Ranking the B1G's Top 25 transfers
The Big Ten lost a lot of good men out there — to the transfer portal.
Wan’Dale Robinson (Nebraska to Kentucky), Will Levis (PSU to Kentucky), Jack Coan (Wisconsin to Notre Dame), Jameson Williams (OSU to Alabama), Antonio Shelton (PSU to Florida), Zach Charbonnet (Michigan to UCLA), Julius Brents (Iowa to Kansas State), Kyric McGowan (Northwestern to Georgia Tech) and Mookie Cooper (OSU to Missouri) were just a few of the guys to leave the conference.
Certain teams are more active than others in the transfer portal, obviously. Michigan State lost a whopping 22 players (second most in the country behind only Tennessee), but the Spartans also brought in a lot of players in preparation for Mel Tucker’s second season. Indiana reloaded with transfers from USC, Auburn, Ole Miss and Florida State. Nebraska got a much-needed infusion of talent at the skill positions.
Who got the best of the bunch? Here is my Top 25, based on talent and potential role this season:
25. WR Dylan Wright (Minnesota via Texas A&M)
The former 4-star recruit is one of the candidates to play opposite Chris Autman-Bell. Minnesota needs weapons to complement star RB Mohammed Ibrahim.
24. DT Jordan Whittley (Michigan via Oregon State)
The 348-pound Whittley is a welcome addition to the middle of Michigan’s defense and should fit in well to new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald’s scheme.
23. RB Stephen Carr (Indiana via USC)
Carr, a former 5-star recruit, should see significant work in the backfield along with Sampson James and Tim Baldwin Jr. It probably helps that Indiana’s running backs coach, Deland McCullough, coached Carr at USC. Carr battled through injuries at USC but still tallied 1,319 yards and 12 TDs over 4 seasons, plus 421 receiving yards.
22. DT Ifeanyi Maijeh (Rutgers via Temple)
Maijeh will be in the mix to start in the middle. He finished with 6.5 sacks in 2019 to earn All-AAC honors and brings 19 career starts with him.
21. QB Anthony Russo (Michigan State via Temple)
Russo started multiple seasons at Temple, though with mixed results. He threw 44 TDs and 32 INTs — the most by any FBS QB over the last 3 years. He has completed 59.6 percent of his passes and upped his completion percentage each season, all the way to 68.1 last season (in only 3 games). He is competing for the starting job with Payton Thorne, and he has a good shot to win it.
20. QB Alan Bowman (Michigan via Texas Tech)
Bowman threw 33 TD passes to go along with 17 INTs in 3 seasons with the Red Raiders. He won’t open the season as the starter, but he will provide important depth behind Cade McNamara while 5-star freshman J.J. McCarthy gets acclimated to college.
19. CB Patrice Rene (Rutgers via North Carolina)
Rutgers should have a very good secondary, and it’s because of guys like Rene, who reportedly had transfer offers from Auburn and Oklahoma before winding up with the Scarlet Knights. He started 16 games with North Carolina, tallying 2 interceptions and 106 tackles.
18. LB Jack Gibbens (Minnesota via Abilene Christian)
Gibbens racked up 258 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks and 5 INTs in his career at Abilene Christian. He fills a huge need for what was probably Minnesota’s worst position group in 2020.
17. RB Chez Mellusi (Wisconsin via Clemson)
The former 4-star recruit has been buried on Clemson’s depth chart, but he has a great opportunity to get meaningful snaps with the Badgers behind Jalen Berger. He has 427 rushing yards and 6 TDs over 2 seasons, averaging 6 yards per carry.
16. LB OC Brothers (Purdue via Auburn)
Brothers only played in 3 games over 2 seasons with Auburn, but he made a big impression during spring ball and is going to be on the field a whole lot in Purdue’s retooled defense.
15. DE Jaren Handy (Indiana via Auburn)
Handy is a former top-100 recruit who is hoping to jumpstart his career with a change of scenery. He didn’t produce much at Auburn, but he has elite physical tools and if he can harness them in Bloomington, he would bring an entirely different element to the Hoosiers. He should feel some sense of home, as he is star WR Ty Fryfogle’s cousin.
14. OT Jarrett Horst (Michigan State via Arkansas State)
Horst was highly coveted in the transfer portal, with offers from Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor and Florida State — yet he ended up in East Lansing with a chance to make a big impact right away and spark the Spartans’ sputtering ground game.
13. DT Nyles Pinckney (Minnesota via Clemson)
This was a huge area of need for Minnesota, which got absolutely roasted on the ground in 2020 to the tune of 6.3 yards per carry. Pinckney started 15 games in his Clemson career, appearing in 55. He’ll be a welcome addition.
12. WR Stephon Robinson (Northwestern via Kansas)
Robinson, who caught 75 passes for 1,092 yards and 9 TDs over the last 3 seasons, can fill the void left by McGowan’s transfer to Duke. The Wildcats really need Robinson to step up because they don’t have a ton of weapons for new QB Ryan Hilinski.
11. LB Quavaris Crouch (Michigan State via Tennessee)
Crouch was part of the mass exodus out of Knoxville after Jeremy Pruitt’s firing. He was a 5-star recruit at running back before making the switch to linebacker at Tennessee. The Spartans have a huge need at linebacker without their best player from last season, Antjuan Simmons.
10. WR Daylen Baldwin (Michigan via Jackson State)
Baldwin is one to watch and a future profile on College Gameday. He only had one Division I offer out of high school, but he wound up at Jackson State and had 7 TD catches in only 6 games last season. That led to offers from Ohio State and Penn State before Michigan followed suit. Michigan made the most sense, and now the 6-foot-3 wideout with 4.4 speed has a huge opportunity in a position of need for the Wolverines.
9. LB Palaie Gaoteote IV, (Ohio State via USC)
The former 5-star recruit will fit in well with all of his 5-star teammates. I guess 5-star guys stick together? Anyways, Ohio State is replacing its entire linebacker crew, and after missing out on Tennessee transfer Henry To’o To’o, who went to Alabama, the Buckeyes reportedly beat out Texas for Gaoteote. The linebacker made 14 starts at USC and has battled injuries, but maybe he can have an impact and career trajectory similar to Justin Hilliard.
8. John Lovett (Penn State via Baylor)
The graduate transfer totaled 1,803 yards across 4 seasons with Baylor. His best season was in 2019, when he averaged 6.4 yards per carry and scored 5 TDs. He averaged 5.1 for his career. It’s a loaded RB room at Penn State, but Lovett should factor in heavily. James Franklin has shown a propensity for rotating his running backs.
7. RB Markese Stepp (Nebraska via USC)
Stepp was the favorite to replace Dedrick Mills in the backfield, but he missed spring practice due to injury. Even if it takes him a little bit to get going, the former 4-star recruit should have a huge impact in due time.
6. WR DJ Matthews (Indiana via Florida State)
Matthews was Florida State’s second-leading receiver in 2019 before sitting out last season. Though just 154 pounds, he should be a nice weapon in the slot. The hope is that he can replace Whop Philyor’s production and be a sidekick to Ty Fryfogle.
5. WR Samori Toure (Nebraska via Montana)
How does 6-foot-3 sound in the slot? That’s going to be a tough matchup for undersized corners and linebackers. Toure, an FCS All-American in 2019, could wind up as Nebraska’s No. 1 wideout. Perhaps more importantly, he’s earning rave reviews as a leader for a position group that Nebraska is very excited about.
4. DE Ryder Anderson (Indiana via Ole Miss)
Anderson switched sides after the Outback Bowl. The graduate transfer started 14 games for Ole Miss and last year racked up 6.5 tackles for loss. He’ll step in right away for a Hoosiers defense that was one of the league’s best in 2020.
3. DE Arnold Ebiketie (Penn State via Temple)
Ebiketie was a beast last season at Temple, racking up 8.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in only 6 games to earn Second Team All-AAC. He transferred to Penn State in December, so he has had plenty of time to get acclimated and should slide into a starting role from the get-go, especially without Jayson Oweh and Shaka Toney.
2. RB Kenneth Walker (Michigan State via Wake Forest)
Walker is a highly accomplished player in the ACC, as he averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored 17 touchdowns in 2 seasons. Walker could fit in most anywhere, but that’s especially true in East Lansing. Michigan State’s ground game was nonexistent last year, with just 2 rushing scores. They averaged 2.7 yards per rush, by far the worst in the B1G. The combination of Walker’s ability and Michigan State’s desperate need for someone with Walker’s ability puts him high up on this list.
1. QB Ryan Hilinski (Northwestern via South Carolina)
This is the beauty of the transfer portal. Northwestern gets a player it never would’ve had the chance for out of high school, as Hilinski was the No. 2 pocket passer and had 25 offers, including the likes of Ohio State, Oregon, LSU and USC. But now the Wildcats have what Hilinski wants — a chance to play.
Hilinski comes in with a lot to prove after getting passed up by Luke Doty. Hilinski started 11 games as a true freshman and tossed 11 TDs against 5 INTs, but he only appeared in 2 games as a sophomore.
The Wildcats have won the West 2 of the last 3 years, and Hilinski will be a huge factor on whether they can make it 3 of 4. He will almost surely be the starter, as former 5-star recruit Hunter Johnson never quite figured it out after transferring from Clemson in 2019.