The five biggest transfer portal winners in the SEC
The transfer portal has continued to become a bigger and bigger part of how college football coaches construct their rosters. Here are the five SEC programs that bolstered their 2022 teams the most via the transfer portal this offseason.
Judging solely by additions, LSU could be in the running for the most impressive transfer haul in the SEC. But the Tigers also lost a lot of talent to the portal following Ed Orgeron’s departure, including their starting quarterback and arguably the best cornerback in the conference.
Still, Brian Kelly hit the portal hard after arriving from Notre Dame and did a solid job of restocking the roster. The most noteworthy addition was Jayden Daniels, a three-year starter at quarterback for Arizona State who looks more and more likely to start behind center following Monday’s news that sixth-year senior Myles Brennan has left the team.
But there are several other newcomers who look like they might start right away, as well: offensive linemen Miles Frazier (FIU) and Tre’Mond Shorts (East Tennessee State) as well as defensive backs Sevyn Banks (Ohio State) and Jarrick Bernard-Converse (Oklahoma State).
Former Arkansas defensive backs Greg Brooks Jr. and Joe Foucha both have starting experience in the SEC, as does former Missouri defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo. Kelly will likely need some time to get LSU back to contending for SEC and national championships, but the roster should have fewer holes than a year ago thanks to his work in the portal.
The Razorbacks enjoyed a breakout season in 2021 due in part to a roster loaded with seniors. While quite a few of the key playmakers from that team have since moved on, Sam Pittman did a nice job of replacing them with proven players through the portal.
Arkansas looks to have added at least three surefire starters in positions of need. Drew Sanders comes to Fayetteville from Alabama and should immediately step into the starting linebacker spot vacated by Grant Morgan. Former Oklahoma wide receiver Jadon Haselwood started to show why he was a five-star recruit out of high school when he caught 39 passes for 399 yards and six touchdowns last season. He won’t replace Treylon Burks’ production at wideout, but can help. And Dwight McGlothern emerged as a promising cornerback when he started six games for LSU last season.
LSU transfer defensive end Landon Jackson and former Georgia defensive back Latavius Brini have SEC experience and should play regular roles, as well. Throw in Georgia Tech transfer Jordan Domineck on the defensive line and Arkansas should have enough talent to avoid a drop-off following last season’s nine-win campaign.
3. South Carolina
The Gamecock offense struggled mightily during Shane Beamer’s first year in charge of the program, ranking No. 98 nationally in scoring. So, Beamer revamped virtually every skill position during the offseason via the portal.
The headliner of South Carolina’s transfer class is former Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler. The former five-star recruit is undeniably talented. While he has struggled at times with consistency, he’s a clear upgrade over the three quarterbacks the Gamecocks used last season.
Rattler brought tight end Austin Stogner with him from Norman. Stogner caught 40 passes for 588 yards and six touchdowns during his first two college seasons. He’s not the only new toy at tight end, either, as the Gamecocks added three-time all-SOCON transfer Nate Adkins from East Tennessee State.
At wide receiver, South Carolina brought in a pair of highly productive playmakers in former James Madison standout Antwane Wells and Arkansas State transfer Corey Rucker. Rucker was a freshman All-American last season while Wells set James Madison single-season records with 83 receptions for 1,250 yards and 15 touchdowns. Oh by the way, the Gamecocks also added Christian Beal-Smith at running back. Beal-Smith led Wake Forest with 604 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground last season.
Beamer likely still has a ways to go to get South Carolina on par with the top programs in the SEC in terms of talent. But his transfer portal haul should at least make the Gamecocks more exciting to watch in his second season.
While Nick Saban has been known to grumble about transfer players being immediately eligible at their new schools, he has successfully used the portal to fill holes on the Crimson Tide roster the past few years. It looks like this year will be more of the same.
Alabama landed arguably the best non-quarterback in the portal in Eli Ricks. Ricks earned third-team All-American honors as a freshman in 2020 and is projected to be selected in the first round of next spring’s NFL Draft. The Crimson Tide also nabbed a pair of transfers at receiver to try to replace Jamison Williams and John Metchie. Jermaine Burton has shown that he can create big plays down the field during two years as a starter at Georgia, while Tyler Harrell caught 18 passes for 523 yards and six touchdowns at Louisville last season.
The duo likely won’t be Metchie and Williams, but they help patch up what looked like one of the weakest spots on Alabama’s roster entering the offseason. Saban also got defending Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young a new toy on offense in dynamic running back Jahmyr Gibbs. The Georgia Tech transfer was one of the best receiving backs in college football last season, catching 35 passes for 465 yards and two touchdowns.
Alabama had plenty of talent coming back from last season’s roster, but the transfer portal additions have helped make the Tide the overwhelming No. 1 team in the preseason polls.
1. Ole Miss
Lane Kiffin backed up his self-given “Portal King” nickname this offseason. The Rebels lost a lot of production from last year’s 10-win team that made the Sugar Bowl, most notably quarterback Matt Corral. But Kiffin brought in a whopping 17 transfers in an effort to keep the momentum rolling into 2022.
The one that got the most publicity was quarterback Jaxson Dart. The former highly-rated recruit appeared in six games as a true freshman at USC last season before hitting the portal when Caleb Williams followed Lincoln Riley to Los Angeles. Dart is still competing with Luke Altmeyer for the starting job, but if he can win that battle, he should have a chance to put up big numbers in Kiffin’s offense.
While Dart has gotten most of the press, the Rebels landed a long list of other talented offensive players from the portal. The running back duo of Zach Evans (TCU) and Ulysses Bentley IV (SMU) should make for a solid one-two punch. Wideout Jordan Watkins caught 35 passes for 531 yards and four touchdowns at Louisville last season. Tight end Michael Trigg, another USC transfer, was hyped as the standout performer of Ole Miss spring practices.
Perhaps most important, Kiffin also added several proven producers to a defense that ranked 117th out of 130 FBS teams in points allowed last season. Safeties Ladarius Tennison (Auburn), Isheem Young (Iowa State) and Dashaun Jerkins (Vanderbilt) all have Power Five starting experience. Linebacker Troy Brown was a three time All-MAC selection at Central Michigan. Defensive tackle JJ Pegues (Auburn) and defensive end Khari Coleman (TCU) should bolster the defensive front.
While getting so many new faces to gel could be a challenge and replacing Corral’s production seems unlikely, Kiffin’s transfer portal haul ensured that the excitement around the Ole Miss football program won’t go anywhere and should set the Rebels up to be a more balanced team in 2022.