CFB’s first transfer portal window has closed. What did we learn?

The first-ever transfer window in college football has closed. After a wild 45 days of nonstop movement, where did we end up?

The NCAA transfer portal opened on Dec. 5 for all FBS players interested in switching schools. Since then, more than 1,200 scholarship players have opted to enter the portal and explore their options. The first deadline for underclassmen to transfer arrived on Wednesday.

These departing players did not need to commit to their next school by Jan. 18, but they did need to give notice that they intend to transfer. Schools have up to 48 hours to add a player into the NCAA’s transfer database, so expect more names to pop up this week and potentially several new additions to The Athletic’s best available ranks.

Graduate transfers can continue to enter the portal at any time, but everyone else now must wait until May 1 to make their move. There’s going to be another dramatic two-week round of transactions at the end of the spring, with more surprise defections and additions that will help define who college football’s contenders are in 2023.

For now, though, there’s plenty of data to dig into from this first six-week period as well as the first six months of this 2022-23 transfer cycle. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

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Tracking where college football’s best available transfers have signed

The impact of the window

When the NCAA officially adopted the new notification-of-transfer windows at the end of August, the expectation among college recruiting staffers was that December would be overwhelming. Sure enough, having to deal with coaching changes, transfer recruiting, the early signing period and bowl games all at the same time was exhausting.

Where do things stand in the transfer market as we reach the end of this first window? More than 1,500 FBS scholarship players have entered the transfer portal during the 2022-23 cycle, which started on Aug. 1. When you take out the players who withdrew from the portal or opted to go pro, the current total is 1,496.

The number of players who have picked their next school will soon surpass 1,000. As of Wednesday night, 64 percent of all FBS scholarship players in the portal have made commitments, including 72 percent of the Power 5 transfers.

We’ve seen a grand total of 1,285 FBS scholarship players enter the transfer portal during the 45-day window. One detail about that group that stands out: Just over 25 percent of them were graduate transfers. That’s an awful lot of underclassmen and players who don’t have their degree looking to switch schools.

How do these numbers compare to the 2021-22 transfer cycle? On Jan. 18, 2022, we had just surpassed 1,200 FBS scholarship transfers. You could say we’re seeing a 24 percent increase in transfers compared to this time last year, and that might end up being the case. But right now, it’s tough to predict whether that increase is going to hold the rest of the way.

What comes next

The next transfer window opens on May 1 and closes on May 15. Underclassmen who want to use their one-time transfer and be immediately eligible to play in 2023 need to enter during that period. The NCAA is taking a stricter approach with waivers going forward, so it’s important to decide by that deadline.

In theory, the upside of going to the window schedule is that we should see a slowdown in transfer activity over the next few months. FBS coaching staffs seeking midyear transfers will have those efforts wrapped up by the end of the month. Players currently in the portal who are planning to be summer enrollees have time to explore their options and take more visits. Grad transfers will continue to hit the market, but these next three months shouldn’t be as frenzied as the last two.

The 532 scholarship players who haven’t found a home yet probably need to be realistic and start looking into Group of 5, FCS, D-II or junior college programs — or maybe even withdrawing from the portal, if their former team will take them back. That’s not to say all of them are destined to drop down a level, but unsigned players who have limited game tape, injuries or grade issues might have to wait a while for the opportunities they’re desiring. Group of 5 players have an even tougher time getting noticed and offered among the flood of daily portal entries. More than 300 are still available right now.

Keep in mind that some very good players entered the portal last May, including receivers Jordan Addison (USC) and Charlie Jones (Purdue), cornerback Josh Newton (TCU) and offensive lineman D’Mitri Emmanuel (Florida State). Coaching staffs are going to save room for May pickups and the likelihood that they’ll have some post-spring roster needs.

The players entering the portal in May won’t just be backups who didn’t get enough spring practice reps, though many of them will be encouraged to move on. The new roster management rules are, as expected, clearly incentivizing coaches to run off underperforming reserves and free up scholarships for better transfers. We’ll see much more post-spring roster churn.

But it’s also reasonable to assume the May 15 deadline will spur plenty of action given the current landscape of tampering and NIL inducement. If you’re trying to win big (or not get fired) in 2023, you’re not going into the summer with glaring weaknesses in your starting lineup. You’re finding a way to upgrade your deficiencies. There will be, in the parlance of our times, strong-ass offers.

Where they’re going

So far, 812 scholarship players at Power 5 programs have entered and stayed in the transfer portal. Close to 600 of them have committed or enrolled at their new school. Here’s the scorecard on where they’re heading.

Power 5 transfers

STATUS TOTAL %

Committed

583

72%

Power 5

314

39%

Group of 5

212

26%

FCS

57

7%

JC/DII

1

0.1%

Unsigned

229

28%

Now that these coaching staffs are no longer restricted in how many transfers they can sign, it does seem these transfers are getting more opportunities to keep playing at this level. In 2021-22, 340 of 1,054 Power 5 scholarship transfers signed with another P5 school. In this cycle, 314 of 812 have committed to Power 5 programs.

Power 5 teams have lost an average of 12.5 players to the portal so far during this 2022-23 transfer cycle. For the entire 12-month period of the last transfer cycle, the average was 16. There can’t be many coaching staffs across the country who honestly believe they’ll only lose three or four more players over the course of the next six months.

Now here’s where things stand among the 684 scholarship players at Group of 5 schools who are currently in the portal.

Group of 5 transfers

STATUS TOTAL %

Committed

381

56%

Power 5

140

20%

Group of 5

103

15%

FCS

118

17%

JC/DII/DIII

20

3%

Unsigned

303

44%

So far, 140 players are leaving G5 programs to play for Power 5 schools in 2023. Why is that significant? In less than six months, we’ve already exceeded last year’s total of 124. Many of these transfers are all-conference-caliber players determined to prove they can play at the highest level. It’ll be interesting to see how many more of them test their luck in the May transfer window. The conference hit hardest by those defections has been the AAC with 35, though the coaching changes at Cincinnati, Tulsa and South Florida did impact that total. The MAC has lost the second-most players to Power 5 schools so far, with 26 departures.

Among the 964 total FBS scholarship transfers who have made commitments, 42 percent are moving down. Over the 2021-22 transfer cycle, it was 60 percent. Hopefully, more roster flexibility and more available scholarships prove beneficial for this year’s transfers. But it makes sense that it’s not over 50 percent at this point in the year. The most coveted players are mostly off the market now as we head into the spring semester.

Who’s landing the most transfers?

Gone are the days of just trying to land a couple of veteran transfers who can help right away. Sure, the programs that sign top-10 classes year after year — like Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson, Texas and Texas A&M — can still take that approach. Those six have been selective about taking transfers in this 2022-23 cycle. But for pretty much everyone else? If you’re not hustling on portal recruiting, you’re falling behind.

Which programs have loaded up on FBS scholarship transfers this offseason? Here’s the top of the leaderboard as of Wednesday night.

New Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham worked at Florida State and Oregon before landing his first head job. He has witnessed how impactful portal recruiting can be for building up a winning program. It’s no shock, then, that this staff has been incredibly aggressive in its efforts to flip the Sun Devils’ roster going into Year 1. When you include the FCS players they’ve also brought in, they’re up to 24 transfers. And they’re not done yet.

Name Pos Former School

Drew Pyne

QB

Jacob Conover

QB

DeCarlos Brooks

RB

Cameron Skattebo

RB

Xavier Guillory

WR

Troy Omeire

WR

Jake Smith

WR

Melquan Stovall

WR

Ben Coleman

OL

Leif Fautanu

OL

Aaron Frost

OL

Bram Walden

OL

Sam Benjamin

DL

Prince Dorbah

DL

Dashaun Mallory

DL

Tristan Monday

DL

Travion Brown

LB

Krew Jackson

LB

Tate Romney

LB

Xavion Alford

DB

Shamari Simmons

DB

Dario Longhetto

K

Josh Carlson

P

Slater Zellers

LS

Charlotte coach Biff Poggi has been just as prolific to start off his tenure. The former Michigan assistant and Maryland high school coaching legend has leaned on his connections throughout the country to quickly pick up 20 FBS transfers, 15 of them from Power 5 rosters. Don’t be surprised if the 49ers’ next big get is Michigan pass rusher Eyabi Okie, who played for Poggi at St. Frances Academy.

Luke Fickell is off to an impressive start at Wisconsin and has reloaded on offense around star back Braelon Allen with three new quarterbacks, four wide receivers and two offensive linemen coming in from the portal. Now more than ever, it feels critical for newly hired coaching staffs to get transfer recruiting right and to do so right away. The new regimes at Auburn, Louisville, Colorado, Nebraska and Cincinnati all deserve credit for the quality and quantity of their early transfer pickups.

At Oklahoma, Brent Venables is trying to get his program flipped as quickly as possible after a tough 6-7 debut season. The Sooners have won some big-time recruiting battles in the process of adding 12 FBS transfers, headlined by the four newcomers they’ve brought in on the defensive line.

Another staff heading into Year 2 that has impressed is SMU. Rhett Lashlee and his coaching staff have picked up 16 FBS transfers, making the most of their connections with five Miami transfers, three Liberty transfers and several more former blue-chip recruits.

Who’s losing the most transfers?

Now let’s check in on the other side of this cycle. Which programs have lost the most players to the portal? Here are the FBS leaders in scholarship portal entries since Sept. 1.

Texas A&M has lost 25 scholarship players in one offseason. Eighteen were blue-chip recruits. Eight were top-100 recruits, including five-stars Denver Harris and Chris Marshall. Seven were freshmen from their top-ranked 2022 recruiting class. Not one entered the portal, changed their mind and withdrew.

To their credit, the Aggies have picked up two touted transfers, North Carolina cornerback Tony Grimes and Florida State safety Sam McCall, and are pursuing several more. But if you want to compare this to turnover margin and put it in those terms, no other FBS program comes close to Texas A&M’s minus-23 transfer margin.

At least 16 of their departing players are going to be on Power 5 rosters in 2023. Here’s a recap of where their 22 transfers who have made decisions ended up.

Name Pos New School

Haynes King

QB

Eli Stowers

QB

LJ Johnson Jr.

RB

Yulkeith Brown

WR

Chase Lane

WR

Chris Marshall

WR

Blake Smith

TE

PJ Williams

OL

Tunmise Adeleye

DL

Marcus Burris

DL

Elijah Jeudy

DL

Adarious Jones

DL

Anthony Lucas

DL

Ish Harris

LB

Tarian Lee Jr.

LB

Andre White Jr.

LB

Smoke Bouie

DB

Brian George

DB

Marquis Groves-Killebrew

DB

Denver Harris

DB

Myles Jones

DB

Caden Davis

K

Arkansas has made a run at the No. 1 spot on that leaderboard this offseason with 23 players electing to transfer, and Ole Miss just moved up after four scholarship players entered the portal on Wednesday. Florida has had 22 players move on so far, which is the kind of roster turnover you tend to see as a coaching staff moves into Year 2. Or maybe this is just going to become the norm in the SEC. There have already been 222 SEC scholarship players in the portal. Last year’s total was 241.

One curiosity about Arizona (22) and Cal (21) ranking high on this list: They’ve lost some really talented players to other Pac-12 schools. Three Arizona players — receiver Dorian Singer, cornerback Christian Roland-Wallace and defensive lineman Kyon Barrs — moved on to USC. Cal lost receiver J.Michael Sturdivant and linebacker Femi Oladejo to UCLA and four players to Arizona State. No Power 5 league has had more intraconference scholarship transfers this offseason than the 31 so far in the Pac-12.

But the revised rules for transfer recruiting at least offer a silver lining to all of this: The more you lose, the more you can gain. It’s safe to say everyone is going to do a lot more of both when this cycle heats up again in May.

(Photo of Dorian Singer: Joe Camporeale / USA Today)

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CFB’s first transfer portal window has closed. What did we learn?

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