Tom VanHaaren, ESPN Staff WriterSep 6, 2023, 07:05 AM ET
CloseESPN staff writerJoined ESPN in 2011Graduated from Central Michigan
With the 2023 season underway and major changes happening seemingly weekly in college football, it can be difficult to keep track of all that goes on. That is especially true with recruiting and the transfer portal.
Thousands of prospects go through each cycle, and now thousands of athletes are entering the portal on a yearly basis.
If you missed any big commitments your team might have secured over the spring or summer, a big transfer or a team that got hot over the past few months on the recruiting trail, our guide will get you all caught up. Here’s a look at what you need to know and what you might have missed from the summer.
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Schools that crushed the summer
Teams with work to do
Top uncommitted prospects
Remember these transfers
Who might be eyeing the transfer portal?
10 big commits you might have missed
DE Williams Nwaneri to Missouri
Nwaneri, a five-star prospect and the No. 12 recruit overall, chose Missouri over Georgia, Oklahoma, Oregon and Tennessee. He gives the Tigers a 6-foot-7, 260-pound defensive lineman who should be able to make an impact immediately based on his talent level.
DB Dre Kirkpatrick Jr. to Alabama
Kirkpatrick is a three-star prospect, but his name should sound familiar to Alabama fans. His father, Dre Kirkpatrick, played for Nick Saban at Alabama, won two BCS National Championships and went on to play in the NFL. The younger Kirkpatrick committed to Alabama on Aug. 18, and brings the nostalgia factor with him.
DE Kamarion Franklin to Ole Miss
Franklin, a 6-6, 270-pound defensive end, is the No. 27 prospect overall. He chose Ole Miss over Auburn, Florida State, Miami and Tennessee. He had 17 sacks last season, racking up 150 total tackles prior to the 2023 season.
Five-star receiver Mike Matthews could be a big asset in Tennessee’s high-powered offense. ThreeStep
WR Mike Matthews to Tennessee
Josh Heupel wants a high-scoring offense at Tennessee, and receivers will always be a priority. Matthews is a five-star receiver, ranked No. 5 overall, and a massive win for the Vols, who beat Clemson, Georgia and USC.
LB Sammy Brown to Clemson
Clemson beat Georgia for Brown, the No. 10 overall recruit. Brown, who is a 6-2, 230-pound five-star player, gives Clemson a talented linebacker for the future. The Tigers have had their fair share of elite defensive players in the past, and Brown is now the highest-ranked recruit in the class for Clemson.
DE Elijah Rushing to Arizona
The Wildcats had not signed a top-20 prospect since the ESPN 300 started in 2013, so Rushing gives Arizona a unique opportunity to raise its recruiting profile. Rushing, a 6-6, 235-pound defensive end who committed in June, is the No. 20 prospect overall. Coach Jedd Fisch has been trying to attract higher-level recruits to Arizona, and Rushing is just that. He is from Tucson, Arizona, and he chose to stay home over Oregon, Notre Dame and Tennessee among others.
QB Michael Van Buren to Oregon
Since transferring from Auburn, Bo Nix has provided stability at quarterback for the Ducks. What happens after he leaves? Oregon will need a successor, and the staff added ESPN 300 quarterback Austin Novosad in the 2023 class. Van Buren, the No. 23 prospect in the 2024 class and the No. 2 pocket passer, will provide more competition at the position but also raises the level of talent in the Ducks’ class.
Air Noland could be the next star QB at Ohio State. Student Sports
QB Air Noland to Ohio State
Ohio State signed three-star quarterback Lincoln Kienholz in the 2023 class and went through a quarterback competition this offseason with Kyle McCord and Devin Brown. The staff lost a commitment from Dylan Raiola, the No. 2 prospect overall and the top quarterback in the 2024 class, so it was imperative to add another talented quarterback. Noland was offered on April 1, and he committed on April 8. He’s the No. 28 recruit overall and one of the best quarterbacks in this cycle. With his talent and ability, he’s a huge addition for the future of the offense.
TE Brady Prieskorn to Michigan
Michigan has had success with tight ends under Jim Harbaugh, most recently with Colston Loveland flashing his ability as a freshman this past season. Prieskorn, who is 6-6, 220 pounds and ranked No. 83 overall, has a chance to have a similar path and is currently the highest-ranked commit in Michigan’s class. The tight end out of Rochester Hills, Michigan, had plenty of other offers to choose from.
DE Kameryn Fountain to USC
It’s no secret that USC needs help on defense, even after adding some significant players in the transfer portal this offseason. Fountain is the highest-ranked commit in the class for the Trojans at No. 82 and is a 6-6, 240-pound defensive end who should provide some help in the future. The fact that the top commit in the class is a defensive player should show how serious Lincoln Riley and his staff are about trying to fix the defense going forward.
5 impact flips
QB Dylan Raiola: Ohio State to Georgia
Raiolo is the top QB in the 2024 class. When he committed to Ohio State, it looked like the Buckeyes had snagged another star quarterback. His flip to Georgia is significant. Georgia just named Carson Beck the starter and has Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton on the roster, but the coaches didn’t land a quarterback in the 2023 class. Adding Raiola is a huge boost to the future for not just depth but talent. Raiolo is potentially the starter of the future.
Five-star Dylan Raiola flipped to Georgia. Joe Rondone/The Republic/USA TODAY NETWORK
S Peyton Woodyard: Georgia to Alabama
Woodyard is the No. 6 safety in the class out of Bellflower, California, and had been committed to Georgia since January. He flipped to Alabama on Aug. 8, and added to a rising Crimson Tide recruiting class. Georgia and Alabama have battled for recruits, and Nick Saban was able to win out with Woodyard, a 6-2 safety.
WR Perry Thompson: Alabama to Auburn
Speaking of rivalries, recruiting battles haven’t happened as often as they used to between these two schools of late, but Hugh Freeze reignited that when he flipped Thompson from Saban. Thompson is the No. 40 recruit overall and the No. 8 receiver overall. He’s now the highest-ranked recruit in the class for Auburn and a loss for Alabama.
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CB Dakoda Fields: USC to Oregon
Oregon has been dipping into the state of California for years, and the staff was able to flip Fields, a 6-2, 185-pound corner ranked No. 75 overall, from the Trojans. USC needs defensive help, so this is a big loss for Riley and his staff and conversely an important addition for the Ducks to help the future secondary.
TE Landen Thomas: Georgia to Florida State
It’s typically difficult to beat Georgia for in-state recruits, especially if they have already committed to the Dawgs. But Mike Norvell and his staff were able to get Thomas, a 6-4, 225-pound tight end, to change his commitment to the Seminoles. Thomas is the No. 47 recruit overall and gives Norvell another offensive prospect for the future.
Schools that crushed summer recruiting
Tennessee Volunteers: The Vols landed eight of the 11 ESPN 300 commits in their class between June and the beginning of August. The highest-rated recruit to jump on board during that time was five-star receiver Mike Matthews, ranked No. 5 overall, followed by defensive end Jordan Ross, the No. 24 prospect overall, and athlete Jonathan Echols, ranked No. 54 in the class. The staff added 10 total commitments over the summer and the class moved up from No. 10 to No. 6 in the rankings.
Alabama Crimson Tide: Prior to June, Alabama had five total commitments. The Crimson Tide now have 19 and, after previously being ranked No. 13, have shot up to No. 5 in the class rankings. The staff has added seven ESPN 300 commitments since June, including five-star cornerback Jaylen Mbakwe, a 6-foot, 175-pound recruit from Pinson, Alabama, ranked No. 4 overall. Alabama isn’t done yet, but the staff has already done quite a bit to get the class on track.
Auburn Tigers: The Tigers changed coaches after last season, and it typically takes a staff some time to get some momentum on the recruiting trail. Hugh Freeze and his coaches have seemingly found that momentum over the past few months, though, landing six of their eight ESPN 300 recruits since June. They flipped Perry Thompson from Alabama and were able to land linebacker Demarcus Riddick, the No. 41 recruit overall, as well as athlete Jalewis Solomon, the No. 158 recruit out of Georgia. In total, Auburn has added 13 commitments to the class since June and is looking to close strong.
Oregon Ducks: For Oregon, the time between June and August brought in six ESPN 300 commitments and has seen the team rise to No. 4 in the class rankings. The Ducks added 6-foot-9, 365-pound offensive lineman Jac’Qawn McRoy, the No. 55 overall prospect. The coaches also got commitments from Fields, linebacker Kamar Mothudi, safety Kingston Lopa, linebacker Dylan Williams and receiver Jack Ressler the past few months. With 13 ESPN 300 commits on board, coach Dan Lanning and his staff have added nearly half of those prospects this summer.
Miami Hurricanes: Prior to the summer starting, the Canes had just one top-300 recruit committed. Since then, the Canes have been able to get seven ESPN 300 recruits. Miami was ranked outside the top 30 in the class rankings but has now moved up to No. 15 due to the efforts over the past few months. Mario Cristobal and his staff have added five-star wide receiver Joshisa Trader, the No. 11 recruit overall, as well as ESPN 300 running back Kevin Riley and safety Zaquan Patterson. The staff also bulked up the defensive line, with commitments from defensive tackle Artavius Jones and defensive ends Marquise Lightfoot and Elias Rudolph, who flipped from Michigan.
Oklahoma Sooners: The Sooners went from unranked to No. 16 in the class rankings. Brent Venables has added five ESPN 300 recruits since June, and that includes five-star defensive lineman David Stone, who had Miami and a few other big programs after him. Stone is the No. 1 defensive tackle in the class and was a big addition as Venables looks to turn the Sooners’ defense around. He was also able to get Taylor Tatum, the No. 2 running back, tight ends Davon Mitchell and Ivan Carreon, and receiver Zion Ragins since June. When looking at the whole class, Oklahoma added 16 recruits and has built the class up to 22 total commitments in the past few months.
UCF Knights: The Knights aren’t a team that typically shows up in the class rankings, but Gus Malzahn has been on a hot streak this summer. The Knights are now ranked No. 22 in the class rankings. Malzahn and his staff landed three ESPN 300 recruits in safety Jaylen Heyward, offensive lineman Waltclaire Flynn Jr. and tight end Kylan Fox. Malzahn was able to sign three top-300 recruits in the 2023 class, which was the most ESPN 300 recruits UCF has ever had in one class. He now has the opportunity to break his own record in 2024.
Teams with major work to do
Northwestern Wildcats: Amidst hazing allegations and the firing of coach Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern is in a tough spot. The Wildcats have just nine total commitments. There are only three Power 5 schools with fewer commitments; Kansas State (7), Colorado and Houston (8). While Northwestern isn’t typically a recruiting powerhouse, the coaches are still going to have to fill this class as we inch closer to the early signing period in December. Combine the small number of commitments in the class with the fact that the Wildcats had five scholarship players enter the transfer portal in July, and there are a lot of holes to fill with this class.
Washington Huskies: The Huskies finished the 2023 class with five ESPN 300 recruits in a class of 20 players. The staff currently has one top-300 recruit and 12 total commitments in the 2024 class. With Washington joining the Big Ten, it’s only going to get more difficult to win. This class is an important one for timing and building a roster that can be competitive in the new conference. One of the focal points will have to be building along the trenches, and Washington currently has just one offensive line commit and four defensive line commitments. There is still plenty of time to add more in the class, but it needs to start happening quickly.
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Michigan State Spartans: The Spartans have lost 16 scholarship players to the transfer portal since December, including quarterback Peyton Thorne and receiver Keon Coleman. The staff was able to utilize the portal to bring in some important transfers, particularly with defensive end Tunmise Adeleye. The coaches will likely try to use the portal again this offseason, but they currently have 12 total commitments and just one ranked inside the top 300. That puts Michigan State outside the top 40 in the class rankings, behind Big Ten teams Maryland, Rutgers, Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State. That is a lengthy list of schools to be trailing when the coaches are trying to turn the program in the right direction.
Uncommitted top-50 recruits and who’s after them
WR Micah Hudson
ESPN 300 rank: 13
Hudson is a five-star recruit and the No. 4 receiver, which shows how deep the 2024 receiver class is. Alabama and Texas A&M were in the mix, but it seems as though this could be a battle with Texas and Texas Tech. Red Raiders head coach Joey McGuire has done an excellent job raising the recruiting profile at Texas Tech and could be in position to land Hudson.
CB Kobe Black
ESPN 300 rank: 19
Black recently released a top five of LSU, Ohio State, Oregon, Texas and Texas A&M. He has visited all of those schools but does have other official visits scheduled, as well, and likely won’t make a decision before the end of the season.
ATH Terry Bussey
ESPN 300 rank: 25
Bussey put out a top list of Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M and has a commitment scheduled for Sept. 28. He still has visits scheduled to Alabama and LSU prior to that announcement, so this one could come down to the wire.
WR Ryan Wingo
ESPN 300 rank: 26
Wingo has taken visits to a ton of schools, including Tennessee, Michigan, Miami, Texas, Georgia and Texas A&M, among others. Wingo could decide to stay home and play for Missouri, but Texas is very much in the picture as well, and will make it difficult to keep him home.
OT Brandon Baker
Santa Ana, California
ESPN 300 rank: 39
Baker is a 6-5, 290-pound offensive lineman and is the No. 2 tackle in the class. He has had almost every major program after him, and Baker was able to take many visits over the spring and summer. He has seen Tennessee, Ohio State, Florida State, Texas, Georgia and a handful of others. As of now, it seems as though Florida State, Georgia, Oregon, Texas, Nebraska and Ohio State are in the mix for his commitment.
DT Aydin Breland
Santa Ana, California
ESPN 300 rank: 45
He’s a 6-5, 310-pound defensive tackle and has already taken visits to Oregon, Georgia, Miami and Texas A&M. Those schools seem to be the main contenders, but there is still plenty of time in his recruitment.
DE Ernest Willor
ESPN 300 rank: 50
Willor is a 6-4, 250-pound defensive end and has plans to visit Maryland in the near future. The Terps are hoping to keep him home, but his recruitment is far from over. He is still planning visits this season and could see Virginia Tech, Auburn and a handful of others.
Transfers you might have forgotten about
C Drake Nugent: Stanford to Michigan
Michigan went to the transfer portal to fill a need at center prior to the 2022 season and got Olu Oluwatimi from Virginia, who ended up winning the Rimington Award for the best center in the nation. The Wolverines are hoping to strike again with Nugent, who started at center in the season opener against East Carolina. Nugent doesn’t have to win the Rimington Award to make an impact, but he could end up being a big cog to another conference championship run for Michigan.
DT Braden Fiske: Western Michigan to Florida State
Defensive tackles don’t always get a ton of attention, but Fiske was a huge get for the Seminoles this past offseason. He had 148 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks in five seasons at Western Michigan. He is a disruptive force up front and can provide some versatility to help the Florida State defense this season.
USC hopes Bear Alexander can help its defensive issues. Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire
DT Bear Alexander: Georgia to USC
The Trojans needed a lot of help on defense and were able to get Alexander in the spring transfer period. He was an ESPN 300 prospect in the 2022 class, ranked No. 56 overall, and saw action in his freshman season. In two games for USC this season, he has 5 total tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 0.5 sacks.
WR Jimmy Horn Jr.: USF to Colorado
Travis Hunter and Shedeur Sanders are getting a ton of attention after Colorado’s 45-42 win over TCU, and for good reason. But don’t forget about Horn, who had 11 receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown in the season opener against TCU. He should be a big target for Sanders all season and fills out a talented receiver room.
WR Jamari Thrash: Georgia State to Louisville
With Jeff Brohm at the helm for Louisville, the receivers are sure to stand out, and Thrash should be part of that conversation. He transferred in from Georgia State, where he was a first team All-Sun Belt player in 2022 with 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns. Thrash had seven receptions, 88 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener against Georgia Tech and showed why Brohm wanted Thrash playing in his offense this season.
Transfer situations to watch for in the future
Notre Dame quarterbacks
The Irish got one of the biggest transfer wins in Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman. He has already thrown for 445 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions in two wins this season. Hartman is a rental, though, and will run out of eligibility after this season, meaning Notre Dame will be looking for a new quarterback again. That doesn’t mean the coaches will have to go to the portal again, especially with ESPN 300 quarterback C.J. Carr, one of the more talented prospects in this cycle, committed in the 2024 class. The coaches signed ESPN 300 signal-caller Kenny Minchey in 2023 and Steve Angeli in 2022. The best-case scenario is that Angeli is ready to take over once Hartman leaves and has had enough time to get comfortable and learn how to run an offense. The Irish are seemingly in a good position at quarterback and have balanced taking a transfer with recruiting high school prospects. Coach Marcus Freeman will be able to assess the depth and talent after this season and decide if the team needs to use a transfer again or if one of the three quarterbacks it currently has can lead Notre Dame back to the College Football Playoff.
It’s highly unusual to see Alabama in the situation it was in this offseason with Nick Saban naming a starter the week of the first game. The staff brought in transfer Tyler Buchner from Notre Dame this offseason to compete with Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson. Milroe was named the starter and threw for three touchdowns while also rushing for two more against Middle Tennessee State in the opener. Milroe is a redshirt sophomore, so if the job is his, what does that mean for the other quarterbacks on the roster? It’s important to note that there are no indications that any of them wants to transfer, but in today’s environment, it is very difficult to keep a stocked quarterback room. Simpson was an ESPN 300 quarterback and is a redshirt freshman. The coaches also signed two ESPN 300 quarterbacks, Eli Holstein and Dylan Lonergan, in 2023. While the depth looks great for the future right now, it could take some recruiting to keep it that way. Saban has a good history of keeping players on the roster, especially at quarterback, but this is a different time in college football, and we saw 17 scholarship players transfer out of Alabama since November.
The Trojans brought in some big defensive transfers this past offseason with Georgia defensive lineman Bear Alexander, Oklahoma State linebacker Mason Cobb, Texas A&M defensive lineman Anthony Lucas, Alabama corner Tre’Quon Fegans and Arizona corner Christian Roland-Wallace, among others. Despite those additions, the defense was still the topic of discussion after USC gave up 28 points to San Jose State in the Trojans’ season-opening win. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said after the game he is bullish on the defense and encouraged by its play but recognizes there are some areas to fix. If the unit continues to improve and becomes a strength, then USC doesn’t need to focus on the portal. But if cracks continue to show throughout the season, the Trojans could be looking to the portal again for help.
Again, this is not suggesting that any quarterback has expressed interest in transferring, but given the landscape, Georgia’s quarterback room lends itself to the question of what happens in the future. Kirby Smart named Carson Beck the starter for this season, which leaves Brock Vandagriff, who is a redshirt sophomore, and Gunner Stockton, who signed in the 2022 class, on the bench. Beck is a redshirt junior, so he would hypothetically have another season as the starter. Add in that Georgia has the No. 2 overall prospect, quarterback Dylan Raiola, committed in the 2024 class, and there is a logjam that could see someone leave. Right now, Georgia has a good problem — several good quarterbacks. However, it eventually could create a scenario where the depth is depleted for the future. Smart went through this before when Justin Fields transferred while Jake Fromm was the starter, but it’ll be a tricky situation to navigate with multiple quarterbacks on the roster who could play and contribute to a team.