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College football transfer portal winners, losers: USC and Ole Miss thrive, Arizona State endures mass exodus

The deadline for players to enter the transfer portal and receive immediate eligibility for the 2022 college football season passed on Sunday, May 1, which brings a moment of calm to what has been one of the most chaotic periods of college football in recent memory.

More than 2,000 players entered the transfer portal during the 2021-22 school year with a large number coming during major coaching changes or system revamps. Virtually every Power Five program has taken a handful of transfers to immediately fill holes. With hundreds of players remaining in the portal, more could be making decisions on their futures soon.

Here are eight programs that stand apart as winners and losers from the 2022 transfer portal cycle.

Winners

USC: Rebuilding looks a little different these days. After spurning Oklahoma, coach Lincoln Riley nabbed the No. 1 spot in the 247Sports transfer rankings in his first offseason to quickly build a Trojans roster in his image of him.

Bringing quarterback Caleb Williams from Oklahoma was the headliner, but USC also added receiver Mario Williams, linebacker Eric Gentry and running back Travis Dye as sought-after playmakers. Four receivers transferred to join Riley’s high-flying offense — Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison could also join the fold — but more than half of the class’s transfers came on the defensive side of the ball as defensive coordinator Alex Grinch worked to build some depth. Granted, the Trojans also lost a handful of key players to the portal, like quarterback Jaxson Dart and tight end Michael Trigg, but if the Trojans compete for a Pac-12 title right away, Riley will owe the transfer portal a debt of gratitude.

Ole Miss: Rebels coach Lane Kiffin declared himself the “Portal King” after putting together the No. 2 transfer class in the nation. Dart was the headliner to replace NFL Draft pick Matt Corral, but he was only the start. Ole Miss went to Texas and nabbed running backs Ulysses Bentley IV and Zach Evans from SMU and TCU, respectively. Safety Ladarius Tennison, tight end JJ Pegues and receiver Malik Heath transferred from programs within the Rebels’ own division. Kiffin has been perhaps the most open portal recruiter in the country and has classes that prove it.

Arizona: It’s flown under the radar at a relatively anonymous program, but coach Jedd Fisch is recruiting his butt off. The Wildcats pulled in the the Pac-12’s No. 3 recruiting class for 2022 and followed it up with a dynamic transfer class. Wazzu quarterback Jayden de Laura will emphatically answer the glaring question under center, and he will have the freakishly dynamic Jacob Cowing from UTEP to target. Linebacker Anthony Solomon (Michigan) and edge Hunter Echols (USC) bring some dynamic play on the defensive end. The Wildcats went 1-11 in Fisch’s miserable first season, but players don’t seem dissuaded from his plan. That alone makes Arizona’s signing class one of the most important in the Pac-12.

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers needed quick fixes and found some answers in the portal. Quarterbacks Casey Thompson and Chubba Purdy will compete for the starting job to replace Adrian Martinez. Receivers Trey Palmer and Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda add some much-needed athleticism outside. Defensively, Nebraska nabbed blue-chip transfers Ochaun Mathis (TCU) and Tommi Hill (Arizona State) to bolster an already solid unit. Offensive lineman Hunter Anthony will add some much-needed depth. Scott Frost’s additions weren’t especially flashy, but the transfer class will hopefully make a difference in some of those close games.

losers

Arizona States: The Sun Devils might as well put up a “Help Wanted” sign after the vast majority of their top players decided to leave the program in the midst of NCAA troubles. Quarterback Jayden Daniels left the program for LSU in a surprising decision, which set off another round of transfers. Top receiver Ricky Pearsall and star defender Eric Gentry were expected to play central roles, while DeaMonte Trayanum left for Ohio State. Linemen Spencer Lovell, Ezra Dotson-Oyetade and Jermayne Lole all entered the portal in the last weekend.

In all, 14 key scholarship players entered the portal. Granted, the Sun Devils got some help back in the form of a top-15 transfer class, but it features only one blue-chip transfer prospect (Miami DL Nesta Jade Silvera). Ultimately, the transfer portal was a net loss for ASU.

Virginia: The Cavaliers were in a strange spot after suddenly losing coach Bronco Mendenhall, but the mass exodus of linemen after his retirement is hard to ignore. Four different offensive linemen who started games left, including All-American center Victor Oluwatimi. Ultimately, 20 players transferred from Virginia during the transition to new coach Tony Elliott with a number coming in the trenches. Luckily, star quarterback Brennan Armstrong is back, but Elliott has his work cut out to fill all the holes.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers added quarterback JT Daniels late in the cycle, but it doesn’t eliminate the obscene amount of talent they lost. Twenty players entered the transfer portal, including key starters DT Akheem Mesidor, LB Josh Chandler, quarterback Jarret Doege, top receiver Winston Wright and both starting cornerbacks. Along with losing a number of contributors to graduation, WVU will look very different next season. The Mountaineers are staying active in the transfer portal to try and recover some of the losses, but they’re still in a tenuous spot heading into a make-or-break season for coach Neal Brown.

Colorado: The Buffaloes roster seems to think the 4-2 season during Karl Dorrell’s debut was a fluke, as more than 20 key players from that squad entered the portal. Running back Jarek Broussard was the headliner, but receivers Brenden Rice and Dimitri Stanley ranked among the few sources of offense for an anemic unit. The losses will make finding offense even more difficult for a Colorado squad that ranked second-to-last nationally with just 257.4 yards per game. Quarterback Brendon Lewis will have new toys in Baylor transfer RJ Sneed and Sam Houston running back Ramon Jefferson, but it remains to be seen whether that can transform the unit.

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