Tuesday, July 5, 2022

ACC football transfers: Pitt eyes Kenny Pickett’s replacement while FSU, Miami add defensive stars

The deadline to enter the transfer portal and be eligible for the 2022 college football season passed last month, and most of the remaining uncommitted players have solidified their fall plans in recent weeks. We don’t have a formal transfer window in the sport (yet), but the start of June does marks a turning point in finalizing the rosters for the upcoming season. 

So how did the ACC fare in the transfer portal during the 2022 cycle? Modern transfer rules have allowed players to not only move with less restriction, but have immediate eligibility to make an instant impact. In the ACC, that’s been a boost for the schools that have undergone coaching changes, as Duke, Miami, Virginia and Virginia Tech all saw some roster fluctuation in the offseason. 

Elsewhere in the ACC, the transfer portal has allowed coaches get experienced contributors who don’t need years of development to have an impact. When you’re going into a high-pressure season — like Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Syracuse — coaches want to know the depth chart isn’t loaded with players who are a year away. 

As a conference, the ACC wasn’t the most active in the portal, but even the programs bringing in just a couple of transfers have a name or two of note who could have a major role in their team’s success during the 2022 season. Below we’ve highlighted four players expected to be impact transfers across the ACC, plus one player to know for each of the remaining 10 teams in the conference 

Louisville DL Jermayne Lole

Defense will be one of the biggest factors that will determine whether Louisville is successful in 2022, and that side got a huge boost with Lole’s late-May commitment and transfer from Arizona State. After missing the 2021 season because of injury, Lole is looking to recapture the form that had him as one of the most consistently productive interior defensive linemen in the nation. 

Lole is the name spotlighted here, notable especially because his recent commitment, but coach Scott Satterfield has plenty of additions from the portal that could have a big impact on the team’s success this fall. Lole helps answer the defensive concerns, but the Cardinals also picked up a couple of great skill position options to help quarterback Malik Cunningham. Both running back Tiyon Evans, a former No. 1 JUCO prospect prior to a short stay with Tennessee, and wide receiver Tyler Hudson, an FCS All-American from Central Arkansas, should have an impact this fall. 

Florida State LB Jared Verse 

While not the same position, there is going to be a natural connection between Verse and Jermaine Johnson’s 2021 campaign in Tallahassee. Johnson transferred from Georgia to Florida State and wound up as the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in his lone year with the Seminoles. He then became a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, going to the New York Jets. 

Now, the attention will turn to the next impact transfer on the defensive side of the ball. Verse was an FCS Freshman All-American at Albany, and he received a four-star rating and .9300 grade from 247Sports as a transfer prospect. He might not end up as the ACC Defensive Player of the Year like Johnson, but it’s likely that the Seminoles’ most impactful player will be a transfer portal addition for the second straight season.

Miami DT Akheem Mesidor 

Miami narrowly edged out Florida State for the top-ranked transfer portal class in the ACC thanks in part to landing a handful of defensive players with Power Five starting experience. Mesidor is the star of the group after picking up Third-Team All-Big 12 honors at West Virginia last season, and he returns to the state of Florida a much different prospect than when he was playing high school ball at Clearwater Academy International. A native of Ottawa, Mesidor has matured from a raw, 195-pound prospect ranked outside the top 500 nationally into a 6-foot-2, 272-pound disruptor on the interior that totaled 38 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2021. 

If Mesidor and the rest of the defensive transfers can mesh with a talented young core that includes Leonard Taylor on the defensive line and James Williams in the secondary, the Hurricanes will have a roster capable of bringing some hardware to the trophy case in Year 1 of the Mario Cristobal era. 

Pitt QB Kedon Slovis

The offense that helped power Pitt’s first ACC championship is going to have a couple new names to know for the 2022 season. The Panthers not only lost Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett to the NFL Draft, but saw Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver Jordan Addison transfer to USC and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple take a job on Scott Frost’s staff at Nebraska. Pitt has a passing attack that ranked in the top 10 nationally in passer rating, passing touchdowns and passing yards per game, setting a high bar new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. and the 2022 offense. 

Slovis was First-Team All-Pac-12 in 2020 and a Freshman All-American in 2019, totaling 26 starts across his three years with USC. But while he’s got an experience edge over Nick Patti, the top backup for Kenny Pickett over the last three years, the quarterback competition was not settled at the end of spring practice. Slovis has a ceiling that includes the kind of success Pickett saw in 2021, but first he needs to grab hold of the starting job to make an impact.

Top transfers for remaining ACC teams 

  • Boston College — TE George Takacs: Coach Jeff Hafley hired Notre Dame tight ends coach John McNulty to be the Eagles’ new offensive coordinator, so the tight end transfer from the Fighting Irish should have some advantages in terms of making an impact. 
  • Clemson — QB Hunter Johnson: A former Tiger and blue-chip prospect from Dabo Swinney’s 2017 recruiting class, Johnson finds himself as the third-most discussed quarterback in the room behind DJ Uiagalelei and freshman Cade Klubnik. Still, of the few transfers the Tigers are bringing in, none are more valuable than Johnson given what he can offer to the development at the quarterback position. 
  • Duke — DB Darius Joiner: An FCS All-American, Joiner chose the Blue Devils over UConn, Virginia and Wake Forest. It’s his third stop after starting his career at Jacksonville State, but Joiner’s breakout season with Western Illinois in 2021 — when he led FCS with 142 tackles — set him up to make the jump to being an impact player at the Power Five level. 
  • Georgia Tech — DB Ahmari Harvey: Coach Geoff Collins has several options for potential instant-impact transfers, but the Yellow Jackets need a safety and Harvey’s blue-chip past bring him into the spotlight. Harvey and former Notre Dame safety Khari Gee will both have a chance to raise the level of play in a secondary that struggled with communication and consistency last season. Another name to note is quarterback Zach Gibson, who transferred in from Akron. Gibson took part in spring ball and provides depth and/or competition for incumbent starter Jeff Sims.
  • North Carolina — LB Noah Taylor: With 31 starts and 44 appearances across four years with Virginia, Taylor has the experience to be a trusted anchor at the second level of Gene Chizik’s defense. 
  • NC State — WR Darryl Jones: A former four-star prospect from Virginia Beach, Jones is reuniting with former Maryland receivers coach Joker Phillips and joined the Wolfpack in part to catch passes from Heisman hopeful Devin Leary
  • Syracuse — CB Alijah Clark: Running back Juwan Price (from New Mexico State) is also a name to note, but with 1,000-yard rusher Sean Tucker leading that position, it seems more likely Clark will have an instant impact. Clark was a four-star prospect coming out of high school in New Jersey and spent just one year with the Scarlet Knights, totaling six tackles and an interception in seven games. 
  • Virginia — DE Kameron Butler: Coaching changes frequently produce a lot of transfer activity, and new head coach Tony Elliott has utilized the portal to fill needs at several positions. Butler, an All-MAC selection in 2020, was a big get for Virginia, and his pass-rushing skills provide the opportunity to be one of the Wahoos’ best players on defense. 
  • Virginia Tech — WR Jadan Blue: There are myriad ways in which Blue will be able to have an instant impact for the Hokies this season. He’s a versatile weapon with plenty of all-purpose production from his time at Temple, including a role in the kickoff return game. A two-star prospect coming out of high school when he committed to the Owls, Blue has been upgraded to a four-star in the 247Sports transfer rankings. 
  • Wake Forest — DL Kobie Turner: The Demon Deacons didn’t have a ton of portal action but picked up a big win with the commitment of this defensive lineman from FCS Richmond. Turner also took official visits to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, and he landed scholarship offers from Northwestern, Minnesota and Appalachian State. However, he chose to spend his last year of eligibility bolstering Wake Forest’s defensive front. 

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