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Transfer portal breakdown: Projecting the 10 most impactful transfers in the ACC

Mike Hugueninby:Mike Huguenin07/29/22


Let’s dive back into the transfer portal pool on a league-by-league basis. First up is a projection of the 10 most impactful transfers in the ACC this season.

This is not a measure just of sheer talent. Instead, the most important aspect is expected production. And it’s fair to say that if these transfer portal additions do not produce, their teams as a whole will suffer. Indeed, three league teams in particular – Miami, Pitt and Wake Forest – need their transfers (and, specifically, these transfers mentioned) to have big seasons if they’re to win their respective divisions.

10. Virginia EDGE Kameron Butler

The particulars: Transfer from Miami (Ohio)
The skinny: Kameron Butler was a first-team All-MAC selection last season, when he had 53 tackles, eight sacks, 13 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and an interception. He also was a two-time second-team All-MAC pick who had 31.5 tackles for loss in his RedHawks career. His big-play ability needs to come to the fore for new Cavs defensive coordinator John Rudzinski. Virginia was rancid on defense last season, allowing 466.0 yards per game (121st nationally) and 6.6 yards per play (117th); the Cavs also had a league-low 18 sacks, the seventh-fewest for a Power 5 team. Rudzinski’s Air Force defense was third in the Mountain West with 39 sacks, which was tied for 18th nationally. In addition, the Falcons had two of the top seven sack men in the league. No returning UVa player had more than 2.5 sacks last season, so Butler needs to produce.

9. Louisville WR Tyler Hudson

The particulars: Transfer from Central Arkansas
The skinny: With Louisville losing WRs Tyler Harrell (to Alabama) and Jordan Watkins (to Ole Miss), it wouldn’t be a surprise if Tyler Hudson emerges from the transfer portal to become the go-to guy for QB Malik Cunningham. Louisville lacked a difference-maker at wide receiver in 2021 (TE Marshon Ford was the leading receiver), and Hudson was an established standout at the FCS level. He was a three-year starter in a prolific passing attack at Central Arkansas, with 167 receptions for 3,062 yards and 27 TDs in his career. That’s 18.3 yards per catch. If Hudson provides Louisville with a legit (and consistent) deep threat, Cunningham becomes even more dangerous.

8. Miami LB Caleb Johnson

The particulars: Transfer from UCLA
The skinny: Caleb Johnson – one of seven transfer defenders who figures to see appreciable time for the Hurricanes this fall – is an important transfer portal pickup. Miami’s linebackers underwhelmed last season, when the Hurricane were inconsistent against the run. In its seven wins in 2021, Miami allowed 108.4 rushing yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry; in its five losses, in its five losses, it was 181.8 and 4.3. The linebackers also didn’t make many big plays. With new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele now in charge, Johnson should be able to help change that. Miami is Johnson’s fourth school; he signed with Fullerton (Calif.) College out of high school, then spent a season at Texas before transferring to UCLA in 2020. He was a two-year starter with the Bruins who had 89 tackles and eight tackles for loss in his two seasons.

7. Wake Forest DT Kobie Turner

The particulars: Transfer from Richmond
The skinny: Kobie Turner, a two-time first-team All-Colonial pick at Richmond, fills a need for a Wake Forest defensive line that too often was pushed around in 2021. Wake played for the ACC title last season despite a mediocre defense. The Demon Deacons’ offense again will be ultra-explosive, so if the defense improves, Wake has a legit shot at repeating as champs in a division that includes Clemson and NC State. For sure, the Demon Deacons must get much tougher against the run; in nine ACC games last season, Wake allowed 4.99 yards per rush. Turner was a three-year starter at Richmond who was the league’s co-defensive player of the year for the 2021 spring season. In 37 career games, Turner had 158 tackles, 35.5 tackles for loss, 15 sacks and three forced fumbles. In Turner and returning starting E Rondell Boothroyd, Wake has two linemen who can do some damage for new coordinator Brad Lambert.

6. Louisville DT Jermayne Lole

The particulars: Transfer from Arizona State
The skinny: Jermayne Lole missed last season with a triceps injury. But he played at a high level in 2019 and ’20, with a combined 96 tackles and 15 tackles for loss in 17 games (the Sun Devils played only four games in the truncated 2020 season). In 2019, Lole was one of the most productive interior defensive linemen in the nation, with 72 tackles, 10 TFLs and 6.5 sacks. His addition will be a huge boost to Louisville’s rebuilt defensive front. The Cardinals have a lot of room to improve on defense, and Lole is the best of six key defenders signed from the transfer portal who should help in that regard.

5. North Carolina EDGE Noah Taylor

The particulars: Transfer from Virginia
The skinny: Noah Taylor was a three-year starter for Virginia and has legit big-play ability. He had 13 sacks, 30 tackles for loss, 16 quarterback hurries, three interceptions and 10 pass breakups at UVa. (Worth noting: Taylor had a career-high 12 tackles in a loss to the Tar Heels last season.) UNC was ninth in the ACC in sacks and tackles for loss in 2021, so Taylor’s addition is big. New defensive coordinator Gene Chizik should be expected to put Taylor’s big-play ability to good use.

4. Virginia Tech QB Grant Wells

The particulars: Transfer from Marshall
The skinny: Virginia Tech’s passing attack hasn’t done much the past three seasons. In that span, Hokies quarterbacks threw for 300 yard eight times; heck, Tech didn’t even throw for 200 yards in nine of its 13 games in 2021. Grant Wells threw for 300 yards eight times last season alone. Wells was a two-year starter at Marshall; he has a strong arm, but takes unnecessary risks and threw 22 picks in his two seasons. Still, if those gunslinger tendencies can be curbed a bit, he can rev up the passing attack for new OC Tyler Bowen, who arrives from the NFL. While the surrounding skill-position talent is relatively unproven, the Hokies have a chance to go bowling if Wells produces. At the least, he gives fans a reason to think the passing attack will be much better.

3. Miami EDGE Mitchell Agude

The particulars: Transfer from UCLA
The skinny: Mitchell Agude earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors last season, when he had 54 tackles, two sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. He had nine tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in seven games in 2020, his first season as a Bruin after transferring in from a junior college. Miami needs Agude to be a consistent presence off the edge: The Hurricanes return no one who had more than three sacks last season. New coordinator Kevin Steele has retooled Miami’s defense during the offseason, and you figure he will produce a few ways to free up Agude.

2. Florida State EDGE Jared Verse

The particulars: Transfer from Albany
The skinny: Jared Verse is one of the most notable FCS-to-FBS transfers in college football this season. FSU struck gold in the transfer portal in 2021 with EDGE Jermaine Johnson (11.5 sacks), but Johnson’s now in the NFL. Verse played only one year of FCS football, but that encompassed two seasons because Albany played both in the spring and fall in 2021. Verse played in 15 games and had 74 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss and 13 quarterback hurries for the Great Danes. He earned all sorts of All-America honors for his fall campaign. FSU returns just one player who had more than two sacks last season; if Verse doesn’t produce, the Seminoles are in trouble.

1. Pitt QB Kedon Slovis

The particulars: Transfer from USC
The skinny: OK, there’s a lot to unpack with this one. First, you have to question Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi criticizing former offensive coordinator Mark Whipple for throwing so often last season; it’s almost as if Narduzzi has forgotten that Pitt won the ACC in 2021 precisely because now-departed QB Kenny Pickett – who became a first-round pick – was ultra-productive as a passer. (Then again, maybe the criticism shouldn’t be a surprise; after all, Whipple left to become OC at Nebraska – not exactly the most stable coaching situation. And maybe that should serve as Whipple’s opinion on Narduzzi.) Second, Kedon Slovis is not going to be as productive as Pickett. Pitt will run the ball more this season for numerous reasons; the Panthers have an offensive line that returns all five starters and a deep group of running backs. Still, Slovis is talented. He had an eye-opening true freshman season in 2019, an adequate 2020 and a mediocre 2021. If Slovis regains his 2019 form, Pitt will win the Coastal Division again. If he plays like he did last season, it won’t. In addition, keep an eye on transfer WR Konata Mumpfield from Akron. Mumpfield was one of the most productive freshman receivers in the nation last season with 63 catches for 751 yards and eight TDs. With star WR Jordan Addison now at USC, the Panthers need holdover WR Jared Wayne (who benefited greatly from all the attention paid to Addison by opposing defenses) and Mumpfield to be effective on the outside.