2023 Post-Spring Top 25 Rankings: Georgia sits at No. 1 but who rounds out the rest of the Top 5?
With spring football in the rearview mirror, the transfer portal activity slowly — albeit not totally — starting to slow down, and coaches on the road out recruiting their next wave of future signees, now is a great time to assess where teams stand entering the summer before the 2023 season.
All last week, we rolled out the On3 Post-Spring Power Rankings for each Power 5 conference: SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, and Pac-12. Today, we release the Post-Spring Top 25, which includes a couple of teams not previously ranked like Notre Dame.
The two-time defending champion Georgia Bulldogs hold the top spot, but who else should round out the Top 5?
The reigning back-to-back national champions return one of the top offensive and defensive lines in the country, plus a deep set of playmakers and the best staff in America, led by head coach Kirby Smart.
Carson Beck seemed to grab the reigns of the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback job this spring, while former 5-star recruits Malachi Starks and Mykell Williams are the next names to know off of a defense that has produced seven 1st Round picks in the last two NFL Drafts.
Is this the year the Wolverines can break through the class ceiling and win their first national championship since 1997? After consecutive Big Ten titles, Jim Harbaugh looks to have his best team since coming to Ann Arbor, with 13 starters back including QB J.J. McCarthy and dynamic tailbacks Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards.
Michigan also added several impact transfers like pass rusher Josaiah Stewart, Nebraska linebacker Ernest Hausmann and a couple of Stanford o-linemen ready to fill what few holes they had on the depth chart, too.
Michigan hosts Ohio State this season, and Harbaugh said earlier this spring, “Now is the time to strike while the iron is hot.”
3. Ohio State
The Buckeyes may have as many as five 2024 1st Round picks on the roster, led by the nation’s best non-QB prospect in wideout Marvin Harrison Jr., as well as a slew of former 5-star recruits on the DL.
OSU’s receiver and running back rooms are an embarrassment of riches, and a leaky secondary has been potentially patched with the emergence of a couple of former blue-chip recruits looking to make a leap.
The Buckeyes’ OL is a work in progress, though, and Ryan Day still has to sort out who QB1 is. But regardless of whether it’s Kyle McCord (the likely favorite) or Devin Brown, beating The Team Up North is a must for Day in 2023.
Brian Kelly exceeded expectations in Year 1 with the Tigers, upsetting Alabama and winning the SEC West. Now, he returns an even better team in Year 2, with all five starting o-linemen back, plus quarterback Jayden Daniels, the best set of wideouts in the SEC and freaky linebacker Harold Perkins Jr. headlining a loaded front-seven, which also returns 5-star DL Maason Smith.
LSU has once again re-loaded its secondary via the transfer portal this offseason, and while the Tigers must play rival Alabama in Tuscaloosa this year, they enter the summer with fewer question marks than the Tide.
The Crimson Tide signed the No. 1 recruiting class in 2023 — landing an insane 14 Top 100 prospects. And yet, Alabama enters the summer with plenty of uncertainty, as Nick Saban has two new coordinators (Tommy Rees and Kevin Steele), a quarterback battle to sort out and a quintet of transfers he hopes will provide more production than last year’s portal haul.
Still, no one can discount Alabama’s championship upside with an improved WR core, a better OL, and impact freshmen like tailback Justice Haynes and safety Caleb Downs, who will be a part of one of the best secondaries in the country this fall.
The Trojans have the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Caleb Williams, and Lincoln Riley’s offense projects to be even better in Year 2 in Los Angeles with the addition of Arizona transfer Dorian Singer, the leading receiver in the Pac-12 in 2022, and former 5-star recruit MarShawn Lloyd at tailback.
As always though with a Lincoln Riley team, USC’s ceiling this fall will come down to its defensive improvements. Despite a so-so spring game performance, the Trojans feel better about Alex Grinch’s unit exiting the spring. Eight starters are back and they’ve beefed up the depth chart with impact transfers like DT Bear Alexander from Georgia, a former 5-star recruit, end Jack Sullivan from Purdue, All-Big 12 linebacker Mason Cobb, pass rusher Anthony Lucas from Texas A&M and corner Christian Roland-Wallace from Arizona.
USC hasn’t won the Pac-12 since 2017, but in its final year in the league, Riley looks to have the team that could snap a six-year drought.
7. Penn State
James Franklin’s team enters the summer with as much hype as any program in the country. The Nittany Lions could have the best defense in the Big Ten, with all-conference talent at all three levels.
Former 5-star prospect Drew Allar is seen as a rising star in Happy Valley, and he’ll be aided by one of the best tailback duos in the country in sophomores Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen.
Penn State’s receiving core should be improved this fall with the continued development of a guy like KeAndre Lambert-Smith and the addition of transfer Dante Cephas. Can the Nittany Lions break through and return to the Big Ten Championship for the first time since 2016?
8. Florida State
The Seminoles enter the summer with more 2023 hype than any team in America. Mike Norvell’s squad returns 16 starters off a 10-3 team a year ago — the most returning production in the country, per ESPN — including stars like quarterback Jordan Travis and edge rusher Jared Verse.
Norvell has also become the Portal King this offseason, supplementing FSU’s roster with key transfers like Michigan State wideout Keon Coleman, tight ends Jahiem Bell and Kyle Morlock, Auburn guard Keiondre Jones and Western Michigan defensive lineman Brandon Fiske.
Florida State opens the season with LSU, and in a division-less ACC this year, it may play Clemson twice in order to win the league. But entering the summer, the Noles have less question marks than the Tigers.
Can Steve Sarkisian finally win 10 games? Can Texas stop squandering second-half leads? Will the Longhorns write their Big 12 swan song and win the league in their final season in the conference?
Texas is loaded, returning of the better offensive lines, tight ends and receiver rooms in the country, plus Sarkisian likes the development he’s seen from quarterback Quinn Ewers this offseason. They bring back six starters on defense, too, led by All-American linebacker Jaylan Ford.
The Huskies spent the spring breaking in a new interior OL, replacing both guards and their starting center. Because most everything else is back for Kalen Deboer after a surprising 11-2 season in Year 1 at Washington.
Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is an early Heisman Trophy candidate and he’s throwing to a super-talented set of receivers. Washington snagged a pair of tailbacks out of the transfer portal, as the offense (which averaged nearly 40 points per game in 2022) figures to be elite once again if the OL meshes accordingly.
The Tigers are looking to repeat as ACC Champions in 2023, returning a strong core from a group that went undefeated in conference play last season.
Cade Klubnik takes over full-time at QB, but he’ll be working in an upgraded offense led by wunderkind OC Garrett Riley, who comes over from TCU. The Tigers will run a varied version the Air Raid, but with a receiving core that still has some uncertainties, they’ll continue to lean on tailbacks Will Shipley and Phil Mafah.
The Tigers lost some key pieces off of their defensive line, but 5-star freshman Peter Woods impressed this spring and will start immediately. Clemson also has the best linebacker duo in Barrett Carter and Jeremiah Trotter.
Coming off their best season in 25 years, the Vols are looking to continue on their upward trajectory under third-year head coach Josh Heupel. Joe Milton is the next man up at QB, with ballyhooed 5-star freshman Nico Iamaleava waiting in the wings.
Even without Hendon Hooker, Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman, Tennessee’s offense is expected to remain elite in 2023, with guys like Squirrel White and Bru McCoy the next future household names Knoxville. What sort of leap the can the defense make — with newcomers like BYU transfer Keenan Pili and freshman Arion Carter — remains the question?
13. Notre Dame
The Irish had a topsy-turvy Year 1 under Marcus Freeman, but despite OC Tommy Rees bolting for Alabama, the offense should be much improved in 2023 with ACC-record-setter Sam Hartman at QB and a deep group of available playmakers.
Notre Dame also returns an offensive line with two of the better tackles in the country this fall, plus a tailback group with multiple ex-blue-chip recruits. The schedule isn’t very forgiving, but at least Ohio State, USC and Pitt all come to South Bend this fall.
The defensive line needs a top-flight pass rusher to emerge, but the Irish like their pieces at linebacker and cornerback.
Unlike USC or Washington, the Ducks do not return the sort of experience or continuity off a team that went 10-3 a year ago. Quarterback Bo Nix is back, but Oregon has a new OC with Kenny Dillingham now the head coach at Arizona State.
The roster turnover includes 33 players to leave the program since their bowl win over North Carolina. Thankfully for Ducks fans, young head coach Dan Lanning has proven he can shrewdly fill holes via recruiting — both traditionally and using the transfer portal. Oregon signed a Top 10 recruiting class in 2023 and they also welcomed 14 transfers to Eugene, including headliners like wideouts Traeshon Holden (Alabama) and Tez Johnson (Troy), former 5-star end Jordan Burch (South Carolina) and corners Khyree Jackson (Alabama), Tysheem Johnson (Ole Miss) and Evan Williams (Fresno State).
The Ducks stand to light up the scoreboard again this fall, but they need to play much better on defense to win the league. One notable target for improvement is pass rush: They had just 18 sacks in 2022 — fourth-fewest in the league.
Kyle Whittingham’s team has won the Pac-12 two straight seasons and arguably would be listed higher on these rankings if not for some uncertainty surrounding senior quarterback Cam Rising, who continues to rehab a torn ACL he suffered in the Rose Bowl.
Whittingham said that Rising is on schedule and “cautiously optimistic” the QB will be ready to start Week 1 against Florida. If Rising can’t go, then redshirt freshman Bryson Barnes would get the nod, and he did spend all spring working with the 1s. Utah has a deep set of tailbacks and tight ends, and freshman wideout Mikey Matthews was one of the team’s spring standouts.
The Utes lost star corner Clark Phillips, but they added Miles Battle from the portal and do have one of the better safety duos in the nation, led by Cole Bishop. Eight starters are back in total off a group that ranked No. 2 in the league in scoring (21.4 points per game).
16. Kansas State
The Wildcats didn’t hold a spring game, but the reigning conference champs still look to have the makeup to win the league again in 2023, bringing back their mauling, veteran OL and quarterback Will Howard.
FSU transfer Treshaun Ward replaces star tailback Deuce Vaughn, but there is some uncertainly about replicating the production from Felix Anudike-Uzomah, a 1st Round pick who led the team with 8.5 sacks, and corner JuJu Brents, who had four picks in 2022. The defense does return six starters and brought in several transfers, including Mississippi State DE Jevon Banks, to fill some holes.
17. Oregon State
Jonathan Smith delivered his alma mater its third 10-win season ever in 2022, and the Beavers return one of the best offensive lines and running back rooms in the Pac-12 this fall.
Oregon State also grabbed quarterback DJ Uiagalelei from the transfer portal, but the former Clemson 5-star isn’t even guaranteed start with incumbent Ben Gulbranson back, as well as impressive freshman Aiden Chiles.
The Beavers lost star linebacker Omar Speights to LSU, and three starters in the secondary are gone, but they return a stout defensive line and should still be one of the better units overall in the league this fall.
The Big Ten has a strongly defined Top 3, and then it’s a pick-your-poison deal (or favorite flavor) between several Big Ten West programs.
Under new head coach Luke Fickell, the Badgers enter the summer optimistic that they have a deep and experienced team that can win the Big Ten West after a down 2022 season. They return 15 starters, while adding 13 transfers to the roster — completely retooling the QB and WR rooms as the program transitions to the Air Raid offense.
Star tailback Braelon Allen is back, and former SMU standout Tanner Mordecai projects to be Wisconsin’s starting QB. The defense is good up the middle, particularly at linebacker and safety.
19. North Carolina
If not for USC’s Caleb Williams, North Carolina would bring back the best quarterback in the country this fall in Drake Maye. The Tar Heels were able to keep Maye in Chapel Hill after some (cough, cough) unnamed program tried to lure him into a transfer.
He’ll be working with a new OC in Chip Lindsey, and while he lost his top playmaker Josh Downs to the NFL Draft, UNC brought in transfer wideouts Nate McCollum from Georgia Tech and Devontez Walker from Kent State to retool the room. The Heels are set at tailback and offensive line, but they’ll be hard-pressed to return to the ACC Championship unless their defense makes some drastic strides.
Their secondary has been completely revamped, and they’re banking on transfers like ex-FSU pass rusher Amari Gainer and ETSU defensive back Alijah Huzzie to contribute immediately.
The Hawkeyes had two more players get drafted in the 1st Round last month, and yet their defense is still expected to be one of the top units in the country this fall.
Everything hinges on Iowa’s much-maligned offense. After historic woes in 2022, can embattled OC Brian Ferentz average at least 25 points per game?
The Hawkeyes have done a nice job in the transfer portal, adding key pieces at quarterback (Cade McNamara), tight end (Erick All) and receiver (Kaleb Brown).
Defensively, the Huskies are solid up front but they must play better in the back-end if they want to win the Pac-12 this fall. Their secondary allowed 7.8 yards per attempt — third-worst in the league — and they had just seven picks all season. Oklahoma State transfer corner Jabbar Muhammad should help, and there’s hope that a guy like freshman Thaddeus Dixon pops.
Coming off a stunning run to the national championship, the Horned Frogs are looking to reload this offseason, as Sonny Dykes has a much different-looking roster (and coaching staff).
Kendal Briles steps in as the OC for the departed Garrett Riley (now at Clemson), and Dykes brought in a bevy of transfers to replace stars like receiver Quentin Johnston, running back Kendre Miller, linebacker Dee Winters and cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson. Also gone is Heisman Trophy quarterback Max Duggan, with Chandler Morris, who was actually TCU’s 2022 starter before getting hurt early last season, set to be QB1 this fall.
Despite losing some big pieces defensively, TCU still projects to be a solid group (especially in the secondary and at linebacker with star Johnny Hodges back). The Horned Frogs do need to have hit on several transfer playmakers (JoJo Earle from Alabama, John Paul Richardson from Ok. State, Jack Bech from LSU) if the offense is going to continue to light up the league.
22. Ole Miss
Lane Kiffin flirted with taking the Auburn job this offseason, but he opted to remain in Oxford, where he once again used the portal to reinforce the Rebels’ roster.
Ole Miss brings back one of the best tailbacks in the country in Quinshon Judkins, and it’s reloaded its offensive and defensive lines, as well as the secondary, via the portal. Jaxson Dart seemingly enters the summer with a leg-up in the three-man QB competition that includes transfers Spencer Sanders and Walker Howard.
Former Alabama DC Pete Goulding was brought in to shore up a defense that ranked No. 9 in the SEC in scoring in 2022.
Coming off a historic 12-2 season and a win over USC in the Cotton Bowl, the Green Wave look like the best Group of 5 team again in 2023.
Will Fritz had to make multiple DC hires this offseason after his initial choices kept getting plucked for bigger jobs, but he was able to keep star quarterback Michael Pratt, who drew significant interest from Florida and others but opted to never enter the portal.
With star tailback Tyjae Spears off to the NFL, Tulane brought in freshman Arnold Barnes, and it added a couple offensive pieces via transfers, including former Texas A&M wideout Yulkeith Brown.
Like Texas, the Sooners need a strong 2023 season to establish some program momentum before making the jump to the SEC.
Unlike the Longhorns though, Brent Venables’ team has a few more question marks entering the fall. They do bring back QB Dillion Gabriel, and have a great insurance option in 5-star freshman Jackson Arnold. But are a young group of receivers ready to step up?
Has Venables & Co., fixed a defense that was a sieve in 2022 is the biggest uncertainty. The Sooners did sign a Top 5 recruiting class, with several freshmen pieces like 5-star safety Peyton Bowen expected to contribute early. They also added multiple likely starters via the portal, headlined by Indiana Freshman All-American Dasan McCullough — a Swiss Army hybrid linebacker/safety.
The Cardinals are a darkhorse ACC contender this fall thanks to an upgrade at head coach and a cupcake conference schedule that doesn’t include Clemson, FSU or UNC.
Jeff Brohm returned home and has overhauled Louisville’s roster with 20 transfers, improving the team’s receiving corp, offensive line and secondary. He also signed his 2023 quarterback in Cal transfer Jack Plummer, who reunites with Brohm after spending three seasons at Purdue with 14 starts, and Stanford edge rusher Stephen Herron.
The Cards lost key linebackers Yasir Abdullah, Momo Sanogo and Monty Montgomery, but their defense should still be one of the better units in the ACC.
Just Missed: Arkansas, Texas Tech, UTSA, Texas A&M, South Carolina