College football transfer portal best available: Top 10 players to watch so far this spring

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College football transfer portal best available: Top 10 players to watch so far this spring

The 2023-24 transfer portal cycle is on pace to be another record-setting one, with 2,100 scholarship college football players already in the portal at the FBS level. So far, nearly 1,400 have announced commitments as we enter the 14-day spring transfer window from April 16-30.

Which big names do you need to know ahead of the portal deadline? In an effort to help you keep track of who’s going where and which top transfers are still on the market, The Athletic ranks the best available players in the portal.

Transfers are ranked based on their experience, production, potential, interest they’re generating and feedback from coaches throughout the country. This is a fluid list that we’ll constantly update as players make decisions, so be sure to keep this one bookmarked.



Top takeaways from Day 1 of CFB’s spring transfer portal window

1. RB Damien Martinez, Oregon State: Martinez emerged as one of college football’s best young backs in 2022, earning Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-America honors after rushing for 982 yards and seven touchdowns. The 6-foot, 232-pound rusher from Texas was even better as a sophomore, ranking second in the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,185 yards and nine scores and once again earning first-team all-conference honors.

Martinez is now looking for a new home where he can prove he’s one of the top running backs in the 2025 NFL Draft. He’s planning to take visits to Miami, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Arizona over the next two weeks and would make an instant impact for any of them.

2. CB Tacario Davis, Arizona: Here’s a situation we haven’t really seen in the portal era. Davis entered his name in the transfer portal in late January after Arizona’s coaching change but stayed and is going through spring practice with the team. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound corner led the Pac-12 with 15 pass breakups in his first season as a starter and earned all-conference recognition from the AP.

Davis says he stuck around to see how it goes with his new coaches, but he has yet to officially withdraw from the portal. Until he takes that step, other schools can continue to recruit him. This is a day-to-day deal, and it’ll be interesting to see whether the Wildcats can hang onto him.

3. Safety Jacoby Mathews, Texas A&M: The former top-50 recruit from Louisiana was the No. 2 safety prospect in the Class of 2022 and one of the many gems of the Aggies’ loaded No. 1 class. Mathews moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore and recorded 42 tackles, four pass breakups and an interception. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound defender decided to transfer in February and is now officially on the market for his final two seasons of eligibility. Oregon is one school to watch in this race.

4. WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Penn State: The Big Ten’s most experienced returning wideout is hitting the market. Lambert-Smith started 38 games over his four years with the Nittany Lions and emerged as the clear No. 1 target for quarterback Drew Allar in 2023, finishing with 53 catches for 673 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 184-pound senior has one more season of eligibility and is looking to boost his NFL Draft position elsewhere, with many Power 5 schools battling for his services.

5. OL Jason Zandamela, USC: The 6-foot-3, 306-pound center was one of the highest-ranked members of the Trojans’ 2024 recruiting class, with multiple services rating him as the No. 1 interior line prospect in the country. Zandamela, who was born in Mozambique and played at Clearwater Academy International in Florida, enrolled early at USC but is now looking to move closer to home. Miami, Florida and Georgia are reportedly in the mix.

6. DT CJ West, Kent State: The 6-foot-2, 315-pound senior developed into a three-year starter for the Flashes, with 110 tackles, 59 pressures, 19.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in his career. West graded out as the top defensive tackle in the MAC last season according to Pro Football Focus and picked up third-team All-MAC honors from the league’s coaches. He became one of the most popular players in the portal as soon as he entered, with LSU, Miami and Texas A&M among a long list of Power 5 offers.

7. OL Marcus Bryant, SMU: The 6-foot-8, 318-pound left tackle developed into a 30-game starter for the Mustangs during his four years in the program and was a first-team All-AAC selection for the league champs in 2023. Bryant has one more season of eligibility and intriguing upside for those seeking a plug-and-play starter with more than 2,300 career snaps. Washington, Mississippi State and TCU are among the teams in contention.

8. OL Branson Hickman, SMU: Hickman was a three-year starter at center for SMU who earned second-team All-AAC honors last year and finished as the fourth-best starting center in the country by PFF’s grading. The 6-foot-3, 294-pound senior has two more seasons of eligibility and has taken official visits to TCU and Arkansas.

9. DE Dayon Hayes, Pitt: After leading the Panthers with 10.5 tackles for loss in his first season as a starter, Hayes is looking to move on for his final season of eligibility. The 6-foot-3, 265-pound edge defender logged 45 tackles, 44 pressures, four sacks and four pass breakups in 2023 but told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he’s transferring because he didn’t believe Pitt can “win now.” Can he find a contender who’ll give him an opportunity to start and shine?

10. DT Philip Blidi, Indiana: There’s always demand for starting D-linemen in the portal, and Blidi’s recruitment has really taken off, with LSU, Washington, Auburn and Oklahoma among the many schools battling for his services ahead of his final season of eligibility. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound defensive tackle played a rotational role at Texas Tech for three seasons before he joined the Hoosiers and recorded 30 tackles, four TFLs and 15 pressures over 11 starts.

(Photo: Scott Taetsch / Getty Images)