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Way-Too-Early Transfer Portal Thoughts

By Ashton Pollard | January 16
Way-Too-Early Transfer Portal Thoughts
Former Oklahoma wide receiver Charleston Rambo stiff-arms Florida defensive back Donovan Stiner during the 2020 Cotton Bowl Classic. Credit: Dallas Morning News/Smiley N. Pool

The perfect storm created a turbulent transfer scene this year.

In August, the NCAA granted all fall sport student-athletes an additional year of eligibility due to the uncertainty surrounding a season heavily impacted by COVID-19. The NCAA was scheduled to vote last week on both a one-time transfer rule and Name, Image and Likeness (NIL). They punted.

Where does that leave us? While the NCAA says it is only a minor delay, presumably tied to the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Alston case, we are left with a messy transfer portal filled with athletes taking advantage of that extra year of eligibility and athletes who expected a one-time transfer exemption.

It’s early, and there will certainly be additional entrants into the portal as we approach the 2021 season. For now, there are some big wins, question marks, and incredible athletes still out there.

Big wins:

Charleston Rambo | Wide Receiver | Oklahoma → Miami
Charleston Rambo is taking his talents to South Beach after a disappointing 2020 season. Rambo entered the transfer portal on January 5 and officially transferred to Miami a week later. He had 76 receptions, 1,180 yards and nine touchdowns during his time in Norman. He started all 14 games for the Sooners in 2019 and nine games this past season. The Texas native was one of the transfer portal’s hottest commodities this year.

D’Eriq King has chosen to return to Miami for another year, and OC Rhett Lashlee hopes to develop a relationship between King and Rambo similar to the one Rambo had in his 2019 year with Jalen Hurts. Rambo joins Miami’s top wide receiver from last year, Mike Harley, and the two could team up to be one of the most dangerous WR duos in the country. He’s been known to show flashes of explosiveness, as he did on this 49-yard bomb from Kyler Murray against Alabama during his first season. A big play guy may be what Miami needs if they plan to challenge potent Clemson and UNC offenses in the fall.

Jack Coan | Quarterback | Wisconsin → Notre Dame
One of Notre Dame’s biggest questions about next season likely has an answer. After coming off their second College Football Playoff appearance in two years, the Irish are expected to take a step back, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Next year’s quarterback room was slated to be a junior with ACL issues, a sophomore who is not the future of the program, and an incoming freshman who is highly-rated but was unable to play his senior season due to California’s COVID-19 restrictions. Enter Jack Coan.

Credit: Getty Images/Dylan Buell

Coan, who will be a graduate transfer in South Bend, was actually committed to play lacrosse at Notre Dame at one point before Irish lacrosse coach Kevin Corrigan encouraged him to pursue football. After four starts during his sophomore year, he started the entire 2019 season as a junior where he threw for 2,727 yards and had 18 touchdowns and five interceptions. He was expected to start at Wisconsin this year before injuring his foot just prior to the beginning of the season.

While typically a Big Ten West quarterback is nothing to write home about, Coan’s experience and leadership qualities make him an ideal fit for the Irish. He has 18 career starts, which is 18 more than the Irish locker room has now, including starts in a Big Ten Championship game and a Rose Bowl win. Even if he doesn’t put up video game numbers, this is a huge win for OC Tommy Rees and he tries to build the offense back up.

Dylan Wright | Wide Receiver | Texas A&M → Minnesota
According to 247Sports and Rivals, Wright was a top-100 overall player in the 2019 class, but he saw limited action for the Aggies. Wright is physical, NFL material already at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. His minimal production over the last two years isn’t for lack of talent. He saw the field on a few special teams plays for the Aggies, but will likely see much more playing time for PJ Fleck’s squad. He has four years of eligibility remaining after playing in four games and redshirting his freshman year and then gaining the extra COVID year in 2020.

Minnesota will be looking to replace top talent Rashod Batemon at wide receiver, who ESPN’s Todd McShay currently has listed 10th overall in this year’s draft. Wright will be a great complement to rising senior Chris Autman-Bell who had 22 receptions for 430 yards this year behind Bateman. If the Gophers want to have another dream season like they did in 2019 and contend for the Big Ten West title, an offensive weapon in Dylan Wright is a great start.

Honorable mention:

Big Kat Bryant | Defensive End | Auburn → Tennessee

Tyrique Stevenson | Defensive Back | Georgia → Miami

Questions Remain:

McKenzie Milton | Quarterback | UCF → FSU
Milton was originally best known for leading the UCF Knights to a 13-0 season, including a Peach Bowl win over Auburn, in 2017 just two years after the team failed to win a single game. Now he is likely best known for the gruesome leg injury he sustained in November 2018 that led to five total surgeries and fears he would never play again. He plans to return to the sport this fall, but it won’t be in Orlando.

Milton UCF
Credit: UCF Athletics

Milton entered the transfer portal on December 3, and officially transferred to Florida State 10 days later. The expectation in Tallahassee is that Milton will win the starting job over Jordan Travis (five career starts), Chubba Purdy (one career start) and Tate Rodemaker (one career start).

The biggest question mark with Milton is his health. In his introductory press conference on Friday, he said he is “about 90 percent,” and expects to be ready to go this spring. Florida State’s team desperately needs a leader after several years of what one could really only call total chaos following the departure of Jimbo Fisher in December 2017 (the dysfunction really began behind closed doors under Fisher, but that’s a story for another time). Milton’s experiences on and off the field make him well-equipped to be that guy as long as he stays healthy.

Ty Chandler | Running Back | Tennessee → UNC
After a solid career at Tennessee, Chandler hopes to have a breakout year in Chapel Hill. He will have huge shoes to fill, as the best running back duo in America in Javonte Williams and Michael Carter departs for the NFL. Sam Howell is back for his junior season and is on Heisman watch early. UNC’s offense will definitely get attention.

The one question with Chandler is can he become THE guy for Mack Brown. In 2020, he only had 100 carries, the fewest since his freshman year, after sophomore Eric Gray became the Vols top running back. Chandler’s single-season high for rushing yards is 655 achieved in 2019. This past year, Michael Carter had 1,245 yards on the ground and Javonte Adams had 1,140.

UNC’s schedule, which includes Georgia State, Notre Dame and Wofford outside of the ACC and avoids Clemson in conference play, is favorable to UNC potentially making a run. If they want to be in the conversation in mid-November, Chandler will need to have a big year.

Markese Stepp | Running Back | USC → Nebraska
One of USC’s top running backs is moving a little closer to home for 2021. Stepp, an Indianapolis native, announced his return to Big Ten country by committing to Nebraska on Tuesday just hours before Nebraska RB Dedrick Mills announced he would depart for the NFL. In his three years at USC, Stepp had 100 carries for 505 yards and six touchdowns.

To be fair, USC’s air raid offense limits touches for the running backs. All eyes have been on now-Georgia quarterback JT Daniels, current quarterback Kedon Slovis and wide receivers Michael Pittman, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughans during Stepps’s stay in Los Angeles. That being said, the former 4-star recruit still performed at a much lower level than anticipated.

Stepp brings a jolt of excitement to a team that really needs it. Scott Frost is running out of time to bring his alma mater back into the national conversation. Nebraska’s offense is certainly more conducive to a strong run game than USC’s was. The big question with Stepp for the upcoming season is will he be able to produce the kind of results that were expected of him out of high school.

Honorable Mention:

Demarkcus Bowman | Running Back \ Clemson → Florida

Jaiden Lars-Woodbey | Defensive Back | Florida State → Boston College

Still available:

Arik Gilbert | Tight End | LSU → ??
This kid is going to be insane. After a freshman season at a turbulent time in Baton Rouge, 6-foot-5, 240 pound tight end Arik Gilbert entered the transfer portal on January 5. He ended his first year with 35 receptions for 368 yards and two touchdowns over eight games. The 5-star prospect out of high school and probable first-round draft pick is rumored to be deciding between Florida and Georgia. Gilbert is a Marietta, GA native.

Arik Gilbert
Credit: USA TODAY Sports/John Reed

Florida needs a replacement for Kyle Pitts. Tight ends coach Tim Brewster would love for this to be their guy. They have a number of young players in their TE room that could contribute next year, but an all-star like Gilbert would take things to the next level. Georgia is appealing because the Dawgs seem to have finally found a quarterback in J.T. Daniels following a series of poor offensive showings during the first half of the 2020 season. The primary concern here is that wide receiver George Pickens will be in Athens for another year, so Gilbert would have some competition for targets.

Keaontay Ingram | Running Back | Texas → ??
It was not shocking when Ingram entered the transfer portal on Friday, as he had stopped attending Longhorn practices in early December and was rumored to be transferring. Ingram, who was listed as the class of 2018’s no. 6 running back by 247Sports, started 18 games at Texas including all 13 games of the 2019 season. In total, he played in 32 games in a Longhorns uniform. He was on the pre-season Doak Walker Award watchlist the last two seasons.

Texas A&M heavily recruited Ingram out of high school, but they seem to be in good shape with All-SEC running back Isaiah Spiller for the foreseeable future. A few other nearby schools could use a weapon in the backfield. Oklahoma State comes to mind, as Chubba Hubbard departs for the NFL. Dezmon Jackson and JD Brown are returning to Stillwater, but neither has emerged as the heir to Chubba’s throne. Arkansas had a dismal run game this year, but Sam Pittman has the SEC’s former punching bag moving in the right direction. TCU is expected to have a much-improved offensive line, and while they have several running backs for the future, they are all very young. An older leader for a season could be beneficial as the team navigates who will ultimately be the Horned Frogs top guy down the line.

Wayna Morris | Offensive Tackle | Tennessee ??

Another former 5-star in the transfer portal is offensive lineman Morris. The 6-foot-6, 312 pound Georgia native started in 12 games as a true freshman in 2019 and was a preseason first-team all-SEC selection in 2020. He did not have the year he wanted, but he is obviously still a very attractive option for several schools.

Morris released his top-3 schools on Twitter a couple of days ago - Oklahoma, Texas A&M and USC. Oklahoma seems like a good fit. They had a subpar year in Norman, and Lincoln Riley and co-OC and OL coach Bill Bedenbaugh are rumored to want to make some changes. With tackle Adrian Ealy headed to the NFL, Morris could hop into his spot. He was originally committed to FSU while Jimbo Fisher was still there, so he is very familiar with the coach.

Honorable Mention:

Ryan Hilinski | Quarterback | South Carolina → ??

James Blackman | Quarterback | Florida State ??

Ashton Pollard

Ashton Pollard

Hi! My name is Ashton Pollard, and I’ve been a college football fan as long as I can remember. My dad went to Notre Dame, so I was thrown into their wild fanbase from the start. I’m originally from Richmond, VA and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 where I was on the varsity swim team for a few years. I’m currently a graduate student at the Northwestern Medill School of Journalism specializing in sports media and living in Chicago.

Aside from college football, I’m an ND men’s and women’s basketball fan, a New York Giants fan and an Atlanta Braves fan. Feel free to ask me why I pull for seemingly random teams - I promise I have an explanation.

I’m excited to cover both ND football and college football on a national level!

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