It may be the dregs of the offseason before spring practice starts up but we're ready to forecast what's to come this fall.
After a season of big production from transfers and incoming freshman in 2022, college football has shifted into a "what have you done for me lately" model. From Caleb Williams winning the Heisman in his first season at USC after transferring from Oklahoma to freshman Harold Perkins Jr. proving he is the future of LSU's defense, a newcomer can make all the difference for his new team.
In 2023, we have one of the most high-profile quarterback commits in recent memory in Arch Manning, to a seasoned ACC signal-caller transferring to one of the most prestigious positions in college football: quarterback at Notre Dame.
Here are the top newcomers on this season's Way-Too-Early top 25 for the upcoming season.
The Bulldogs were the only team from a Power Five conference that didn't add any players from the transfer portal in 2022, and they still won their second straight CFP national championship. Kirby Smart added two transfers to help the receiver corps this coming season, although it's unclear if both will be available when spring practice begins. Mississippi State transfer Rara Thomas, who led his former team in receiving yards last season, was arrested on a felony charge of false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery-family violence following an incident with a woman in a dorm room on Jan. 23. Missouri's Dominic Lovett, who led the Tigers with 56 catches for 846 yards and three scores this past season, also transferred to Georgia. As good as the Bulldogs were on offense in 2022, they didn't have many consistent receivers outside of Ladd McConkey. Adonai Mitchell, who transferred to Texas, and Arian Smith were hurt for much of the season. -- Mark Schlabach
Despite some overall improvement, Ohio State's defense struggled on the biggest stages and still needs reliable depth, especially in the back end. The team wasn't overly active in the portal but picked up safety Ja'Had Carter, a 28-game starter at Syracuse. Carter had a team-high three interceptions last season to go along with two in 2020, when he earned freshman All-America honors for the Orange. He should immediately enter Ohio State's safety rotation with Lathan Ransom, Kye Stokes, Sonny Styles, Cameron Martinez and others. The Buckeyes could add some impact newcomers on defense through recruiting, including cornerback Jermaine Mathews and lineman Jason Moore. But Carter is the safest bet to impact a unit that must take a step forward under second-year coordinator Jim Knowles. -- Adam Rittenberg
The portal continues to be fruitful for Michigan, which got its biggest boost from a transfer last season (center Olu Oluwatimi from Virginia). Don't be surprised if linebacker Ernest Hausmann has a similar effect for the Wolverines' defense, which struggled in the CFP semifinal loss to TCU. Hausmann started seven games as a true freshman at Nebraska, recording 54 tackles with a sack and a fumble recovery. He joins a linebacker group led by top tackler Junior Colson and talented rusher Jaylen Harrell but still wants more reliable options. Hausmann fills a clear need for Michigan in 2023. Another potential impact transfer on defense is edge Josaiah Stewart, who led the Sun Belt in sacks two years ago (12.5) and could help a front that loses sacks leader Mike Morris. -- Rittenberg
The Seminoles were once again active in the transfer portal, so there are a number of players to choose from in this category. We will go with Virginia transfer cornerback Fentrell Cypress II, who fills an immediate need for the Seminoles and comes in not only with valuable experience, but as one of the top cornerbacks in the ACC after a breakout sophomore season. In 2022, Cypress led the ACC with 14 pass breakups in the nine games, with 39 total tackles and a fumble recovery. -- Andrea Adelson
I wrote last week that I thought five-star offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor could be the steal of the early signing period and a potential anchor for the Alabama offensive line for years to come. So I'll turn my attention to a position that is a little easier to make an instant impact: running back. With Jahmyr Gibbs off to the NFL and Trey Sanders having transferred to TCU, there's opportunity in the Alabama backfield. It's almost as if Nick Saban planned for it, signing ESPN's No. 1- and No. 2-rated running backs in the 2023 class in Richard Young and Justice Haynes, respectively. If Alabama puts a greater emphasis on the running game in 2023 -- and with a new starting quarterback to break in, that figures to be the case -- then both Young and Haynes could get opportunities to shine as true freshmen. -- Alex Scarborough
The Nittany Lions have done a really good job of balancing high school prospects and transfers this cycle and have a few different choices that could fit for the top newcomer. Corner Storm Duck, who transferred in from North Carolina, could be the pick as he'll help replace Joey Porter Jr.. Elliot Washington, the No. 4 safety in the 2023 class, could also be the pick, but Penn State really needed playmakers on offense, and so the choice is Kent State receiver transfer Dante Cephas. He had 744 receiving yards and three touchdowns last season and will give quarterback Drew Allar a big target at receiver to go along with Florida State transfer Malik McClain. -- Tom VanHaaren
7. USC Trojans
USC lost two elite players to the NFL draft in wide receiver Jordan Addison and defensive lineman Tuli Tulipolotu but promptly replaced them via the portal. Lincoln Riley plucked Arizona's Dorian Singer -- arguably the best receiver in the Pac-12 last year -- to help bolster an already loaded wide receiver room and then added four-star defensive lineman Anthony Lucas from Texas A&M to alleviate the departure of Tulipolotu, who accounted for the most sacks in the country last season (13.5). The Trojans' defense needs plenty of work if USC wants to compete for a title next season, and adding a player of Lucas' caliber is an ideal place to begin. Meanwhile, Singer will be the ideal top target for Caleb Williams to try to replicate his Heisman season. -- Paolo Uggetti
8. LSU Tigers
The LSU coaching staff might not have to pick between Denver Harris and Darian Chestnut, so I won't either. The Tigers need lots of help in the secondary, and the two transfer cornerbacks could figure into the rotation right away. Harris was the No. 5 cornerback in the 2022 class and played in five games as a true freshman at Texas A&M, registering three pass breakups against Mississippi State. Chestnut was a former Freshman All-American at Syracuse who played in 24 games in two seasons, totaling a combined 83 tackles, four interceptions and 13 passes defended. -- Scarborough
9. Oregon Ducks
With Bo Nix returning to Eugene for another season, it was imperative for the Ducks to continue to provide him with a strong offensive line despite the departure of stalwarts like Alex Forsyth, T.J. Bass, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and Ryan Walk. Dan Lanning and Co. have done just that, dipping into the portal to add the likes of four-star lineman Ajani Cornelius from Rhode Island and four-star interior lineman Junior Angilau from Texas. Both Cornelius and Angilau should provide Nix with a healthy amount of protection next season. -- Uggetti
The Vols did a lot of things well in 2022 on the way to 11 wins and their best season in more than two decades. What they didn't do well was defend the pass. Tennessee was 127th out of 131 FBS teams in pass defense (289.5 yards per game) and tied for 100th nationally with 22 passes allowed of 30 yards or longer. The Vols needed help in the secondary and got it with the addition of BYU cornerback Gabe Jeudy-Lally. He has good size (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) and also has SEC experience. He was at Vanderbilt for three seasons before transferring to BYU and now Tennessee. The Vols beat out Baylor and UCLA to get Jeudy-Lally and will be looking for him to come in and contribute right away in a secondary with several new faces. Tennessee can use all the help it can get when it comes to covering the pass. -- Chris Low
The Huskies' identity under Kalen DeBoer is clear: offense first, second and third. Last season, Washington's four tight ends combined for 690 yards and one total touchdown. Josh Cuevas, who comes by way of Cal Poly, was a highly coveted player in the portal and decided to take his 678 receiving yards and six touchdowns last season to Seattle and bolster an already explosive offense with Michael Penix Jr. under center. The four-star Cuevas will provide a returning Penix Jr. with another top target to go along with four-star wide receiver Germie Bernard from Michigan State. -- Uggetti
12. TCU Horned Frogs
The Horned Frogs set out to capitalize on their storybook season, and ended up landing the best-rated class TCU has signed in the modern recruiting era. But they also swung big on transfers, landing six from the SEC, including three from Alabama. The Frogs will have a lot of key parts to replace, including QB Max Duggan, LB Dee Winters and CB Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, but they'll miss Quentin Johnson, their playmaking WR, who could swing a game's momentum. That's where JoJo Earle comes in. The speedy 5-9, 170-pound wideout and kick returner who was No. 73 in the 2021 ESPN 300, transferred back to Fort Worth, about 20 miles from his hometown of Aledo, from Alabama. He caught just 24 passes in two years at Alabama and missed several games due to injury, but he'll be a focal point of the offense at TCU. -- Dave Wilson
13. Utah Utes
Compared to its Pac-12 counterparts, the Utes don't typically make splashes in the portal -- or really elsewhere -- but they did enough in this window to add a few talented players that could make a big impact in the upcoming season. The biggest standout may be Stanford linebacker Levani Damuni, who has accounted for 162 total tackles over the last two seasons. Damuni is a four-star player who has largely gone unnoticed on a declining Stanford team, but with his talent in Kyle Whittingham's defense, the 2023 season could be a breakout for him. -- Uggetti
Check out Sam Hartman's top plays from 2022 with Wake Forest as he prepares to transfer to Notre Dame.
This year's transfer quarterback market didn't match its predecessor for glitzy names, but Notre Dame might have landed the biggest prize in Sam Hartman. A prolific passer at Wake Forest, Hartman set the ACC touchdown passes record with 110 and finished with 12,967 passing yards in five seasons for the Demon Deacons. Despite two CFP appearances, Notre Dame will not challenge for a national title until it makes significant strides in the passing game. Hartman provides coach Marcus Freeman with a proven option to lead the offense. He also should help a wide receiver group that returns some production (Lorenzo Styles, Jayden Thomas) but needs bona fide stars to emerge. Hartman's adjustment from Wake Forest's distinct offensive scheme to Notre Dame will be interesting to watch, but he comes off of his most accurate and efficient season. -- Rittenberg
15. Clemson Tigers
The Tigers have been one of the best programs in the nation when it comes to recruiting and developing top tier talent on the defensive line. So that is why defensive lineman Peter Woods, the No. 4-ranked player in the ESPN 300 and the top-rated defensive player, will be one top newcomer to watch in 2023. With Bryan Bresee off to the NFL draft, there is an obvious need at defensive tackle. Clemson also loses ends K.J. Henry and Myles Murphy so there are plenty of open spots along the defensive front. Woods enrolled in January and should be competing for a starting spot when spring practice begins. -- Adelson
16. Texas Longhorns
Quarterback Arch Manning has the skillset, the name and the recruiting grade to top nearly any list. And he no doubt will be a key for the Longhorns and Steve Sarkisian. But for instant impact, it's hard to top Anthony Hill, the No. 1 linebacker recruit in the 2023 class and No. 16 prospect overall in the ESPN 300, who is a 6-2, 230-pound bruiser with sideline-to-sideline speed (and also was a former Texas A&M commit). Hill's arrival, along with the return of All-American Jaylan Ford, who had 119 tackles and four interceptions last season, and the Longhorns suddenly are loaded at a position of concern with the graduation of Demarvion Overshown, who played in 50 games for Texas. -- Wilson
There's no question about this one. Jonathan Smith's best season in Corvallis earned him and the Beavers one of the biggest gets in the portal when Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei decided to transfer to Oregon State. DJU's stock may be down after a tumultuous time at Clemson, but his talent is still evident and different scenery may unlock his true potential. For a team that went 10-3 last season and was a game away from being in contention for the conference title, Uiagalelei may be the piece that gets the Beavers not just a quarterback to compete with the rest of the Pac-12's star-studded lineup, but one who could take them over the top. -- Uggetti
The city of Maize, Kansas (population: 6,060), gave K-State one of its most high-profile prospects ever in quarterback Avery Johnson, who threw for 2,768 yards and rushed for 817 more while leading Maize to the state title game. But with Will Howard returning, Johnson might not get a chance to make an immediate impact. The best newcomer might therefore come from the portal, where Chris Klieman landed just about the best possible Deuce Vaughn replacement candidate available. Former Florida State running back Treshaun Ward averaged 6.6 yards per carry and rushed for 126 yards against Louisville early in 2022, but his role suffered from a midseason injury and the emergence of Trey Benson. He's got 1,241 career rushing yards, 29 career catches and three remaining years of eligibility. He could become a star in the Royal Purple. -- Bill Connelly
LSU offensive tackle Cameron Wire will give Tulane's offense a significant presence on the offensive line as a graduate transfer. The program looks to reload following a 12-win season that ended with a 46-45 upset of USC in the Cotton Bowl. Wire was a four-star recruit in the 2018 class and started 11 games during his time in Baton Rouge. Alongside four returning starting offensive linemen (Joey Claybrook, Prince Pines, Josh Remetich and Rashad Green), he'll help protect quarterback Michael Pratt, who threw for 3,010 yards with 27 touchdowns and five interceptions last season. Cornerback A.J. Hampton Jr. (Northwestern) and safety Darius Swanson (D-II Nebraska Kearney) should help a secondary that loses ample experience (safeties Larry Brooks, Macon Clark and Lummie Young IV) from a year ago. Swanson was a D-II All-American in 2021 after recording 97 tackles (65 solo) with four interceptions. -- Blake Baumgartner
20. Ole Miss Rebels
Spencer Sanders gets Oklahoma State on the board as he breaks free from the defense for the 22-yard touchdown run.
Talk about stockpiling quarterbacks. Former USC transfer Jaxson Dart threw for 2,974 yards and 20 touchdowns last season for Ole Miss, but Lane Kiffin went out and got former five-star Walker Howard from LSU and four-year starter Spencer Sanders from Oklahoma State. The competition this spring ought to be fierce, and may the best man win. But in Sanders, the Rebels get experience and the kind of dual threat that makes Kiffin's already stout running game that much more difficult to defend. Sanders earned All-Big 12 honors in 2021 while leading the conference with 3,507 total yards. He accounted for 85 career touchdowns at Oklahoma State (18 rushing). He's also thrown 40 career interceptions. But if Sanders remains healthy, after playing through a shoulder injury for much of last season, he will provide a different dimension for Ole Miss' offense. -- Low
The Tar Heels lose their top two receivers in Josh Downs and Antoine Green, so it makes sense why North Carolina would bring in Kent State transfer Devontez Walker. With Drake Maye back for another season, he will be looking for a new go-to target. Walker is from the Charlotte area and has worked his way up to reach this point -- starting his career at NC Central before transferring to Kent State. Last season, he was an All-MAC selection after catching 58 passes for 921 yards and a conference-leading 11 touchdowns. -- Adelson
22. UTSA Roadrunners
How do you improve an offense that averaged 476 yards and 36.8 points per game, returns all-everything QB Frank Harris (for a seventh year!) and star WR Zakhari Franklin (two straight 1,000-yard seasons)? You give Harris, who set school records with 3,177 passing yards and 33 total TDs, one more weapon in the passing game. Enter Willie McCoy, a junior college All-American from Kilgore College, who averaged 19.5 yards on 35 catches last year while also adding two TDs on kickoff returns (37.3 per return) and two more on punt returns on just seven chances. -- Wilson
Joey McGuire capped his first season in Lubbock with a Texas Bowl win over Ole Miss to finish 8-5 while firing up Red Raiders fans. His first full recruiting class landed at No. 24 in ESPN's rankings -- fourth in the Big 12 behind Texas, Oklahoma and TCU -- and only adds hope for the future. McGuire and offensive coordinator Zach Kittley will score points, but the Texas Tech defense added some reinforcements as the group landed a big recruiting win in defensive end Dylan Spencer, who flipped from Texas on Dec. 19, just before early signing day and had offers from LSU, Texas A&M and USC, among others. The 6-5, 245-pound edge rusher, who had 75 tackles, including 20 for a loss, 33 QB hurries and 9 sacks, as a senior, will help to ease the loss of Tyree Wilson, who will likely be a first-round draft choice. -- Wilson
Head coach Curt Cignetti hit a home run bringing in quarterback Todd Centeio via the portal last year. The former Temple Owl and Colorado State Ram threw for 2,697 yards and rushed for 493 (minus sacks) in leading the Dukes to a dream debut in their first FBS season. With Centeio gone, Cignetti looked again toward the portal to make sure the QB room is stocked with athletic options. He brought in a pair of speedy six-footers. Senior Jordan McCloud has thrown for 3,251 yards and 23 touchdowns over parts of three seasons with USF and Arizona, and showed exciting rushing ability early in his career. Brett Griffis, meanwhile, was a high-three-star recruit in 2022 who redshirted at Wake Forest after throwing for more than 3,000 yards and rushing for more than 1,000 as a high school senior. Either could help keep JMU's ceiling high. -- Connelly
25. Iowa Hawkeyes
Expectations will be high for a pair of Michigan transfers -- quarterback Cade McNamara and tight end Erick All. Both McNamara and All were instrumental in the Wolverines winning the Big Ten title and reaching the College Football Playoff in 2021. McNamara and All will have ample opportunity to come in and spread some of that winning magic that has been sifting out of Ann Arbor each of the last two seasons. The Hawkeyes could use it after their offense finished last in the Big Ten last season (251.6 YPG). McNamara threw for 2,576 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2021 before losing out to J.J. McCarthy in a quarterback competition that played out into the first few weeks of 2022. All caught 38 passes for 437 yards and two touchdowns in 2021 but was limited to just three games last season because of a back injury, which required surgery in October. -- Baumgartner