Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Pac-12 football transfers: USC, Oregon playmakers ready to make instant impact in league fueled by QB turnover

These transfers are in the position to make the biggest impact on the Pac-12 in the 2022 college football season

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The Pac-12 is getting a significant makeover for the 2022 season as Lincoln Riley, Dan Lanning and Kalen DeBoer freshen the league’s coaching ranks at three of the league’s biggest brands in USC, Oregon and Washington, respectively. But the new faces in key places aren’t limited to coaches, as the league is also set for a good bit of turnover at the quarterback position.

Half of the conference’s 12 teams appear likely to start a first-year transfer at quarterback, including the Trojans, Ducks and Huskies. While the headliner among the group is USC’s Caleb Williams, who is following Riley from Oklahoma, he is just one of a few big name signal-callers arriving on the West Coast to try and reinvigorate a league seeking to snap a five-year College Football Playoff drought.

Beyond the QB spot, USC headlined most of the league’s other portal news by bringing in some impact skill players amid a significant transfer haul. But other programs picked up some transfer talent as well to help bolster their ranks ahead of the 2022 season.

As the countdown to the kickoff drags on, let’s take a look at the Pac-12’s top five overall incoming transfers, followed by an examination of the top transfer from each remaining team.

USC QB Caleb Williams

Williams met his lofty five-star prospect rating after taking over the starting job at Oklahoma midseason in 2021 during his true freshman campaign. Now he is joining Riley at USC to build on that initial success in a new conference. With a a deep well of playmakers around him, Williams should be one of the nation’s most productive quarterbacks in his new environment. He completed 64.5% of his passes with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions at OU last season, and that was in just seven starts. Now the starting job will be his from the beginning, and he’ll play a major role in determining how quickly the Trojans get back to league title contention.

USC WR Jordan Addison

The reigning Biletnikoff winner arrives at USC after catching 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns as a sophomore at Pittsburgh in the 2021 season. Addison’s decision to transfer — and Pittsburgh’s outward frustration with alleged tampering by USC — made big headlines this offseason and will put him squarely in the spotlight. As a projected first-round NFL Draft pick in 2023, Addison is a one-year rental for the Trojans, who will likely struggle to match his gaudy numbers from last season in a system with so many weapons. But his pre-existing relationship with Williams should help with the adjustment to a new system and new surroundings.

USC RB Travis Dye

When fellow Oregon running back CJ Verdell went down with a season-ending injury midway through last season, Dye transformed into a workhorse with no problem. He finished his fourth season in the program with 1,271 yards on 6.0 yards per carry and 16 touchdowns while also adding 402 yards receiving on 46 catches. Ironically, Dye ran for 153 yards in Oregon’s bowl win over Oklahoma, though by that time Riley had already left for USC. Now, Riley and Dye will join forces as Dye uses his final season of eligibility at a new school in the Pac-12

USC WR Mario Williams

Unlike Addison and Dye, who are on track to be just one-year stars at USC, Mario Williams should have at least two years to develop within the USC program after following Riley from Oklahoma. The former five-star prospect caught 35 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman last season. He is just one of several talented receivers on the roster, but one who undoubtedly has the potential to shine and develop into an early-round pick by the time the 2024 NFL Draft rolls around.

Oregon QB Bo Nix

Buckle up because the Bo Show is headed West after a wild three-year stop at Auburn. Nix is reuniting with offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, who was his OC with the Tigers as a freshman in 2019. Nix was solid that year but never progressed much after Dillingham left to join the Florida State staff for the 2020 season. He’ll need to beat out former four-star prospects Jay Butterfield and Ty Thompson for the job, but Nix’s experience and familiarity with Dillingham makes him the obvious favorite to run the show for a Ducks team seeking to avoid any drop-off as Lanning takes over for Mario Cristobal.

Top transfers for remaining Pac-12 teams

  • Washington State — QB Cameron WardMike Leach isn’t the coach anymore, but the Cougars are turning to one of his proteges, Eric Morris, as offensive coordinator. After leading Incarnate Word to the FCS Playoffs twice in four seasons as head coach, Morris is bringing Ward with him from IC to play quarterback at WSU. Ward was a second-team All-American at the FCS level last season after throwing for 4,648 yards and 47 touchdowns.
  • Washington — QB Michael Penix Jr.Penix must fend off incumbent Dylan Morris and ballyhooed prospect Sam Huard. But given his familiarity with new coach Kalen DeBoer from their time together at Indiana, he should have a leg up. If he can be the player he was in 2019 and 2020 with the Hoosiers, then he’ll be a big upgrade at quarterback for Washington.
  • Arizona State — QB Emory JonesOr Paul Tyson. Both players are incoming quarterback transfers from SEC schools, and one of them will be replacing Jayden Daniels, who transferred to LSU. Jones seems like a safer bet to win the job considering his extensive experience with the Gators, although that experience did include 13 interceptions last season.
  • Utah — LB Mohamoud Diabate: With Florida undergoing a coaching transition, Diabate decided to head west after racking up 89 tackles last season in his third year with the Gators. The former four-star prospect thrived as a pass-rusher in limited action during his freshman season before taking on a regular role the past two seasons. His arrival should partially mitigate the sting of losing star linebackers Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell.
  • Arizona — WR Jacob Cowing: The most recognizable Arizona transfer is quarterback Jayden de Laura from Washington State. But what is a QB without some decent receivers? Cowing is a UTEP transfer who caught 69 passes for 1,354 yards and seven touchdowns while earning first-team All-Conference USA honors last season. He should be an excellent target for de Laura.
  • UCLA — LB Darius MuasauUCLA is bringing in a hefty transfer class, which includes eight defensive players as the Bruins reboot on that side under new coordinator Bill McGovern. Muasau looks like a sure bet to make significant contributions after earning first-team All-Mountain West honors at linebacker the past two seasons at Hawaii. He racked up more than 100 tackles in both 2020 and 2021, including a combined 11.5 sacks in those two seasons.
  • Stanford — S Patrick Fields: Rigorous academics pose a challenge for the Cardinal in recruiting transfers, and that’s reflected in the fact that there’s only one of note on the way. Fields is a two-time All-Big 12 honorable mention at safety with a ton of experience and the chops to help Stanford bounce back from a dismal defensive season.
  • California– LB Jackson SirmonSirmon earned All-Pac 12 honorable mention honors at Washington last season while totaling 92 tackles at linebacker. Now, after a coaching change for the Huskies, he will finish his college career playing for his father, Peter, who serves as Cal’s defensive coordinator.
  • Colorado –WR R.J. SneedThere is nowhere to go but up for a Colorado offense that ranked 126th in passing last season. Sneed should help the Buffaloes make at least some progress as he arrives after catching 133 passes for 1,564 yards during five seasons with Baylor. Between a redshirt season and the COVID year, he’s got one last season of eligibility to build off the career season he enjoyed in 2021.
  • Oregon State — RB Jamious Griffin: Oregon State was in the mix for former USC and Georgia quarterback JT Daniels, who ultimately landed at West Virginia. Otherwise, the Beavers didn’t make much noise in the portal. Griffin ran for 370 yards and six touchdowns in three seasons at Georgia Tech and should provide the Beavers with some depth.

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