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Breaking down the biggest winners of the winter transfer portal

FaceProfileby:Thomas Goldkamp01/29/24
Pete Nakos Breaking Down Biggest Winners Of The Winter Transfer Portal Winner | 01.28.24

The NCAA transfer portal hasn’t completely settled just yet, but the majority of the major moves have been made now almost two months removed from the winter portal period opening up and with spring semesters well underway at most schools.

So who were the big winners in this year’s winter transfer portal cycle?

On3’s Pete Nakos joined the Andy Staples On3 show to discuss just that topic, handing out recognition to nearly a dozen schools for their impressive transfer portal hauls. Let’s take a look at who he likes inside.

Louisville Cardinals

(Scott Utterback/Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK)

“I think the ones that really come to mind right off the bat are obviously Louisville has done everything they’ve needed to do to be right back in the ACC Championship,” Nakos said, leading things off.

The Cardinals hauled in eight transfers who were rated as four-star prospects on entry, and the new arrivals were well dispersed across various positions. A few that stand out: Texas Tech offensive lineman Monroe Mills, South Alabama receiver Caullin Lacy, Toledo running back Peny Boone and Illinois cornerback Tahveon Nicholson.

Miami Hurricanes

Mario Cristobal-Miami
(Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports)

“Interested to see how Miami does. Cam Ward goes there,” Nakos said. “You talk to people in South Beach and one of the biggest takeaways from this past season was like, ‘Hey, Tyler Van Dyke maybe just isn’t the best guy for what we want and feel like that may have held us back in moments.’ And obviously they go and get the No. 1 ranked quarterback in the On3 transfer portal rankings.

“But yeah, Cam Ward in Mario Cristobal‘s offense with a really good recruiting class and some intriguing transfers next to them, does Miami make the jump and compete with Florida State and Clemson and Syracuse for an ACC title?”

Along with Ward, Marshall defensive lineman Elijah Alston and MTSU defensive lineman Marley Cook were also four-star additions out of the transfer portal.

Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado HC Deion Sanders
(Ron Chenoy | USA TODAY Sports)

“Yet again Deion Sanders revamps the roster through the transfer portal at Colorado,” Nakos said.

How did he do it? Well, first off, volume. The Buffaloes welcomed in a whopping 22 transfers this offseason. But don’t get it twisted, either. There’s plenty of legitimate talent in the group. Vanderbilt receiver Will Sheppard might be the headliner, but Liberty cornerback Preston Hodge and Florida Atlantic‘s Lajohntay Wester are also four-star additions.

Ole Miss Rebels

Ole Miss HC Lane Kiffin
Brett Davis | USA TODAY Sports

“Ole Miss probably puts together one of the overall more talented classes we’ve seen in recent memory, obviously led by Walter Nolen,” Nakos said.

Talk about a class that is absolutely loaded with talent. Ole Miss plucked quality transfers from other Power Five teams left and right this cycle. Nolen is the headliner, but the additions of Florida defensive end Princely Umanmielen, North Carolina offensive lineman Diego Pounds and South Carolina receiver Juice Wells also provide some star talent in a deep and talented transfer class.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Ryan Day-Ohio State
Adam Cairns | The Columbus Dispatch

“You can’t overshadow Ohio State and what they’ve done with Julian Sayin, Caleb Downs, Will Howard, Quinshon Judkins,” Nakos said.

No, no you cannot. Those four are an absolute monster class on their own, and the Buckeyes also happened to pick up a seasoned starter in Alabama center Seth McLaughlin, as well as a tight end from nearby Ohio in Will Kacmarek. While the class might not be the biggest in terms of numbers, Ryan Day has landed some obvious impact players for next fall.

California Golden Bears

Cal head coach Justin Wilcox
© Annie Rice/Avalanche-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

“Then a couple darkhorses, too, I really like what Cal did,” Nakos said. “They brought in Mikey Matthews and a really talented offensive lineman (Victor Stoffel) from Temple.”

Matthews was rated as a four-star transfer portal entry out of Utah, where he had a promising season as a freshman. Cal also added a four-star quarterback out of the portal in North Texas standout Chandler Rogers. That’s some instant firepower offensively.

Florida State Seminoles

© Alicia Devine

“Florida State yet again brings in some Alabama players who could really be a big-time upgrade for the Seminoles,” Nakos said.

The Seminoles did go Crimson Tide heavy in the portal, taking five former Alabama players this cycle. But they also got quality from outside of Tuscaloosa, nabbing former five-star EDGE Marvin Jones Jr. from Georgia. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei was also a huge get out of Oregon State and should compete for the starting job next fall.

Texas Longhorns

Steve Sarkisian
Steve Sarkisian (Austin American-Statesman-USA TODAY NETWORK)

“The other ones that kind of jump out to me too, is everyone kind of jumps to like the Ole Miss and Colorados, but yet again Steve Sarkisian goes to the transfer portal and gets exactly who he wants,” Nakos said. “He completely retools the wide receiver room. We’ll have to see how that kind of plays out. But just on paper Steve Sarkisian did everything they needed to do going into the SEC.”

Alabama tight end Amari Niblack was a great get and should fit in the mold of Ja’Tavion Sanders. Oregon State receiver Silas Bolden and Alabama receiver Isaiah Bond help round out the pass-catching corps. Meanwhile, Trey Moore was arguably the top pass-rusher in the portal and Texas landed him too. It’s a terrific haul overall.

South Carolina Gamecocks

Shane Beamer
© Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

“The other one that I am probably more intrigued by and want to see how it plays out is South Carolina brought in a really big class of transfer portal players,” Nakos said. “The one that obviously jumps out to me is how does the quarterback position kind of shuffle out? They have a really talented freshman LaNorris Sellers and then they bring in Robby Ashford, who’s definitely had some bumps along the way. Which way does Shane Beamer go in what could really be a defining year of his tenure with the Gamecocks?”

Ashford will draw the majority of the headlines in South Carolina’s class, but the addition of Arkansas running back Rocket Sanders was also massive. Throw in Maryland receiver Gage Larvadain and the Gamecocks added some nice offensive weapons.

BONUS – Maryland Terrapins

(Getty Images)

Speaking of Maryland, Andy Staples likes the Terrapins as a bonus pick out of the transfer portal. He likes Maryland primarily because of one addition, and they will conclude the list for us here.

MJ Morris going to Maryland, I think that’s an interesting one from NC State,” Staples said. “MJ Morris’ situation was he played as a true freshman at NC State, got hurt and then they recruit Brennan Armstrong kind of over him and say Brennan’s the starter. So MJ was going to redshirt. Then they wind up not being pleased with Brennan, playing MJ and then he goes 3-1 as the starter and was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to go ahead and redshirt and then I’m out.’ So he is now replacing Taulia Tagovailoa at Maryland. I’m very intrigued with what he can do with Mike Locksley‘s crew.”