Auburn football spring transfer portal tracker: Running list of transfers in and out, real-time thoughts

On3 imageby:Justin Hokanson05/21/23


AUBURN — The spring transfer portal window ran from April 15-30. A total of 11 former players entered the portal during the spring window. Meanwhile, to date, Auburn has picked up eight commitments from the transfer portal.

Bookmark this page as we’ll link relevant stories, provide thoughts and track Auburn’s transfer situation during this spring window.


How many transfers might Auburn target this spring?

Auburn is looking at 6-8 spring transfer portal additions, plus or minus some on either side. Of course, this number is fluid based on two things: Auburn actually finding the right fits at the right positions (meaning not taking a player just to take a player), and current players leaving the program matching up with what Hugh Freeze and Co. expect.

Quarterback, safety, cornerback, jack/defensive end/rush end, and a “few” offensive linemen are all positions Freeze has specifically mentioned as positions of need during the spring window.

May 21, 2023 update: Auburn has landed nine transfers and is poised to add more. One quarterback, two rush ends, three receivers, one linebacker and one offensive lineman, so far.

Spring transfers in

Shane Hooks

Stephen Sings

Larry Nixon III

Jyaire Shorter

Jaden Muskrat

Caleb Burton

Payton Thorne

Jalen McLeod

Running thoughts on Auburn’s spring transfers in

— Hooks is easily one of the best receiver targets available during the spring transfer portal window. At 6-foot-4, it’s hard not to take the chance on a player that has been prone to some silly penalties and mistakes on the football field. However, when you’re rebuilding talent and trying to do it quickly, taking some chances is the name of the game. Hooks carries some risk, but some nice potential rewards, too.

— With Isaac Ukwu going to Ole Miss, Auburn still needed to add depth at the edge position. While Sings might not start, he adds important depth at a position where three of Auburn’s top four players at the position are now transfers in Sings, Jalen McLeod and Elijah McAlister. Freshman Keldric Faulk joins them at the edge, with Faulk being more of traditional end/edge at 6-foot-5 and 250-plus pounds.

— You have to love the pickup of Nixon. The linebacker position hasn’t received tons of attention in terms of immediate needs, as offensive positions seemed to have dominated the headlines. The linebacker position was/is somewhat unproven entering the fall, but the addition of Nixon goes a long way to helping alleviate that concern. With 246 career tackles (105 coming last season), Nixon can step right in and elevate that linebacker room. If two or three more of Austin Keys, Wesley Steiner, Robert Woodyard, Cam Riley, DeMario Tolan and others rise to the occasion, the Tigers’ linebacker room can create value for the defense.

— The addition of Shorter was one we saw coming as Auburn targeted multiple receivers in the transfer portal. Is this an indication of current receivers not stepping up to the plate during spring camp? Or is this simply Hugh Freeze and Co. wanting to add as much competition and potential to that room as possible, and let the chips fall where they may? I think both may be true. Shorter had some injury concerns at North Texas, but if he stays healthy, he’ll be a factor in this Auburn offense. He averaged over 25 yards per reception last season.

— The Muskrat addition makes sense. He knows Philip Montgomery coming from Tulsa, and will compete for a starting position at one of the offensive guard positions during fall camp.

— Wild to see what a quarterback addition can do, as the following day, Ohio State transfer Burton commits. Standing 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Burton brings elements of speed and elusiveness to an Auburn offense looking for players with the ability to get open in space and create real separation. If Ohio State thought Burton was good enough to sign at receiver given their recent track record, and they went to Texas to sign him, that certainly speaks to the potential of Burton.

— Thorne was the addition we’ve been waiting on. Accurate, competitive and experienced, Thorne is the odds-on-favorite to start and will elevate the Tigers’ chances of winning seven, eight or nine games this fall. Thorne is a graduate transfer and will arrive on campus immediately. He’s likely the quarterback for Hugh Freeze’s first two years at Auburn.

— The addition of McLeod was a significant one. Auburn’s ability to rush was a question mark entering the spring, and remained a question mark exiting the spring. McLeod will play an outside linebacker/edge position, and really fits a need to pressure the quarterback, specifically in passing situations. McLeod’s addition can’t be understated. Landing an impact player here, which McLeod seems to be, was on the list behind only landing a quarterback.

Spring transfers out

Cort Bradley (WO)

T.J. Finley

Landen King

Colby Smith

Dylan Brooks

Craig McDonald

Tobechi Okoli

Powell Gordon

Tar’Varish Dawson

Jeffrey M’Ba

Kameron Brown

Desmond Tisdol

Running thoughts on Auburn’s spring transfers out

— Finley finally made known what we all knew was coming on Tuesday: He will transfer out of the program after his graduation this summer. Finley is scheduled to graduate in June and will transfer following that. Nobody should be surprised by this news. This leaves Auburn with Robby Ashford and Holden Geriner as the main competitors for the starting position, as well as potentially a transfer portal quarterback addition. The timing of Finley’s announcement is certainly interesting just days after Auburn hosted Nebraska transfer Casey Thompson, and with an upcoming visit likely from Michigan State transfer Payton Thorne.

— Smith didn’t play in two years and will find a new home elsewhere. Smith was competing for playing time at a backup position this spring and clearly got the signal that more playing time would likely be found elsewhere.

— King’s entry into the portal seemed like just a matter of time. Sources do tell Auburn Live that as of just over one week ago, King wasn’t planning on transferring, but he changed his mind within the last week. The former tight end moved to receiver never really found his footing at the position. King entered the portal in the past, but removed his name and remained at Auburn.

— The Brooks news was disappointing only because Brooks was Auburn’s highest rated player in the 2021 class and at the time, a crown jewel of Bryan Harsin’s first full class. However, Brooks never developed to get anywhere close to his potential, and exiting spring, hadn’t made up any more ground on earning more playing time at the edge/jack position. In fact, Auburn’s targeting of jack players in the transfer portal speaks volumes, and certainly impacted Brooks’ decision to transfer.

— Like the Okoli news, the news of McDonald leaving isn’t all that surprising. McDonald has already transferred once, so unless he receives a waiver by the NCAA, he’ll have to sit out one year. But with the prospects of playing at Auburn slim, McDonald decided that was his best option. Auburn needs more depth at safety and cornerback. Two freshmen will arrive this summer.

— The news of Okoli entering the draft, respectfully, is likely of little concern to Auburn’s coaching staff. Okoli played in one game during his freshman season in 2021 and didn’t play in 2022. He committed in August of 2020 and remained a part of Bryan Harsin’s first class in 2021.

— The decision for Gordon to leave the program isn’t a shocker. He was a Bryan Harsin recruit, a local kid, and his addition made sense at the time, both adding a player for depth and adding a local player to make inroads. Gordon told Auburn Live he’s leaving the door open for a return to the program, although that seems unlikely. Gordon hasn’t found his true position yet, bouncing between linebacker and jack, remaining undersized for either position exiting the spring.

— Dawson, like M’Ba, had thought about entering the portal in the past. Following a spring where he wasn’t able to make a push into the starting rotation, Dawson entering the portal wasn’t a shocker. Auburn has Ja’Varrius Johnson and Jay Fair in the slot, both players who Hugh Freeze singled out for consistent spring efforts.

— M’Ba thought about entering the portal after last season, but stayed. He seemed to be happy about how things were going and his position change to defensive end when he spoke to the media during spring camp. Then again, M’Ba is a generally happy person. M’Ba was poised to play significant snaps this fall and provided important depth to the defensive line.

— Tisdol and Brown both announced their departures in the middle of spring camp. Neither contributed much and don’t really impact Auburn’s roster in a meaningful way.

Transfer portal background information

The NCAA Transfer Portal, which covers every NCAA sport at the Division I, II and III levels, is a private database with names of student-athletes who wish to transfer. It is not accessible to the public.

The process of entering the portal is done through a school’s compliance office. Once a player provides written notification of an intent to transfer, the office enters the player’s name in the database and everything is off and running. The compliance office has 48 hours to comply with the player’s request and that request cannot be refused.

Once a player’s name shows up in the portal, other schools can contact the player. Players can change their minds at any point and withdraw from the portal. However, once a player enters the portal, the current scholarship no longer has to be honored. In other words, if a player enters the portal but decides to stay, the school is not obligated to provide a scholarship anymore.

The database is a normal database, sortable by a variety of topics, including (of course) sport and name. A player’s individual entry includes basic details such as contact info, whether the player was on scholarship and whether the player is transferring as a graduate student.

A player can ask that a “do not contact” tag be placed on the report. In those instances, the players don’t want to be contacted by schools unless they’ve initiated the communication.

The portal has been around since Oct. 15, 2018 and the new calendar cycle within the portal begins each August. For example, the 2021-22 cycle started Aug. 1. During the 2020-21 cycle, 2,626 FBS football players entered the transfer portal (including walk-ons). That comes after 1,681 entered during the 2019-20 cycle and 1,709 during the abbreviated 2018-19 cycle. In comparison, 1,833 Division I basketball players entered the portal during the 2020-21 cycle after totals of 1,020 in 2019-20 and 1,063 in 2018-19.

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