1 transfer (in the portal) who could benefit every SEC team
I’ll go out on a limb and say something bold — I think Arik Gilbert will benefit Florida. A lot.
The former 5-star recruit left LSU after a season in which he had more 4-catch games than Evan Engram, Hunter Henry and Kyle Pitts had as true freshmen combined. Gilbert replacing Pitts, who had arguably the best season we’ve ever seen from a college tight end, is a no-brainer.
Not every transfer portal player is a no-brainer, though. Fortunately, my goal is to help out every SEC team by dipping into the transfer portal and plucking out an ideal fit. Much of that is based on need, and obviously, the system has to be right. Sorry, but I’m not about to drop some 260-pound fullback into Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense and assume it’ll be good to go (I’d still love to see it).
So thanks to our friends at 247sports, we’re able to track the transfer portal with live updates. In other words, if this player has found a new team by the time you’re reading this, know that at the time of this writing, they were available. And remember, these are suggested landing spots:
Alabama — Henry To’o To’o, Tennessee ILB
It’ll be fascinating to see where To’o To’o winds up. It feels like just yesterday that Tennessee got a massive recruiting win to land the California linebacker instead of Alabama. Could he replace Dylan Moses? He has 2 years of experience as a starter, and obviously, a pair of seasons with 70-plus tackles against SEC competition suggests he’s more than capable of starring somewhere immediately. Despite his status as a household name, To’o To’o really didn’t grade out well in 2020, especially in coverage (PFF had him with the 4th-worst coverage grade among qualified SEC middle linebackers). He’s much better moving sideline to sideline against the run, which Moses had his issues with after returning from injury in 2020.
Still, the market for a middle linebacker with To’o To’o’s experience and leadership skills will be vast. He’s a rare transfer portal player, which would make all the more reason why he’d want to take on a major role in Nick Saban’s defense.
Arkansas — Jeremiah Martin, Texas A&M DL
Sign me up for a defensive lineman who has 3 years of experience working with Mike Elko. The A&M defensive line has been absolutely loaded the past couple of years, so it’s hard to fault Martin for not cracking the starting lineup. Arkansas needs help up front. The depth issues down the stretch were a major reason why the defense faded like it did. One has to think that Barry Odom would pounce at the opportunity to land the former 4-star recruit, who played in 31 career games as a reserve in College Station.
Martin was an extremely prolific weak-side defensive end in a 3-man front in high school — he had 30.5 sacks and 47 tackles for loss (!) as a senior — and would be a nice fit in Odom’s 3-2-6 defense. Even with Eric Gregory back at defensive end, Martin would be a smart roll of the dice.
Auburn — Tre’Von Morgan, Michigan State WR
If Bo Nix is going to be Auburn’s starting quarterback, he’s going to need a guy who can go up and win a jump ball. Why not take a chance on the 6-7 Morgan, who didn’t crack the starting lineup at Michigan State, but could provide that big frame that Auburn needs after losing Seth Williams. Elijah Canion had a solid bowl game performance, but at 6-3, 190 pounds, he’s not built quite like Morgan. Auburn needs as many weapons as possible after losing Williams, Eli Stove and Anthony Schwartz.
Finding creative ways to take pressure off Tank Bigsby in the ground game has to be a top priority this offseason. Bringing in a massive target like Morgan would make a lot of sense.
Florida — Warren Thompson, Florida State WR
Kivon Bennett would’ve been an interesting option here given his ability to rush the passer, but the Tennessee linebacker is facing drug and weapons charges. Instead receiver can be addressed. Thompson could cross over to the other side of the rivalry and play immediately in a starting lineup with loads of pass-catcher production to replace. The former 4-star recruit played sparingly in an FSU offense that struggled immensely in pass protection.
After Mike Norvell took over in Tallahassee, Thompson had a strange sequence of events wherein he publicly called out the coaching staff for not following COVID protocols but then apologized for his comments soon after they surfaced. He’s a guy who could probably use a fresh start with some stability. Dan Mullen has been extremely active on the transfer portal market, especially at the offensive skill positions with the aforementioned Gilbert and Clemson transfer Demarkcus Bowman. Thompson could continue that trend.
Georgia — Brendan Radley-Hiles, Oklahoma CB
The man they call “Bookie” has had an interesting college career. The decorated recruit was a 3-year starter at Oklahoma, though he was subject to plenty of criticism during his time in Norman. SEC fans might remember this play from the 2019 Peach Bowl wherein he was ejected for targeting on Clyde Edwards-Helaire:
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 28, 2019
But don’t get it twisted. Georgia needs some help in the secondary. Radley-Hiles could be that guy. Eric Stokes, DJ Daniel and Tyson Campbell are off to the NFL, Tyrique Stevenson is off to Miami and Georgia is suddenly looking super young at cornerback. Excitement for the debut of 5-star cornerback Kelee Ringo, who missed the entire 2020 season with an injury, shouldn’t quiet the need to add a proven Power 5 cornerback like Radley-Hiles with a ton of slot corner experience. It’s not often you can get someone with a handful of starts in big-time games. He wouldn’t be a stranger to the big stage, which is where Georgia hopes to be at season’s end.
Kentucky — Eddie McDoom, USF WR
It’s not just that I want to yell out “McDOOOOOOOOOOOM” every time he touches the ball. That’s what Michigan fans used to chant when he was a versatile, young wide receiver in the maize and blue. He could fit really nicely into Liam Coen’s system. Mark Stoops recruited McDoom back when he was a borderline 4-star guy in the 2016 class, but he instead chose Michigan. It’s been a wild ride for McDoom the last 5 years. He left Michigan for USF after he had 11 catches and 8 rushes in a reserve role in 2017. He sat the 2018 season because of NCAA transfer rules, and he only played 1 year at USF because he opted out of the 2020 season.
So yes, the 2016 recruit is entering his 6th year of college, but Kentucky would be a perfect home. If we’re going to see some of the creative run concepts with receivers like Sean McVay used with the Rams, McDoom would be plenty capable of doing that. An offense that already added highly coveted Wan’Dale Robinson from Nebraska needs even more weapons to go through what’ll be a significant offensive transformation. McDoom would help check that box.
LSU — Ricky Smalling, Illinois WR
I know, I know. Kayshon Boutte is legit, and there’s a lot of promise with Jaray Jenkins and Koy Moore. But Smalling is a 3-year Power 5 starter with 88 career catches and 1,141 yards. he could provide an excellent complement to Boutte, who will be atop every scouting report in Year 2. Smalling can take pressure off Boutte and be a steady possession receiver. Oh, and he can make the spectacular play, too:
The B1G West Champs are trying to head into Indy with a win, but @IlliniFootball isn’t letting them go easily.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 24, 2018
Smalling left Illinois amidst a coaching change. He never had quality quarterback play or a competent offense to play in. He could get both of those things in Baton Rouge.
MSU — Jaquan Yulee, Marshall ILB
Erroll Thompson is gone, which means Zach Arnett has some big shoes to fill on the inside. Yulee would be a solid candidate to do that. The former Alabama pledge couldn’t qualify academically, which was how he ended up at Marshall. After a promising first 2 seasons with the Herd, a broken neck that he suffered early in the 2019 season derailed a promising start to his career. The hard-hitting linebacker has been working his way back to full strength and he’s been in the transfer portal since August.
Yes, I truly mean “hard-hitting.”
And, our Number 1 Hit of the Year on our REFY Award List is:
Who didn’t see this coming? Well, that poor NC State player sure didn’t.. Marshall’s Jaquan Yulee with the monster hit forcing the fumble that led to the Artis Johnson scoop and score!
— C-USA Refs (@F5_CUSARefs) August 13, 2019
Thompson was a tackling machine with over 300 career stops playing for 3 different defensive coordinators in 4 years in Starkville. Yulee, if healthy, is capable of stepping into that kind of role. Nathaniel Watson is certainly a candidate to take over the inside linebacker spot in Arnett’s 3-3-5, but with his versatility having played all 3 linebacker spots, he could be moved around in order to make room for Yulee.
Mizzou — Bradrick Shaw, Cal RB
OK, so get this. Shaw is 24 years old. He was in the 2015 class. So was Saquon Barkley, who just finished his third year in the NFL. Shaw, who spent 5 years at Wisconsin and 1 at Cal, is using the free year of eligibility to find a new home in Year 7 of college. Why not Mizzou, where Larry Rountree leaves a major hole to fill. Tyler Badie wasn’t really used as a true complement to Rountree, and at his size, I wouldn’t bank on that changing in the second year of Eli Drinkwitz’s offense.
Back in the day, Wisconsin fans were fired up about Shaw being the next great Badger back after he had 457 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns backing up Corey Clement in 2016. Then the younger Jonathan Taylor showed up and took over. Yeah, I said the “younger” Jonathan Taylor (by 2 years). But still, Shaw worked his way back from a torn ACL and now healthy after a somewhat lost year at Cal, he could be the between-the-tackles back that has typically thrived in Drinkwitz’s system.
Ole Miss — Javonis Isaac, Arkansas State TE
So I know there’s a ton of excitement over Casey Kelly, who dominated the Outback Bowl in place of Kenny Yeboah. Ole Miss fans would love it if Chad Kelly’s younger brother could step in and replicate the underrated production that Yeboah provided in his lone season in Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby’s offense. But why not dip back into the transfer portal well after it worked so well with Yeboah last year?
The last time Isaac was featured prominently in Arkansas State’s offense was 2018, when he had 12 catches for 210 yards and 4 touchdowns. That’s an average of 17.5 yards per catch. Sound like anyone else you know? Perhaps Yeboah, who averaged 19.4 yards at Ole Miss. Isaac would complement Kelly well and be a tricky matchup who can make a defense pay in a big way on a busted coverage.
With 5⃣7⃣ days remaining to kickoff, let’s take a look back at this 5⃣7⃣ yard hookup from Justice Hansen to Javonis Isaac in last year’s season opener vs. SEMO. pic.twitter.com/3ZzMyLWA3n
— Arkansas State Football (@AStateFB) July 5, 2019
South Carolina — Quavaris Crouch, Tennessee ILB
Let the former blue-chip recruit come back to the Carolinas and star for the Gamecocks. Crouch, a Charlotte native, would be a great fit in garnet and black. Crouch was apparently still working out with Tennessee as of a few days ago, but with him in the transfer portal, he can still be contacted by other schools. Shane Beamer would love to add a linebacker with 2 years of experience in the SEC.
Crouch struggled in coverage, but his ability to stop the run would be a valuable asset for a South Carolina team that still has some legit talent in the front 7 with Jordan Burch and Zacch Pickens. Crouch had 85 tackles in his first 23 games at Tennessee, and he even lined up as the short-yardage back on occasion. So not only could Beamer bring in someone who can cover up a lot of mistakes defending the run, but he could give Kevin Harris a breather in those high-contact spots. South Carolina should take a major swing at another chance to land Crouch.
Tennessee — Palaie Gaoteote IV, USC ILB
What’s the best thing to do when you lose a pair of talented linebackers? Go out and get another one. Gaoteote is a former 5-star recruit who seems destined to transfer to a big-time program after an up-and-down 3 years at USC. He could’ve benefitted greatly from having a normal year, but the Pac-12 season’s shortened season combined with a new defensive scheme under Todd Orlando didn’t exactly help some of his technique issues. Consider that all the more reason for Josh Heupel to roll the dice to try and add someone who can play immediately.
The Vols are going to have their fair share of defensive holes in the post-Jeremy Pruitt era. Roster depletion is a major part of that, as is the fact that Heupel’s offenses don’t usually help out the other side. But getting someone like Gaoteote would at least get Tennessee someone who can physically compete in the SEC.
Texas A&M — Terry Wilson, Kentucky QB
No, don’t get it twisted. I’m not saying Wilson would beat out Haynes King to win the starting job. Here’s what I am saying, though. In the event that King struggles or gets hurt, an A&M team loaded with proven skill-player returners would love to have a veteran like Wilson who has tons of SEC starting experience and is plenty capable of executing Jimbo Fisher’s offense as a true dual-threat guy. Wilson wasn’t a fit in Liam Coen’s new offense at Kentucky, and he decided to take advantage of the free year of eligibility. He’s entering Year 6 of college at his 4th different school.
There’s a decent chance that Wilson winds up playing at a smaller school closer to home in Oklahoma City, especially in the event that he wants to be a starter. But he’d be a smart depth add to Fisher’s quarterback room, which is extremely young and unproven.
Vanderbilt — Will Levis, Penn State QB
Ken Seals is probably going to be the guy moving forward. That is, assuming he doesn’t have any major competition after starting all of 2020 and no quarterback recruits were signed in the 2021 class. That, however, was a different offense. Vandy’s new offense with David Raih and Joey Lynch, might not be as sold on Seals, who showed promise as a true freshman but still only averaged 6.7 yards per attempt.
Levis would provide a more experienced option, and he offers something a bit different as a true dual-threat quarterback. This past season at Penn State, he briefly had a shot at the starting job in place of the struggling Sean Clifford. Penn State’s offense was a mess in its first and only year with Kirk Ciarrocca. Levis operating in his third offense in as many years won’t be ideal, nor is his summer arrival. Still, though. Never underestimate the urgency of a new coaching staff to find the right guy at quarterback. Levis will have a Power 5 market, and Vandy should absolutely be a part of it.