Transfer portal breakdown: The top defensive players available (right now)
We’re almost to the halfway point of the 45-day transfer portal open window (it started December 5). There’s another window, this one lasting two weeks, in late April, after most teams end spring practice.
Here’s a look at the top defensive players currently available in the portal, position by position, going by the On3 Transfer Portal Position Rankings. We will look at offensive players Tuesday.
One important note: These are the current rankings. More players will continue to enter the portal as bowls are played.
Uhhh, bad news: If your favorite team needs an edge rusher, it desperately needs some more to enter the transfer portal as the bowls end. What’s available right now is not necessarily a distinguished group.
1. After playing in just three games in his first two seasons on campus, Oluwaseyi Omotosho (6-2, 246) developed into a key pass rusher for Wyoming this season. Despite not starting, he was second on the team with 6.5 sacks and led the Cowboys with 10 quarterback hurries. Omotosho, a Houston native, has two seasons of eligibility left.
2. Donell Harris (6-3, 220) played in a total of four games in 2020 and ’21 at Texas A&M, then gave up football for medical reasons before the 2022 season. But he received medical clearance late in the year and is looking for a new place to play. Harris reclassified to the 2020 class from 2021 in late 2019. He made three tackles in his two seasons as an Aggie. He has three seasons of eligibility remaining.
3. Marcus Burris (6-4, 290) was a four-star recruit in the 2021 class for Texas A&M, but made just one tackle in eight games as an Aggie. He is one of four A&M defensive ends to transfer this month. He has three seasons of eligibility left.
Other edge rushers of interest: Trace Ford (6-3, 240) started in 2019 and ’20 at Oklahoma State before missing 2021 with an injury and serving as a reserve this season. Ford had 8.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in his Cowboys career; he has two seasons of eligibility left. … Gilber Edmond (6-5, 250) was a starter for South Carolina this season and led the Gamecocks with nine tackles for loss. He didn’t do much in his first two seasons before emerging this fall. This season, he finished with 39 tackles and nine quarterback hurries. Edmond has two seasons of eligibility remaining. … Jack Sullivan (6-5, 275) was one of three starting Purdue defensive linemen to enter the transfer portal last week, and all three are plug-and-play guys. Sullivan led Purdue with 5.5 sacks this season, his first as a starter, and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten notice. He was a key reserve from 2019-21 and does a nice job against the run. Sullivan has one season of eligibility left.
Standout defensive linemen are few and far between in the transfer portal, which makes them extremely valuable. While most of the interior linemen seem suited to be rotation pieces, there are at least two who are plug-and-play starters
1. Braden Fiske (6-5, 300) signed with Western Michigan as a 6-3, 242-pound offensive lineman in the 2018 recruiting class; he grew into a 300-pound defensive tackle and is one of the hottest commodities in the portal. Fiske was a three-year starter for Western Michigan and was a second-team All-MAC pick this season, when he had 59 tackles, six sacks and 12 tackles for loss. He has one year of eligibility left.
2. Branson Deen (6-2, 285) was a key rotation piece for Purdue in 2019 and ’20, then was a starter the past two seasons. He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten acclaim in 2021 and ’22. While his main attribute is as a run-stuffer, he also displayed some big play ability the past two seasons, with seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss. He has one season of eligibility remaining.
3. Keeshawn Silver (6-4, 315) was an On3 Consensus national top-25 prospect in the 2021 recruiting class, but he didn’t make an impact at North Carolina. Silver played in seven games in the past two seasons with the Tar Heels, making four tackles. He has an intriguing upside, but a lack of experience – he had no senior season of high school because of COVID – means it could be a while before he reaches it. Silver has three seasons of eligibility left.
Other defensive linemen of interest: Lawrence Johnson (6-3, 310) lined up next to the aforementioned Deen the past two seasons for Purdue. Johnson was a part-time starter in 2019 and ’20, then a fulltime starter the past two seasons. He had 62 tackles the past two seasons. … Omarr Norman-Lott (6-3, 290) was a part-time starter for Arizona State this season, and had 44 tackles and seven tackles for loss in the past two seasons. Norman-Lott has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
This is a good position in the portal, with a number of highly productive players available. A handful were all-conference performers.
1. Nick Jackson (6-1, 234) was a three-year starter for Virginia; he earned second-team All-ACC honors after finishing this season with 104 tackles. Jackson was one of the most productive linebackers in the nation in each of the past three seasons; he had 105 tackles in 2020 and 117 last season. Jackson also had eight pass breakups and 13 quarterback hurries over the past three seasons. He has one year of eligibility left.
2. Clayton Smith (6-4, 245) is on this list because of his potential, not because of his production. In two seasons at Oklahoma, Smith – who was an On3 Consensus five-star recruit in the 2021 signing class – made eight tackles in eight games. He’s a ’tweener of sorts because of his size, but his athleticism means he’s still an intriguing prospect. Smith has three seasons of eligibility remaining.
3. KeSean Brown (6-2, 215) was a starter at outside ’backer for Appalachian State this fall after three seasons as a reserve. He had 39 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles this season. Brown has one season of eligibility left.
Other linebackers of interest: Amari Gainer (6-3, 225) was one of Florida State’s most productive defenders from 2019-21, but never really got into a groove in 2022 because of an early-season injury. Gainer started 17 games from 2019-21 and made 193 tackles. Gainer played in seven games as a reserve this season and made 17 tackles. He has one season of eligibility remaining. … Cody Moon (6-3, 205) led New Mexico with 105 tackles, a figure that ranks fifth in the Mountain West Conference. He also had 4.5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups and a quarterback hurry as a first-year starter. Moon was a key reserve in 2021 as a redshirt freshman, finishing with 44 tackles and an interception. He has two years of eligibility left.
A solid amount of talent still is available at corner and safety in the portal. Indeed, it might be the deepest position of all.
1. CB Fentrell Cypress (6-0, 184), who was a second-team All-ACC selection this season for Virginia, is one of the top remaining payers in the portal. He was a part-time starter last season but emerged as a key defensive cog for new coordinator John Rudzinski this season. Cypress had 39 tackles and a league-high 13 pass breakups this fall. He has two years of eligibility left.
2. CB Deyon “Smoke” Bouie (5-11, 180) was a four-star prospect and top-100 recruit in the 2022 signing class for Texas A&M. But he made just four tackles in seven games. Bouie, who is from the Atlanta area, was a one-time Georgia commitment. While he didn’t see appreciable time this season, he would’ve been expected to be a key part of the cornerback rotation for the Aggies in 2023.
3. CB Duce Chestnut (6-0, 198) was one of the best true freshman corners in the nation in 2021 and also played well this season for Syracuse. He started all 22 games in his two seasons and had 83 tackles, four picks and nine pass breakups.
Other defensive backs of interest: S Ja’Had Carter (6-2, 198) was a three-season starter at safety for Syracuse. He had 138 tackles, five interceptions and seven pass breakups. … CB Storm Duck (6-1, 200) had 46 tackles, three picks and nine pass breakups this season to earn second-team All-ACC honors at North Carolina. He started as a true freshman in 2019, then missed 14 games the past two seasons because of injuries, then regained his starting job this season. Duck has one season of eligibility remaining. … S A.J. Haulcy (5-11, 220) started for New Mexico this season and received some freshman All-America acclaim after he had 87 tackles, two interceptions, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He also was a second-team All-Mountain West selection. Haulcy has three seasons of eligibility left. … S Kendarin Ray was a two-year starter for Tulsa and finished third on the team this season with 86 tackles. That total was 10th in the AAC. He also had an interception, five pass breakups and three forced fumbles. Ray has one season of eligibility remaining. … S Jaxen Turner (6-2, 210) led Arizona with 79 tackles this season before deciding to transfer. He was a part-time starter in his first two seasons on campus, then earned a starting job in 2021 and kept it this season. Turner also had two picks, two forced fumbles and a pass breakup this fall. He has one season of eligibility remaining.