Transfer portal winners, losers: USC, Ole Miss rebuild offenses for 2022

The transfer portal is closed for 2022. 

Sort of. The May 1 deadline for college football players to transfer and maintain eligibility for the 2021-22 season has passed, but not before a wave of change across the FBS. 

The transfer portal now goes hand-in-hand with roster management. How do programs manage incoming transfers, coaching changes, position battles and defections? It's all part of the puzzle, which now includes NIL as another mitigating factor. 

Which programs navigated that in the last cycle? Which programs struggled? Sporting News looks at the winners and losers from the transfer portal. 

Winner: USC 

Depending on who you ask, USC is either everything that is right or the epitome of wrong in the brave new FBS world.

Lincoln Riley bolted from Oklahoma to USC in the offseason, and Sooners quarterback Caleb Williams, who passed for 1,912 yards, 21 TDs and four interceptions as a freshman, followed his coach. Receiver Mario Williams also left Oklahoma, but Riley was hardly finished. 

Oregon running back Travis Dye, who rushed for 1,271 yards and 16 TDs for the Ducks last season, also transferred to USC. Auburn linebacker Romello Height and Colorado cornerback Mekhi Blackmon are projected to be defensive starters. 

USC might not be done either. Pitt's Jordan Addison, who won the Biletnikoff Award last season, might be next. That's how the Trojans will go from a 4-8 disaster season to a possible top-10 ranking.

MORE: Addison mulls transfer from Pitt 

Loser: Oklahoma

Of course, USC's good fortune in the portal came at the expense of Oklahoma, especially in the quarterback room. Riley didn't just take Williams. Malachi Nelson, a five-star quarterback in the class of 2023, flipped his commitment to USC. 

Spencer Rattler, a preseason Heisman favorite in 2021 who lost his job to Williams, transferred to South Carolina. Tight end Austin Stogner also went to the Gamecocks. A total of 13 players either entered or left via the portal, with edge rusher Noah Arinze the last to go after spring practice. 

New coach Brent Venables does bring in Ole Miss offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, and UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel should have success in Norman. 

Will this be the new normal when a coach leaves one Power 5 school for another? 

BENDER: Rattler's transfer to South Carolina worth watching

Loser: Pitt 

The Addison situation has ignited a heated debate. It's an opportunity for Addison, who caught 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 TDs in helping the Panthers win the ACC championship in 2021. He's projected to be a top-10 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. 

According to a Fox Sports, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi to call Riley to convey his displeasure. NIL offers? Allegations of tampering? 

This all has been brought out into the light, and it will be interesting to watch. Addison, who reportedly isn't in a rush to make a decision and is keeping his options open about returning to Pitt, isn't the last superstar player who will be at the center of these discussions. 

The Panthers did get former USC quarterback Kedon Slovis from the portal to replace first-rounder Kenny Pickett, so it hasn't been all bad news for Narduzzi and Co.

Winner: Alabama

The Crimson Tide are like the Dodgers with free agency in MLB. They use the transfer portal to bring in more pieces for Nick Saban’s machine. 

This year that meant three plug-and-play starters for 2022. Georgia Tech’s Jahmyr Gibbs, who ranked third in the FBS with 150.4 all-purpose yards per game, joins the Crimson Tide’s backfield. He will be a dynamic complement to Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young. 

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Jermaine Burton averaged 19.1 yards per catch for Georgia in 2021 and will be a deep threat in Alabama’s offense. Cornerback Eli Ricks was a freshman All-American at LSU. 

The Crimson Tide did have 20 players enter the portal this cycle, but the gains to the roster outweigh the losses. Alabama will continue to be a destination where potential transfers want to come to increase their value. 

MORE: Saban warns current system is 'unsustainable'

Winner: Ole Miss 

Lane Kiffin knows how to use "free agency" too. 

The Rebels had 11 players transfer to the program, including USC quarterback Jaxson Dart, who should be a fit in new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr.’s offense. He’s one of what could be five offensive starters that come from the portal. 

Zach Evans is a former five-star recruit who averaged 7.3 yards per carry at TCU the last two seasons. Jordan Watkins averaged 15.2 yards per catch at Louisville last season, and USC tight end Michael Trigg averaged 15.6 ypc. The Rebels have new pieces in what should be another high-scoring offense. 

Linebacker Troy Brown averaged 53 tackles per season with Central Michigan the last four years. 

Loser: Georgia 

The Bulldogs are coming off a national championship, but that didn’t lead to more transfers coming in. Georgia had 12 players enter the transfer portal, and quarterback JT Daniels left for West Virginia after quarterback Stetson Bennett announced his return. Burton left for Alabama.

The secondary lost starting cornerback Ameer Speed, who transferred to Michigan State. Safety Latavious Brini left for Arkansas. The Bulldogs aren’t hurting for depth given Kirby Smart’s recruiting track record, but the ratio was a bit of a surprise. 

Winner: Texas

Five-star quarterback Quinn Ewers reclassified in order to cash in on NIL opportunities in 2021. He didn’t take a snap at Ohio State, then returned home to Texas this offseason. Ewers is competing with Hudson Card for the starting job in 2022. 

Steve Sarkisian, a former Alabama offensive coordinator, also brings back tight end Jahleel Billingsley and receiver Agiye Hall. The Longhorns did have five players enter the portal on April 29 or later, but that’s part of the game when spring football ends.

Winner: Nebraska 

Scott Frost is in must-win mode at Nebraska, and former Texas quarterback Casey Thompson should help with that in the Big Ten West. Thompson finished with 2,113 yards, 24 TDs and nine interceptions with the Longhorns last season, and he gets to work with new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. 

Anthony Grant could be a gem from the junior college ranks. He rushed for 2,549 yards and 28 TDs at New Mexico Military Institute last season.

Trey Palmer caught 30 passes for 344 yards and three TDs for LSU last season. Oklahoma State transfer Hunter Anthony and North Colorado transfer Kevin Williams should help with the offensive line. 

It was a good haul for the Huskers. 

Loser: Arizona State

Arizona State had seven players leave via the portal, and that started with quarterback Jayden Daniels, who would have been a fourth-year starter for Herm Edwards. 

Linebackers Eric Gentry and DeaMontre Trayanum transferred to USC and Ohio State, respectively, and three offensive linemen are in the portal now. 

Quarterback Paul Tyson did transfer to Arizona State from Alabama, and Wyoming transfer and Xazavain Valladay did have 1,063 rushing yards and six TDs last season. 

The program remains under NCAA investigation for alleged recruiting violations, so the pressure remains on Edwards to break through in the Pac-12 South. 

Winner: Michigan 

Michigan didn’t bring in a ton of new transfers, but two solid pieces are coming in. Virginia center Victor Oluwatimi was a Rimington Trophy finalist last season, and he should shore up the interior line. Cam Goode is a 315-pound defensive tackle from UCF who managed six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in 2021. 

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh also managed to keep both quarterbacks on the roster. Cade McNamara will have to hold five-star sophomore J.J. McCarthy for another year, but for now both will be at fall camp. That’s not easy to pull off in the current landscape. 

Loser: Maryland and Virginia 

The Terps have had 23 players enter the portal since Nov. 29, 2021, which isn’t going to help Mike Lockley take the next step in the Big Ten East. 

That included three four-star recruits. Linebacker Branden Jennings, who had 23 tackles as a freshman, left for Kansas State. Tackle Demeioun Robinsion left for Penn State. 

Virginia had 20 players enter the transfer portal after Bronco Mendenhall stepped down and Tony Elliott was brought in from Clemson. These are two mid-Atlantic  teams with a fertile recruiting base, but will they be able to hold on to that talent for four years?

Author(s)
Bill Bender is a national college football writer at Sporting news. He started at Sporting News in 2007.