On December 5th the first-ever transfer portal window opened for College Football. This was a step taken to help control the madness that is the transfer portal by only allowing players to enter the portal database between set dates.
The winter window lasted from December 5th to January 18th. Meaning the deadline for players to decide to leave their school is over for the time being. There will however be another window open for 15 days in May.
We saw how teams who use the portal to their advantage can completely flip their program last season when USC went from 4-8 to 11-3 in a single season.
But for every team that uses the portal well, there is a team that gets burned by it. So, let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers of the winter transfer portal window.
TRANSFER PORTAL WINNERS & LOSERS
Winner: Sam Hartman
Sam Hartman is one of the best signal callers in the country. In his five seasons at Wake Forrest, he amassed over 12,000 passing yards with 110 touchdowns. While elevating the Deamon Deacons football program to new heights. He led them to bowl victories and two, top-10 AP Poll appearances in the last two seasons.
However, he has gone relatively under the radar in doing so. Despite being in the ACC, Wake Forest is not known as a top football program and doesn’t get much national exposure.
Deciding to take his talents to Norte Dame, Harman has secured plenty of national exposure and placed himself front and center of one of the largest fanbases in College Football. And whether worthy or not, the Fighting Irish draw the College Football world’s attention every year.
Notre Dame has plenty of beatable teams on its 2023 schedule. Games where Sam Hartman should shine and show off his elite, NFL-worthy talent. But he will also be under center against Ohio State, USC, and Clemson.
Currently believed to be a late, day 2 pick in the 2024 draft. Sam Hartman’s excellent use of the transfer portal has put him in a position to elevate that draft grade.
Loser: Arkansas Razorbacks
With every team that completely flips its roster through the portal, you have a team that gets completely gutted. During this portal window, the Arkansas Razorbacks are a team that has been completely gutted.
The last two seasons for the Razorbacks have given the program a sense of hope. Head coach Sam Pittman has brought two straight winning seasons to Fayetteville and ended the team’s five-year bowl win drought.
But just as the future was looking bright for the Razorbacks, the transfer portal opened and stole a plethora of talent from them.
Seven starters from last season have entered the portal. Defensive lineman Jordan Domineck, who had 7.5 sacks last season is leaving the team. Along with key players in the secondary Jalen Catalon, Myles Slusher, and Simeon Blair. Despite Catalon and Slusher’s injury concerns, their new destinations (Texas and Colorado) prove that Arkansas still lost some top-tier talent.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Razorbacks had two surprising players enter the portal, wide receiver Ketron Jackson and tight end Trey Knox. That’s nearly 600 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns worth of production gone from last season.
The Razorbacks were able to add some depth to their roster through the portal, however, it isn’t enough to cover their losses.
This is the second time in as many years that the Razorbacks have felt the brunt of the transfer portal. Sam Pittman will have a tough time installing a good culture in Arkansas key players are constantly getting poached.
Winner: Florida State
After the unraveling of Florida State’s football program over the past several years, Mike Norvell and his staff have turned things around.
They won 10 games this season for the first time since 2016 and had just their second winning season since 2017.
They achieved this with the help of previous transferees Johnny Wilson, Mycah Pittman, Trey Benson, and Jared Verse. And now after their efforts in the portal this season the Seminoles are a sleeper team to make the College Football Playoff.
They secured the services of All-ACC cornerback Fentrell Cypress II, the 8th-ranked player in the portal according to ESPN. He’s an All-American caliber player who makes the Seminoles’ defense a solidified lockdown cornerback.
Braden Fiske amassed 12 tackles for losses and 6 sacks this season at Western Michigan. He and Miami transfer Darrell Jackson Jr will make good additions to the defensive line.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Seminoles added a pair of playmaking tight ends, Jaheim Bell from South Carolina and Kyle Morlock from the Division 2 program, Shorter. Not only have they given Jordan Travis options in the air, but they also added 12-game UTEP starter Jeremiah Byers to the offensive line for more protection.
Despite losing a few key recruitment battles, Florida State is filling gaps with seasoned and experienced players through the transfer portal.
Loser: Oklahoma State
No Power-5 team lost as much production through the transfer portal as the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Their biggest loss comes at the most important position on the field as four-year starting quarterback Spencer Sanders decided to enter the portal. But on top of that, starting running back Dominic Richardson also entered the portal.
But those losses, for as big as they are, are arguably less debilitating than the wide receiver position. The Cowboys’ top-4 pass catchers have transferred out of Oklahoma State. Those receivers accounted for 152 receptions, over 2,200 yards, and 12 touchdowns last season. Leaving a big void at the position for whoever the starting quarterback will be next season.
The defensive side of the ball has not gone untouched by the portal either. You could argue that the Cowboys have lost their best edge rusher, Linebacker, and defensive back.
Despite his injury worries, Trace Ford is a huge loss, especially when he commits to Bedlam Rival Oklahoma…
Standout Linebacker Mason Cobb and defensive back Thomas Harper are also in the transfer portal.
After a promising start to the 2022 season, the Cowboys struggled down the stretch and finished 7-6 with a bowl game loss to Wisconsin. But Mike Gundys’ hopes of bringing the team back to the 2021 record of 12-2 have been heavily damaged by players defecting to the portal.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys will look very different in 2023, and it doesn’t look for the best.
To be successful in the modern-day world of College Football, programs need to learn and adapt to NIL deals and make good use of the transfer portal. And Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins have done just that for the second consecutive year.
Running back Zach Charbonnet and wide receiver Jake Bobo were both pivotal to what UCLA achieved last season. Both of whom were acquired by the Bruins in the transfer portal before the season.
However, both have left the program along with long-term starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. But UCLA has used the portal to find immediate replacements that are ready to be plugged in.
Collin Schlee is a top-10 transfer-ranked quarterback who has arrived in Los Angeles from Kent State. He should be the day-one starter under center.
While running back Carson Steele from Ball State and wideout Kyle Ford from USC will fill the gaps left by Charbonnet and Bobo.
Slightly lesser-known names will also provide UCLA with depth and talent on both sides of the ball. J. Michael Sturdivant at wide receiver will help the offense. While pass rusher Jake Heimlicher and defensive back Jordan Anderson from Penn and Bowling Green will help the defense.
UCLA may not have landed a top, marketable name through the portal. But, the players and pieces that they have picked up are crucial to continuing the resurrection of UCLA and important to keep their momentum high heading into next season.
Loser: Florida Gators
When big programs move on to new head coaches, there will always be mass changes in personnel and culture. Often leading to many players opting to leave. However, the Billy Napier era in Gainsville is seeing more departures than they can keep up with.
The Gators’ offseason started shakily when Anthony Richardson decided to leave for the NFL draft. Then the Jalen Kitna situation happened, and the Gators’ quarterback depth was exposed in the Las Vegas Bowl vs Oregon State.
Then through the course of December things got worse as players continued to enter the transfer portal.
Starting offensive linemen O’Cyrus Torrence and Richard Gouraige declared for the NFL draft. So the Gators’ were hoping to turn to Ethan White and Michael Tarquin to keep some stability up front. However, both White and Tarquin entered the portal, leaving Florida with just one returning starter on the offensive line next season.
Five defensive backs that were listed on the depth chart in Florida’s season finale against Florida State have transferred out. The exodus includes Donovan McMillon, Tre’Vez Johnson, and former four-star recruits Kamar Wilcoxson and Jordan Young.
Billy Napier was able to get a few players to replace these losses in the portal, however, depth across the board for the Gators is concerning.
They also lost in the quarterback carousel. When Hudson Card, Devin Lear, and Spencer Sanders were all still without a home, the Gators opted for Graham Mertz from Wisconsin. This was ok considering they believed that 5-star quarterback Jaden Rashada would be on the team next year, and probably start day one. However, the Gators somehow missed out on him due to NIL complications.
Losing 22 scholarship players is going to seriously sting the Gators next season. They’re going to struggle with depth and experience next season. And a third consecutive losing season looks likely in Gainsville.
This article was written by our new writer Ross Love. Thanks to Ross for contributing this article and you can catch more of his work here in the future.
Feature Image Credit: 247Sports