College football transfer grades for Way-Too-Early Top 25 teams

Trey Sanders, left, transferred from Alabama to TCU. Myles Hinton, right, transferred from Stanford to Michigan. And DJ Uiagalelei, center, transferred from Clemson to Oregon State. Illustration by ESPN

The transfer portal has become a staple of college football roster management since it formed in the fall of 2018. Before, players were required to sit a year before becoming eligible; now, the NCAA grants players a one-time waiver to transfer without penalty and with immediate eligibility.

In 2020, 10.6% of FBS starters were transfers, according to SportSource Analytics. But in 2022, that number nearly doubled, as 20.9% of FBS starters were transfers.

Many teams have used the portal to their betterment. More than half of Lincoln Riley's starting production came via the transfer portal, including Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams. Players from the portal helped rebuild USC from a 4-8 team in 2021 to an 11-3 squad that played in a New Year's Six game in 2022.

But the transfer portal doesn't always equate to success. Nearly 30% of Oklahoma's starting production, for example, came via the portal, yet the Sooners, under first-year coach Brent Venables, went 6-7 despite entering the season as the No. 9-ranked team.

Still, some teams have found ways to win without greatly using the portal. Two-time defending national champion Georgia had over 98% of its starting production come via recruited players. (After all, coach Kirby Smart has landed seven straight top-three recruiting classes.)

More than 2,500 players entered the portal once it opened on Dec. 5, and the portal closed for new entrants on Wednesday (though players currently in the portal are still able to pick a new school at any point).

Our group of college football reporters broke down the biggest impact departures and newcomers for each team in the Way-Too-Early Top 25, and Tom VanHaaren graded each team's success -- or lack thereof -- in using the portal this cycle.

1. Georgia Bulldogs

Biggest departures: Georgia has the best tight end in the country returning in Brock Bowers, but the Dawgs also had three tight ends transfer out -- Arik Gilbert, Brett Seither and Ryland Goede. Gilbert, a former five-star recruit, is the most talented of the three, but played sparingly in his two seasons at Georgia. Receiver Dominick Blaylock is also gone. He was a big part of the Dawgs' offense in 2019 as a freshman, but tore his ACL in the SEC championship game. He missed the 2020 season and didn't play much in 2021. Blaylock had 15 catches and a touchdown this past season. Adonai Mitchell, another receiver who struggled with injuries in 2022 but bounced back with key catches in the College Football Playoff, was a late addition to the portal.

Biggest newcomers: The Dawgs stayed within the SEC confines to get two of the best receivers in the portal: Mississippi State's Rara Thomas and Missouri's Dominic Lovett. Between them, they combined for 100 catches, 1,472 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last season. With Ladd McConkey electing to return for another season, Georgia should be stacked at receiver. In addition, the Bulldogs are bringing in cornerback Smoke Bouie, who was a part of Texas A&M's heralded 2022 signing class and originally from the state of Georgia.