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Any Impact Transfers Coming into the MAC in 2023?
By my count: 21.5% of the MAC's transfers have landed at P5 schools, but nearly half of the MAC's incoming transfers come from the P5.
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The transfer portal’s initial window is closed as of last week, and the normal signing period begins Wednesday, Feb. 1. Now’s a good a time as any to get familiar with what MAC teams have decided to do with the transfer portal this winter.
This year is the first time that we’re seeing time windows used to limit portal entries by college players. An initial 45-day window that started after the end of the regular season expired Thursday last week. Another 15 days of portal entries, for non-grad students, will be open for the players to use once May 1 rolls around.
For Eastern Michigan, 13 now-former Eagles have hit the transfer portal while it brought in nine total transfers, so far, via transfer portal and junior college movements. Through the NCAA’s transfer portal, EMU brought in three offensive linemen and two wide receivers. Of the five, four players come in from FBS-level programs (three from the Power 5) and one graduate O-lineman that was a three-time all-conference player at his Division 2 college. Of its 13 departures, only one player — LT Marcellus Johnson — was able to rebound at an FBS school; and he was able to level-up to an SEC school.
Now that the early, and very busy part of the transfer portal’s calendar is organizationally at a close, this gives everybody the chance to slow down and actually see what their rosters look like with most of the movements finished through these last two months. The normal signing period, which is when the minority of college football’s players will sign with their new teams, will start next Wednesday. Teams will sign more, new players to compete during spring ball, and then teams will see more players transfer out once May rolls around. Even then, we can probably assume that most of the big transfer announcements have happened already.
How has the MAC fared in all of this?
By my count, MAC teams have lost 135 total players to transfer and 29 of them ended up at Power 5 schools. (Well, 30 if we count John Paddock, who took a walk-on spot at Illinois.) In total, that’s 21.5% of its former players who ended up leveling-up through the portal.
The MAC teams that are the biggest victims in this are the ones that are seeing turnover at their head coaching chairs. Kent State had seven players transfer to Power 5 schools after Sean Lewis left for Colorado’s offensive coordinating position, and Western Michigan saw six of its transfers level up after it fired Tim Lester. Bowling Green is next on the list with four now-Power 5 players, followed by NIU with three, then two programs with two (Miami and Ohio). Everybody else except for Toledo has had a player leave to scale-up the competition ladder.
Of the 135 MAC roster spots opened due to transfer portal departures (both scholarship and not), MAC teams introduced 63 players to their teams through the portal, and 24 more additions through the junior college circuit. Of the 63 new MAC players, 31 come directly from Power 5 programs.
Kent State saw seven players leave for P5 schools, but new head coach Kenni Burns was able to get eight former P5 players to come play for his new team as a first-time head coach. No other MAC team comes close to that figure. Ball State, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Miami and Toledo all brought in three former P5 players each this cycle, but nobody came close to what Kent State did in December-January.
Key departures: CB Charles Amankwaa (Rutgers), DL Bryce Wilson
Notable additions: RB Lorenzo Lingard (Florida)
It’s the second offseason with Joe Moorhead leading the program, so this wasn’t going to be the year where you’d see a lot of 2022 starters leave the team. Offensively, the Zips lose zero starters to the transfer portal, and its defense loses two.
Lorenzo Lingard is guy I’m circling here and it’s not hard to see why. Out of high school, Lingard was the #2 running back in the 2018 recruiting cycle (#25 overall recruit) that ended up signing with Miami-FL. He spent two seasons with the Canes, spent three years with Florida, and now he’ll spend his final season in Akron.
Akron won just two games last year, but there are enough one-score losses (7) to give its roster something to look forward to this year. It’s a team game, but Lingard’s definitely the kind of addition that could help this program reach its first bowl game since 2017.
Key departures: QB John Paddock (Illinois, as walk-on), RB Carson Steele (UCLA)
Notable additions: RB Marquez Cooper (Kent State), QB Layne Hatcher (Texas State), DB DD Snyder (Illinois), OL Luke Wiginton
Even for as bad as 2022 was, I still think Mike Neu’s got this program moving in the right direction over at his alma mater. Obviously, John Paddock had a bad first season as the team’s starting QB, and Carson Steele didn’t have enough support from his offensive line in the run game. Of Steele’s 1,556 rushing yards last year, 1,128 of them (72.5%) came after contact.
Refresh, reset. Out goes more players that were part of the 2020 championship run, and now this team is totally immemorable from the one we saw at Ford Field. Layne Hatcher, the incoming quarterback, is making Muncie, Indiana his fourth home. He started out at Dan Enos recruit to Alabama in 2018 (had four offers out of high school, per 247sports), transferred to Arkansas State where he threw for 7,427 yards and 65 touchdowns over three seasons, then transferred to Texas State last year where he was the full-year starter. Now, 10,080 career passing yards and 84 touchdowns later, he’s going to add a lot of what’s been missing to Ball State’s QB room: a proven track record.
Even though Steele bounced to UCLA, it’s hard to feel too bad when his replacement is First-Team All-MAC RB Marquez Cooper from Kent State. Maybe Ball State could’ve added more OL help through the portal, but Neu was still able to get some necessary adds to his team.
Key departures: S Jordan Anderson (UCLA), WR Tyrone Broden (Arkansas), LB JB Brown (Kansas), CB Davon Ferguson (Georgia Southern), OL Jalen Grant (Purdue)
Notable additions: QB Connor Bazelak (Indiana), QB Daelen Menard (Boston College)
After playing above expectations and got itself into a bowl game, four players have left Bowling Green for P5 schools. Of the 13 players that are transferring/have transferred out, six are defensive players, which doesn’t sound like much until you remember that BG has to replace five senior starters on that side of the ball. Linebacker Darren Anders put his name in the portal for a short while before he withdrew it. That would’ve been another gaping hole for the team.
Of the four incoming players through the transfer portal, two are quarterbacks, one’s an offensive lineman, and the last guy’s a former FCS-level wide receiver. No defensive players.
To replace Matt McDonald as the starting QB, head coach Scot Loeffler decided to bring in two transfers at the position: Connor Bazelak from Indiana (and Missouri) and Daelen Menard from Boston College. Bazelak seemed like the kind of guy that’d inevitably come to the MAC. Menard’s a pretty inspired grab for this team.
Two defensive backs were added via JUCO transfer, but that’s it. Does BG actually feel that confident about the guys on its bench to replace half of its graduated defenders?
Key departures: TE Trevor Borland (Western Kentucky), WR Ali Fisher (Kent State), WR Jamari Gassett (Florida A&M, FCS)
Notable additions: LB Joe Andreessen (Bryant, FCS), C Nick Beans (Notre Dame College, D2), S Demetrius Harris (Cornell, FCS)
Buffalo’s having a lot more turnover than I expected it to have at this point. 15 Bulls hit the portal so far this cycle and five have landed at FBS-level programs. One, WR Ali Fisher, left for in-division rival Kent State, which is going through a coaching change right now.
For as much optimism and hope as I’d like to give to Maurice Linguist and Buffalo, I have to admit that the vibes here are off, and I’m not buying what this team is selling right now. Plenty of hungry guys from the FCS, D2, and junior college ranks are coming into the team now, but given Linguist’s background in recruiting at such a high level before leading UB, I thought he’d be able to get more P5 cast-offs to come to his program than just one (WR Darrell Harding Jr. from Duke). That’s not to say the guys Buffalo got this cycle aren’t any good, it’s just not the kind of guys I thought Linguist would’ve sought after.
Key departures: DL LaQuan Johnson, QB Daniel Richardson (Florida Atlantic)
Notable additions: WR Stephan Bracey Jr. (Wisconsin), WR Thomas Pannunzio (Colorado State)
Central Michigan had a terrible season on the field, but it came away with the MAC’s #1 signing class last December. Go figure.
LaQuan Johnson’s a huge, huge loss for the team, but most of the licks this defense took through the portal happened last year. Not as many guys left Mt. Pleasant via portal this year, so that’s got to be a major plus for the Chippewas.
Key departures: OT Marcellus Johnson (Missouri)
Notable additions: OL Chris Mayo (West Virginia), OL Dan Sunderman (Central Missouri, D2)
Between graduation and the transfer portal, EMU lost three of its starting offensive linemen from the 2022 season. In addition to three high school signees, it brought on three transfers across the offensive line; only one is a graduate transfer.
If we’re going to let 247sports’ composite ratings help settle debates, then Chris Mayo’s the highest-graded offensive player to ever come into the program. Helps that he already has three years of experience being coached-up in the Power 5, and he still has three years of eligibility to give. Dan Sunderman is a three-time all-conference guard from his Division 2 college, so he might be a diamond-in-the-rough type of get to help add necessary experience along this year’s O-line.
Key departures: WR Dante Cephas (Penn State), RB Marquez Cooper (Ball State), S, JoJo Evans (Florida International), CB Montre Miller (West Virginia), WR, Ja'Shaun Poke (West Virginia), QB Colin Schlee (UCLA), WR, Devontez Walker (North Carolina), OL, Savion Washington (Colorado)
Notable additions: DL Javier Duran (Tarleton State, FCS), LB Devin NIcholson (Missouri), RB Ky Thomas (Kansas)
Kent State easily lost the most this transfer cycle. It’s not hard to understand why. Sean Lewis, who was never going to be the forever hire, left to join Deion Sanders at Colorado State and took just one player with him — offensive lineman Savion Washington. New coach Kenni Burns is an exciting guy as well and has his MACtion bona fides: he’s been with P.J. Fleck since the Western Michigan days. Still, hiring him wasn’t enough to keep its top offensive players around, and even lost running back Marquez Cooper to an in-MAC school. That really bites.
Burns has 13 transfers coming into the program via portal, then two more junior college add-ons. In case you needed to know where the priorities lie for Burns in his transition year: 10 of these transfers are on defense, the rest are on offense. There’s never a short-term answer good enough for Kent State to ever reach an undefeated season with a first-year coach, but stocking up on defense should help reinforce the type of physicality Burns wants his program to play with.
Key departures: OL, Caleb Schaeffer (Oklahoma), RB, Tyre Shelton (LA Tech)
Notable additions: RB Rashad Amos (South Carolina), QB Maddox Kopp (Colorado)
Maybe the most notable thing to happen to Miami this year was that Brett Gabbert didn’t leave after all. The quarterback initially threw his name out as a transfer possibility, but ended up committing to stay at Miami before the new year.
The transfer portal isn’t exactly a huge priority for Miami and its a school that’s generally harder to get admitted in to than most of its MAC piers, so it can’t patch up some on-field issues as easily as the public schools.
Key departures: OL, Marques Cox (Kentucky), RB, Harrison Waylee (Wyoming)
Notable additions: CB Shad Dabney (Kansas), RB Gavin Williams (Iowa)
I don’t think NIU’s been doing so well through the transfer portal era. While it helped the program out by getting QB Rocky Lombardi and FB Clint Ratkovich together to help lead the team to its MAC championship in 2021, there’s little comfort to be had with this team right now and the transfer portal. Former NIU RB Jay Ducker left for Memphis after he won the MAC Freshman of the Year Award, and now this team has lost another big running back in Harrison Waylee to Wyoming.
The MAC title was a great run, but it’s sandwiched in between a couple of awful years. NIU can’t afford to lose quality talent if it wants to get back to what it was a decade ago.
Key departures: DT Denzel Daxon (Illinois), DL Kylen McCracken
Notable additions: S Walter Reynolds (Holy Cross, FCS)
Losing Denzel Daxon to Illinois is a huge loss, but that’s about as bad as it got for Ohio through the portal this year (so far). It would’ve been nice if Ohio could’ve tried to get some defensive line help through the portal, even just for depth.
Ohio’s coming off of a 10-win season and is probably still well-equipped enough on offense at getting back into Detroit this year. It certainly helps that QB Kurtis Rourke’s coming back for his fifth year with the team, second as the full-time starter.
Key departures: WR Demeer Blankumsee (Memphis), OL Lavel Dumont
Notable additions: EDGE Travion Ford (Missouri), Rod Orr (Florida State)
Toledo’s the only MAC program to not have any of its players transfer out of Toledo and into the Power 5. WR Demeer Blankumsee is off to Memphis and OL Lavel Dumont is a graduate transfer that’s still in the portal. Huge losses, but that’s as bad as it’s gotten for Toledo.
Toledo grabbed just three players through the portal so far: DE Travion Ford from Missouri, OL David Nwaogwugwu from Rutgers, and OL Rod Orr from Florida State. Ford and Orr were both former 4-star recruits out of high school, so it’s hard to say that the team has gotten much worse through the portal this year.
Key departures: DL Andre Carter (Indiana), WR Corey Crooms (Minnesota), DL Braden Fiske (Florida State), DL Marshawn Kneeland (Colorado), LB Ryan Selig (Minnesota), RB Sean Tyler (Minnesota)
Notable additions: DB Tate Hallock (Michigan State), WR Leroy Thomas (VMI, FCS)
While Western Michigan didn’t lose a ton of players on the whole when Tim Lester was fired, it still lost too many of its important players to Power 5 roster spots (6). Three former Broncos are now with PJ Fleck at Minnesota. Lance Taylor’s brought it in a few transfers already, but deferring to the portal for a lot of talent clearly isn’t the top priority for the new coach.
Honestly, for the talent that Western’s able to bring in on an annual basis, I don’t think it has to dip into the transfer portal well here, either.