Ranking the Top 25 transfers in the B1G for 2022
The introduction of the transfer portal has changed the game of college football forever. And soon, players may be able to transfer with even greater flexibility and autonomy.
Even without an unlimited transfer rule in place, players have already begun to make major impacts after switching programs. Recently in the Big Ten, Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III and Ohio State’s Trey Sermon played vital roles at running back for their new teams. The influx of talent has boosted all position groups and schools across the B1G.
This season should produce more of the same, now that almost all of the league’s programs are dipping into the transfer pool. As we continue with Top 25 Week at Saturday Tradition, here is a look at the top 25 transfers set to debut in the B1G this fall:
25. Wendell Davis, Northwestern LB
Previous school – Pitt
Northwestern enters 2022 looking for production on the defensive side of the ball. The Wildcats lost star linebackers Chris Bergin and Blake Gallagher to the NFL, along with star safety Brandon Joseph via transfer to Notre Dame. Those were the team’s 3 leading tacklers in 2021. Davis joins the Wildcats as a far less accomplished defender to this point in his career, but he is still a veteran plug-and-play defender for Pat Fitzgerald’s squad.
24. Bradley Jennings Jr., Indiana LB
Previous school – Miami (FL)
Indiana’s defense struggled in 2021, and the leader of that unit — Micah McFadden — is off to the NFL. Even with Cam Jones stepping up to fill a larger role, the Hoosiers will need some of their transfer pieces to contribute. Bradley Jennings Jr. should be one of those players after coming to Indiana from Miami. A veteran contributor, Jennings had 53 tackles, 7.5 TFLs and 3 sacks his final 2 seasons with the Hurricanes.
23. Taj Harris, Rutgers WR
Previous school – Syracuse
Rutgers was led by Bo Melton in receiving in 2021, making him the team’s leading receiver for 3 years running. He’s now off to the NFL, leaving a void for the Scarlet Knights to fill. Add in Taj Harris, the 6-foot-2 veteran out of Syracuse. He arrives with career numbers of 151 catches for just over 2,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, giving the program a strong threat on the outside.
22. Hunter Nourzad, Penn State OL
Previous school – Cornell
Enough has been made of Penn State’s inability to run the ball and effectively protect Sean Clifford last season. Hunter Nourzad arrives as one of the pieces to try to revamp the offensive line. A veteran out of Cornell, Nourzad posted 20 consecutive starts at right tackle and was a 2nd-team FCS All-American in 2021.
21. Charlie Jones, Purdue WR
Previous school – Iowa
Charlie Jones instantly improves (almost) any return game he is joining, and Purdue is no exception. Jones posted 285 punt return yards last season in capturing the B1G’s Return Man of the Year award. As a team, the Boilermakers posted 123 punt return yards in 2021. Combine that with the fact Jones is a deep threat at receiver (323 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2021), and he will also provide Aidan O’Connell with a veteran to soften the losses of David Bell, Milton Wright and Jackson Anthrop.
20. Tommi Hill, Nebraska CB
Previous school – Arizona State
Tommi Hill was a 4-star prospect for Arizona State in the 2021 recruiting class. He saw limited action as a freshman and finished with 9 tackles. Despite that lack of experience, he steps into a situation in Nebraska where he could carve out playing time immediately.
19. Khris Bogle, Michigan State Edge
Previous school – Florida
Khris Bogle is another veteran player who transferred to the B1G this season and should be poised for an immediate impact. In 3 seasons for the Gators, Bogle had 67 tackles, 10 TFLs and 7 sacks. Everyone knows the passing defense for Michigan State was one of the worst in the country. Hopefully, added pressure from the frontline with Bogle helps improve the coverage on the backend.
18. Jacob Copeland, Maryland WR
Previous school – Florida
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Jacob Copeland’s move to Maryland is another one that looks like a perfect fit. With over 1,300 yards in his career, Copeland brings a veteran presence to work with Taulia Tagovailoa and Rakim Jarrett. While the Terps still hope to get Dontay Demus and Jeshaun Jones back at full strength this season, Copeland provides depth and insurance at the position.
17. Jay Shaw, Wisconsin DB
Previous school – UCLA
Wisconsin lost some key defensive pieces from the 2021 squad, including starting CB Faion Hicks. Enter Jay Shaw, a veteran out of UCLA with 87 career tackles, 5 interceptions and 10 passes defended. Simply put, Shaw should be a key contributor for Jim Leonhard’s unit in 2022.
16. Daniel Barker, Michigan State TE
Previous school – Illinois
Arguably an underrated element of Michigan State’s offense last season was the work of Connor Heyward. Heyward is now graduated, opening an opportunity for Barker. With a 6-foot-4 frame and 827 career receiving yards, Barker should be a solid target for QB Payton Thorne.
15. Mitchell Tinsley, Penn State WR
Previous school – Western Kentucky
Mitchell Tinsley and Penn State look like a match made in transfer heaven. Jahan Dotson is off to the NFL and in steps Tinsley, who had 1,402 yards and 14 TDs in 2021. Tinsley gives the Nittany Lions depth in the WR room alongside Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith.
14. Brian Buschini, Nebraska P
Previous school – Montana
It’s not often you see a punter land on a top transfer list, but anyone who watched Nebraska’s special teams knows the potential impact here. Buschini was an FCS All-American and had 28 punts of 50+ yards in 2021. That will play in the B1G.
13. Trey Palmer, Nebraska WR
Previous school – LSU
Speaking of Nebraska, the Huskers mined the portal hard this offseason, including receiver Trey Palmer out of LSU. In addition to stepping into the return game for the Huskers, Palmer serves as a deep threat for the offense.
12. Tommy DeVito, Illinois QB
Previous school – Syracuse
Tommy DeVito had a strong career for Syracuse, despite losing the starting job in 2021. He steps into a situation at Illinois where he appears to be the favorite to win the starting job for Bret Bielema. He will try to develop chemistry with Isaiah Williams and the strong ground game of the Illini.
11. Kevin Williams, Nebraska IOL
Previous school – Northern Colorado
Nebraska’s offensive line was one of the worst in the country during 2021. Kevin Williams joins the program as a veteran transfer out of FCS Northern Colorado to try to improve that unit.
10. Ameer Speed, Michigan State DB
Previous school – Georgia
Speaking of poor units, the Spartans were the worst team against the pass in all of FBS. Ameer Speed brings a veteran presence to that unit with 48 games under his belt and the experience of playing for a national championship in 2021.
9. Chuck Filiaga, Minnesota OL
Previous school – Michigan
PJ Fleck’s team thrives off its offensive line work, and that unit lost guard Blaise Andries and tackle Daniel Faalele to the NFL. Chuck Filiaga — and his 39 career appearances for Michigan — should step into the void at one of the guard spots.
8. Connor Bazelak, Indiana QB
Previous school – Missouri
Indiana used 4 QBs in 2021, and that quartet completed just 51% of its passes. That group also lost starter Michael Penix Jr. via a transfer to Washington. In steps Connor Bazelak, a 2-year starter at Missouri who was the SEC’s Co-Freshman of the Year in 2020. He brings with him more than 5,000 career passing yards and a 66% completion rate.
7. Ochaun Mathis, Nebraska Edge
Previous school – TCU
Defense was not the problem for the Huskers in 2021, but Scott Frost is not leaving anything to chance for a pivotal 2022 season. Ochaun Mathis steps into a situation where he can be a difference-maker after posting 26 TFLs and 12.5 sacks over parts of 4 seasons for the Horned Frogs. Nebraska will need Mathis to be a disruptive force for a unit looking to flip the field and give its offense something to work with.
6. Shaun Shivers, Indiana RB
Previous school – Auburn
Indiana struggled to pass the ball last season, but the ground game was equally bad. The Hoosiers averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and 116 rushing yards per game. Shaun Shivers is a physical runner with over 1,000 career rushing yards while averaging 5.1 per carry. He should help fix that problem.
5. Olusegun ‘Victor’ Oluwatimi, Michigan C
Previous school – Virginia
It is not often a position loses a player with 18 career starts and immediately gets upgraded. That might be the case for the Wolverines after veteran center Andrew Vastardis moved on. Victor Oluwatimi joins Michigan after 32 straight starts for Virginia at the position. He was a Rimington Trophy finalist in 2021. With Oluwatimi, Michigan’s line — and the ever-important run game for Jim Harbaugh’s offense — should keep rolling right along.
4. Tanner McCalister, Ohio State DB
Previous school – Oklahoma State
Ohio State’s defense is arguably one of the top X-factors in the Playoff race, with new DC Jim Knowles tasked with producing a top-10 defense right away. Fortunately for Knowles, Tanner McCalister followed his DC from Oklahoma State to Columbus. McCalister brings with him 23 starts over the past 2 seasons and an intimate knowledge of Knowles’ scheme. If the defense is an X-factor for the Buckeyes, McCalister could prove to be the X-factor for the defense.
3. Timmy Bleekrode, Nebraska K
Previous school – Furman
A kicker this high on a top transfer list looks insane at first glance. Unless you ask the Nebraska faithful. Between extra points and field goals, the Huskers left 28 points on the field in 2021. Timmy Bleekrode was brought to Lincoln to fix that and (hopefully) turn some of the narrow defeats into thrilling victories this year.
2. Jalen Berger/Jarek Broussard, Michigan State RB
Previous school – Wisconsin/Colorado
Expectations are sky high in East Lansing after an 11-win season, but the Kenneth Walker III impact was for real. Walker masked what was a leaky offensive line with over 1,000 yards after contact during his masterful 2021 campaign. Hoping to find another gem, Mel Tucker went back to the transfer portal for Wisconsin castoff Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard. Though Tucker has familiarity with Broussard after coaching him at Colorado, Tucker was especially positive in his B1G Media Day comments about Berger and his potential with the Spartans. Whichever back lands the starting role will have big shoes to fill.
1. Casey Thompson, Nebraska QB
Previous school – Texas
It is not often a transfer player steps into a situation with the ability to determine the trajectory of a head coach and program as a whole. Nevertheless, that is largely the case for Thompson. Make no mistake: Thompson needs a better offensive line than Adrian Martinez had last year. At the same time, Thompson was brought in to avoid the late-game mistakes that plagued Martinez throughout his career. It is safe to say no other transfer’s performance in the B1G will carry more weight this season.