Holiday wish list: What every B1G team needs to find in the transfer portal
The stockings are hung from the Big Ten’s chimneys with care. Will good old St. Transfer leave something there?
Even after the Early Signing Period, every B1G team has needs to fill. Between graduations, early NFL Draft entrants and transfer portal defectors, it’s a reality.
Here’s what should be at the top of each team’s portal wish list.
Illinois: Offensive linemen
Sure, the Illini could probably still use a quarterback, though they landed a guy with playing experience in Syracuse transfer Tommy DeVito.
But what Bret Bielema really wants is big, beefy offensive linemen who will clear out space for running back Chase Brown. Illinois is losing 4 senior starters, and this is a tough position to rely on a lot of young players.
Indiana: Wide receivers
Ty Fryfogle is done. Miles Marshall is in the portal. DJ Matthews is coming back, but with no guarantee of a full recovery from a torn ACL.
The Hoosiers added juco wideout Cam Camper on signing day, but will surely accept the services of 1 or 2 additional receivers from the portal.
We’ve seen enough of Spencer Petras and Alex Padilla to know it’s unlikely either will develop beyond somewhere between “meh” and “serviceable.”
But that’s also the conundrum facing the Hawkeyes in adding anyone. Very few quarterbacks are going to look at Brian Ferentz’s offense and think: “There’s a place where I can achieve my career goals.”
Iowa needs a Russell Wilson-to-Wisconsin bolt of lightning, and there aren’t many guys of Wilson’s caliber left in the portal.
Maryland: Running back
The Terps added 4-star running back Ramon Brown in their signing class, and he seems to be a favorite to start from Day 1. But you can never, ever have enough running backs. And with 2021 leading rusher Tayon Fleet-Davis graduating, Maryland can certainly use more depth.
Michigan: Defensive ends
Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo will both be playing in the NFL next year, making this perhaps the toughest position for any team in college football to replace next season.
Lots of teams have to replace a first-rounder at a given position. But 2 of them? Typically Alabama is the only program that can comfortably handle that on a regular basis.
The top player available is University of Albany standout Jared Verse, who is being recruited by virtually every major program for his senior season.
Michigan State: Cornerbacks
Mel Tucker loves him some transfer portaling, and cornerback should be the target position for this year’s batch after the Spartans produced the worst pass defense in the country this season.
Minnesota: Offensive linemen
The Gophers are probably losing their entire starting 5 to graduation or the NFL Draft — not ideal for a team that can really only move the ball on the ground.
The upshot is that that success will be appealing to linemen looking to enhance their NFL resumes.
The Huskers swung and missed with LSU’s Myles Brennan, who announced he’ll be returning to the Tigers after initially entering the portal prior to Brian Kelly’s hire.
So who will end up replacing Adrian Martinez now?
Based on the hire of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who coached Heisman finalist Kenny Pickett at Pitt this year, you’d assume Nebraska will find a solid player.
Northwestern: Whatever they can get
The Wildcats should probably start at quarterback, though maybe they think Ryan Hilinski will get better next year.
But you can pretty much name any position on this team. Outside of running back Evan Hull, the Cats can find an upgrade for any position on the roster in the transfer portal. This was a bad, bad team.
Ohio State: A safety (or more)
Safety is arguably the most important position in defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ 4-2-5 scheme, since it requires at least one player versatile enough to be a hybrid safety/linebacker.
The back end was a strength for Knowles’ Oklahoma State’s defenses throughout his tenure. When you combine that with the Ohio State brand, the Buckeyes shouldn’t have trouble getting the right fit.
Penn State: Offensive linemen
The Nittany Lions were really quite terrible up front this season. Penn State was 13th in the B1G with a measly 3.1 yards per carry and also next-to-last with 87 tackles for loss allowed.
Surely there is someone out there who can help upgrade this group.
Purdue: Running backs
Injuries ravaged Purdue’s running backs this year, hammering home the importance of having as many backs as possible.
The Boilers were dead last nationally with 2.8 yards per carry. Even adding a guy who is ostensibly a third-stringer would help if Purdue finds itself in this pickle again.
Rutgers: Offensive linemen
The word out of Piscataway is that guard and offensive tackle are the 2 positions Greg Schiano wants to upgrade most on this roster.
The Scarlet Knights averaged 4.42 yards per play in Big Ten games, which ranked 12th in the conference.
Wisconsin: Wide receivers
Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor are graduating. So too is tight end Jake Ferguson, leaving Wisconsin without its top 3 targets.
Chimere Dike will be WR 1 for the Badgers next year, but that still leaves a whole bunch of questions around him. Graham Mertz is a limited quarterback, but if you surround him with quality wideouts he can be good enough to get the job done.
Paul Chryst needs to find those quality receivers in the transfer portal.