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Transfer Portal 2020: Ranking the Top 10 Transfers of the Off-Season (So Far)

D'Eriq King to Miami
The recent invention of the transfer portal has made the transfer market as active and important as ever in modern college football. Just look at this past Playoff: three of the four quarterbacks in the field were transfers from other schools and the Heisman winner, Joe Burrow, was as well. There aren't quite as many major names on the move in this year's transfer market, but still a number of guys who will make an impact in 2020 and beyond. I decided to rank the ten most ready to make that impact, but don't be surprised if this list changes the closer we get to September. There are sure to be even more players hitting the portal in the spring and summer, once position battles become clearer.

1. D'Eriq King, QB, Houston to Miami (FL)
D'Eriq King is a reminder that even the best looking quarterback-coach pairings on paper don't always work out that way in practice. King put up over 3,500 yards of total offense and recorded 50 total touchdowns with Houston in 2018, and even greater things were expected this season with the arrival of air raid disciple Dana Holgorsen as head coach. I was so confident in King that he was a Heisman Finalist in my "College Football Preview 2019". However, he never seemed to be on the same page with Holgorsen and within a few weeks of the 2019 campaign it came out that he was going to redshirt and transfer. It's still not completely clear what went down between King and the Cougars to force his transfer, but what is clear is that he is an extremely notable get for Miami, who won the sweepstakes to land him. The senior is a tremendous athlete with a huge arm who should be an immediate upgrade over the Hurricanes' quarterback situation this past fall. King will be the projected starter Day One for the 'Canes, but it will be fascinating to see how he works out in Coral Gables. New Miami OC Rhett Lashlee and him seem like an ideal fit, and there is talent on this Hurricane offense. With that being said, King is still technically making the jump from Group of Five to Power Five, and learning a new system. If things work out, this is an All-Conference level talent, who could prove to be a major win for Manny Diaz and staff.

2. K.J. Costello, QB, Stanford to Mississippi State
Mike Leach's hiring at Mississippi State made waves around the college football world this off-season, and now the QB guru has a new signal-caller to play with. K.J. Costello was a multi-year starter in Palo Alto, but struggled through an injury-plagued 2019 and watched the Cardinal turn to youngster Davis Mills. With Mills clearly the future at the position, Costello decided to move on, giving the Bulldogs a proven QB who has played in big games. Moving from the Pac-12 to the SEC West is a difficult transition, but playing in a Leach offense helps. His quarterbacks have consistently put up huge numbers at every one of his stops, including Anthony Gordon this past season. The key for Costello will be staying healthy, but you could argue playing with the skill position Miss. State currently has is an upgrade for the steady veteran.

3. Jamie Newman, QB, Wake Forest to Georgia
While Georgia has seen a number of players hit the transfer portal over the last few seasons, they also have got some notable wins, top on that list being Jamie Newman. After splitting time in 2018 with Wake Forest, Newman was the clear starter for the Demon Deacons this past fall, putting up 32 total touchdowns and over 3,300 yards of total offense. He opted to transfer in the hopes of competing for the Playoff and National Titles, and UGA certainly gives him an opportunity to do that. Not only will he have plenty of young talent to work with at receiver, namely sophomore George Pickens, but the Bulldogs also brought in Todd Monken to run their offense. Monken is well respected as a passing game specialist, and he has spent significant time in the NFL. If Newman can acclimate to the speed of SEC ball, he could actually be an upgrade in some ways over three-year starter Jake Fromm.

4. Quincy Roche, DE, Temple to Miami (FL)
Coming out of high school, Quincy Roche was a relatively unknown three-star prospect set to stay in his native Northeast and play at Temple. A few years later, Roche is one of the nation's most underrated pass rushers, coming off a season in which he finished with 13 sacks, tied for seventh nationally. He was particularly unblockable in the month of November, finishing off with ten sacks in the month. Roche opted to enter the graduate transfer market, hoping for more exposure as he finishes up his collegiate career and looks ahead to the NFL. He was yet another big transfer portal victory for Diaz and this Hurricanes staff, and they have to be thrilled at pairing him next to one of the country's top young defensive ends, Gregory Rosseau. Roche is another guy that might see a little bit of a jump up in competition, but the American Athletic is essentially a sixth Power Five league, and the numbers speak for themselves. If the 'Canes aren't near the top in the ACC with him, Rosseau and former UCLA transfer Jaelen Phillips, I'd be shocked.

5. Cade Mays, OL, Georgia to Tennessee
A former five-star recruit, Cade Mays has been a staple on Georgia's offensive line in his two seasons in Athens, playing in 28 games and starting 18 of them. At 6'6", 318 pounds, Mays is an ideal offensive guard in the SEC, and his transfer came as a notable surprise to some not plugged into the wacky situation for him and the Bulldogs. To begin with, Mays lost his OL coach when Sam Pittman decided to take the head coaching gig at Arkansas. Yet, that is not the only issue, with a bizarre situation occurring involving Mays' dad. While at a UGA dinner in 2017, Kevin Mays' pinky finger became stuck in a folding chair, resulting in him losing much of the finger. While that didn't stop Cade from following through with his commitment to the 'Dawgs, legal questions surrounding Kevin and UGA have led to a disconnect between the family and school. As a result, Cade hit the transfer portal early in the off-season, ending up at Tennessee, his hometown school. It remains to be seen whether he'll be able to gain immediate eligibility for 2020, but if he does, the Volunteers get an instant starter who can play at multiple spots on the O-Line. While this is a difficult situation for the Mays family, Tennessee has to be pumped at adding such a proven O-Linemen to their roster, a guy who could be getting even better, as he grows and matures.

6. Jake Bentley, QB, South Carolina to Utah
Jake Bentley's decision to transfer away from South Carolina didn't come as much of a shock, but his destination? That was certainly a surprise. Bentley is another transfer QB who is a former multi-year starter, and still possibly an NFL guy. After a strong end to his 2016 campaign he began the past three seasons as the starter and had some moments, including throwing for 27 TD's in 2018. However, turnovers began to be a real problem for Bentley in his time with the Gamecocks and an injury early in 2019 threw a wrench into the situation. Freshman backup Ryan Hilinski impressed in his time as starter, forcing Bentley's hand to go elsewhere. In the end, he chose Utah, a place where he had no obvious ties and very far away from his roots in the Southeast. It does make sense in terms of playing time; with Ute QB Tyler Huntley graduating, Bentley looks like he'll be able to come in right away and start. But, he isn't an ideal fit in a very old-fashioned Utah offense, and there are notable questions for the Utes at the receiver position. I still think it is notable any time a QB who has thrown 55 touchdowns in his career heads elsewhere, but will it work out? Only time will tell.

7. Antonio Alfano, DL, Alabama to Colorado
While the first six names on this list are guys who have played years of college football and have a healthy amount of experience, Antonio Alfano has not played a single snap at the FBS level. However, that doesn't mean that he doesn't have the chance to be a real impact transfer in the future for Colorado. Alfano was a five-star recruit coming out of New Jersey who was one of the major gets for Nick Saban and Alabama in the 2019 cycle. But, things didn't work out in Tuscaloosca, with Alfano ending up skipping practices and class in September. There are reports that it was because of a severe sickness to his ailing grandmother, but Alabama is also sometimes a very difficult place to adjust to for 18 and 19-year old kids. The hope here is that a change of scenery will work wonders for the defensive linemen, and he is immediately the most talented pass rusher on this Colorado roster. Alfano was certainly looking forward to learning under former Alabama and Georgia assistant Mel Tucker, a well-respected defensive mind, but Tucker just recently accepted the Michigan State head coaching job. Whoever steps into the role won't have it easy when it comes to the young defender, but it's obvious that his talent could pay major dividends for this team.

8. Brenton Cox, LB, Georgia to Florida
Brenton Cox is another former Georgia Bulldog who opted to head elsewhere in the SEC East, joining Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators. Much like a lot of other names on this list, Cox is a former high profile recruit that struggled to adjust to life at this original school. He did flash some potential in 2018, with 20 tackles and one sack, but had a turbulent off-season. Cox was arrested in April for marijuana possession and after a string of locker room issues, UGA decided it was time to move on. After sitting out all of 2019, Cox is now eligible looking ahead to 2020, but will have to solve some of the personality problems that popped up in Athens. If he can, he can certainly fill a similar role to what Jonathan Greenard did this past season for the Gators. Greenard was a Louisville transfer who, when healthy, was one of the most dominant pass rushers in the SEC (9.5 sacks, 15.5 TFL). Cox has a very similar skill set to Greenard, and he could become quite a force under the tutelage of coordinator Todd Grantham.

9. Damon Hazelton, WR, Virginia Tech to Missouri
With his decision to transfer for his final year of school, Damon Hazelton will be joining his third team in the collegiate ranks. Hazelton began his career at Ball State before making the jump to Virginia Tech, where he had numbers of 102 catches, 1,329 yards and 16 touchdowns in two seasons. Those are rock-solid numbers and the thing is, Hazelton seems like the type of talent who could have done even more in the right offense. He has to be hoping that the right offensive fit exists at Missouri, who really needed another impressive receiving talent. New head coach Eli Drinkwitz has run explosive offenses at multiple stops during his coaching career, most recently at Appalachian State, and will figure out ways to get Hazelton involved. The big question for the former Hokie will be who his quarterback is. Kelly Bryant is set to graduate after a one-season loan in Columbia, leaving the position wide open.

10. Ricky Slade, RB, Penn State to TBD
There were a lot of great candidates for this No. 10 slot, but I think the player that has the most potential to succeed wherever he ends up is former Penn State running back Ricky Slade. Yet another former five-star recruit coming out of high school, Slade looked like he was the next in a line of great PSU running backs, totaling 214 yards in limited action as a freshman. With Miles Sanders off to the NFL, the assumption was that he was going to be the feature back in the Nittany Lion offense. But, the addition of Noah Cain and Devyn Ford as true freshmen, along with the flourishing of Journey Brown, left Slade as the odd man out in a four running back committee. Slade was still able to show flashes, with 257 yards and six touchdowns, but wasn't able to make a large enough impact. His decision to transfer was not at all a surprise with all other backs set to return. His next school is unclear at this point; could he follow former Penn State OC Ricky Rahne to Old Dominion? He is a Virginia native, after all. Or could he stay in the Power Five ranks, going somewhere where he can still get carries while playing at a high level? Either way, I think he is the type of prospect who will really flourish once he gets in the right spot.

Just Missed the Cut

Justin Shorter, WR, Penn State to Florida: Another former high-profile recruit who struggled through injuries and drops during his short time in Happy Valley.
Jarren Williams, QB, Miami (FL) to TBD: Had a brutal end to 2019, but has proven he can make things happen in the right situation. Brings solid experience to any team he might end up on.
Xavier Kelly, DL, Clemson to TBD: Forced out of Clemson because there was just so much talent in that D-Line. Likely to end up at Arkansas, where he should be able to make a major impact.
Rico Bussey, WR, North Texas to TBD: Was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2018 before injuries took away '19. Could he make the jump to Power Five? Reportedly, Nebraska and Miami are two of the schools that have interest.
Isaiah Pryor, DB, Ohio State to Notre Dame: 42 tackles and six pass deflections in his first two seasons at Ohio State, but forced out due to their talent on the back-end. Could be an immediate starter for the Fighting Irish.
Tarik Black, WR, Michigan to TBD: Simply was not able to stay healthy in his time in Ann Arbor. Looked like a future star in 2017, but career has taken a major detour since then.
Khalil Herbert, RB, Kansas to Virginia Tech: Ran for 663 yards with the Jayhawks in 2017, but fell on the depth chart due to the success of Pooka Williams. Will compete with Rutgers transfer Raheem Blackshear for carries in Blacksburg.
Joey Gatewood, QB, Auburn to Kentucky: Lost the QB competition this off-season to freshman Bo Nix and was used as a short yardage QB as a result. Probably not a starter in 2020 assuming Terry Wilson comes back healthy, but watch out in '21.
Feleipe Franks, QB, Florida to Arkansas: Kyle Trask's success as UF starter really undermined Franks, but this guy still had 2,457 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2018 and is a proven SEC starter.
Jovan Swann, DL, Stanford to TBD: Had 10 career sacks over three seasons at Stanford. Not any NFL guy, but a solid plug-and-play option at a number of Power Five schools.

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