Ranking the 40 most impactful transfers over the past five years

Ranking college football’s 40 most impactful transfers over the past five years, from Joe Burrow to Caleb Williams.

The transfer portal has gained popularity over the years and is now a resource for college football coaches to fill holes and revamp their rosters.

New coaches have used the portal to quickly turn around struggling programs. Established coaches have used it to fill holes quickly while high school prospects develop. Quarterbacks are taking advantage of the opportunity to change schools if they aren’t the starter at their previous school.

Over the past five years, thousands of players have entered the portal and made an impact for their new teams. We have seen players go from FCS to Power 5, change teams within their conference and even go from backup quarterbacks looking for a shot to Heisman winners.

We looked at the past five years and picked the top 40 college football transfers who either made an impact or are expected to make an impact at their new destinations.

1. QB Joe Burrow
From Ohio State to LSU

Burrow is probably the most high-profile transfer in the past five years, going from Ohio State to LSU in 2018. He played two seasons for the Tigers, leading them to the 2019 national championship after a Heisman campaign in which he threw for 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also won the Maxwell Award for college player of the year, the Walter Camp Player of the Year, the Manning Award and was an All-American.

2. QB Jalen Hurts
From Alabama to Oklahoma

Hurts had an interesting college career, as he won the starting job in the second game of his freshman season at Alabama. He threw for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns that season, also adding 13 touchdowns on the ground. In his sophomore season, Hurts threw for 2,081 yards and 17 touchdowns but was benched in the national championship game for Tua Tagovailoa, who went on to win the title for the Crimson Tide. Tagovailoa was then the starter the following season, leading to Hurts’ transfer to Oklahoma. Under coach Lincoln Riley, Hurts threw for 3,851 yards and 32 touchdowns and ran for 1,298 yards and 20 touchdowns, finishing as the Heisman runner-up to Burrow.

3. QB Justin Fields
From Georgia to Ohio State

Fields was in the same recruiting class as Trevor Lawrence, and the two quarterbacks were ranked Nos. 1 and 2 overall. Fields originally committed to Penn State before flipping to Georgia, then left Georgia for Ohio State. In his first season with the Buckeyes, Fields threw for 3,273 yards and 41 touchdowns, and followed that up with 2,100 yards and 22 touchdowns in just eight games during the shortened 2020 season. Fields helped take Ohio State to the College Football Playoff both seasons and set multiple program records for offense.

4. QB Caleb Williams
From Oklahoma to USC

Williams just transferred this offseason when Riley left Oklahoma to take the head-coaching job at USC. Williams had 1,912 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and four interceptions last season, along with 442 rush yards and six touchdowns in 11 games. He was only a freshman when he replaced then-starter Spencer Rattler at quarterback and now has an opportunity to turn the Trojans’ offense around under Riley. Williams has also helped attract other players, including receivers Jordan Addison and Mario Williams.

5. WR Jordan Addison
From Pittsburgh to USC

Addison’s transfer from Pitt to USC was shocking considering he had just won the Biletnikoff Award in 2021 for the country’s best receiver. He ranked fourth among all FBS receivers with 1,593 receiving yards and tied for the most receiving touchdowns (17) last season. But Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett was drafted, leaving uncertainty at the position at Pitt entering Addison’s final season. Now, Addison is one of several playmakers who can help transform USC’s offense quickly.

6. WR Jameson Williams
From Ohio State to Alabama

Williams was the No. 103 prospect in the 2019 class and signed with Ohio State out of Missouri. He was part of a receiver class for the Buckeyes that included Garrett Wilson and Ronnie Hickman, both ESPN 300 wide receiver recruits. Williams played sparingly in his first two seasons, with a combined 15 receptions and three touchdowns. He broke out at Alabama, totaling 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns on 79 receptions. He also had two kick returns for a touchdown last season and was selected No. 12 overall in the first round by the Detroit Lions.

7. LB Henry To’oTo’o
From Tennessee to Alabama

To’oTo’o was the No. 49 recruit in 2019 and signed with Tennessee out of California as the No. 4 outside linebacker in the class. His first season with the Vols, To’oTo’o was second on the team in total tackles (72) and had five tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and three quarterback hurries. In the shortened 2020 season, he led the team in total tackles with 76 and in tackles for loss with 10. He then transferred to Alabama, and after leading the Crimson Tide with 112 total tackles in 2021 and recording eight tackles for loss, four sacks and one forced fumble, he will return for the 2022 season.

8. RB Kenneth Walker III
From Wake Forest to Michigan State

Walker was a good back for Wake Forest but didn’t have eye-popping numbers in his first two seasons. In seven games during the 2020 season, he had 579 rush yards and 13 touchdowns on 119 attempts. He transferred to Michigan State and made an immediate impact for the Spartans, rushing for 264 yards and four touchdowns in the first game of the season against Northwestern (including a 75-yard touchdown on his first carry as a Spartan). He completely turned around Michigan State’s run game, finishing the season with 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns.

9. QB Bailey Zappe
From Houston Baptist to Western Kentucky

Zappe wasn’t a big-name quarterback despite succeeding in his first four years at Houston Baptist, throwing for 3,811 yards, 35 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 2019 and 1,833 yards, 15 touchdowns and one interception in 2020. In his one season at Western Kentucky, he led all FBS quarterbacks with 5,967 yards and 62 touchdowns, putting himself in national award consideration and leading to him being drafted in the fourth round in 2022 by the New England Patriots.

10. QB Spencer Rattler
From Oklahoma to South Carolina

Rattler was the No. 29 prospect in the 2019 class out of Arizona and signed with Riley and Oklahoma. He sat for most of his first season on campus but broke out in 2020 when he threw for 3,031 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also ran for 160 yards and six touchdowns that season. Rattler had Heisman hype heading into the 2021 season but was ultimately replaced by Caleb Williams. After finishing with 1,483 pass yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions, he transferred to South Carolina to play for Shane Beamer and should be the starting quarterback this season.

11. QB Quinn Ewers
From Ohio State to Texas

Ewers was the No. 2 prospect in high school in the 2022 class but reclassified to the 2021 class and enrolled early at Ohio State. He made headlines when it was reported that Ewers had signed name, image and likeness deals worth over $1 million before arriving at Ohio State, but he didn’t attempt a pass in his first season. He transferred to Texas, where he had originally committed in his recruiting process before flipping to the Buckeyes, and now has an opportunity to earn the starting job and help a Texas offense that lost last season’s starter, Casey Thompson, to transfer.

12. OL Landon Dickerson
From Florida State to Alabama

Dickerson started three seasons at Florida State but suffered injuries all three years. He transferred to Alabama, where he played center and won the Rimington Trophy for the country’s top center. An All-American and All-SEC player, he was a big part of Alabama’s success up until his injury in the 2020 SEC championship game. The Philadelphia Eagles drafted him in the second round in 2021.

13. DE Jermaine Johnson II
From Georgia to Florida State

Johnson started four games in two seasons for Georgia and had eight tackles for loss with 7.5 sacks during his time with the Dawgs. He transferred to Florida State and finished the 2021 season with 12 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, 70 total tackles and two forced fumbles. He won ACC defensive player of the year and was drafted in the first round by the New York Jets in 2022.

14. DL Arnold Ebiketie
From Temple to Penn State

Ebiketie transferred from Temple to Penn State at a time when the Nittany Lions needed help along the edge. The team had lost Odafe OwehShaka Toney and others who had success rushing the quarterback. In the shortened 2020 season, Ebiketie had 4 sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss and 42 tackles in six games for Temple. With Penn State last year, Ebiketie had 9.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, 62 tackles and 2 blocked kicks. He was selected in the second round of the 2022 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons.

15. OL Victor Oluwatimi
From Virginia to Michigan

Oluwatimi was one of three finalists for the Rimington Trophy last season and started all 12 games for Virginia at center. Michigan lost starting center Andrew Vastardis this offseason to graduation, so Oluwatimi is coming in at a perfect time. Most of Michigan’s offensive line is returning, and being able to plug in someone as durable and successful as Oluwatimi will help with consistency from last season for a unit that won the Joe Moore Award for being the country’s best offensive line.

16. QB Gardner Minshew
From East Carolina to Washington State

Minshew had a winding path of a college career, from Troy to Northwest Mississippi Community College and eventually East Carolina. He threw for 2,140 yards and 16 touchdowns in 10 games at East Carolina. He then transferred and originally committed to play at Alabama, but changed his mind and transferred to Washington State. Minshew went from a struggling East Carolina team to leading Washington State to an 11-2 record in his final season, throwing for 4,779 yards and 38 touchdowns.

17. QB Malik Willis
From Auburn to Liberty

Willis played sparingly in his first two seasons at Auburn, attempting only 14 passes. He transferred to Liberty and threw for 2,857 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while running for 878 yards and 13 touchdowns.

18. QB Shane Buechele
From Texas to SMU

Buechele completed 373 passes his first two seasons at Texas for 4,363 yards and 28 touchdowns. He saw his role diminish, however, and ultimately lost his starting job to Sam Ehlinger. In two seasons at SMU, Buechele threw for 7,025 yards and 57 touchdowns with 16 interceptions as the starter.

19. QB D’Eriq King
From Houston to Miami

King threw for 2,982 yards and 36 touchdowns in the 2018 season but opted for a redshirt season in 2019 and played in only four games. In his first season at Miami, King threw for 2,686 yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also had 538 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He was injured in his final season.

20. QB Jaxson Dart
From USC to Ole Miss

Dart was recruited to USC after a senior high school season in which he threw for 4,691 yards and 67 touchdowns. As a freshman, in six games, Dart threw for 1,353 yards, 9 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Now, he’ll get a chance to suit up for Lane Kiffin’s Rebels.

21. QB Dillon Gabriel
From UCF to Oklahoma

In the 2019 and 2020 seasons at UCF, Gabriel threw for a combined 7,223 yards and 61 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. He is now coming into Oklahoma after the Sooners lost both Williams and Rattler, needing a stabilizing force at the position. Gabriel should be able to play right away after reuniting with offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.

22. RB Zach Charbonnet
From Michigan to UCLA

Charbonnet, the No. 101 recruit in the 2019 class and the No. 5 running back, signed with Michigan out of Westlake Village, California. He ran for 726 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first season with the Wolverines on 149 attempts, but then had only 19 carries his sophomore season. He transferred to UCLA and had 1,137 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2021.

23. RB Jahmyr Gibbs
From Georgia Tech to Alabama

In 12 games last season, Gibbs had 746 yards rushing and four touchdowns, along with 465 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He’ll give Alabama help at running back with the loss of starter Brian Robinson Jr.

24. DE/LB Jaelan Phillips
From UCLA to Miami

Phillips had medically retired at UCLA, only to transfer to Miami and flourish. He finished his final season with eight sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss and 45 total tackles.

25. DE Ochaun Mathis
From TCU to Nebraska

Mathis had 45 total tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks last season. Nebraska needs help almost everywhere on defense, and Mathis should be able to provide an immediate presence along the defensive line. He was one of the more targeted defensive transfers this offseason.

26. DB Brandon Joseph
From Northwestern to Notre Dame

Notre Dame lost All-American safety Kyle Hamilton to the NFL and needed a replacement. The coaches were able to get Joseph, a consensus All-American who ranked third on the Wildcats in total tackles (79) and also had three interceptions and four pass breakups, to help fill that void.

27. DL Siaki Ika
From LSU to Baylor

Ika played in 13 games as a true freshman in 2019, then just four games in 2020 for the Tigers. He had 25 total tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss while being a big presence in the middle of the defensive line for Baylor last season.

28. OL Obinna Eze
From Memphis to TCU

Eze was an outstanding tackle who, after playing two years at Memphis and one at TCU, signed with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent.

29. QB Hendon Hooker
From Virginia Tech to Tennessee

Hooker threw for 2,945 yards and 31 touchdowns and rushed for 616 yards and five touchdowns this past season for Tennessee. He wasn’t initially the starter to open the season but stepped in and had a lot of success.

30. RB Zach Evans
From TCU to Ole Miss

Evans is a former five-star running back who is helping fill a major hole at the position for Ole Miss. Last season at TCU, Evans had 648 rush yards and five touchdowns on 92 carries.

31. DE Jared Verse
From Albany to Florida State

Last season, Verse had 11.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and 52 total tackles at Albany. Florida State lost Jermaine Johnson II to the NFL and could use help along the edge. Verse has the experience to step in right away.

32. DB Eli Ricks
From LSU to Alabama

Ricks is a former All-American defensive back who had season-ending shoulder surgery last year. Alabama has lost defensive backs Josh Jobe and Jalyn Armour-Davis, so Ricks should provide an immediate boost in the secondary.

33. WR Wan’Dale Robinson
From Nebraska to Kentucky

Robinson led Kentucky in receiving yards (1,334) and receiving touchdowns (seven) a season ago. He averaged 102.6 receiving yards per game.

34. WR Mario Williams
From Oklahoma to USC

As a freshman last season, Williams had 380 receiving yards on 35 receptions and four touchdowns. He will team up again with quarterback Caleb Williams and is part of a complete offensive reboot for the Trojans.

35. WR Jerreth Sterns
From Houston Baptist to Western Kentucky

Sterns teamed up with Bailey Zappe again at Western Kentucky to the tune of 1,902 receiving yards on 150 receptions and 17 touchdowns last season. Their success set him up for several awards, including being a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff.

36. CB Derion Kendrick
From Clemson to Georgia

Kendrick had 41 total tackles, 3 pass breakups and 4 interceptions last season for the national champion Dawgs. He led the team in interceptions and played in all 15 games.

37. QB Cameron Ward
From Incarnate Word to Washington State

Ward had 4,648 passing yards and 47 touchdowns last season. He is one of the more interesting transfers this offseason, transferring from a lower division to a Power 5 school.

38. QB Jayden de Laura
From Washington State to Arizona

De Laura was the starter last season for Washington State and had 2,798 passing yards with 23 touchdowns. He also had three rushing touchdowns for the Cougars.

39. QB Jack Coan
From Wisconsin to Notre Dame

Coan threw for 3,150 yards and 25 touchdowns last season for the Irish. His transfer from Wisconsin was somewhat of a surprise, and while his numbers weren’t eye-popping, he helped Notre Dame to an 11-2 record.

40. RB Ty Chandler
From Tennessee to North Carolina

Chandler had 1,092 rush yards and 13 touchdowns last season for North Carolina, both team highs, and heads to a Tennessee team that ranked second in the SEC in rushing in 2021.

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