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The most compelling transfer portal storylines in the Pac-12

Jordan Addison
Jordan Addison (USA Today Sports Images)

The transfer portal continued to spin last offseason with no sign of slowing down. With the first college football games of 2022 kicking off this weekend, we take a look at the most compelling transfer-related storylines in each Power Five conference. Up next: the Pac-12.

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1. How good can USC's transfer additions be — and how soon?

Lincoln Riley put a lot of pressure on himself at Pac-12 Media Days when he boldly proclaimed that he came to USC to win titles, win them now and win them for a long time. If he is able to claim a conference championship in 2022, it will be because of his massive transfer portal haul.

No program in the country brought in more high-profile talent via the portal than the Trojans, including former five-star quarterback Caleb Williams, wide receivers Jordan Addison and Mario Williams and running back Travis Dye. The influx of talent will make USC one of the most fascinating teams in the country to watch this season. But will it be enough to turn a team that went just 4-8 last year into a Pac-12 title contender? The first real measuring stick should come on Sept. 10 when the Trojans travel to Stanford in Week 2.



2. Can Bo Nix lead Oregon to a conference title?

Bo Nix
Bo Nix (USA Today Sports Images)

Despite USC’s transfer haul and Utah’s conference title a year ago, the recruiting rankings would suggest that the most talented team in the Pac-12 resides in Eugene. From 2019 through 2021, former head coach Mario Cristobal signed three top-10 recruiting classes, including the nation’s No. 3 class a year ago. Those signing classes included five five-star prospects.

In Dan Lanning’s first season replacing Cristobal, the Ducks bring most of the talent back from a team that beat Ohio State on the road and for a while looked like a College Football Playoff contender last season. But the big question mark is quarterback after the graduation of Anthony Brown. Lanning opted to bring in Bo Nix, a three-year starter at Auburn, via the portal. While Nix hasn’t been named the starter for the team’s season-opening showdown against Georgia yet, he’s widely expected to start.

Nix was inconsistent during his Auburn career, at times looking brilliant and at times struggling with decision-making and ball security. However, it’s worth pointing out that Lanning should have a pretty good idea of what Nix is capable of, having coached against him each of the last three seasons while on the staff at Georgia. If Nix can find some more consistency, he could have the type of talent around him that can not only challenge for the conference title but a CFP berth.



3. How will Washington State QB Cameron Ward adjust to Power Five football?

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward (USA Today Sports Images)

Cougar fans are excited about their team’s offense in 2022 thanks in large part to a trio of new faces. Jake Dickert took over for the fired Nick Rolovich during the offseason and has pledged to implement a “Coug Raid” offense similar to Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” philosophy. Quarterbacking that pass-happy unit will be Cameron Ward, and his primary pass-catcher could be Robert Ferrell, both of whom transferred from FCS Incarnate Word.

Ward and Ferrell both put up massive numbers last season. Ward threw for 4,648 yards, 47 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 13 games. Ferrell caught 74 passes for 815 yards and nine scores. The question, of course, is how much jumping all the way to the Pac-12 will impact their productivity. Ward, in particular, impressed during the team’s spring game, but it’s impossible to know how he will handle facing the likes of Wisconsin, Oregon and Utah in live game action until we see it.



4. Which other transfer quarterbacks will live up to the hype?

Michael Penix
Michael Penix (USA Today Sports Images)

No power conference saw as much turnover behind center as the Pac-12. In addition to USC, Oregon and Washington State, four other programs brought in quarterbacks from the transfer portal that are expected to start their season-openers, meaning more than half the conference will start a transfer signal-caller. That list includes Jayden de Laura at Arizona, Emory Jones at Arizona State, Jack Plummer at California and Michael Penix at Washington.

Each of those four players arrives with previous Power Five starting experience but some question marks. De Laura earned Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honors last season when he started 11 games at Washington State. He threw for 2,798 yards and 23 touchdowns. He’ll need to cut down on the turnovers, though, after throwing 13 interceptions in 16 career games. Jones comes to Arizona State from Florida, where he put up solid numbers last season but struggled to lead his team to wins. Plus, Jones padded his stats with big performances against Vanderbilt and Samford and he was expected to lose his starting job to Anthony Richardson this year. Plummer started 13 games across three seasons for Purdue but lost his job to Aidan O’Connell after four games a year ago. Penix helped lead Indiana to one of the best seasons in school history in 2020 and was garnering some dark-horse preseason Heisman hype prior to last season, but he didn’t appear to fully recover from an ACL injury suffered at the end of the 2020 campaign and struggled mightily last fall. Huskie fans will hope that a reunion between Penix and new Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer, who coached Penix as Indiana’s offensive coordinator in 2019, will bring the best out of the fifth-year senior.


5. Can Arizona State's transfer additions save Herm Edwards' job?

Herm Edwards
Herm Edwards (USA Today Sports Images)

Any coaching hot seat list in the Pac-12 is going to start with Herm Edwards. The former NFL head coach has led the Sun Devils to the postseason in each of the three full years he’s been on the sidelines, but an NCAA investigation into recruiting infractions committed by the program has led to turmoil this offseason. Five full-time assistant coaches left the staff (including both the offensive and defensive coordinators), a drove of players transferred out (including starting quarterback Jayden Daniels) and the Sun Devils only signed six high school prospects in the class of 2022.

Despite all that, Edwards will have a chance to save his job with a strong season. And if he can manage that, it will be due to the transfers he added to the roster to replace the departures. Jones is the headliner, but Arizona State also added several other players who are expected to play significant roles right away, including former Wyoming running back Xazavian Valladay, Vanderbilt transfer wide receiver Cam Johnson and former Miami defensive lineman Nesta Jade Silvera.