FSU’s elite d-line haul, Wisconsin’s revamped QB room, latest updates

There’s a week to go before the 2023 winter transfer portal window closes until the spring. There’s sure to be a flurry of movement before then. But, for now, let’s run through some key storylines from over the past week or so of portal news.

And you best believe we’ve got a little scoop, too.

Wisconsin’s New QB Room

Once upon a time, it’d take years to turn over a quarterback room. Bad takes at the position could sink a program for years. That’s no longer the case, as evidenced by what Wisconsin’s done in about a month under Luke Fickell.

When the Badgers hired Phil Longo as offensive coordinator away from North Carolina, it signaled a shift in offensive philosophy. No longer would they be a plodding, pro-style offensive attack. The Air Raid is headed to Madison, and that requires a different type of passer.

So, what did Wisconsin do? It signed THREE transfer quarterbacks. Out went Graham Mertz (Florida) and Deacon Hill (Iowa) and in came Tanner Mordecai (SMU), Nick Evers (Oklahoma) and Braedyn Locke (Mississippi State).

All three of the additions came from Air Raid or veer-and-shoot systems, replacing players who were better suited to the previous scheme. They’re also talent upgrades. Mordecai is among the most productive passers in the FBS, throwing for a combined 7,152 yards and 72 touchdowns the last two seasons. Evers and Locke, meanwhile, were four-star QBs in the 2022 class. They’re young and future cornerstones of the program.

Throw in 2024 QB commit Mabrey Mettauer, and the Badgers have landed a quartet of four-star recruits in a little over a month. Wisconsin had only signed four such QBs in its entire history.

Florida State’s Elite Portal-Based Line

Florida State will deservedly be an offseason darling – they were in the top 5 of my too-early Top 25 ballot – with much of that hype due to the program’s portal activity in this and recent cycles. Those gains are most evident along the defensive line, where the Seminoles have crafted an elite unit in large part to the portal.

The Seminoles were a major winner of the NFL Draft declaration process, keeping all-ACC defensive end Jared Verse and defensive tackle Fabien Lovett around for another season. Verse was projected as a first-round pick while Lovett likely would have been drafted as well. Those two former transfers are the 2023 cornerstones of FSU’s d-line.

Then the Seminoles began aggressively adding talent:

  • Florida State landed the No. 3 EDGE in the portal, Gilbert Edmondfrom South Carolina on Tuesday.
  • Florida State added the No. 1 interior lineman, Braden Fiskefrom Western Michigan
  • Florida State added the No. 7 interior lineman, Darrell Jacksonfrom Miami.

Those are five championship-caliber pieces along the defensive line and all of them came to Tallahassee from the transfer portal.

Throw in the developmental program wins like Patrick Payton, Derrick McLendon and Dennis Briggsand the Seminoles suddenly have talented depth across their defensive front.

As we’ve seen time and time again in the CFB Playoff era, defensive line quality tends to be a huge factor in any championship push. The Seminoles now have that type of depth. They just created it in a much different way than teams like Clemson and Georgia before them.

LSU’s CB Class Is Elite

There might not be a better positional portal haul than LSU’s cornerback class. The Tigers aggressively replenished their defensive back depth over the last month.

Just look at where their cornerback commits rank in the 247Sports Portal rankings:

Denver Harris – No. 3 overall prospect, No. 2 cornerbacks
Zy Alexander – No. 16 overall prospect, No. 4 cornerbacks
Duke Chestnut – No. 63 overall prospect, No. 8 cornerbacks
JK Johnson – Ranking pending but was the No. 50 overall prospects in the 2021 class

LSU had to be aggressive in the portal last year fixing its cornerback room after several notable departures. This class did much the same, only it added future depth as well. There are plug-and-play experienced players, like Chestnut and Alexander, with young, talented pieces like Harris and Johnson also coming over with multiple remaining years of eligibility.

Suddenly, LSU looks like it’s building a room capable of holding up to the “DBU” title the school often claims.

Teams Are Searching Everywhere For WRs

In past years, the wide receiver transfer market felt a bit oversaturated. There were a lot of bodies to sort through and not a ton of spots. The opposite has been true this portal cycle, because everyone seems to need a wide receiver (or three).

That’s created some interesting avenues for talent acquisition. Look no further in that regard than Oklahoma State and Arkansas.

The Cowboys on Tuesday landed a commitment from All-American transfer wide receiver Leon Johnson. Haven’t heard of him? That’s because he caught 55 passes for 1,156 yards and 14 touchdowns at Division III George Fox. Where is that you might wonder? It’s a small school near Portland, Oregon.

Tuesday also saw Arkansas pick up a commitment from Hillsdale College wide receiver Isaac TeSlaa, who caught 68 passes for 1,325 yards and 13 touchdowns at the Division II level this season. He’d drawn offers from Iowa, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Nebraska and many others since entering the portal.

Impact receivers are considered a premium talent in this era of college football and schools are turning over every possible stone to find them.

A Scattering Of Transfer Notes, Updates

J. Michael SturdivantWR: Cal transfer J’Michael Sturdivant is among the most highly sought-after receivers in the transfer portal. He visited UCLA over the weekend. TCU is the most team in the mix for him outside of the Bruins. Also watch out for Tennessee and USC.

Xavier WeaverWR: South Florida wide receiver transfer Xavier Weaver, who caught 53 passes for 718 yards and 6 TDs this year, has had an interesting recruitment. He looked very close to committing to Arkansas, but things have seemed to cool on both sides. Moving forward I’d watch South Carolina, Colorado and West Virginia for Weaver.

CJ WilliamsWR: After weekend trips to Wisconsin and West Virginia, CJ Williams seems primed to consider other options. Williams, a top 100 recruit in the 2022 class, told 247Sports’ Greg Biggins he’s considering a Notre Dame visit over the weekend (Williams was committed to Notre Dame for some part of the 2022 cycle). Wisconsin and West Virginia both felt they made strong impressions on their visits, according to sources.

Bryson GreenWR: Speaking of Wisconsin transfer targets, I’d watch Green with the Badgers. He took an official visit to Madison over the weekend. The Badgers are prioritizing him.

Jordan BurchEDGE: There was a ton of buzz about Jordan Burch to Oregon when he entered the transfer portal from South Carolina, according to multiple sources. While Oregon is still heavily in the mix, it looks like teams such as Miami and Oklahoma have also entered the picture for the No. 9 overall players in the portal.

Will CrowderQB: Crowder was announced as an Arkansas State addition back in December. But I’d watch Troy here for the Gardendale, Alabama native. Transfers aren’t locked into their new schools until they attend class, and the Trojans have pushed hard for the former West Virginia QB.

Trajan JeffcoatEDGE: Watch out for South Carolina with former Missouri edge rusher Trajan Jeffcoat. I think South Carolina is in excellent shape in that process.

Arland BruceWR: Bruce is fresh off an official visit to Fresno State. He also took visits earlier in the cycle to Arkansas and Mississippi State. He was also recently offered by Oklahoma State. The former Iowa signee was a four-star in the 2021 class.

Clemson Tigers: It looks like Clemson is standing pat during the winter window outside of adding a backup QB Paul Tyson, according to 247Sports’ Anna Adams. Clemson has only taken two transfers in Dabo Swinney’s time with the program, both of whom were backup QBs.

The Quarterback Market: The transfer quarterback market is beginning to slow down a bit, but here are some teams still looking for starting options or at least an upgrade: Auburn, Missouri, Indiana, Louisiana Tech, Colorado State and Arkansas State, among others.

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