College News & Analysis

2024 PFF All-Transfer Portal Team: Caleb Downs, Dillon Gabriel and more

2WANBRB PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01: Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Caleb Downs (2) warms up before the Alabama Crimson Tide game versus the Michigan Wolverines CFP Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game on January, 1, 2024, at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

• Ohio State’s Caleb Downs: The former Alabama star is the top transfer safety and the best safety in college football, period.

• Oregon’s Dillon Gabriel: The former Oklahoma quarterback enters 2024 as one of the top Heisman candidates.

• Texas A&M’s Nic Scourton: The former Purdue edge defender is one of the top returning edge defenders in college football.

Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes

More than 2,000 players entered the college football transfer portal this year, a tool that has only grown in importance and popularity since its inception in 2018.

Gone are the days of programs being built solely through high school recruiting, as the portal has essentially served as college football’s version of free agency. Some programs have excelled due to their reliance on the portal (Florida State) while others have taken a step back by not utilizing it nearly as much (Clemson). Of the past seven Heisman Trophy winners, five have been transfers.

Heisman Trophy Winners Since 2017 Who Transferred
Name Heisman Year School Original School
Jayden Daniels 2023 LSU Arizona State
Caleb Williams 2022 USC Oklahoma
Joe Burrow 2019 LSU Ohio State
Kyler Murray 2018 Oklahoma Texas A&M
Baker Mayfield 2017 Oklahoma Texas Tech

With the portal quieting down (for now), here’s a look at the top players who have found new homes.

Quarterback: Dillon Gabriel, Oregon Ducks

Transferred from: Oklahoma Sooners

Gabriel’s 91.7 grade this past season trailed only Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels and Heisman finalist Bo Nix among FBS quarterbacks. His 118.9 passer rating ranked fifth in the nation. Gabriel will now replace the aforementioned Nix at Oregon and is an early Heisman Trophy candidate for next season.

Running Back: Quinshon Judkins, Ohio State Buckeyes

Transferred from: Ole Miss Rebels

Judkins has been a superstar since he entered the college football ranks. His 2,726 rushing yards over his first two seasons are the most by any Power Five running back since 2022. Judkins also leads all returning FBS backs in yards after contact (1,800), rushing touchdowns (31) and forced missed tackles (154) in that span.

Wide Receiver: Evan Stewart, Oregon Ducks

Transferred from: Texas A&M Aggies

Stewart entered College Station as a top-10 recruit in the 2022 class and showed why as a true freshman. His 643 receiving yards that year led the team and were second among all true freshman receivers in the FBS that season.

He missed five games as a sophomore due to a leg injury but still ranked third among Aggie receivers with 514 yards. His 24.6% target rate was eighth among SEC receivers. Stewart will look to bounce back as one of Dillon Gabriel’s top targets at Oregon next season.

Wide Receiver: Caullin Lacy, Louisville Cardinals

Transferred from: South Alabama Jaguars

Good things happen with the ball in Lacy’s hands. He led all FBS receivers this past year with 842 yards after the catch and 430 receiving yards after contact. Lacy will attempt to keep up that dominance at the Power Five level as Louisville’s top receiver next season.

Wide Receiver: Isaiah Bond, Texas Longhorns

Transferred from: Alabama Crimson Tide

Bond is a big play waiting to happen. As a sophomore, he ranked second among Alabama receivers with 671 receiving yards, and his four receiving touchdowns on 20-plus-yard throws tied for fourth in the SEC. His speed should pair perfectly with Quinn Ewers’ rocket launcher of a right arm at Texas next season.

Tight End: Jack Velling, Michigan State Spartans

Transferred from: Oregon State Beavers

Velling has a nose for the end zone. His eight receiving touchdowns tied for the most among FBS tight ends this past season, and his 13 catches of 15-plus yards tied for eighth among Power Five players at his position. Keep in mind that he was only a true sophomore in 2023. Velling is following head coach Jonathan Smith from Oregon State to Michigan State for 2024.

Offensive Tackle: Kadyn Proctor, Iowa Hawkeyes

Transferred from: Alabama Crimson Tide

Proctor started every game for Alabama at left tackle in 2023 as a true freshman. The former top-10 recruit endured some expected growing pains, posting a 54.5 grade over the first seven games. Proctor was far better down the stretch, though, earning a 76.3 grade over the final seven contests. That included an impressive outing against Georgia in the SEC championship game, where he surrendered one pressure on 29 pass-blocking snaps.

Proctor will play next season at Iowa, the school he originally committed to.

Offensive Tackle: Lance Heard, Tennessee Volunteers

Transferred from: LSU Tigers

Heard started three games for LSU at right tackle this season as a true freshman. The former five-star recruit didn’t allow a sack across his 90 pass-blocking snaps and surrendered only three pressures. After transferring to Tennessee in January, he’s projected to be one of the Volunteers’ starting tackles next season.

Offensive Guard: Cayden Green, Missouri Tigers

Transferred from: Oklahoma Sooners

Green was Oklahoma’s starting left guard as a true freshman. The former top-100 recruit was at his best in pass protection, as he didn’t allow a sack and let up just one hit on 277 pass-blocking snaps.

Offensive Guard: Davion Carter, Texas Tech Red Raiders

Transferred from: Memphis Tigers

Carter's 82.6 PFF grade ranked fifth among FBS guards this past season. He was also one of only four guards in the nation who placed in the top 10 for both pass-blocking grade (tied for eighth) and run-blocking grade (sixth). Carter will look to continue his all-around dominance in the Big 12 at Texas Tech next season.

Center: Parker Brailsford, Alabama Crimson Tide

Transferred from: Washington Huskies

Brailsford ended the 2023 season as the second-most valuable center in the nation, according to PFF’s Wins Above Average metric. His 80.4 grade ranked third among Power Five centers, while his 80.8 run-blocking grade trailed only Jackson Powers-Johnson — a projected first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft — among that same group. Brailsford’s excellent year came in just his redshirt freshman campaign, and he now follows head coach Kalen DeBoer to Alabama.

Interior Defensive Lineman: Walter Nolen, Ole Miss Rebels

Transferred from: Texas A&M Aggies

The former top recruit in the 2022 class, Nolen began to live up to that hype in his sophomore season. His seven sacks this past year tied for third among SEC interior defensive linemen, as did his eight tackles for loss or no gain. He placed fourth among SEC defensive tackles with a 9.9% pass-rush win rate, as well. Nolen is staying within the conference and will play for Ole Miss in 2024.

Interior Defensive Lineman: Aeneas Peebles, Virginia Tech Hokies

Transferred from: Duke Blue Devils

Peebles made ACC quarterbacks’ lives a living nightmare in 2023. His 90.1 pass-rushing grade trailed only projected first-rounder Byron Murphy II among FBS interior defensive linemen. He ranked fifth in the country with a 16.2% pass-rush win rate. Peebles will continue terrorizing ACC quarterbacks but will now do so at Virginia Tech.

Edge Defender: Nic Scourton, Texas A&M Aggies

Transferred from: Purdue Boilermakers

Scourton's 91.0 pass-rushing grade in 2023 trailed only Laiatu Latu and James Pearce Jr. among Power Five edge defenders. He also ranked ninth among FBS edges with a 21.3% pass-rush win rate. Scourton is a powerful edge rusher at 260 pounds but has excellent movement ability at that size.

While new Texas A&M head coach Mike Elko lost some serious talent in the transfer portal, he gained a potential first-rounder in Scourton.

Edge Defender: Princely Umanmielen, Ole Miss Rebels

Transferred from: Florida Gators

Umanmielen was one of the eight FBS edge defenders to record a higher pass-rush win rate than Scourton this past season, placing seventh in that department (22.2%). He was also eighth among Power Five edges in pressure rate (19%) this year. Umanmielen will join Walter Nolen on Ole Miss’ defensive line in 2024.

Linebacker: Jaishawn Barham, Michigan Wolverines

Transferred from: Maryland Terrapins

Barham endured a down season, as the sophomore earned just a 66.2 overall grade and a 44.7 coverage grade while dealing with injuries. In 2022, the then-true freshman excelled with a 78.5 grade and an 83.1 coverage grade. He also finished 2022 as the seventh-most valuable linebacker in the country, according to PFF’s Wins Above Average metric. Barham will look to recapture his freshman form at Michigan next season.

Linebacker: Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Kentucky Wildcats

Transferred from: Georgia Bulldogs

Dumas-Johnson missed the final five games of the 2023 season with a fractured forearm. The year before, he paced all SEC linebackers with a 79.7 run-defense grade and ranked second with a 26.7% pressure rate. He’ll be a leader of Kentucky’s defense next season.

Cornerback: Tacario Davis, Undecided

Transferred from: Arizona Wildcats

Davis is the only player on this list who is still available in the transfer portal. He likely won’t be for long after a dominant sophomore campaign. Davis utilizes his elite length at 6-foot-4 to bother receivers at the catch point. His 27.8% forced incompletion rate ranked fifth among Power Five cornerbacks this past season. In single coverage, Davis forced more incompletions (14) than he allowed catches (11). Keep an eye on Washington as a potential landing spot since Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch was hired to lead the Huskies in January.

Cornerback: Jabbar Muhammad, Oregon Ducks

Transferred from: Washington Huskies

Another reason Tacario Davis could be heading to Washington is because the Huskies need a lockdown cornerback after losing Muhammad this offseason. He led the position with 19 forced incompletions this past season, 17 of which came in single coverage. Muhammad is the third player on this list who will be playing for Oregon next year, showing how dominant Dan Lanning and company have been in the portal.

Safety: Caleb Downs, Ohio State Buckeyes

Transferred from: Alabama Crimson Tide

Downs isn’t only the top safety who transferred this offseason; he’s the best returning safety, period. The true freshman was named a PFF first-team All-American this year after posting an 88.9 coverage grade, which ranked fourth among FBS safeties. His 16 coverage stops were the third most among that same group. Downs will star in Ohio State’s secondary next year.

Safety: Kamari Ramsey, USC Trojans

Transferred from: UCLA Bruins

Opposing quarterbacks didn't find much success when looking Ramsey’s way this year. The sophomore’s 41.6 passer rating allowed led all Pac-12 safeties, while his 0.31 yards allowed per coverage snap ranked second. Ramsey is also a hard-nosed run defender, placing eighth among FBS safeties with seven tackles for loss or no gain.

Flex-D: Andrew Mukuba, Texas Longhorns

Transferred from: Clemson Tigers

Mukuba played mostly as a slot cornerback for Clemson this past season and had a nice bounce-back campaign allowing only 0.46 yards per coverage snap — which ranked seventh among Power Five cornerbacks. The year before, he struggled to a 50.2 grade but also dealt with a myriad of injuries, including a dislocated elbow and a sprained MCL

As a true freshman, Mukuba earned a 77.0 grade, which proves that his 2022 struggles should be chalked up more to injuries than anything else. He’ll be a versatile chess piece for Texas, as he can play in the slot, feature deep at free safety or stick his nose in the box at a high level.

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