Newcomer class rankings: Who added the highest impact freshmen and transfers?

NCAA Football

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If there’s one commonality among annual College Football Playoff contenders, it’s that recruiting serves as the foundation for a healthy program and long-term success. Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State are recent examples proving the importance of identifying and developing elite high school talent from within.

But that’s not the only path anymore. Now there are other roads that lead to success on the field. Teams are racing to use all roster-building avenues to compete amid CFP expansion.

The transfer portal has changed how programs build rosters. Some schools, such as Colorado, have gone all-in looking to overhaul and infuse their roster with experienced talent via transfers. Others, such as Clemson, lean more heavily on traditional prep recruiting while using the portal sparingly.

Today, we rank the top 25 groups of newcomers — recruits and transfers combined — based on who could see the most impactful immediate returns for 2024.

Recruits: WR Ryan Wingo, DE Colin Simmons

Texas’ No. 5 recruiting class includes impact freshmen on both sides of the ball. Wingo is receiving coaching reviews similar to those of five-star WR Jeremiah Smith of Ohio State. Wingo’s size, speed and natural pass-catching skills are already elite. Simmons may have a harder time getting meaningful reps given the talent around him, but he’s being compared to Anthony Hill Jr. as a pass-rusher because of his speed, bend and power. Both are mature and explosive true freshman playmakers.

Transfers: WR Isaiah Bond (Alabama), WR Matthew Golden (Houston), WR Silas Bolden (Oregon State), TE Amari Niblack (Alabama), DL Trey Moore (UTSA), DL Tiaoalii Savea (Arizona), S Andrew Mukuba (Clemson), CB Jay’Vion Cole (San Jose State), DT Bill Norton (Arizona), DL Jermayne Lole (Louisville)

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian, a one-time Alabama assistant, benefitted from the coaching change in Tuscaloosa. Texas landed receiver Bond, who led Alabama with 48 catches, and tight end Niblack, who was among the Tide’s leaders in receptions and touchdowns. Bringing in Golden from in-state Houston was another coup. The four-star 2022 recruit was an immediate contributor for the Cougars and should replace lost production in both the passing and return games. Bolden is coming off his most productive season at Oregon State with 54 catches in 2023, doubling his output from the first three years. Defensively, the Longhorns stacked the trenches with run-stuffers. After adding Norton and Savea from Arizona, Lole was a recent flip from Oklahoma. Texas addressed the void at defensive tackle after losing Byron Murphy and T’Vondre Sweat to the NFL.


Recruits: WR Jeremiah Smith,QB Julian Sayin, DE Eddrick Houston

Ohio State’s recruiting class finished third and included Smith, one of the premier receivers in the country. The No. 4 overall recruit in the 2024 class wowed the Buckeyes’ staff this spring with his exceptional hands and route-running skills. Houston showed flashes at edge this spring. The No. 8 ESPN 300 defensive end will likely work into the rotation to rest guys such as JT Tuimoloau. Sayin is technically a transfer after originally signing with Alabama but will be a true freshman this fall from the 2024 recruiting class. We expect him to push Will Howard and become a formidable backup.

Transfers: QB Will Howard (Kansas State), S Caleb Downs (Alabama), RB Quinshon Judkins (Ole Miss), C Seth McLaughlin (Alabama)

The Buckeyes capitalized more in the winter portal than spring. They went for quality over quantity and landed two of the best players available in Downs and Judkins. Downs, the top-ranked player in the winter portal, went from five-star recruit to the leading tackler in Tuscaloosa as a true freshman with no physical flaws to his game. Judkins, one of the top prospects available in the winter portal, will team up with TreVeyon Henderson and provide new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly with an explosive power runner and a great complement to Henderson’s speed. The duo should take pressure off Howard, another key addition from the winter portal. He provides a more dynamic option for Kelly as compared to last year’s starter, Kyle McCord, and is a slight upgrade at the position. The most undervalued pickup in the portal may be McLaughlin at center. The Buckeyes’ offensive line will have to outperform what it did last year, particularly protecting a new quarterback in a new system.


Recruits: DE Kamarion Franklin, DE Jeffery Rush

Ole Miss landed a good recruiting class at No. 20, but most of its resources were put into the transfer portal, so it’s hard to project a breakout year for any of the Rebels’ freshmen. They signed one of the strongest defensive classes in the country. Watch for someone to emerge from that unit as a freshman. Franklin could work himself into the rotation early at defensive end behind veteran standout Jared Ivey. He’s a great speed/power combination at 6-foot-6, 270 pounds. Defensive coordinator Pete Golding likes to keep fresh bodies rushing the passer, so Rush could see action as well. Franklin and Rush were ranked No. 15 and 19, respectively, among 2023 ESPN 300 defensive ends.

Transfers: DT Walter Nolen (Texas A&M), DE Princely Umanmielen (Florida), RB Henry Parrish Jr. (Miami), LB Chris Paul Jr. (Arkansas), WR Antwane Wells Jr. (South Carolina), RB Rashad Amos (Miami, Ohio)

Ole Miss pulled from within the SEC in the winter portal to land Nolen from Texas A&M. He’s an explosive interior defender who was ranked No. 1 in the 2022 recruiting class and was a coveted prospect in the winter transfer portal rankings. The Rebels also added Umanmielen after he notched seven sacks as a junior with Florida. He’s a great fit at their “Buck” edge position. Paul should clean up sideline-to-sideline in the second level. Ole Miss added notable offensive performers. Wells found good chemistry with QB Jaxson Dart this spring and is the likely starter at Z receiver. The Rebels also continued their momentum in the spring by landing Parrish, who led Miami in rushing in 2023 and returns to the Rebels to play under his former position coach, Kevin Smith. The power-running Amos is the fourth transfer running back the Rebels have landed this offseason and is a great complement to fellow transfer Parrish who is more of an all-purpose back.


Recruits: WR Joshisa Trader, DE Marquise Lightfoot, DE Armondo Blount, S Zaquan Patterson

The Hurricanes lost several defensive linemen to the portal, but also signed the best defensive line class for the 2024 cycle. Their No. 6 recruiting class has two prospects who could work their way into valuable snaps this season. Trader has impressed with his big-play hands, athleticism and instincts as a route runner. Lightfoot wasn’t the Canes’ top-rated defensive end, but impressed this spring as a pass-rushing edge and should get into the rotation as a true freshman. Top-10 defensive end Blount was out this spring with an injury. Patterson could work himself into a role at safety with his versatile skill set as a nickel or true safety. Edge defender Booker Pickett Jr. is another name to file away. He was not an early enrollee, so it’s tougher to gauge how he has made the transition. But he was one of the best pure pass-rushers in the 2024 class with an explosive first step and notched nearly 50 sacks over his final two high school seasons.

Transfers: QB Cameron Ward (Washington State), RB Damien Martinez (Oregon State), WR Samuel Brown (Houston), DT Simeon Barrow Jr (Michigan State), DL Tyler Baron (Tennessee)

Ward is a two-time All-Pac 12 honorable mention selection and threw for 6,966 yards and 48 touchdowns, with 16 interceptions over two seasons with the Cougars. His quick release was as advertised this spring and he got some weapons during the most recent portal window, including Martinez, the top-rated running back. The No. 2 overall transfer prospect rushed for 1,185 yards last season and can beat defenders inside with power or with speed on the perimeter. Miami also added the top receiver in the spring portal in Brown. He caught 62 passes last year and is a tall target that can win 50-50 balls. Miami returned to the portal to add Barrow (No. 37 in spring portal rankings) at defensive tackle from Michigan State on top of several prior transfers earlier in the process. On the edge, Baron gives the Canes a disruptive pass-rusher who can create mismatches with a blend of speed, length and athleticism. Miami should be able to rotate fresh bodies and maintain a stout, aggressive defensive line.


Recruits: DE Elijah Rushing, DB Aaron Flowers

The Ducks added a slew of impact transfers — more on them momentarily — on top of the fourth-ranked incoming freshman class, landing six players ranked among the top 100. They needed to replenish their defensive front and Rushing stands out after tallying double-digit sacks in each of his final two high school seasons. The four-star ranked as the No. 27 player in the class and has good length and bend to beat blockers with enough agility to counter inside. Flowers is a four-star defensive back from Texas who has a chance to contribute as a freshman. He has the ball skills and tackling ability to help throughout the back end this fall and perhaps find early snaps at nickel.

Transfers: QB Dillon Gabriel (Oklahoma), DL Derrick Harmon (Michigan State), WR Evan Stewart (Texas A&M), S Kobe Savage (Kansas State), CB Jabbar Muhammad (Washington), S Peyton Woodyard (Alabama)

Despite minimal spring additions, the Ducks remain in the top 10 of these rankings on the strength of their recruiting class and several notable winter portal additions, headlined by Gabriel, a Heisman contender. He’ll throw to Stewart, who had a strong spring and should be one of the more electrifying playmakers in the Big Ten. Defensively, Harmon should immediately bolster the Ducks’ playoff chances along the defensive line. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Michigan State transfer is a big presence at a premium position and is coming off his most productive season. He’s a tough defender against the run and already has experience in the Big Ten. Woodyard, a freshman, returns west to join the Ducks after a short-lived tenure with Alabama. He’s more of a future contributor but will provide great depth in 2024. The secondary will have impact transfers with Power 5 starting experience in Savage (safety) and Muhammad, a physical corner.


Recruits: WR Ryan Williams, CB Jaylen Mbakwe

Alabama’s incoming class ranked No. 2 in the country despite Nick Saban retiring. Retaining Williams, who decommitted after Saban’s announcement, provided new coach Kalen DeBoer some early momentum. The in-state product was the top-ranked receiver in the 2024 class and No. 3 overall player. He’s a smooth, speedy playmaker who tallied more than 3,000 yards as a prepster. Mbakwe was the second-ranked player in the class, trailing Georgia signee and fellow corner Ellis Robinson IV. Mbakwe’s learning curve may be steeper — he wasn’t a full-time corner in high school — and he may not be as impactful in Year 1, but he has lockdown upside athletically and it may be hard to keep his talent and versatility off the field this fall.

Transfers: OL Kadyn Proctor (Iowa), DB Kameron Howard (Charlotte), WR Germie Bernard (Washington)

After a brief sojourn to his home state, Proctor returns to Tuscaloosa to once again anchor Alabama’s offensive line. The 2023 five-star showed immense improvement and upside at left tackle as a freshman in 2023. While it wasn’t always smooth, the 6-foot-7, 360-pounder started every game and was an SEC All-Freshman pick. Howard was a three-star from St. Frances Academy (Baltimore) who emerged as an active, versatile contributor at Charlotte. He immediately provides depth and could contribute at either nickel or high point safety in an Alabama secondary that lost a lot of talent to the NFL. Bernard follows DeBoer from Washington, where he was an active target in the passing attack last season with 34 catches.


Recruits: ATH Terry Bussey, OL Blake Ivy

Bussey achieved five-star status in our final ESPN 300 rankings update and remained committed to Texas A&M and new coach Mike Elko despite late interest from several other schools. He’s integral to the Aggies’ incoming class, which ranked No. 18 in February. Bussey wasn’t on campus this spring, but he’ll bring significant versatility to College Station this fall. He became the first junior to win Mr. Football in Texas since Kyler Murray and was a legitimate two-way star, although he projects to the secondary in college. Ivy was one of several ESPN 300 adds along the offensive line and moves well with a nice frame for further development.

Transfers: Edge Nic Scourton (Purdue), DB Dezz Ricks (Alabama), CB Will Lee III (Kansas State), CB Donovan Saunders (Cal Poly), edge Cashius Howell (Bowling Green), RB E.J. Smith (Stanford)

The Aggies lost a slew of recognizable transfers in DT Walter Nolen, WR Evan Stewart, DB Jacoby Mathews and DL LT Overton, but Elko and his staff steadily added via the portal as well. Scourton recorded 10 sacks last year at Purdue and made a huge impression this spring, culminating with a loud performance in Texas A&M’s spring game. Ricks arrives with four years of eligibility and a five-star pedigree from the 2023 class. Elko, a former defensive coordinator, added more than half a dozen transfers to replenish Texas A&M’s secondary. Keep an eye on Saunders, who has the makings of a potential FCS to FBS sleeper after thriving at corner for Cal Poly.


Recruits: OT Jordan Seaton, RB Micah Welch, WR Kamron Mikell

Colorado won a big battle on the high school recruiting trail by landing the five-star Seaton. The No. 1 offensive lineman will likely experience some growing pains but could be a plug-and-play addition, much like 2023 five-star Kadyn Proctor at Alabama last season. He’s had a strong spring starting at left tackle for the Buffs. Welch, a true freshman, arrived on campus as an early enrollee and has exceeded his three-star ranking with a strong downhill presence and great balance. Mikell didn’t enroll early but will be one of the faster players on the roster, having run a 10.5 100-meter dash and clocking at 22 mph in pads, one of the fastest times of any 2024 prospects.

Transfers: OL Ethan Boyd (Michigan State), OL Tyler Johnson (Houston), DL Dayon Hayes (Pittsburgh), DT Rayyan Buell (Ohio), RB Dallan Hayden (Ohio State), WR Will Sheppard (Vanderbilt)

Colorado mitigated a high number of transfer departures by successfully bringing in new faces in both transfer windows. The Buffs prioritized revamping the offensive line to keep QB Shedeur Sanders upright. That includes landing Boyd, an active contributor for Michigan State in 2023. Johnson, a Houston transfer, was an all-conference performer who allowed just one sack in 2022 and should immediately upgrade the interior line. The Buffaloes also added a pair of top-40 transfers to their defensive front in Hayes and Buell. Hayes, the No. 3 player in the portal, transferred from Pittsburgh and was one of the most explosive pass-rushers available in the recent transfer window. Colorado lost its four top rushers from 2023. Losing Dylan Edwards (to Kansas State) stings but Colorado added one of the top running backs available in Hayden. Hayden arrives from Ohio State, where he flashed as a freshman (2022) and gives Colorado a quick, elusive runner. The Buffaloes fielded some explosive playmakers in 2023 but are losing receiver Xavier Weaver. Sheppard, a Vanderbilt transfer, is a top option. He has more than 2,000 career yards and caught 47 passes for 684 yards and eight touchdowns in 2023.


Recruits: DT David Stone, DT Jayden Jackson, OL Eugene Brooks

Stone was a big reason why the Sooners landed the eighth ranked recruiting class in February. The top-rated defensive lineman in the 2024 class, Stone is explosive off the ball and possesses excellent movement skills and quickness for his size (6-4, 280 pounds). Stone was born in Oklahoma but played much of his high school career at IMG Academy (Florida) to consistently practice and play against FBS-caliber talent. The Sooners need help on the interior and Stone is the highest-rated defensive tackle Oklahoma has signed since Gerald McCoy in 2006. Just a three-star, Jackson has looked just as impressive this spring, and like Stone has rare quickness and get-off for his size at 6-2, 310 pounds.

Transfers: DT Damonic Williams (TCU), WR Deion Burks (Purdue), C Branson Hickman (SMU), DE Caiden Woullard (Miami OH)

Brent Venables wanted to get more stout in the trenches as the Sooners move to the SEC. Williams is the perfect player for the middle of his defense. He has great size to eat up blocks and explosive quickness to get off them and into the opposing backfield. The No. 4 rated overall player in the spring portal window should be penciled in as the starter for day one and bring valued experience to the defensive line room. Woullard also bolsters the defensive front and presents a pass-rushing threat, having racked up 9.5 sacks at Miami (Ohio) last season. There was a desperate need in Norman to fill holes on the offense line. The Sooners return a very inexperienced unit and are dealing with injuries up front this spring. Hickman has 33 games as a starter under his belt and excels in pass protection. He should step in seamlessly for former Sooners center Andrew Raym, who is off to the NFL.


Recruits: WR Cameron Coleman, WR Bryce Cain, DE Jamonta Waller, DE Amaris Williams

Auburn addressed needs at receiver and defensive line as part of its top-10 recruiting class. Coleman, a five-star, is one of the most talented receivers in the 2024 class. He posted impressive testing numbers, including a laser 4.48 40-yard dash and 4.19 shuttle on a big athletic frame. He didn’t disappoint in the Tigers’ spring game, catching four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. Coleman has the smoothness of a veteran. He should start at the X position right away and could be one of the most difficult matchups in the SEC. While less heralded, Cain is turning heads and should see plenty of snaps with his speed on the outside. Waller and Williams ranked as the No. 9 and 13 DE’s respectively and both should be in the rotation this fall, with Waller at the buck and Williams at end.

Transfers: WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith (Penn State), DT Philip Blidi (Indiana), DT Trill Carter (Texas), DT Gage Keys (Kansas)

Landing Lambert-Smith helped the Tigers further address their depth issues. The Penn State transfer was one of the top receivers available. The 2020 ESPN 300 recruit never broke out as a playmaker in Happy Valley but still brings that dynamic potential and has been productive, leading the Nittany Lions in receiving in 2023. Blidi was a key addition via Indiana this spring. He’s been effective throughout his career, first at Texas Tech and then with the Hoosiers. Expect Blidi to bolster the Tigers’ run defense along with Carter and Keys, winter transfers at defensive tackle. Auburn needs the help after finishing near the bottom of the conference last season.


Recruits: TE Landen Thomas, RB Kam Davis

Florida State signed one of the top classes in the ACC coming off a 13-win season and there’s enough talent to produce several contributors this year. Thomas and Davis are a pair of ESPN 300 signees to watch. Leading rusher Trey Benson is gone, but Davis is a top-five running back who came out this spring looking to further bolster the Seminoles’ depth. Davis was versatile enough in high school to also contribute at quarterback. He is thickly built and powerful enough to not only absorb punishment but deliver some to defenses. Thomas is a productive receiving target. He tallied more than 70 receptions his final two seasons in high school and can create yards after the catch. He can help replace Jaheim Bell‘s lost production.

Transfers: RB Jaylin Lucas (Indiana), WR Malik Benson (Alabama), RB Roydell Williams (Alabama), QB DJ Uiagalelei (Oregon State), edge Marvin Jones Jr. (Georgia), DB Earl Little II (Alabama)

Excluding the Seminoles from the top 10 was difficult considering their notable transfer additions, starting with Uiagalelei. He needs to replace dynamic playmaker Jordan Travis. A one-time Clemson foe, Uiagalelei’s career got off to an inconsistent and underwhelming start, but he seemed revitalized at Oregon State last season and to be on the right track following the spring. Florida State also added several transfers from an Alabama program that edged it out of the playoffs in 2023. Williams was a productive contributor with the Tide and runs with a nice blend of speed and power. Despite minimal production at Alabama, Benson ranked as the No. 1 junior college prospect in 2023 and brings good hands and elite game speed. He’s a needed big-play weapon in the passing game for a Seminoles program that lost its top three pass-catchers from 2023. On defense, Jones was a touted ESPN 300 signee with Georgia in 2022. He has yet to meet expectations, but he’s a lengthy, agile defender who could break out as a pass-rusher in Tallahassee, where his father was a star defender in the early 1990s.


Recruits: CB Ellis Robinson IV, S K.J. Bolden, DT Joseph Jonah-Ajonye, ILB Justin Williams, TE Jaden Reddell

The Dawgs’ top-ranked recruiting class doesn’t disappoint and has four true freshmen who could make an impact. Jonah-Ajonye was the lowest rated but perhaps had the best spring. Robinson and Bolden have been as advertised. The latter’s speed and athleticism at safety may be too good to keep him on the bench. Williams will be one of the fastest linebackers in the SEC but is still developing the size for a full-time linebacker role and is part of arguably in the most talented inside linebacker room in all of college football.

Transfers: RB Trevor Etienne (Florida), WR Colbie Young (Miami), TE Ben Yurosek (Stanford)

Kirby Smart is winning championships with great defense and a strong running game. The Bulldogs lost Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton, their top rushers from a year ago. Etienne, a top-ranked running back in the winter portal, was a very productive back the past two years running behind an average offensive line at Florida. He is a versatile, every-down back who could open up coordinator Mike Bobo’s offense. Young received high praise this spring. He’s a matchup nightmare on the outside with his frame (6-3, 215 pounds) and pass-catching skills. We expect Yurosek to contribute at tight end this fall and compete with Oscar Delp to fill Brock Bowers‘ huge production void. Yurosek’s production has dipped the past few seasons, but full health coupled with a strong quarterback could lead to impact play.


Recruits: WR Jonathan Paylor, WR Terrell Anderson, DB Ronnie Royal III

While most of the immediate help in the Wolfpack’s top-30 class will come from transfers, there are some incoming freshmen to watch. NC State made clear by its recruiting that its receiver corps needed an infusion of talent. Anderson, a four-star, is one of several top signings at the position. He’s a big target at 6-foot-3 who showed progress during spring ball. He appears to have put himself in the mix for this fall. Paylor was not an early enrollee but brings big-play speed, posting one of the fastest 40 times (4.43) of last spring’s camp circuit. He’s a versatile player who could contribute at receiver, where he’s projected, as well as running back and returner. His versatility will make him tough to keep off the field. Four-star Royal is another summer enrollee to watch in year one in the secondary.

Transfers: QB Grayson McCall (Coastal Carolina), RB Jordan Waters (Duke), OL Zeke Correll (Notre Dame), WR Noah Rogers (Ohio State), TE Justin Joly (UConn)

Adding the experienced and accomplished McCall was a big win for an NC State offense that needed upgrades, especially at quarterback. McCall has thrown for more than 10,000 yards with a 70% completion percentage. The Wolfpack needed to surround him with targets. In addition to their promising freshmen, they also pulled Rogers, a 2023 ESPN 300 prospect, and Joly from the portal. Joly led UConn with 56 receptions in 2023. NC State bolstered its running backs room by adding Waters, Duke’s leading rusher, who had 123 yards against the Wolfpack last season.


Recruits: DL L.J. McCray, QB D.J. Lagway, RB Jadan Baugh

Florida weathered a rocky 2024 recruiting cycle to finish within the top 10. Some of those signees, along with others the Gators added down the stretch, look poised to play a role this season. Yes, veteran Graham Mertz returns with the expectation he’ll start at quarterback, but Lagway was one of the singularly most important signings of this cycle. He’s coming off a monster senior season at Willis (Texas) HS, where he threw for nearly 5,000 yards and 60 touchdowns. Lagway has the tools to be a difference-maker and was already on campus through the spring. He’s a player to watch this fall. McCray was another key signing. A big riser his senior season, McCray is an explosive defender with the frame and length to offer position versatility. He’s capable of being at least a valuable rotational player up front.

Transfers: LB Grayson Howard (South Carolina), DL Joey Slackman (Penn), S Asa Turner (Washington), OL Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson (San Diego State), DB Trikweze Bridges (Oregon), WR Elijhah Badger (Arizona State)

It’s easy to view this season as make-or-break for Billy Napier in Gainesville. He added several transfers to try to quickly improve from a five-win season in 2023. Quality offensive linemen are always a premium in the portal. Crenshaw-Dickson gives the Gators an experienced player with more than 30 career starts who can play right or left tackle and allow them to better field their five best big men. Badger, at receiver, was a great late pickup in the spring portal and will give Mertz a big, athletic target on the outside. Turner and Bridges are also additions from former Pac-12 country who are in contention for starting roles in the secondary while also providing needed experience and depth. Howard, who is affectionately known as “Pup,” was a nice transfer addition. The 2023 ESPN 300 linebacker still has time on his side but arrives from South Carolina with some SEC experience and is coming off a strong spring in Gainesville. He should contribute even if he doesn’t seize a starting role. It’s a big jump, but Slackman arrived as Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year and can further bolster the Gators’ defensive line.


Recruits: RB Isaac Brown

The Cardinals experienced plenty of turnover this offseason despite reaching the ACC title game. They signed a class outside the top 50 and many of their freshmen prospects don’t arrive until summer, so the impact from this group could be quite limited. Brown is one to watch. The four-star rusher was on campus this spring and gives the Cardinals a needed explosive runner after both leading rushers from 2023 moved on.

Transfers: QB Tyler Shough (Texas Tech), DL Thor Griffith (Harvard), WR Ja’Corey Brooks (Alabama), OL Jonathan Mendoza (Yale), RB Don Chaney Jr. (Miami), WR Caullin Lacy (South Alabama)

The Cardinals were very active in the portal. They hope Shough can replicate the success of transfer Jack Plummer, who they lost to the NFL. Shough brings experience with previous stops at Oregon and Texas Tech and has thrown for nearly 5,000 yards in his career. He could elevate his play under head coach Jeff Brohm. In addition to the freshman running backs, Chaney arrives via Miami with ACC experience. Louisville lost its clear leader at receiver, Jamari Thrash, but brought in several options at receiver and tight end to help fill the void. Lacy is the headliner after catching 91 passes for more than 1,000 yards at South Alabama in 2023.


Recruits: DL Dominick McKinley, DB P.J. Woodland, DB Dashawn McBryde, LB Davhon Keys

McKinley may not be an early enrollee, but keeping the state’s top player at home as part of the No. 7 class in the country after he previously committed to Texas A&M was a huge recruiting win. McKinley stood out among the nation’s elite at the Under Armour All-America game. He could step into the Tigers’ defensive line rotation and strengthen that unit as soon as he arrives. Keys was an early enrollee who tallied more than 160 tackles as a high school senior. ESPN 300 defensive back signees Woodland and McBryde will play roles for LSU in the secondary this season. The 160-pound Woodland needs to continue to fill out, but he’s coming off a strong spring and could end up battling his way into a starting role.

Transfers: DB Jardin Gilbert (Texas A&M), WR CJ Daniels (Liberty), WR Zavion Thomas (Mississippi State), DL Gio Paez (Wisconsin)

The Tigers’ passing game will have some new faces in 2024 after losing their three best contributors to the NFL. They pulled promising options out of the portal to help recoup the lost production. Daniels is coming off a 1,000-yard season at Liberty and can provide a big-play vertical threat. Thomas comes from within the conference and can play outside or in the slot. They should help replace some of the production lost with Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas gone. Gilbert is poised to be a plug-and-play addition at safety, and Paez is an intriguing add from Wisconsin who could take on a bigger role with LSU needing to improve its interior defensive line depth.


Recruits: CB Chasen Johnson, WR Bredell Richardson

The Knights signed several ESPN 300 prospects. However, a name from further down the list is emerging as one to watch. In-state three-star Johnson is coming off a strong spring where he worked with the first-team defense and is ready to play a role this fall, if not lock down a starting job. He had good size and length as a prospect and was smooth in his movements. This spring he’s shown confidence and competitiveness to quickly step into a big role. Richardson, a three-star receiver, and ESPN 300 tight end Kylan Fox went through spring ball and should add quality depth at the very least in year one.

Transfers: RB Peny Boone (Toledo/Louisville), DL Nyjalik Kelly (Miami), QB KJ Jefferson (Arkansas), LB Ethan Barr (Vanderbilt), DB Deshawn Pace (Cincinnati), WR Ja’Varrius Johnson (Auburn)

Getting back leading rusher RJ Harvey was big. But the Knights added a second 1,400-yard rusher from 2023 in Boone. The pairing should help keep both backs fresh. Boone, a Toledo transfer, is a bigger, more downhill runner who should complement Harvey well. Johnson, a steady SEC veteran, should provide UCF with an immediate speedy weapon on the passing game. UCF was active during the spring portal period and also added Kelly to its defensive line. He is an explosive defender who flashed as a freshman at Miami. If healthy, he can help replace some of the production lost with the departure of Tre’Mon Morris-Brash. Pace is proving to be a valuable transfer add. He provides versatility to the UCF defense having played at all three levels with Cincinnati and could fill a void at linebacker. Quarterbacks John Rhys Plumlee (NFL) and Timmy McClain (transfer) are both gone, but they added Jefferson as a one-year fix with multiple years of starting experience at Arkansas.


Recruits: DL Williams Nwaneri

Missouri is looking to build off an 11-2 season and signed a top-25 class. Only a handful enrolled early, which could limit the initial impact from this group, but Nwaneri is a key five-star in-state signing. He’s a versatile big man with the size to play inside and the agility and range to play on the edge. At 6-foot-7, 260 pounds with an 80-inch wingspan, he’s equipped with rare length and explosive movements. Nwaneri completely dominated his high school competition. Expect him to play a role in the Tigers’ defensive line rotation, which lost multiple starters to either the NFL or graduation.

Transfers: RB Marcus Carroll (Georgia State), RB Nate Noel (Appalachian State), OL Cayden Green (Oklahoma), CB Toriano Pride Jr. (Clemson)

Cody Schrader was a transfer walk-on who paid off big for Missouri in 2023 as he rushed for more than 1,600 yards. Now the Tigers need to replace the SEC’s leading rusher. They returned to the portal to land a pair of backs with proven production at their previous schools. Carroll was a first-team All-Sun Belt selection after rushing for more than 1,300 yards in 2023 and Noel ran for more than 3,000 yards in four years at Appalachian State. To help power the run game, the Tigers also made a big addition to their offensive line bringing home Green, the No. 2 guard in the 2023 class. He made five starts as a freshman for the Sooners and is poised to step into a starting role.


Recruits: RB Jason Patterson, DE Brian Robinson

The Wildcats signed a top-25 class and Patterson, a Cincinnati flip, could make an impact. A productive high school runner who totaled more than 3,000 yards in his final two seasons, Patterson runs with good speed and vision. He looked like an excellent pickup at the time, and he only reinforced that via a strong spring performance. Kentucky made it a point to anchor its defensive line with a strong 2024 haul. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see at least one contributor emerge from that group. Robinson seems the most likely, as he has a fierce, competitive demeanor and work ethic.

Transfers: QB Brock Vandagriff (Georgia), OL Gerald Mincey (Tennessee), LB Jamon Dumas-Johnson (Georgia), RB Chip Trayanum (Ohio State), WR Ja’Mori Maclin (North Texas)

Transfer running back Ray Davis rushed for 1,000 yards last season and Kentucky returned to the portal to propel its rushing attack in 2024 by adding Trayanum. A versatile player who was set to play linebacker for the Buckeyes at one point, he can help bring along promising freshman signee Patterson. It’s been a while since the Wildcats developed a quarterback from within the program. While that could change in the near future, for now they’re going with another transfer in Georgia’s Vandagriff. His production with the Bulldogs was limited but he comes over from one college football’s most successful programs and was an ESPN 300 prospect in the 2021 class. He possesses good physical tools. Georgia transfer Dumas-Johnson gives Kentucky an experienced player from within the conference who was a Butkus Award finalist at linebacker in 2022 and can help fill the void left with Trevin Wallace moving on to the NFL.


Recruits: LB Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa, WR Micah Gilbert, DL Bryce Young

Notre Dame’s class ranked No. 12 and should include a few quick contributors. Viliamu-Asa was a key signing out of California. He’s a physical linebacker with versatility to play in space. He’ll be tough to keep off the field. Young may be a slower burn initially, but he arrives with a lot of tools. Don’t be surprised to see his role grow as the season unfolds. The Irish used transfers to address wide receiver, but Gilbert is an ESPN 300 freshman who could break into the mix.

Transfers: QB Riley Leonard (Duke), WR Kris Mitchell (FIU), WR Beaux Collins (Clemson), K Mitch Jeter (South Carolina), DB Jordan Clark (Arizona State)

Landing Leonard was Notre Dame’s key offseason addition. He was gutsy and productive at Duke. Top signee C.J. Carr looks to be the future, but Leonard gives a Notre Dame program with playoff aspirations a proven player behind center. Mitchell was a necessary addition at receiver. He went for 1,118 yards and seven touchdowns in 2023 with FIU and flashed this spring in South Bend. Clark is poised to man nickel corner.


Recruits: OL Cooper Cousins, RB Quinton Martin

Penn State may seem like an odd addition to this list at first glance. The Nittany Lions were not overly active adding prospects in the portal and their freshmen may have limited production in year one. This isn’t about quantity, though. They added enough impact players to ensure they’re part of the mix in the expanded playoff race and an increasingly competitive Big Ten. Cousins is an in-state offensive line signing who could be the rare Penn State freshman lineman to step in and compete immediately. The Nittany Lions would welcome such a development considering they lost several linemen to the NFL, including center Hunter Nourzad. Cousins could factor in along multiple interior line spots this fall. Martin was another key in-state keep. He’s an elusive and versatile back who was active in the spring. He scored two touchdowns in the Nittany Lions’ spring game and adds valuable depth to their running back rotation. He should play a role this season.

Transfers: CB A.J. Harris (Georgia), WR Julian Fleming (Ohio State), CB Jalen Kimber (Florida), OL Nolan Rucci (Wisconsin)

Fleming alone could dictate the success of Penn State’s transfer class. A five-star in 2020, Fleming can justify his inclusion on this list by realizing his potential and harnessing his impressive blend of size, speed and body control. Fleming never broke through among a talented receiver group at Ohio State. He’s now back in his home state and primed to step into a No. 1 role at a position of need. He has breakout potential, but could hamper Penn State’s playoff hopes if he fails to produce. Harris, a highly ranked 2023 prospect, is a big addition to the secondary. Time is on his side, but he could be a plug-and-play addition. Rucci has experience within the conference and will help fill the void up front following multiple NFL departures.


Recruits: RB Yasin Willis, CB Marcellus Barnes Jr.

The Orange need to prove it on the field, but new head coach Fran Brown has certainly elevated their recruiting. Syracuse is transfer-heavy, but Brown closed strongly upon getting the job to add freshmen to the class who could get in the mix. Syracuse flipped Willis from Pittsburgh and he had nearly 100 yards in the spring game. He’s in position to propel the ground game.

Transfers: QB Kyle McCord (Ohio State), DB Duce Chestnut (LSU), WR Jackson Meeks (Georgia), WR Zeed Haynes (Georgia), DL Isaiah Hastings (Alabama), OL Da’Metrius Weatherspoon (Howard), DL Dion Wilson Jr. (New Mexico State), DL Fadil Diggs (Texas A&M), DB Devin Grant (Buffalo)

McCord’s departure from Ohio State was puzzling. Sure, he would have faced competition, but he also returned as the incumbent. Instead, the Orange benefit from a quarterback with big-game experience who threw for more than 3,000 yards and completed 66% of his passes in 2023. McCord had weapons at Ohio State, and Syracuse’s coaching staff worked to provide some strong options in his new offense too. Both Haynes and Meeks are Georgia transfers who could be consistent, dependable targets. McCord seemed to develop good chemistry with Haynes this spring. Chestnut began his career at Syracuse before transferring to LSU. He returns to where he had his best output and has the versatility to play either corner or safety. Diggs, Wilson and Hastings are all portal upgrades set to play key defensive line roles.


Recruits: WR Xavier Jordan

Jordan could make the quickest impact of any player in the Trojans’ No. 17-ranked recruiting class. He was a four-star from in-state Sierra Canyon who enrolled early and made a strong first impression on USC’s coaching staff both on and off the field during spring practice. The No. 15 receiver in the 2024 class and No. 80 overall player, Jordan impresses with his savvy route-running. USC doesn’t have a ton of receiver depth, and Jordan could push for playing time in the slot as a true freshman.

Transfers: DB Greedy Vance Jr. (Florida State), S Kamari Ramsey (UCLA), CB John Humphrey (UCLA), S Akili Arnold (Oregon State), CB DeCarlos Nicholson (Mississippi State), QB Jayden Maiava (UNLV)

The Trojans lost multiple defensive backs to the portal. Vance, who originally signed with Louisville out of high school, steps in after transferring from Florida State. He arrives with a long track record of experience in the ACC. He’s a bit undersized, but he’s a good instinctive nickel option. His versatility could free up others in USC’s secondary, including Jaylin Smith, to move around. He joins a slew of other additions, including several with Pac-12 experience. Maiava started 14 games as a freshman for UNLV last season and threw for 3,085 yards with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Miller Moss entrenched himself atop USC’s quarterback depth chart coming out of spring camp, but the Trojans could utilize Maiava’s running ability in specific packages.


Recruits: WR Nick Marsh, OL Rustin Young

The Spartans reset after a disappointing 2023 season by hiring Jonathan Smith from Oregon State. His arrival changed the complexion of their incoming class and led to many transfers, but the four-star Marsh remained committed to Michigan State. The in-state product quickly made an impact during spring ball, including a 75-yard touchdown catch during their spring game. He has great size and tools at 6-3, 205 pounds and could push for playing time right away. Young, another four-star, was one of more than half a dozen Oregon State commits to follow Smith to East Lansing. The Hawaii native was a bit of a late riser thanks to some impressive offseason camp performances. The 6-4, 270-pounder has good flexibility and a high ceiling.

Transfers: OG Tanner Miller (Oregon State), QB Aidan Chiles (Oregon State), DB Ed Woods (Arizona State), OL Luke Newman (Holy Cross)

More than a dozen Spartans players entered the spring transfer portal, including defensive linemen Derrick Harmon and Simeon Barrow, and they also lost offensive lineman Ethan Boyd to Colorado. Michigan State has diligently worked to replenish the depth along the offensive line. Miller was an All-America guard under Smith at Oregon State and Newman was a two-time All-Patriot League first-team selection at FCS Holy Cross. Smith also brought Chiles, a four-star in 2023, with him from Oregon State. Chiles played sparingly across nine games as a freshman but threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns while completing 68.6% of his passes. Woods is a good addition from Arizona State. He was coveted in the portal for his scheme versatility and strong instincts. He’s at his best closer to the line of scrimmage, but he has top-end speed and Michigan State needs the help after allowing the second-most passing yards in the Big Ten last year. Expect Woods to start immediately.


Recruits: WR Josiah Martin

Cal’s incoming class ranked just inside the top 75, but it cracks the list after strengthening wide receiver during the spring portal window. Most of the immediate help will come from transfers, but Martin is emerging as a name to watch after impressing Golden Bears coaches this spring. He arrives from Guyer (Texas) HS, one of the top programs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and is a good route runner who creates after the catch.

Transfers: WR Tobias Merriweather (Notre Dame), WR Mikey Matthews (Utah), DB Jasiah Wagoner (Oklahoma), TE Corey Dyches (Maryland), QB Chandler Rogers (North Texas)

Fernando Mendoza returns at quarterback, but he’ll have some competition. Rogers threw for 3,382 yards and 29 touchdowns to five interceptions in 2023 with North Texas. That’s a battle to watch in camp, and Rogers could still work his way into the offense even if he loses. Whoever is throwing the ball will have upgraded receiving options. Matthews was productive as a freshman with Utah. Cal got a good look at him last season when he caught seven passes in a Utah win over the Golden Bears. Cal will pair returning tight end Jack Endries with Dyches, a top-30 portal prospect. Cal flipped the Maryland transfer from a Charlotte commitment, and he’s a target with a wide catch radius who tallied nearly 90 catches over the past two seasons.

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