Big names are reshaping national title chase

LSU has added 15 transfers since hiring coach Brian Kelly. Southern California and Ole Miss have added 14 newcomers. Alabama’s reeled in five, but the Crimson Tide have made them count.

Transfer season has exploded across the Football Bowl Subdivision and reshaped rosters and the chase for the national championship.

Among the big names making moves are quarterback Caleb Williams, running back Jahmyr Gibbs, defensive lineman Jared Verse and safety Brandon Joseph.

And the dust hasn’t quite cleared on transfer season, with dozens more entering the portal since the end of spring drills to meet the May 1 deadline and be eligible to play immediately in 2022. Among those newcomers that have already found a new home, here’s the best of the best in the FBS:


Caleb Williams, Southern California (Oklahoma)

His reunion with new USC coach Lincoln Riley has been one of the top story lines of the offseason. The hyped pairing of coach and star quarterback might not yield a Pac-12 championship in 2021, but Williams is the best player at his position in the conference and one of the young faces of the sport.

Caleb Williams transferred to USC, joining his former Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley.

Caleb Williams transferred to USC, joining his former Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley.

Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma (Central Florida)

Like Williams, Gabriel gets to play under a familiar face in Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, who previously held the same position at UCF. If not as flashy as some of the Sooners’ recent quarterbacks, Gabriel is a steady and experienced starter with the ability to unleash the entire spectrum of OU’s passing game.

Spencer Rattler, South Carolina (Oklahoma)

The starter in 2020 and in the first month of the 2021 season, Rattler was replaced by Williams in the Sooners’ win against Texas and spent the rest of the year in a reserve role. Heading to the SEC gives him a chance to reboot things with a coach and program on the rise in Shane Beamer and the Gamecocks.

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Running backs

Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama (Georgia Tech)

The box-score-stuffing sophomore will be a great fit alongside quarterback Bryce Young and a huge hit in a system that knows how to take advantage of skill talent. In his one season with the Yellow Jackets, Gibbs racked up 746 yards rushing, 470 receiving yards and 589 yards on kickoff returns (25.6 yards per return) with seven total touchdowns.

Zach Evans, Ole Miss (TCU)

Evans ran for 648 yards in six games last season, four times going over 100 yards, before missing most of October and all of November with a toe injury. He’s a big addition for the Rebels, who have two options battling at quarterback but might alter the scheme a bit without Matt Carrol.

Montrell Johnson, Florida (Louisiana-Lafayette)

Johnson knows how to produce in new coach Billy Napier’s system after going for 838 yards and a team-best 12 touchdowns as a freshman in 2021. He’s almost certain to step into a substantial role given the Gators’ lack of experienced options in the backfield.

Wide receivers

Mario Williams, Southern California (Oklahoma)

Williams’ brief, one-year run with the Sooners never really took off, though he was a reliable option (35 receptions for 380 yards) in a crowded and more experienced receiver corps. As with the other Williams to go from OU to USC, the move to the Pac-12 provides the chance for a quick reboot.

Isaiah Neyor, Texas (Wyoming)

Neyor is a big-play target set to bring an element of danger to a receiver group in dire need of more explosiveness. He made 44 grabs for 878 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore and averaged 31 yards per his eight catches in 2020.

Tyler Harrell, Alabama (Louisville)

And speaking of getting downfield: Harrell averaged a whopping 29.1 yards per catch in 2021 (18 for 523 yards). Between his arrival and Gibbs’ projected role at running back, the Alabama offense will have the pieces to lead the nation in scoring.

Offensive line

Victor Oluwatimi, Michigan (Virginia)

An all-conference pick with the Cavaliers, Oluwatimi will anchor the middle of Michigan’s offensive line and ensure the Wolverines’ running game remains among the most productive in the Power Five. While transfer linemen never draw the same headlines as new quarterbacks or skill players, this addition will have a huge impact on the race for the Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff.

O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida (Louisiana-Lafayette)

Like Montrell Johnson, Torrence brings a comfort level with Napier’s scheme that almost ensures he’ll be in the starting lineup for the Gators’ opener. He started in all but one appearance during his time at Louisiana, earning second-team all-conference accolades in 2020 and first-team honors in 2021.

Tyler Steen, Alabama (Vanderbilt)

It’s not certain that Steen will start for the Crimson Tide, though he’ll have the opportunity to earn a spot during fall camp. At the very worst, his ability to play multiple positions up front will make him a valuable part of an offensive front that needs to make drastic improvements in pass protection after a down year.

Defensive line

Ochaun Mathis, Nebraska (TCU)

Mathis is a top-end edge rusher good enough to change the entire tenor of the Nebraska defense and make the Cornhuskers an actual contender in the Big Ten West. While the program is sputtering under embattled coach Scott Frost, Mathis finally gives Nebraska a difference-making talent coming off the corner.

Jared Verse, Florida State (Albany)

Verse has quickly put to rest any questions about his abil
ity to transition from the Football Championship Subdivision to the ACC. Set to start on the edge for the Seminoles, the Albany transfer could develop into an edge rusher capable of pulling down double-digit sacks.

Akheem Mesidor, Miami (West Virginia)

The two-time All-Big 12 pick is a huge portal grab for the Hurricanes, who have made a huge effort to reel in defensive linemen since the arrival of new coach Mario Cristobal. Mesidor played end as a freshman but was moved inside as a sophomore, giving Miami a number of options for how to use the newcomer in 2022.


Mohamoud Diabate, Utah (Florida)

Diabate made 17 starts in three seasons at Florida but has the chance to take his college career to a new level as Utah’s projected replacement for Devin Lloyd, one of two inside linebackers to go in the first round of the draft. If not Lloyd’s equal in coverage, Diabate will be a big addition to a Utah pass rush that ranked ninth nationally last year with 42 sacks.

Drew Sanders, Arkansas (Alabama)

Sanders is one reason why Arkansas’ defense is expected to remain in the top half of the SEC after ranking fifth in the conference last year in yards allowed per play. After starting three games for the Tide in 2021, the junior will line up at inside linebacker alongside senior Bumper Pool, an All-America candidate.

Jackson Sirmon, California (Washington)

Sirmon will make an in-conference and in-division transfer to play under his father, Peter, the Golden Bears’ defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach. One of the top returning defenders in the Pac-12, he’s the early favorite to lead the conference in tackles.

Defensive back

Brandon Joseph, Notre Dame (Northwestern)

One of the top defenders in the portal, Joseph brings experience and production to a Notre Dame secondary that needs to replace star safety Kyle Hamilton. Look for the junior to step right into those shoes and play at an All-America level.

Eli Ricks, Alabama (LSU)

A five-star talent ripped from Alabama’s SEC West rival, Ricks was terrific as a freshman in 2020, when he made four interceptions and earned second-team all-conference honors, but was limited to six games last season. While he needs to recover from a shoulder injury and put back on weight, Ricks is destined to play a major role for the Crimson Tide’s defense.

Tanner McCalister, Ohio State (Oklahoma State)

A multiple-year starter for the Cowboys under new Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, McCalister may be an invaluable one-year rental for his ability to translate the new scheme to the rest of the Buckeyes’ defense.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football transfers to know for 2022: Portal shakes title race