College football transfer portal takeaways: RB market, Colorado exits and more from busy Day 1

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College football transfer portal takeaways: RB market, Colorado exits and more from busy Day 1

The inaugural NCAA transfer portal spring window opened for college football players on April 15 last year. On that date, only 90 FBS scholarship players put their names in the portal. Those were simpler times.

On Tuesday, the spring transfer window opened and 90 scholarship players were already in the portal by 10:30 a.m. ET. By the end of the day, more than 200 had entered the portal to kick off this 14-day period for underclassman transfers. Here’s what we learned from Day 1.

By the numbers

Compared to the first day of the December portal window, when 538 FBS scholarship players and more than 1,100 college football players transferred in one day, Tuesday was rather tame.

This time, a grand total of 221 FBS scholarship players entered the portal, with 105 coming from Power 5 schools and 116 coming from the Group of 5 ranks. That’s a significant uptick from last year but a predictable one now that the NCAA’s one-time transfer rule is out of the picture.

Players no longer need to wait and graduate before transferring again, which led to 47 FBS scholarship players going back in the portal on Tuesday as repeat transfers. That’s a little over 20 percent of the Day 1 entries. With the exception of Alabama offensive lineman Kadyn Proctor and a couple of others, those players are generally still trying to find a school where they can be a starter.

Georgia State led all FBS schools with 13 scholarship players entering the portal. New head coach Dell McGee was hired in late February and is just getting to work on reconstructing his roster. Arkansas State (eight transfers), Colorado (eight), Bowling Green (six), Illinois (six) and Old Dominion (six) had more departures than most, but keep in mind there will be plenty more movement over these next few days.

We’ve now surpassed 2,100 FBS scholarship transfers in this current portal cycle that began Aug. 1. That represents a 25 percent increase from last year’s total of 1,685 on April 16. It’s going to be another record-setting year for transfer transactions in college football.

Colorado spring cleaning, Part II

Colorado sophomore cornerback Cormani McClain’s announcement that he is entering the portal was one of the more fascinating developments of the day.

You can’t call it a totally unexpected one, since McClain has been missing in action for much of spring ball and struggled early on in his freshman campaign. Head coach Deion Sanders wasn’t shy about expressing his frustration back in September.

Still, it’s a shame to see this didn’t work out, given the magnitude of McClain’s commitment for this program and its future when Sanders flipped the five-star away from Miami in January 2023. For the record, McClain had yet to officially pop up in the portal as of late Tuesday night.

Six Colorado players who entered the portal on Tuesday had transferred in for Year 1: wide receiver Tar’Varish Dawson, tackle Savion Washington, tackle David Conner, tackle Isaiah Jatta, defensive tackle Chazz Wallace and safety Myles Slusher. Two freshmen from Sanders’ first signing class — receiver Jacob Page and safety Jaden Milliner-Jones — joined those players in moving on.

Washington’s exit means the Buffs aren’t returning any of the five offensive linemen who started in their 2023 season opener. That position was quickly overhauled at the end of the season, with Sanders bringing in a new position coach and six newcomers for the spring.

Where else does Colorado still need help? Don’t worry, Shedeur Sanders and Shilo Sanders are working on it.



Elevate and dominate? Where Colorado’s Coach Prime experiment stands at start of Year 2

Running back market takes shape

Soon after Oregon State running back Damien Martinez entered the portal, he had a clear plan. The first-team All-Pac-12 back is getting ready to take official visits to Arizona, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Kentucky and Miami over the next two weeks.

Visit plans can change quickly during portal recruitments, but his current itinerary offers a solid window into who’s on the market for a difference-maker at running back in this spring window.

Miami is the school to watch as Martinez’s tour gets underway. It might be too early to call the Hurricanes the frontrunner, but they’re in great shape. They have exciting offensive talent in Cam Ward, Xavier Restrepo and Jacolby George but a clear need at running back. Mark Fletcher and Ajay Allen missed spring practice due to injuries, Henry Parrish Jr. is in the portal and TreVonte’ Citizen reportedly plans to transfer as well.

Parrish is expected to return to Ole Miss and help answer the Rebels’ need at this spot. Mississippi State secured a pledge from Miami (Ohio) transfer Rashad Amos over the weekend. It’s going to be an interesting little game of musical chairs for the rest of these contenders with Dallan Hayden (Ohio State), Trent Howland (Indiana), Isaiah Augustave (Arkansas) and Andrew Paul (Georgia) also available in the portal, plus Louisville’s Peny Boone potentially re-entering the market.

G5 defensive tackle emerges as most popular

It’s an annual tradition when the transfer portal opens: The emergence of a Group of 5 stud whom everyone simultaneously discovers and offers. On Tuesday, it was Kent State defensive tackle CJ West whose cell phone may have melted.

The 6-foot-2, 315-pound senior has developed into a three-year starter for the Flashes and has produced 110 tackles, 59 pressures, 19.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in his career. West graded out as the top DT in the MAC last season according to PFF and picked up third-team All-MAC honors from the league’s coaches.

Twelve hours into his portal experience, West already had offers from LSU, Indiana, Rutgers, Miami, Kansas State, Colorado, Wisconsin, Arkansas and Texas A&M. He’ll pick up plenty more this week. There are too many Power 5 programs looking for help at defensive tackle in this spring window. Coaches will fight hard for the few starter-caliber big men like West who do pop up.

Where things stand at QB

If you were hoping for big names at the quarterback position to make shocking decisions on Tuesday, you were probably disappointed.

Unless a contender like Michigan decides to shake up its room by making a run at a proven arm or a returning starter gets beat out in spring ball, it’ll mostly be backups garnering attention during the spring window.

Miami backup Jacurri Brown announced Tuesday he’ll soon be in the portal as expected after the Canes brought in Ward in January. Alabama’s Ty Simpson is expected to stay in Tuscaloosa. Oregon’s Austin Novosad and Ohio State’s Lincoln Kienholz are two young QBs other teams are keeping an eye on, but neither entered the portal on Tuesday.

Instead, most of the passers who became available are guys who’ve gone through this before. Jacolby Criswell (Arkansas), Nick Evers (Wisconsin) and Christian Veilleux (Pitt) are back in the transfer portal for the second time after transferring last offseason. UCF’s Timmy McClain, a three-game starter for the Knights last season, could be next.

North Carolina redshirt freshman quarterback Tad Hudson became the latest member of the 2023 class to hit the portal. Eight of the top 30 recruits in his class have already transferred this offseason.

What comes next

During last year’s spring portal frenzy, 339 FBS scholarship players transferred in the first week of the window, and 645 transferred by the end of April. This cycle could beat those numbers in quantity, but will it deliver in terms of quality?

If last year’s spring window was any indication, we’re bound to see some impact players pop up in the portal between now and April 30. Many of these teams are still in spring practice and won’t deal with departures until the Sunday and Monday after their spring games.

We might not see true superstar talent hit the market like we did in December when Caleb Downs, Walter Nolen and Quinshon Judkins made moves. Coaching staffs and NIL collectives don’t want to get surprised at the deadline. They’ll be proactive about taking care of the guys they wish to keep. Post-spring transfers tend to be backups seeking better opportunities for playing time. That’ll still be the case in this cycle. Expect a long two weeks of rapid recruiting, re-negotiations and rumors in these teams’ nonstop fight to find and flip the real difference-makers.

(Photo of Damien Martinez: Soobum Im / USA Today)