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College Football's Top 10 Impact Transfers for 2012


College football transfers can make an immediate impact on the conference and national title races. Need evidence? Russell Wilson's decision to transfer from NC State to Wisconsin was enough to boost the Badgers into the Rose Bowl and come within a few plays from an unbeaten regular season.

Athlon previously examined the top transfers prior to spring practice. However, much has changed since then and with more movement among players over the last few months, here's an updated look at the top 10 impact transfers for 2012, along with a watchlist for 2013.

1. Danny O’Brien, QB, Wisconsin (from Maryland) – For the second consecutive season, the Badgers’ starting quarterback will be a transfer. Russell Wilson led Wisconsin to a Rose Bowl appearance and a Big Ten title, so the pressure is on O’Brien to produce right away. O’Brien had a standout freshman season at Maryland, earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors after throwing for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns. However, with a new coordinator and receiver Torrey Smith catching passes in the NFL, O’Brien struggled to match his production from his freshman season. While Wilson had only one year of eligibility to use, O’Brien can play two seasons in Madison. He isn’t likely to match Wilson’s production or effectiveness, but O'Brien is an upgrade over the current options on the roster. With running back Montee Ball and stalwarts Travis Frederick and Ricky Wagner returning on the offensive line, O’Brien won’t be asked to win games all on his own. However, he needs to have a much better season than he did in College Park in 2011 if the Badgers want to win the Big Ten title.

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2. Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas (from Notre Dame) – After a failed stint at Notre Dame, Charlie Weis is back on the sidelines at Kansas. Weis has created a buzz in Lawrence and landed Crist from Notre Dame to start in 2012, while picking up quarterback Jake Heaps (BYU) and receiver Justin McCay (Oklahoma) to start in 2013. Crist committed to Weis at Notre Dame, but failed to fulfill his potential, finishing with 2,327 yards and 16 touchdowns in three years. Injuries derailed Crist for two years, but he was benched after a slow start in the 2011 season opener and barely played the remainder of the year. Crist’s familiarity with Weis’ offense should pay dividends, and he should be an upgrade on last season’s quarterback play. However, Crist is unlikely to provide enough of a boost for Kansas to get to six wins and a bowl in 2012.

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3. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor (from Oregon) – Seastrunk was one of college football’s most sought after recruits in the 2010 signing class. He redshirted as a freshman in 2010 and transferred from Oregon before playing a snap in 2011. Seastrunk isn’t the biggest back, but his speed will be a valuable addition to Baylor’s backfield. He rushed for 138 yards on seven attempts during the spring game and will be expected to share carries with Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin. Salubi rushed for 331 yards and three touchdowns last season and will likely begin the season as the No. 1 back. However, Seastrunk will see plenty of carries and provides a much-needed big-play threat in Baylor’s offense with Robert Griffin off to the NFL.

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4. DeAnthony Arnett, WR, Michigan State (from Tennessee) – Arnett might not be a household name like Dayne Crist or Danny O’Brien, but his addition was a huge boost for Michigan State. Not only are the Spartans losing quarterback Kirk Cousins, but they must replace the top three receivers from last season. Arnett was a key contributor as a true freshman at Tennessee last year, catching 24 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns. He was able to obtain a hardship waiver from the NCAA and is eligible immediately in East Lansing for the 2012 season. Arnett has some work to do to crack the starting rotation, but will provide an experienced weapon for quarterback Andrew Maxwell. 

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5. Mike Blakely, Auburn (from Florida) – After enrolling early at Florida, Blakely made the surprising decision to transfer after his first semester in Gainesville. Running back wasn’t expected to be a significant need for Auburn after the 2011 season, but 1,000-yard rusher Michael Dyer transferred to Arkansas State. Onterio McCalebb is slated to be the Tigers’ No. 1 back, but he may not have the durability to withstand 25 carries a game. Alabama transfer Corey Grant and sophomore Tre Mason will also figure into the backfield, but Blakely has momentum entering fall practice after rushing for 65 yards and a score in the spring game. Auburn could choose to use a committee of backs in 2012, but Blakely figures to be see plenty of opportunities. 

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6. Cody Green, QB, Tulsa (from Nebraska) – With Taylor Martinez entrenched as Nebraska’s starting quarterback, playing time for Green would have been limited over the next two years in Lincoln. In two seasons with the Cornhuskers, he threw for 657 yards and five touchdowns, while adding 254 yards and three scores on the ground. Tulsa has a solid supporting cast in place on offense, as running backs Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas return, along with two All-Conference USA candidates on the offensive line. Green should be a good fit in Tulsa’s offense and will have the Golden Hurricane in contention for the Conference USA West Division crown.

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7. R.J. Dill, OT, Rutgers (from Maryland) –Dill’s decision to transfer to Rutgers could play a key role in deciding the Big East title. He started 33 games over three seasons at Maryland and has one more year of eligibility with the Scarlet Knights. The offensive line has been a source of criticism for Rutgers over the last two years, and this unit loses All-Big East starters Desmond Wynn and Art Forst. Dill is unlikely to be an All-American, but his presence should help to stabilize the right side of the line and allow the Scarlet Knights to establish their ground attack in 2012.

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8. Ryan Katz, QB, San Diego State (from Oregon State) – Katz was pinpointed as one of the Pac-12’s top breakout players for 2011, but he was benched in the second game of the year. Katz threw for 2,401 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2010, but threw for only 104 yards in the first two games of 2011. With quarterback Ryan Lindley and running back Ronnie Hillman departing, the Aztecs will be starting over on offense. Katz left spring practice as the starting quarterback and will have one of the Mountain West’s top receiving corps to throw to. If he can return to his 2010 form, Katz will be a solid pickup for San Diego State.

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9. Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU (from Texas) – Gilbert was one of the most decorated quarterbacks in the 2009 signing class and was anointed as Texas’ starter once Colt McCoy finished his eligibility. He started all 12 games in 2010 but threw for only 2,744 yards and 10 touchdowns, while tossing 17 interceptions. Gilbert got off to a slow start in 2011 and was benched after the Sept. 10 victory against BYU. With Kyle Padron transferring to Eastern Washington, Gilbert has a clear path to the starting job at SMU. After facing enormous pressure in Austin, the junior has an opportunity to shine outside of the spotlight. June Jones is one of college football’s top offensive minds, and Gilbert could have a big season in the Mustangs' offense.

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10. Brent Benedict, OG, Virginia Tech (from Georgia) – The Hokies’ biggest weakness in 2012 is the offensive line. Gone are four starters, including All-ACC selections in Blake DeChristopher and guard Jaymes Brooks. Benedict ranked among the top 150 prospects coming out of high school by most recruiting services, but suffered a significant knee injury in his senior year. He redshirted during his only season at Georgia and all signs point to a return to full strength in 2012. Benedict is expected to start at right guard this year and provided he can stay healthy, this should turn out to be a huge addition for the Hokies. 

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Others to watch for 2012

Austyn Carta-Samuels, QB (Wyoming to Vanderbilt)
Brice Butler, WR (USC to San Diego State)
Amir Carlisle, RB (USC to Notre Dame)
Cullen Christian, DB (Michigan to Pittsburgh)
Tommy Davis, DB (Northern Illinois to Illinois)
Jonathan Dowling, DB (Florida to Western Kentucky)
Chris Dunkley, WR (Florida to South Florida)
De’Leon Eskridge, RB (Minnesota to San Jose State
Cameron Fordham, OL (LSU to NC State)
Khairi Fortt, LB (Penn State to California
Tyler Gabbert, QB (Missouri to UCF)
Corey Grant, RB (Alabama to Auburn)
Montel Harris, RB (Boston College to Temple)
Storm Johnson, RB (Miami to UCF)
Jacob Karam, QB (Texas Tech to Memphis)
James Kittredge, DT (Vanderbilt to Michigan State)
Alex Mateas, C (Penn State to Connecticut)
Bryce McNeal, WR (Clemson to Louisville?)
Shakim Phillips, WR (Boston College to Connecticut)
Kyle Prater, WR (Northwestern to USC)
Silas Redd, RB (Penn State to USC)
Josh Shaw, S (Florida to USC)
Phillip Sims, QB (Alabama to Virginia)
Phil Smith, OL (Georgia Tech to UCF)
Darryl Stonum, WR (Michigan to Baylor)
Jordan Webb, QB (Kansas to Colorado)
Forrest West, DL (Colorado to NC State)
Ryan Williams, QB (Memphis to Miami)
Toney Williams, RB (Tennessee to Ball State)
Brandon Willis, DT (North Carolina to UCLA)
Connor Wood, QB (Texas to Colorado)

10 to Watch for 2013

Aaron Green, RB, TCU (from Nebraska)
Michael Dyer, RB, Arkansas State (from Auburn)
Max Garcia, OT, Florida (from Maryland)
Jake Heaps, QB, Kansas (from BYU)
Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida (from Notre Dame)
Justin McCay, WR, Kansas (from Oklahoma)
Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma (from Fresno State)
Pete Thomas, QB, NC State (from Colorado State)
Darius White, WR, Missouri (from Texas)
Brandon Williams, RB, Texas A&M (from Oklahoma)

by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

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