NCAA football transfer portal: Big commits, top recruits, what’s ahead

The college football transfer portal opened at midnight on Monday. Since then, more than 1,500 players entered the portal to move on to a new school.

Among those players are quarterbacks DJ Uiagalelei, Riley Leonard, Dillon Gabriel and others. Also on the move are a one-time No. 1 overall recruit in former Texas A&M defensive lineman Walter Nolen and one of the SEC’s top rushers, Trevor Etienne.

There is a lot to be decided as well. Only five of the top-ranked transfer QBs have committed to a new school and the big names are lining up official visits and weighing their options.

Here’s what you need to know after the first few days of the portal being open:

Jump to a section:
Teams hit the hardest
| Best commits
QB updates | Recruitments to watch
What’s next?

Schools hit the hardest

Texas A&M Aggies

The Aggies have lost 12 players to the transfer portal since November, and the majority of them have been big names.

None was bigger than defensive tackle Walter Nolen, the No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class, who entered the portal Wednesday. Nolen had 37 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks this season, and is a big loss up front for the incoming staff.

Former five-star defensive lineman LT Overton also entered the portal Wednesday, the second top-10 recruit from the Aggies’ No. 1 ranked 2022 recruiting class to do so. Overton didn’t put up big numbers this season, but he leaves a big hole with his departure.

In addition to the defensive linemen, the Aggies also saw true freshman offensive lineman Chase Bisontis, a 12-game starter at right tackle, quarterback Max Johnson, tight end Jake Johnson and receiver Raymond Cottrell enter the portal.

Combine those players with the 32 Aggies in the portal during the 2022 offseason and the program has lost a ton of talent over two seasons.

Oregon State Beavers

The Beavers lost head coach Jonathan Smith to Michigan State, which launched a flurry of key players entering the portal.

Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei put his name in, as did freshman quarterback Aidan Chiles, who was a top recruit in the 2023 class. The incoming staff will have to completely rebuild the quarterback room after those departures.

Cornerback Jermod McCoy was tied on the team for most interceptions this past season with two. He had 31 tackles and seven pass breakups.

He’s joined in the portal by safety Akili Arnold, who also had two interceptions this season with six pass breakups and was fourth on the team in tackles with 60. Arnold’s brother, linebacker Easton Mascarenas-Arnold, is also in the portal and is one of the bigger losses for the team on defense.

Mascarenas-Arnold led the Pac-12 in tackles with 107, and had 6.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 2 interceptions.

Vanderbilt Commodores

It can sometimes be difficult for smaller programs to manage the portal when their star players get poached by blue bloods. That could be an issue with Vanderbilt as 17 players have entered since November.

It includes quarterbacks AJ Swann and Ken Seals, who combined to throw for 2,640 yards, 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season.

They’re joined by the team’s top three receivers in Will Sheppard, who had 684 yards and eight touchdowns, freshman London Humphreys, who had 439 yards and four touchdowns, and Jayden McGowan, who hauled in 383 yards this season.

Running back Patrick Smith, who was second on the team in rushing with 327 yards and two touchdowns, also departed.

Defensively, Vanderbilt lost safety De’Rickey Wright, who had two interceptions and three pass breakups, as well as defensive end Nate Clifton, who had 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks this season.

That is a lot of production for a school like Vanderbilt to replace in one offseason.

Best commits so far

We haven’t seen many of the top-tier names come off the board yet, but there has been early movement that should impact teams next season.

Cal got a commitment from one of the top linebackers in the portal in UC Davis’ Teddye Buchanan. The Bears had a need on defense after finishing near the bottom of most categories in 2023, and Buchanan will give them a versatile and experienced linebacker who has produced over the past few seasons. He had 3 interceptions, 5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 71 tackles overall in 2023 and should be an immediate impact player next season.

Missouri had an excellent season in 2023, finishing 10-2 overall and No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Coach Eli Drinkwitz has done a good job building the foundation of the roster and is at a point where the Tigers can add a few pieces from the portal to help fill holes.

This week, they got a commitment from Clemson corner transfer Toriano Pride Jr. As a true freshman in 2022, Pride had 22 tackles, five pass breakups and one interception. His numbers dipped this season, but he should be a help in the secondary next season and was a good addition to a team on the rise.

Notre Dame made a splash in the portal last year, getting quarterback Sam Hartman. While not as big a name, the Irish got some skill in FIU receiver Kris Mitchell.

Mitchell led the team this season in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns with 1,118 yards and seven touchdowns. He averaged 17.47 yards per catch. Notre Dame’s leading receiver this past season in yards was Chris Tyree with 484 and the leading receiver in touchdowns was Jaden Greathouse with five, so Mitchell is a welcome addition.

Staying on the offensive side, Louisville started the QB dominoes falling, landing Texas Tech transfer Tyler Shough. The Cardinals are looking to replace Jack Plummer and the combination of Shough and head coach Jeff Brohm seems like a solid match.

Shough has experience in a pass-happy offense and is fully capable of having success there.

Kentucky also landed a new QB this week. The Wildcats got a commitment from former ESPN 300 quarterback Brock Vandagriff. He is a former top-40 recruit, but hasn’t yet shown what he can do at the college level having sat behind a few quarterbacks at Georgia.

The Wildcats are looking to replace Devin Leary, who transferred in prior to last season.

Minnesota was also able to add a top quarterback in Max Brosmer, who transferred from New Hampshire. Brosmer isn’t a well-known name, but threw for an FCS-best 3,464 yards, 29 touchdowns and 5 interceptions this season.

With starter Athan Kaliakmanis entering the transfer portal, Brosmer will fill a big need for the Gophers for the 2024 season.

Where the QBs stand

While Shough, Vandagriff and Brosmer are off the board, there are still some highly sought-after quarterbacks on the market.

It might lead to a game of musical chairs amongst teams with a limited number of quarterbacks available and several signal-callers being courted by multiple schools.

Oklahoma transfer Dillon Gabriel has been linked to Oregon, which would be an outstanding addition as Bo Nix has run out of eligibility. Gabriel can provide the Oregon staff with an experienced, highly productive quarterback and help the team’s transition to the Big Ten if that’s where he lands.

Oregon could also be a potential landing spot for UCLA transfer Dante Moore. He was a five-star recruit in the 2023 class, and while he had an up-and-down season as a true freshman in 2023, he is still considered one of the top players available.

Miami, which saw Tyler Van Dyke enter the portal, and Ohio State, which saw starter Kyle McCord leave, are also in the mix for Moore. From Detroit, Michigan and Michigan State, however, seem like logical leaders for him.

A source told ESPN that Florida State is looking to add a quarterback, but wants to get one that fits. The Seminoles feel as though they have built a good culture in the locker room and have a foundation they don’t want to mess with.

With that, Cameron Ward and DJ Uiagalelei are the names most linked with FSU. Uiagalelei had also been linked to Louisville, but with Shough’s commitment to the Cardinals, it’s not known if Uiagalelei would want to go into a situation with another quarterback given his limited eligibility remaining.

Ward has had a ton of schools show interest, including Oregon, Washington, Ohio State and a handful of others.

Uiagalelei was joined in the portal by another Oregon State quarterback, true freshman Aidan Chiles. Former Beavers coach Jonathan Smith is now at Michigan State and all signs have pointed to Chiles reuniting with Smith to play for the Spartans.

Chiles’ father told ESPN that they had not made a decision as of earlier this week, however, and he is still uncommitted.

Duke transfer Riley Leonard is visiting Notre Dame this week and the Irish seem like the favorite to land him at this point.

Recruitments to watch

Walter Nolen, DT

Nolen was the No. 1 prospect in the 2022 class who signed with Texas A&M, and there aren’t many teams that would pass up the opportunity at getting a big, versatile defensive tackle to put in the middle of their line.

He is just a sophomore and wouldn’t be a short-term rental, so his value is through the roof. He had 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks this season along with 37 total tackles. He can put pressure on the quarterback and help in the run game, so Nolen should be one of the more highly sought-after players in this cycle.

Nolen’s father, Walter Nolen Sr., told ESPN that Nolen hasn’t yet figured out what schools will make his final list and they are anticipating plenty of schools to get in the mix. Nolen Jr. is visiting Oregon this weekend. Tennessee and Michigan were involved in his high school recruitment, as were Alabama, Georgia and LSU.

Trey Moore, LB/Edge

From UTSA, Moore is following in the footsteps of other smaller school players who produced at a high level and are now looking to make their mark at bigger programs.

A 6-foot-3, 235-pound redshirt sophomore, Moore will have two more years of eligibility. He started 14 games during his redshirt freshman season in 2022 and was a Conference USA all-freshman team selection. He had 17.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks along with an interception and three pass breakups this season.

Texas, LSU and Alabama have been mentioned as possible destinations, according to a source.

The Longhorns ranked No. 32 among all FBS teams in sacks, No. 7 in quarterback pressures and No. 8 in disrupted dropbacks. A lot of those pressures were created by players who will be returning to the roster next season. So adding in Moore would be a huge bonus to the Texas staff and would make the defense that much more potent in getting to the quarterback if that’s where he ends up.

Trevor Etienne, RB

The Florida sophomore running back entered the transfer portal Thursday and is one of the best running backs there.

He has rushed for more than 700 yards in each of the past two seasons and did so while splitting carries with Montrell Johnson. Etienne is the younger brother of former Clemson running back, and current Jacksonville Jaguars running back, Travis Etienne.

Trevor chose Florida over Clemson and LSU out of high school and those two schools could try a second time to sign him. But it seems as though Georgia could be a landing spot for Etienne.

Georgia running backs Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards are both seniors, so adding Etienne, who has had success in the SEC, would fill a future hole for the staff.

Big question for next week

Which big quarterback commits first?

There is a delicate balance coaches are trying to navigate by showing interest in a transfer. They have to keep the incoming high school prospects happy and also can’t take a commitment from a quarterback too soon if it’s not the first option.

Once quarterbacks start making their decisions, it could also trigger a whole other set of QB transfers, whether from unhappy signal-callers who will sit behind those transfers or from other coaches who missed on their quarterback target still have a need to fill.

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