’s No. 1 receiver. He topped 50 catches in each of the last two seasons in a Kansas State offense not known for being explosive. He isn’t getting the same love as some other receiver transfers, but he could make the biggest impact.
- Syracuse picked up two exciting transfers in former Oklahoma RB Abdul Adams and former Michigan State WR Trishton Jackson. Both players participated in the Camping World Bowl against West Virginia, so they’ve already played their first game for the Orange. I didn’t feel like they were eligible for this list, but they’ll be important players as the offense prepares for life without QB Eric Dungey.
- Miami is the highest-profile team in the transfer market in 2019, especially outside of QB (though it took former Ohio State QB Tate Martell as well). Buffalo WR K.J. Osborn, USC LB Jaelan Phillips, USC S Bubba Bolden, UCLA DL Chigozie Nnoruka, Virginia Tech DE Trevon Hill and Butler OL Tommy Kennedy highlight the list.
- Tennessee is still waiting on two decisions that will have a big impact on its 2019 season. Michigan DT transfer Aubrey Solomon would be a huge help if the NCAA clears him for this season. Georgia DB Deangelo Gibbs practiced some at receiver this spring, but got moved to nickelback. Both players would be big talent upgrades to the Vols defense, but they’re still waiting on a decision from the NCAA as of July 1.
- Oregon State is an under-the-radar team in terms of improving its roster through the transfer market. Former Nebraska WR Tyjon Lindsey caught 16 passes in 16 games, but the 5-foot-9 slot receiver was never going to be featured in Lincoln. The Beavers also welcome G Nathan Eldridge from Arizona, where he started 25 games before missing ’18 due to injury. OLB Addison Gumbs comes from Oklahoma, where he was expected to start in ’18 before a season-ending injury. And ILB Avery Johnson played in 12 games for Nebraska as a true freshman in ’17. All four of those players should start this season.
- Illinois lost a number of transfers, but also took in players from Michigan, Alabama and USC, and nearly got Miami WR Jeff Thomas. Lovie Smith may not be a great recruiter of high school talent, but he’s going all-in on transfers from blue-blood programs in an attempt to extend his time with the Fighting Illini.
- Everyone cringes at Ball State’s “misfortune” in losing QB Riley Neal to Vanderbilt and RB James Gilbert to Kansas State. In truth, those two had fallen out of favor on the team’s depth chart by the end of last season and were unlikely to start for Ball State this year. Ball State returns one of the most experienced rosters in the MAC and could be better than some headline-readers expect.
- USC lost quality depth in bunches, but they secured two important players in WR Bru McCoy and CB Chris Steele. McCoy originally signed with USC in the ’19 class, left for Texas, and then returned. Steele was Florida’s highest-rated member of the ’19 class and expected to make an impact as a true freshman, but left after spring practice.
- Penn State got devastated by transfers, losing projected starting QB Tommy Stevens after the spring game in addition to 18 other players, including WR Juwan Johnson and OLB Manny Bowen.
- Other schools who, at minimum, lost a lot of depth and quality bodies include Louisville, Virginia Tech, Florida, Arkansas, Arizona State, Buffalo and UCLA.
- Maryland lost a number of players to the transfer portal, but in addition to taking in former Virginia Tech starting QB Josh Jackson, the Terps raided Buffalo for All-MAC TE Tyler Mabry, Virginia Tech for WR turned DB Sean Savoy, Ohio State LB Kandre Jones and Clemson ILB Shaq Smith, who was competing for a starting job for the defending national champions this spring.
- West Virginia has plenty of players coming and going with the coaching transition from Dana Holgorsen to Neal Brown. But safety is looking like a position of major concern. Kenny Robinson Jr., a first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2018, is in the portal. S Derrek Pitts, a projected starter, already left for Marshall, and S E.J. Brown is in the portal as well.
- Big 12 QBs tend to put up big numbers. Pay attention to former Texas QB Shane Buechele (now at SMU) and former Baylor QB Zach Smith (now at Tulsa) in the AAC this season.
MORE NON-QB TRANSFERS TO WATCH
Kansas State RB James Gilbert
BYU RB Ty’Son Williams
Miami WR K.J. Osborn
Oregon WR Juwan Johnson
Georgia WR Lawrence Cager
Missouri WR Jonathan Nance
Iowa State WR La’Michael Pettway
Texas Tech WR McLane Mannix
Georgia Tech TE Tyler Davis
Maryland TE Tyler Mabry
Ohio State G Jonah Jackson
Oregon State G Nathan Eldridge
USC OT Drew Richmond
Miami DE Trevon Hill
TCU DE Shameik Blackshear
Oregon State OLB Addison Gumbs
Utah OLB Manny Bowen
Maryland ILB Shaq Smith
Miami S Bubba Bolden
Temple CB Harrison Hand