Top 10 College Football Transfers and Their Best Fits according to ESPN Analyst Tom Luginbill

  • Tom Luginbill, ESPN AnalystApr 18, 2024, 07:18 AM ET

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    • Senior National Recruiting Analyst for ESPN.com
    • Coached in four professional football leagues
    • Graduated from Eastern Kentucky and Marshall

The spring college football transfer portal opened Tuesday, and most of the top players available have yet to choose a new school.

Unlike recruiting from high school to college, the portal provides a more accurate predictor of success as coaches can evaluate players against college competition. Let’s find perfect fits for 10 of the top transferring players in the portal.

coverage:
Ranking the top 25 transfers

Transferring from: Oregon State

HT: 6-0 | WT: 232 | Class: Junior

Best fit: Miami

Why?: Martinez, a patient outside zone runner, is a bruising, downhill runner who fits offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson’s counter scheme well due to his patience. The Canes lost running backs Henry Parrish Jr. and Donald Chaney Jr., but bring back Mark Fletcher, who is coming off an injury. Martinez ran for more than 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns in Corvallis with a similar philosophical approach. Martinez is at his best in a gap/counter/power scheme where he can use his power to break tackles and get to the second level.

Sleeper school: Utah

Why?: Martinez fits Utah’s tough-minded mentality and the Utes’ scheme. Ja’Quinden Jackson transferred out of the program, but Utah still has Jaylon Glover as a faster, change-of-pace back. Martinez could be the thunder to Glover’s lightning and be a focal point for a Big 12 favorite and College Football Playoff contender in 2024.

Transferring from: Pittsburgh

HT: 6-3 | WT: 265 | Class: Senior

Best fit: LSU

Why?: With new defensive coordinator Brian Baker coming from Missouri, LSU has new leadership on defense and the expectation is that this unit will improve greatly. Hayes could find a role with his scheme versatility. A constant disruptive force, he finished the 2023 season with 45 tackles (25 solo), 10.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, a forced fumble and 4 pass breakups. He might be lean, but his movement skills, the ability to align in different spots and play from a stand-up position make him a handful in pass protection.

Transferring from: Miami

HT: 6-5 | WT: 250 | Class: Junior

Best fit: Florida State

Why?: Having been previously committed to FSU, Kelly knows the Noles and they know him. Defensive linemen are a premium position, and teams can never have too many. FSU has a good core group, but edge players are always attractive. The downside is that Kelly has been injured, and there has been a lack of production. It looked like he was finally raising his game through the first four weeks of 2023 before going down with a shoulder injury. He has length and speed but given his injury history, FSU would have to be cautious.

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Transferring from: Arkansas

HT: 6-6 | WT: 304 | Class: Sophomore

Best fit: Colorado

Why?: This is a combination of fit and need. The Buffaloes lost offensive lineman Savion Washington to the portal and are in dire need of talent and depth to help protect quarterback Shedeur Sanders. Despite redshirting in 2022, Chamblee, a former ESPN 300 member, did start eight games in the SEC as a redshirt freshman. He is an exciting prospect because he is young, long, athletic and is only going to get better with more experience. He is going to be a hot commodity due to the position he plays and the fact he has three years of eligibility remaining. Because of how poorly CU’s line played last season, Coach Prime needs this one badly.

Sleeper team: Washington Huskies

Why?: With the departure of Kalen DeBoer to Alabama, the Washington roster has taken a major hit, losing five offensive linemen. New coach Jedd Fisch needs agility in his scheme up front, and Chamblee has that and the ability to further add strength and bulk.

Transferring from: Penn State

HT: 6-1 | WT: 188 | Class: Senior

Best fit: USC

Why?: Lambert-Smith could provide yet another explosive, speedy receiver opposite Zachariah Branch, Kyron Hudson and Duce Robinson. Lambert could be this year’s version of Jordan Addison for the Trojans. USC needs speed and a guy who can stretch the field, and Lambert-Smith brings that. He doesn’t have to be the top option, but Lincoln Riley does such an excellent job of creating mismatches that Lambert-Smith will get plenty of opportunities. USC loses Tahj Washington, Brenden Rice, Dorian Singer and Mario Williams, so this also fills a need.

Transferring from: Ohio State

HT: 5-10 | WT: 205 | Class: Junior

Best fit: Georgia Tech

Why?: The Yellow Jackets have an offensive line coach for a head coach in Brent Key and he wants to run the football to set up play-action. Former wide receiver Jamal Haynes returns to Tech with quality production, but adding a dynamic, explosive playmaker like Hayden would make this offense, behind quarterback Haynes King, much more dangerous. Hayden can win footraces and make people miss. He has the agility and balance to exploit cutback lanes in the zone scheme.

Transferring from: Toledo Rockets/Louisville Cardinals

HT: 6-1 | WT: 242 | Class: Senior

Best fit: Colorado

Why?: The question isn’t about where Boone fits, but does anyone want him? He has talent — he was the 2023 MAC offensive player of the year — and chose Louisville over Kentucky and FSU, but both of those programs quickly replaced him when he chose Louisville. Then Boone didn’t even make it to the 2024 season before entering the portal again. Colorado is in dire need of some strength and power. As dynamic as Dylan Edwards is, he’s undersized and needs a complementary back to work with. Boone brings brute force as a runner after rushing for more than 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2023 and could be the thunder to Edwards’ lightning.

Transferring from: Tennessee

HT: 6-3 | WT: 238 | Class: Junior

Best fit: Clemson

Why?: Herring is a tackling machine (he led Tennessee with 76 in 2023) and a pressure player who can be used as a blitzer. Clemson is thin and inexperienced at middle linebacker with Kobe McLoud and incoming freshman Sammy Brown in the mix. McLoud has 16 career tackles and is undersized. The outside linebackers, Barrett Carter and Wade Woodaz, are excellent, and Herring could shore up the inside. Clemson loves to get into some exotic pressure packages with the linebackers, which is right up Herring’s alley. The Tigers would just have to start pursuing transfers to get him. Clemson is the only Power 5 school that hasn’t signed a transfer this offseason.

Transferring from: Texas A&M

HT: 6-2 | WT: 215 | Class: Junior

Best fit: Oregon

Why?: While Oregon already landed Kansas State safety transfer Kobe Savage from the portal in December and return Tysheem Johnson at the other safety spot, it gets thin, young and inexperienced after them. Mathews brings size, 42 tackles and one interception with him from 2023. He’s got range, speed and is really good in space. He still has a high ceiling for development given his limited playing time to this point, but would certainly increase the talent in the room. He could also play nickel cornerback in a pinch much like Terrion Arnold did at times for Alabama last year.

Transferring from: Arizona

HT: 6-6 | WT: 325 | Class: Senior

Best fit: Texas

Why?: Texas lost a lot along the defensive front with the departure of defensive tackles Byron Murphy and T’Vondre Sweat to the NFL as the Longhorns enter the SEC in 2024. Norton is a massive space-eater and could be a welcome bridge player for a front seven that has excellent linebacker play and could use a big inside body like Norton’s to occupy blockers. Norton posted 32 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in 13 games for the Wildcats in 2023 after transferring from Georgia.

2024-04-18 11:18:00
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