Impact Offensive CFB Transfers

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With the transfer portal more active than ever thanks to the shift towards player empowerment, here are several players who are poised to contribute to their new school right away.

Wan’Dale Robinson | Transfer from Nebraska to Kentucky

Kentucky brings in a new set of chess pieces on the offensive side of the ball with Penn State QB Will Levis, Michigan State WR Tre’Von Morgan and Nebraska WR Wan’Dale Robinson. They are also making schematic changes, as HC Bob Stoops brings in multiple new offensive coaches including new OC Liam Cohen who most recently served as the quarterbacks coach for the L.A. Rams.

If we are to glean any insight from the Rams’ play-calling tendencies, it’s that the Rams utilize the short passing game as much as any team in the NFL, as ⅔ of their pass attempts were within 10 yards of the line. LA also ranked in the top-three in QB roll-outs, screen passes and play-action while utilizing motion on 40 percent of their offensive plays. Los Angeles also threw the ball 55.1% of the time whereas Kentucky passed only 36.3% of the time, and OC Cohen himself stated the desire to employ a dual-threat quarterback, so expect a slight uptick in passing usage.

This is great news for Robinson, as the diminutive all-purpose weapon relies on motion, screens and sweeps to put him in 1-on-1 situations in space. Robinson was far more explosive in the passing game as opposed to on the ground, as only four of his 133 career rushing attempts went for 15 yards or more due to his inability to break tackles and work between the tackles. With OC Cohen’s background designed to hit receivers on short, timing oriented routes, Robinson should see the same kind of manufactured touches he received in Nebraska, though likely with less carries due to the presence of Christopher Rodriguez as UK’s starting tailback.

Ty Chandler | Transfer from Tennessee to North Carolina

Chandler (5’11"/205) was a homegrown Nashville, TN product who was rated as the fifth best running back and 67th overall player in the nation from the 2017 prep class. He earned 71 carries for 305 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman before going on to start the majority of the next three years for the Volunteers. Though he was a core contributor, Chandler only topped out at 135 attempts and 656 yards rushing despite having PFF rushing grades of 71.8 or more in all four years while enduring multiple, unsettled coaching regimes.

The move to UNC seems to be a perfect fit for Chandler, as HC Mack Brown is coming off back to back seasons with top-15 recruiting classes, but graduates two NFL Draft picks in Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. Their dominant offensive line that set the tone for OC Phil Longo’s team to roll up 235 yards rushing per game in 2020 returns all five starters with a combined 99 line starts and are amongst the best units in the nation. Chandler is a proven back who can step in and produce for one year alongside Josh Henderson before the next generation of DJ Jones, Elijah Green, Caleb Hood and Kamarro Edmonds take over. There is plenty of room to eat in a UNC offense that accrued the fifth most total yards per game in the country last season and returns a Heisman contending QB.

Mike Woods | Transfer from Arkansas to Oklahoma

Woods spent the past three seasons working as the secondary option behind Treylon Burks in OC Kendall Briles’ up-tempo spread offense. He really broke out in 2020, catching 33-of-52 targets for a 64 percent catch rate, 612 yards, 18.5 YPC and five touchdowns while starting all ten of Arkansas’ games. Woods displayed noticeable improvement in the hands department, improving his drop rate from 17.5 percent in 2019 to an excellent 5.7 percent mark last season.

Woods had a standout spring game performance for the Razorbacks, catching a touchdown and generally looking like the best player on the offensive side of the ball with Burks sidelined. However three days later he was in the transfer portal and on his way to Oklahoma. He trades a defined starting role at Arkansas for a crowded wide receiver room on a prolific offense that averaged 43 points and 494 yards per game last season. With Marvin Mims looking like the top receiving option, Woods will battle Theo Wease, Jadon Haselwood and Mario Addison for Spencer Rattler’s remaining targets. There’s room for more than one receiver to produce substantial numbers in the OU offense.

Bailey Zappe | Transfer from Houston Baptist to WKU

Zappe follows former Houston Baptist OC Zach Kittley to Western Kentucky where they two will attempt to install their air raid system and run up the team’s passing yardage totals. Kittley spent three seasons as a grad assistant and quarterbacks coach under Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech before taking the OC job at HBCU where he combined with Zappe to throw for 334 yards per game in 2019, the third most total in the FCS, while leading the nation with 35 touchdown passes.

In 2020, Zappe showed that he can hang at the FBS level by eclipsing the 400-yard mark in all three of his games against upper division opponents, including throwing for 567 yards, 11.6 yards per attempt and four touchdowns in a 35-33 loss to Texas Tech that put him on the radar. On the year, Zappe completed 141-of-215 passes, a 65.6 percent completion rate, 8.5 YPA, 1,833 yards and a sparkling 15-to-1 TD-INT ratio in just four games last season. WKU looks to be pivoting from the more defense-oriented teams of recent years to the high-flying offensive version of the Hilltoppers we saw from Brandon Doughty and Taywan Taylor. They’ve imported a proven system and Zappe should be an eye-opening performer right out of the gate now that he’s got a more talented wide receiver group to work with, as he was victimized by a 10.1% drop rate last season.

Tanner Mordecai | Transfer from Oklahoma to SMU

A four-star performer from the 2018 freshman class, Mordecai was rated as the 11th best dual-threat QB from his prep cycle. While always in the mix for starting work, Mordecai was beat out each year by future NFL Draft picks Baker Mayfield, Jalen Hurts and now Spencer Rattler. With his path to playing time now blocked in perpetuity by incoming freshman Caleb Williams who completed 10-of-11 passes in the OU spring game, Mordecai smartly transferred to SMU. He interestingly follows the path of departed Mustangs signal caller Shane Buechele who transferred in after losing the Texas quarterback competition to Sam Ehlinger.

The Waco, TX native takes over HC Sonny Dykes’ air-raid attack that produced 318 passing yards and 38.5 points per game last season and won 17 games over the last two seasons. SMU boasts a loaded wide receiver corps consisting of Reggie Roberson (19.6 YPC last two years), Danny Gray and Rashee Rice who combined for 1,131 yards last year. Starting RB Ulysses Bentley IV is the latest of a long line of talented Mustangs tailbacks and has the benefit of running behind five returning linemen. Sooners HC Lincoln Riley trusted Mordecai enough to bring him in against Texas to spell Spencer Rattler when he was sputtering in his first big game test. With Lincoln’s brother Garrett Riley serving as the OC at SMU, you’d have to think Lincoln gave his brother the go-ahead on Mordecai being the real deal. All the pieces are in place for a huge season from Mordecai and the SMU offense.

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Austin Ogunmakin | Transfer from North Texas to SMU

This is admittedly a deep-cut on the transfer scene, but with Liberty Heisman candidate Malik Willis at the helm there is plenty of room for a dominant receiver to emerge. CJ Yarbrough wasn’t on the team this spring, while DJ Stubbs (38 receptions/523 yards/3 TD) and Kevin Shaa (25 receptions/450 yards/4 TD) return as the Flames’ top two receivers from 2020. There’s room for a tall, outside receiver who can win in one-on-one situations to emerge, and Ogunmakin (6’3/201) could fit the bill to be that guy.

Last year the North Texas offense revolved around Jaelon Darden like perhaps no offense in the country relied on their star wideout. With Darden sitting out the Myrtle Beach Bowl against Appalachian State, Ogunmakin was the focal point of the Mean Green passing attack, hauling in 7-of-10 passes for 131 yards, 15.2 YPC and a touchdown. It was a revelatory performance from a wideout who showed promise in contested catch situations, catching 8-of-12 opportunities, but has been limited by shaky hands as is evidenced by his 18% drop rate in 2020. Ogunmakin has the physical tools to be Malik Willis’ deep threat, as his average target depth of 17.2 yards could increase by 3-5 yards with Willis’ pro-caliber arm throwing to him.

Jameson Williams | Transfer from Ohio State to Alabama

The St. Louis native was a highly sought after prospect who was rated as a four-star recruit and a top-100 prospect nationally when Williams enrolled at Ohio State in 2019. Unfortunately the Buckeyes had one of the most loaded wide receiver rooms in recent memory and Williams saw only sparse playing time, catching 15-of-25 passes for 266 yards, 17.7 YPC and three touchdowns in his two seasons at OSU. He was barely a factor in the Ohio State spring game as incoming freshmen Emmanuel Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. established themselves as the preferred second-team receivers. With the depth chart stacked, Williams chose to throw his hat in the ring at another talent-laden team in Alabama.

With the exception of John Metchie and steady but unspectacular slot receiver Slade Bolden, there is plenty of opportunity for a pair of receivers to emerge and make a significant impact. Traeshon Holden caught nine passes for 89 yards as a favorite of starting QB Bryce Young while Javon Baker and Xavier Williams were non-factors. Freshman Agiye Hall made some eye-popping catches, but the track record of true freshmen producing at Alabama is not favorable. With JoJo Earle not yet enrolled, the door is open for Williams to use his experience to win a prominent rotational role with the Crimson Tide. My colleague Mike Bainbridge is particularly bullish on Williams wresting the WR2 spot from the aforementioned cast of characters, while I’m pulling for Holden. Regardless, a viable starting receiver is going to emerge from this group.

Tyler Shough | Transfer from Oregon to Texas Tech

Last year Shough earned the starting Oregon quarterback job over BC transfer Anthony Brown, leading the Ducks to 406 yards per game of offense and 28 points per game. He completed 104-of-165 passes, a 63 percent completion rate, for 1,520 yards, 9.2 yards per attempt and a 13-6 ratio. Shough earned a 57.5 passing grade according to PFF and had an average target depth of 9.1 yards. The former four-star pro-style QB only threw for 290 yards one time in seven games last year as a first-year starter and was expected to be challenged for the starting job by Anthony Brown and incoming five-star freshman Ty Thompson.

Conversely Texas Tech third-year HC Matt Wells is under some pressure to produce results, and now that last year’s oft-injured starter Alan Bowman has departed for Michigan, the Red Raiders were in desperate need for some veteran stability at the position. The future is bright with Texas Tech reeling in four-star 2021 QB Behren Morton from Eastland, TX, but Shough steps into a ready-made void where he can step right in and take control of Wells’ offense that produced 51 points per game under Jordan Love two years ago. The Red Raiders should improve drastically upon their subpar 2020 production of 29.1 PPG and get back into the mid-30’s range that they were accustomed to in the Kliff Kingsbury era.