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  • More than 2,500 college football players have entered the transfer portal since the window opened Dec. 5. This comes a year after 3,000 players entered the portal in the last cycle.

    Many of last year's transfers made an immediate impact during the 2022 season, including USC's Caleb Williams playing his way to the Heisman Trophy, safety Tanner McCalister helping take Ohio State to the College Football Playoff and several players rejuvenating their careers, such as quarterbacks Michael Penix Jr. (Washington), Bo Nix (Oregon) and Jayden Daniels (LSU).

    The transfer portal has become a growing method of how teams construct their rosters. In 2020, 10.6% of FBS starters were transfers, according to SportSource Analytics. That number jumped to 15.9% in 2021 and 20.9% in 2022.

    The portal officially closes for new entrants on Wednesday, though players in the portal are free to matriculate to a new school. The portal will reopen from May 1-15.Who are the biggest names of this transfer cycle? Who are the sleepers that will become stars in 2023? Which teams improved the most thanks to the transfer portal? Tom VanHaaren, Craig Haubert and Tom Luginbill break down this year's transfer cycle.

    Jump to a topic:
    Which transfers will make an instant impact?
    Which QB transfers ended up at an ideal school?
    Which non-QBs transferred to a perfect fit?
    Who are the biggest transfer steals?
    Which school addressed its needs the best?

    Which transfers will make the biggest instant impact in 2023?

    QB Sam Hartman: Wake Forest to Notre Dame
    Hartman has been a staple of the Wake Forest offense and threw for 3,701 yards, 38 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this past season. Notre Dame saw starting quarterback Tyler Buchner go down with an injury early in the season and played Drew Pyne the rest of the way. Pyne has transferred and there isn't much experience on the roster, so Hartman is bringing leadership abilities to an offense that needs a quarterback. -- VanHaaren

    QB Devin Leary: NC State to Kentucky
    The Wildcats are in need of a new quarterback as Will Levis is off to the NFL as a projected first-round pick. Leary was injured much of last season, but had a ton of success in 2021 (3,433 yards, 35 touchdowns and five interceptions). Liam Coen is coming back as offensive coordinator after spending time with the Los Angeles Rams, and Coen will have an experienced passer to help lead the offense in Leary.-- VanHaaren

    DE Jordan Burch: South Carolina to Oregon
    The last time the Ducks brought in an edge defender with this type of physical tools, he was an impact presence. Burch, to be clear, is not Kayvon Thibodeaux, but as a five-star prospect in the 2020 class, he possesses impact ability. He is coming off his most productive season when he was among South Carolina's leading tacklers and most disruptive pass-rushers. A defender with good length, power and body control, Burch can help boost a defense that ranked 115th among 131 FBS teams in sacks. He has yet to fully meet lofty expectations but looks to be headed to Eugene after beginning to realize some of that touted potential and could be an impact addition for Oregon. -- Haubert

    CB Fentrell Cypress II: Virginia to Florida State
    To get a potential impact performer at a premium defensive position is a big win, and that is what Florida State has done in the cornerback known as Deuce. A high three-star in the 2019 class that intrigued with his length (6-feet) and physical style, he has developed into a stingy player in coverage (11 pass breakups) and one of the top all around CBs in the country. Coming off a big rebound season, the Seminoles have made some strong moves in the transfer portal led by Cypress, who should be an immediate key contributor on defense. -- Haubert

    DB Jalen Catalon: Arkansas to Texas
    Catalon is a 2021 second team All-American and All-SEC performer who would likely have been a first-team All-American in 2022 prior to a season-ending shoulder injury in September. He was the best all-around player on Arkansas' defense and could make an impact in Austin not only at safety, but also at Texas' "Spur" position -- a hybrid safety/LB. -- Luginbill

    DB Travis Hunter: Jackson State to Colorado
    Hunter is such an upgrade to Colorado's current skill in all three phases of the game. The level of competition is obviously elevated at the Power 5 level, but Hunter will be a vertical threat on offense (190 yards, four TDs), a dangerous return man and eventual shutdown corner in time. -- Luginbill

    Which quarterbacks transferred to a perfect fit for 2023?

    Brennan Armstrong: Virginia to NC State
    This one is easy, because Armstrong played for offensive coordinator Robert Anae at Virginia before Anae left for Syracuse. Armstrong broke school records in 2021 under Anae, throwing for 4,449 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for 251 yards. With Anae leaving Syracuse for the same position at NC State and Devin Leary transferring out, Armstrong has an opportunity to start right away because of his familiarity with the offensive system. -- VanHaaren

    Shedeur Sanders: Jackson State to Colorado
    This is a natural fit (and the least surprising move of this transfer cycle). Not only was Shedeur's father, Deion, also his offensive coordinator in high school, but when the elder Sanders took the job at Jackson State, Shedeur flipped his commitment from Florida Atlantic to the Tigers. This is a rare bond and history between a coach and QB, but the younger Sanders is also a perfect fit, as he has been productive as a college QB. This past season, he threw for over 3,700 yards with 40 TDs while completing 70% of his passes. Despite the FCS to FBS jump, he was an FBS caliber prospect in the 2021 recruiting class who should upgrade and stabilize the QB position for Colorado. -- Haubert

    Tanner Mordecai: SMU to Wisconsin
    This one may be under the radar, but considering who Luke Fickell hired as his offensive coordinator, it makes a whole lot of sense. Phil Longo is bringing his version of the spread offense to Madison, and Mordecai threw 72 touchdowns over two years at SMU in a very similar scheme. This is an ideal marriage. -- Luginbill

    Which non-QBs transferred to a perfect fit for 2023?

    WR Dorian Singer: Arizona to USC
    Singer finished the season atop the Pac-12 with 1,105 receiving yards. He is just a sophomore who's headed to a receiver-friendly offense with a Heisman winner at quarterback in Caleb Williams. Jordan Addison is off to the NFL, and Singer should be able to step right in for the Trojans to help fill that void. -- VanHaaren

    TE Trey Knox: Arkansas to South Carolina
    A blend of familiarity, need and talent looks to make this a perfect fit. Knox has developed into a productive tight end, but as an ESPN 300 WR in the 2019 class, there is still potential for him to further increase his impact. The Gamecocks' staff includes WR coach Justin Stepp, who played a role in recruiting Knox to Arkansas. South Carolina recently named Dowell Loggains, a former Razorbacks TE coach, its new offensive coordinator, so the staff knows Knox and how he can be utilized. He will be needed as the Gamecocks lost tight ends Jaheim Bell and Austin Stogner, so opportunity is there for Knox to step in and be a key target for returning QB Spencer Rattler. -- Haubert

    LB Dasan McCullough: Indiana to Oklahoma
    The Sooners are in dire need of upgrades on the defensive side, and McCullough is this cycle's best pass-rusher. He had an excellent freshman campaign, registering 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. The former top-50 recruit in the 2022 class brings speed, effort and a disruptive force to Oklahoma. -- Luginbill

    Who are the biggest transfer steals?

    DL Braden Fiske: Western Michigan to Florida State
    Not many people had heard of Fiske nationally before he entered the transfer portal. But once he entered his name and his stats circulated, he became a popular target. Fiske is a strong, disruptive defensive lineman who should be an immediate upgrade for the Seminoles. He had 58 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss and six sacks along with seven quarterback hurries this past season. Defensive end Jared Verse is returning and Florida State is also adding Miami defensive tackle Darrell Jackson Jr. Adding Fiske to that equation is going to make for a productive defensive front in 2023. -- VanHaaren

    RB Carson Steele: Ball State to UCLA
    The last name is just a coincidence. I wasn't taking this literally as getting a Steele, but he fits the category. Steele will help replace the void left by running back Zach Charbonnet, who is off to the NFL. Steele ran for 1,556 yards (ninth in FBS) and 14 touchdowns this past season for Ball State and could be a similar style back as Charbonnet was. He's just a sophomore and has run for 2,447 yards over his first two seasons. -- VanHaaren

    RB Brian Battie: South Florida to Auburn
    Battie received limited Power 5 interest out of high school as a diminutive running back prospect who posted strong testing numbers. He has been productive as a runner and kick returner for the Bulls, but playing for a program that has won just three games the past two seasons, he remains a bit overlooked. That may not be the case in 2023. The Tigers lose Tank Bigsby, but return a more powerful runner in Jarquez Hunter, which can make Battie a nice complementary player in the backfield. Considering Battie was an All-American returner during his time at USF, he could have an additional impact for Auburn. -- Haubert

    TE Seydou Traore: Arkansas State to Colorado
    There was a point in 2019 when we saw Traore at a workout at the upstart NFL Academy in England. At that time, he was a raw but intriguing prospect with his length (6-4, 223), explosiveness and body control. Since he arrived in the U.S., he has continued to blossom as a player, catching 50 passes for Arkansas State this past season. He heads to Colorado as part of a big transfer class but is a name to monitor. A former soccer goalie, Traore has proved to be a quick learner with still room to grow. He should continue to make strides with the Buffaloes. -- Haubert

    WR Stephon Johnson Jr.: Oklahoma State to Houston
    Johnson saw somewhat limited duty in 2021 due to a loaded WR room, and injuries hampered his development. However, he was the best player on the Cowboys' offense when he broke out against Texas -- six catches, 90 yards. At 6-2, 182 pounds, he's big, fast and physical. He's a natural playmaker with the ability to create explosive plays. -- Luginbill

    RB Treshaun Ward: Florida State to Kansas State
    With Deuce Vaughn declaring for the NFL draft, Ward, who isn't quite as short (5-10) as Vaughn (5-6), will be a more than competent replacement. Coming off a 628-yard, seven-touchdown season in 2022, Ward brings similar traits as Vaughn in terms of agility and explosiveness. He's also a quality return man. -- Luginbill

    Which school addressed its needs the best so far this portal cycle?

    It's tough to imagine a Brent Venables-led team would struggle on defense, but the Sooners gave up 461 yards per game, which ranked 122 out of 131 FBS teams and surrendered 5.75 yards per play (82nd). Needing to add playmakers, Venables landed versatile and disruptive Indiana freshman linebacker Dasan McCullough. He also added Texas Tech safety Reggie Pearson Jr., Notre Dame defensive lineman Jacob Lacey, Wake Forest defensive lineman Rondell Bothroyd, Oklahoma State defensive lineman Trace Ford and Texas State defensive lineman Davon Sears. Those transfers are paired with a top-five recruiting class as well. -- VanHaaren

    I am not a believer in transfer excess; rather, it should be used as a tool of supplementing a roster and not rebuilding one. The Bulldogs have been an excellent example of recruiting at a high level (seven straight top-three classes). With a second straight national title under their belt, they have added just a few key pieces to further strengthen and deepen their roster at the receiver position. They added two SEC experienced targets in Dominic Lovett from Missouri and Rara Thomas from Mississippi State. The pair led their respective teams in receiving in 2022 and combined for 100 catches for over 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns, with Lovett also earning All-SEC honors. Those two, with the return of the highly productive Ladd McConkey and TE Brock Bowers, will make the transition from Stetson Bennett to a new QB a little easier. -- Haubert

    The Tigers have had 10 players transfer out and 10 players transfer in as it stands. New coach Hugh Freeze knows all too well that to compete in the SEC, he needs his best players at the line of scrimmage. Eight of the Tigers' 10 transfers are either offensive linemen, tight ends, defensive linemen or linebackers. East Carolina transfer Avery Jones is a people mover and OT Gunner Britton sets the edge coming in from Western Kentucky. USF RB transfer Brian Battie brings Deuce Vaughn-type size and production. -- Luginbill