Transfers in college football are always a wildcard when making preseason predictions.
Some transfers have no trouble fitting in to their new home. But some players can take half a season or even longer to get acclimated.
Looking back to 2012, Kansas’ Dayne Crist and Wisconsin’s Danny O’Brien were expected to make a huge impact, but neither quarterback lived up to the preseason hype. On the flip side, Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk and Tulsa quarterback Cody Green made an instant impact.
There’s a plethora of players transferring to a new home in 2013, and with less than 50 days until kickoff, Athlon Sports takes a look at which transfers will make the biggest impact in 2013.
College Football's Top 25 Impact Transfers for 2013
1. DE Aaron Lynch, South Florida (from Notre Dame)
Lynch was well on his way to becoming one of the nation’s best defensive ends when he decided to transfer from Notre Dame before the 2012 season. In one year in South Bend, Lynch recorded 33 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks. With another offseason to work in the weight room, the sophomore is due to have a monster season. He will also have plenty of help from a talented South Florida line, which includes senior Ryne Giddins and tackles Luke Sager and Elkino Watson. Lynch could be one of the nation’s top defenders in 2013 and should be a first-team American Athletic Conference performer.
2. RB Charles Sims, West Virginia (from Houston)
Sims’ decision to leave Houston was a huge setback for the Cougars’ offense and a huge pickup for West Virginia. In three years with Houston, Sims rushed for 2,370 yards and 29 touchdowns, while catching 158 passes for 1,707 yards and eight scores. The senior is stepping into a crowded backfield, but his all-around ability (and excellent speed) should make him a candidate to fill in at running back and also contribute as a receiver. Expect Sims to make plenty of big plays for West Virginia’s offense this year.
3. QB Jake Heaps, Kansas (from BYU)
Heaps was the No. 1 quarterback in the 2010 signing class and started 16 games during his two seasons at BYU. As a freshman, he threw for 2,316 yards and 15 touchdowns but failed to build on those numbers in 2011, as he was benched in favor of Riley Nelson. There’s no question Heaps should be an upgrade over Kansas’ quarterbacks (Dayne Crist and Michael Cummings) from last season, but it’s unrealistic to expect him to contend for All-Big 12 honors. The Jayhawks also need to upgrade the weapons around Heaps for him to succeed in 2013.
4. QB Drew Allen, Syracuse (from Oklahoma)
With Ryan Nassib expiring his eligibility at the end of last year, Syracuse has a large void to fill under center. The Orange finished spring practice with very little clarity at quarterback, as Terrel Hunt, John Kinder and Charley Loeb all pushed for time. Allen arrived at Syracuse this summer, which should help him get a head start on learning the offense. However, even though Allen might be the most talented quarterback on the roster, he has very little experience. During his three years at Oklahoma, Allen completed only 18 of 30 throws for 160 yards and no touchdowns. Hunt finished the spring with a slight edge, but the competition is just beginning. As a pro-style passer, Allen will be a good fit for Syracuse. However, his lack of experience means there will be a learning curve early in the year.
5. QB Tom Savage, Pittsburgh (from Rutgers)
You have to rewind back to 2010 to find the last time Savage has played in a regular season game. The Pennsylvania native has bounced around over the last few years, after beginning his career with Rutgers in 2009. In two seasons with the Scarlet Knights, Savage threw for 2,732 yards and 16 scores. However, he transferred to Arizona before the 2011 season, only to leave the Wildcats after Rich Rodriguez was hired. Savage sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, but he is slated to replace Tino Sunseri as Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback for 2013.
6. RB Brandon Williams, Texas A&M (from Oklahoma)
Williams was one of the nation’s top recruits in 2011, ranking as a five-star recruit by Rivals and the No. 7 running back by ESPN. In his only season at Oklahoma, Williams rushed for 219 yards on 46 carries, including 80 on 11 attempts against Iowa State. The Texas native faces stiff competition for carries in College Station, as Ben Malena returns after rushing for 808 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Texas A&M has one of the deepest backfields in the nation, so Williams won’t be asked to shoulder the entire workload. Expect a committee approach in Aggieland, but Williams will be another weapon for Texas A&M’s dangerous offense.
7. QB/WR Brandon Mitchell, NC State (from Arkansas)
Mitchell was a late pickup for Dave Doeren’s team, as he chose to leave Arkansas after spring practice. In three years with the Razorbacks, he completed 25 of 43 passes for 332 yards and three scores and caught 17 passes for 272 yards. Mitchell’s athletic ability is a good fit in NC State’s spread offense, but he will have to quickly learn the scheme, as Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker have the edge in practice reps at quarterback from this spring. Even if Mitchell doesn’t win the starting job, he can help NC State’s offense as a receiver or as a change-of-pace running quarterback.
8. OT Max Garcia, Florida (from Maryland)
The Gators are counting on Garcia and junior college (and former Nebraska player) Tyler Moore to bolster the offensive line in 2013. Garcia started 12 games at left tackle for Maryland in 2011 but is expected to slide to left guard this fall. At 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds, Garcia should give Florida some added toughness in the trenches for 2013.
9. QB Jameill Showers, UTEP (from Texas A&M)
With Johnny Manziel entrenched as Texas A&M’s No. 1 quarterback, it was clear Showers wasn’t going to get much playing time in 2013. New UTEP coach Sean Kugler landed his biggest recruit of the offseason by getting Showers to play in El Paso, which should give the Miners a chance to push for a winning record in 2013. Showers was impressive during limited work in his career, completing 31 of 49 throws for 359 yards and two scores. The junior has yet to make his first career start, but all signs point to Showers being one of Conference USA’s top quarterbacks in 2013. And if he picks up where he left off at Texas A&M, the Miners could go bowling in Kugler’s first year in El Paso.
10. QB Scotty Young, Louisiana Tech (from Texas Tech)
The Bulldogs return only one starter on offense, but the cupboard isn’t bare for new coach Skip Holtz. Running back Kenneth Dixon should be one of the top rushers in Conference USA, and receiver D.J. Banks caught 33 passes for 434 yards last year. Young should be a good fit in Louisiana Tech’s spread attack, as he spent his first two seasons of eligibility at Texas Tech and was recruited by Mike Leach to Lubbock. The Texas native has yet to take a snap in college but was the Texas Gatorade Player of the Year in 2010.
11. QB Adam Kennedy, Arkansas State (from Utah State)
Ryan Aplin was one of the top quarterbacks from a non-BCS conference the last few years, leaving a large void for Arkansas State to fill this offseason. New coach Bryan Harsin appears to have found a capable replacement in Kennedy. With Chuckie Keeton entrenched at Utah State, playing time was expected to be sparse for Kennedy. In five starts in 2011, Kennedy went 4-1 and threw for 11 touchdowns during that span. Assuming he can quickly get acclimated to Harsin’s offense, Kennedy should be the Red Wolves’ No. 1 quarterback in 2013.
12. DE David Gilbert, Miami (from Wisconsin)
Gilbert’s football career was thought to be over in April, after he announced he would not play at Wisconsin due to foot injuries. However, the Florida native decided to transfer to Miami for his final year of eligibility this summer, giving the Hurricanes some much-needed talent on the line. During his career with the Badgers, Gilbert recorded 79 tackles and 8.5 sacks. If he can stay healthy, Gilbert should help bolster a pass rush that managed only 1.1 sacks a game last season.
13. QB Steven Bench, South Florida (from Penn State)
An injury to quarterback B.J. Daniels limited South Florida’s offense last year, and the Bulls finished 2012 by losing eight out of their last nine games. New coach Willie Taggart will have his hands full with the offense in 2013, as South Florida returns only three starters. Bobby Eveld and Matt Floyd combined for zero touchdowns and five interceptions on 118 attempts last year, and neither was able to pull ahead for the top spot in the spring. Bench completed two of eight passes as a true freshman for Penn State last year and transferred after he fell behind in the quarterback competition with Tyler Ferguson and Christian Hackenberg this spring. Bench is short on experience, but he has a chance to earn the starting job this fall. However, he will be pushed by incoming freshman Mike White for time.
14. QB Clint Trickett, West Virginia (from Florida State)
With Jameis Winston expected to start for Florida State, it was an easy decision for Trickett to transfer in search of an opportunity to start. The Florida native is no stranger to Morgantown, as his father (Rick) coached at West Virginia from 1976-79 and 2001-06. Trickett threw for 947 yards and seven touchdowns in two years in Tallahassee, which included starts against Clemson and Wake Forest in 2011. The Mountaineers finished spring practice with Paul Millard and Ford Childress in a dead heat for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Trickett’s experience should help him in the quarterback battle, but Millard and Childress have a slight edge entering the fall to run Dana Holgorsen’s offense.
15. QB Pete Thomas, NC State from Colorado State)
Thomas was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and started for Colorado State during the first two years of his tenure in Fort Collins. However, he left the program after Steve Fairchild was fired as the head coach, landing in Raleigh with two years of eligibility remaining. During his time with the Rams, Thomas threw for 4,269 yards, tossed 18 touchdowns and 21 picks. The junior finished spring practice with an edge in the quarterback battle, but the picture was muddied when Brandon Mitchell transferred in from Arkansas in May.
16. LB Michael Orakpo, Texas State (from Colorado State)
The brother of Washington Redskins’ linebacker Brian Orakpo, Michael was a standout performer for Colorado State’s defense from 2010-11. In two years with the Rams, he recorded 124 stops and registered one forced fumble. Orakpo ran into some off-the-field trouble at Colorado State, which led to his transfer. However, he will be an impact transfer and could be one of the Sun Belt’s top defenders in 2013.
17. LB Jeff Luc, Cincinnati (from Florida State)
Luc passes the eye test as one of Cincinnati’s most physically imposing players. And the Bearcats hope the Florida State transfer can live up to his recruiting hype in 2013. In two years with the Seminoles, Luc recorded 23 tackles, including three for a loss. Assuming Luc becomes an impact defender for Cincinnati, the Bearcats’ linebacker trio could be one of the best in the nation.
18. WR Justin McCay, Kansas (from Oklahoma)
Charlie Weis is banking heavy on transfers to rebuild Kansas’ offense in 2013. Quarterback Jake Heaps and receivers Nick Harwell (see below) and Justin McCay are all transfers from four-year schools. McCay was a four-star recruit by Rivals in 2010 and redshirted in his first year at Oklahoma. In 2011, the Missouri native played in three games with the Sooners but did not catch a pass. The Jayhawks are counting on McCay to emerge as a go-to threat for Heaps, and his emergence could be even more important if Harwell is unable to get eligible for 2013.
19. RB Josh Quezada, Fresno State (from BYU)
Robbie Rouse leaves big shoes to fill in Fresno State’s backfield after three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Quezada may not rush for 1,000 yards this year, but the BYU transfer will keep Fresno State’s rushing attack going strong in 2013.
20. DB Cortez Johnson, Oklahoma (from Arizona)
With the departure of Demontre Hurst, Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris, Oklahoma’s secondary has some holes to fill for 2013. Aaron Colvin will handle one cornerback spot, but the other could go to Johnson. The 6-foot-2 Arizona transfer played for Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops in Tucson, starting two games as a true freshman in 2011. The Louisiana native’s 6-foot-2 frame will give him a chance to be one of the Big 12’s most physical corners in 2013.
21. TE Gerald Christian, Louisville (from Florida)
Another weapon for Teddy Bridgewater? That’s what Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson hopes to see out of Christian in 2013. In two years with the Gators, he only caught four passes for 72 yards and one score. However, the Florida native ranked as a four-star prospect by Rivals and played in the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Look for the 6-foot-3 junior to be another valuable receiving threat for the Cardinals in 2013.
22. DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor (from Penn State)
Baylor’s defense made progress in the final weeks of 2012, and with seven starters back, the Bears should continue that momentum into 2013. Chris McAllister and Terrance Lloyd form a solid duo at end, but Oakman will push for snaps. The Pennsylvania native did not play a down at Penn State but was regarded as a top-200 recruit coming out of high school. Oakman also has the necessary size (6-foot-9, 270 pounds) to be a disruptive force for Baylor’s defense.
23. RB Aaron Green, TCU (from Nebraska)
The Horned Frogs need to find a spark for their rushing attack, which ranked eighth in the Big 12 last year. An injury to Waymon James prevented the ground game from getting on track, but the offense also needs more help from the line. Green’s arrival should bolster the rushing attack, as he ranked as one of the top-10 running backs in the nation coming out of high school. In one year with Nebraska, Green rushed for 105 yards and two scores. He may not rush for 700 yards this year, but TCU will be counting on the sophomore to be a key cog in the backfield rotation.
24. LB Kellen Jones, Clemson (from Oklahoma)
Jones followed coordinator Brent Venables from Oklahoma to Clemson and will join a talented and improving Tigers linebacking corps this year. The Texas native played in 12 games and recorded 10 tackles as a freshman with the Sooners in 2011. Jones could see time at all three linebacker spots for the Tigers in 2013.
25. CB Tyler Patmon, Oklahoma State (from Kansas)
It’s rare to see a player transfer within a conference for his senior year, but that’s the case with Patmon after spending three seasons at Kansas. The Texas native started all 12 games at cornerback for the Jayhawks in 2012 and made seven starts in ‘11. Patmon may not be an All-Big 12 performer for Oklahoma State, but his addition is a valuable one, especially in terms of depth in a secondary that must replace Brodrick Brown and ranked 110th nationally in pass defense last year.
Bonus: WR Nick Harwell, Kansas (from Miami, Ohio)
Harwell still has some work to do in order to be eligible at Kansas this fall. However, should the All-MAC receiver graduate from Miami (Ohio), he will give the Jayhawks’ offense a much-needed go-to receiver. In three years with the RedHawks, Harwell grabbed 229 passes for 3,166 yards and 23 scores. He tied the school record with 15 100-yard receiving games and ranked first in the MAC with an average of 96.7 yards per game in 2012. Assuming he’s eligible in 2013, Harwell will be a starter for the Jayhawks from the first snap of fall camp.
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