7 grad transfers poised to make the biggest impact in the SEC
Grad transfers are all the rage. There is plenty to like about them, mostly around veteran leadership, and there’s usually a red flag or two. Such as, why are they transferring?
In several cases across the SEC, it’s a new coach or a new coordinator trying to mix in their playbook with the players already on campus. The grad transfer concept is old enough to understand that it is a successful tool with the right player in the right situation.
Here are 7 grad transfers ready to make the biggest impact in the SEC in 2020:
Georgia QB Jamie Newman (via Wake Forest)
The new Georgia quarterback’s impact is largely based on his transition to new offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s offense. Among the Georgia faithful, his interception total in 2019 — 11 — was most alarming upon their first glimpse at his work. But there’s plenty to like about Newman, starting with him leading the Demon Deacons to impressive wins in recent years, such as a 32-yard touchdown with 30 seconds remaining in 2018 to beat NC State on the road.
Then, with a bowl berth on the line, Newman threw 4 touchdowns against Duke, and led a 4th-quarter comeback to beat Memphis 37-34 in the Birmingham Bowl when he had 419 total yards and another 4 touchdowns (1 passing, 3 rushing).
A full-time starter in 2019, Newman finished with 26 TD passes. That’s 2 more than Jake Fromm threw last season.
Mississippi State QB K.J. Costello (via Stanford)
Another new face with a new offense. Pairing with Mike Leach offers Costello a chance to restore the draft stock he developed during a breakthrough 2018 season but lost largely because of injuries in 2019. He played in just 5 games in 2019.
In that 2018 season that drew attention from NFL scouts, Costello completed 65.1% of his passes for 3,540 yards — 16th in the country — 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. That was also when RB Bryce Love was injured for most of the season, so defenses could key in on him more. In 2017, he led wins over Top 20 opponents in Washington and Notre Dame, including 4 touchdown passes against the Fighting Irish.
If Costello can avoid the injuries that sidetracked his career at Stanford, there’s plenty of reason for optimism in Starkville given the talent he’s shown. He’s experienced, and familiar with reading all types of defenses. With a dependable offensive line and solid running game, Costello has a chance to make some waves with Mississippi State.
Arkansas QB Feleipe Franks (via Florida)
Franks is no stranger to change, and that will help his adjustment period at Arkansas. His last stint at Florida showed off one of his most dangerous weapons: the long ball. Stability is also the name of the game in Fayetteville as the Razorbacks played 3 quarterbacks in 2018 and started 5 in 2019. While Franks might be remembered in part for quieting the crowd with the Gators, he showed the ability to be coached and developed under Dan Mullen.
Franks always seems to have an interesting twist around him, even back from recruiting days when he was committed to LSU. There’s also the baseball wrinkle (the Boston Red Sox drafted him as a pitcher). So if there were a list of most fascinating players to follow, he would be front and center. Franks has a chance to be productive in a more stable Arkansas offense, and don’t be surprised if he steals other headlines, too.
Arkansas DT Xavier Kelly (via Clemson)
The 6-4, 305-pounder adds some credibility to a defensive front looking to revamp itself under new coordinator Barry Odom at Arkansas. Kelly has the added incentive to show he’s better than being 3rd on the depth chart at one of Clemson’s defensive tackle positions. He was a 4-star recruit from Wichita, Kansas, in the class of 2016. He was the Tigers’ 2nd-highest rated defensive lineman in that class after Dexter Lawrence.
His presence will be an upgrade from a defense that finished last in the SEC in rushing defense at 221.50 yards per game, last in tackles for loss per game at 5.08 and 12th in the conference with 1.75 sacks per game. The interesting angle for Kelly is the motivation factor to improve his stock for the NFL, which Sam Pittman and new DC Barry Odom should pull out of him.
South Carolina FB/TE Adam Prentice (via Colorado State)
Prentice might be the secret sauce for the Gamecocks in the realm of graduate transfers.
If there’s a wild card to come with the new Mike Bobo offense at South Carolina, it’s Prentice, who not only understands the offense, he has top-shelf leadership qualities to offer. At Colorado State, Prentice, a former walk-on, earned a scholarship and was named captain. That’s a big reason he was twice nominated for the Burlsworth Trophy given to the player who started his career as a walk-on.
For an offense that needs a spark, Prentice offers some versatility at either fullback or tight end. Prentice will have plenty of room to roam in the spring as starting tight end Nick Muse is out for spring after a torn ACL, so the snaps are left to Prentice, Will Register and redshirt freshmen Keshawn Toney and Traevon Kenion.
Alabama TE Carl Tucker (via North Carolina)
Alabama’s looking for an upgrade at tight end after production slipped last year when Miller Forristall appeared in just 9 games with 15 catches. Irv Smith Jr., for example, had 44 catches in 15 games 2 years ago.
In Tucker, formerly of North Carolina, Alabama will get someone who started 20 games for the Tar Heels and played in 38 career games, Tucker caught 36 passes for 549 yards and 4 touchdowns. His most productive season came in 2018 when he had 265 yards and two touchdowns on 16 catches.
UNC to Alabama Tight End transfer Carl Tucker…versatile, has lined up in slot, out wide, on & off ball, in backfield. Good hands. Fluid.
All 5 catches from 2019…thread⬇️ pic.twitter.com/yMHXJKEzOK
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) January 30, 2020
Tennessee WR/KR Velus Jones (via Southern Cal)
Jones, a Southern Cal transfer who is from Alabama, offers some versatility in that he’s expected to contribute at wide receiver and kick returner for the Vols. Jones has averaged at least 23 yards per kickoff return the past 3 seasons, which ranked among the leaders in the Pac-12. All you need to know about his versatility is Jones has scored a touchdown receiving, rushing and on a kick return.
Last season, he had 6 catches for 36 yards and 29 kickoff returns for 704 yards. He scored on a 100-yard kickoff return in a season-opening victory over Fresno State. Jones’ leadership will be especially valuable because of the veterans at receiver the Vols lost from last season.