The transfer portal has become a pillar of college football roster management since its inception in 2018. Each year, thousands of players test the transfer waters hoping to potentially upgrade their situation.
Colorado coach Deion Sanders blew every precedent out of the water in 2023 when he orchestrated a roster overhaul of 51 transfers, and while the Buffaloes haven’t gone that heavy ahead of their return to the Big 12 in 2024, Sanders’ portal approach is still on the aggressive side. At 23 transfer additions and counting, Colorado edges fellow Big 12 newcomer Arizona State (22) for the largest incoming transfer class in the conference ahead of the 2024 season.
All said, more than 170 transfers will join Big 12 teams ahead of the spring, and there’s plenty of room for that number to fluctuate with another portal window coming up in April. Given that the portal is often used to plug roster holes and expedite rebuilds, plenty of players in that group can expect to quickly take on big roles in their new homes.
With the first portal window closed, here is one potential impact transfer for each Big 12 team ahead of the 2024 season when it takes the form of a 16-team conference.
Big 12 transfers ready to make impact in 2024 season
Jack Luttrell, DB, Arizona: Arizona likely isn’t done with the portal (the Wildcats have added just four transfers this cycle), but Luttrell may bring the most upside within the existing crop. After not seeing the field at Tennessee in 2023, a fresh start in Tucson may give Luttrell the chance to display the versatility that made him a star at the high school level. He registered 103 total tackles and eight pass breakups in 2022 as a senior at Colquitt County High School (Georgia), all while averaging 32.9 yards on kickoff returns. Boasting a reliable utility player like that adds another dynamic to a Wildcats roster that already has potential to do damage in its Big 12 debut.
Raleek Brown, RB, Arizona State: Brown’s time at USC — one that included a move to wide receiver this past season — never took full flight. Now facing a fresh start at Arizona State, one of the top running back recruits from the 2022 class can immediately contribute to a Sun Devils offense that ranked outside the top 100 among FBS teams in scoring last year at 17.8 points per game. Even with senior running backs Cameron Skattebo and DeCarlos Brooks back in action, watch for coach Kenny Dillingham to get the former Mater Dei High School (California) standout involved in the offense.
DeQuan Finn, QB, Baylor: After two seasons of hit-or-miss results with Blake Shapen as QB1, Baylor will be banking on Finn to provide the quarterback upgrade it desperately needs in 2024. The reigning MAC Player of the Year accounted for more than 3,200 yards of total offense in 2023 — 2,657 yards passing and 563 yards rushing — as the Rockets won 11 games and finished as the MAC runner-up. Finn brings 45 games worth of experience from Toledo, including 33 starts, as he settles into a new-look Bears offense under first-year offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. Baylor will need Finn’s experience to pay dividends entering a potential do-or-die season for coach Dave Aranda.
Gerry Bohanon, QB, BYU: Of the two transfer quarterbacks BYU added to replace Kedon Slovis, Bohanon seemingly has the upper hand out of the gate over Western Michigan transfer Treyson Bourguet. Before a two-year stop at USF that was derailed by a shoulder injury, the seventh-year senior had a Big 12 past at Baylor. He served as the primary starter during the Bears’ run to a conference championship in 2021 before a late-season injury, passing for 2,200 yards and 18 touchdowns plus 323 yards and nine rushing touchdowns. If Bohanon stays healthy, he can inject new life into a Cougars offense that sputtered in its Big 12 debut.
Jared Bartlett, EDGE, Cincinnati: Bartlett is coming off the best season of his college career at West Virginia before entering the transfer portal and staying within the Big 12. He ended 2023 registering 49 total tackles, including 4.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery as part of a nine-win team that was picked to finish last in the conference. Set to be a sixth-year senior in 2024, the 6-foot-2, 238-pound Bartlett — already familiar with the lay of the land — can make for another dangerous piece within a Bearcats pass rush that will again be headlined by Dontay Corleone.
Tyler Johnson, OL, Colorado: Help along the offensive line was unquestionably the biggest need for Colorado this offseason after Buffaloes quarterback Shedeur Sanders received virtually zero pass protection in 2023, taking a whopping 52 sacks. Expect Johnson to play a major role in the effort to fix those woes. Originally a Texas signee before transferring to Houston in 2022, the 6-foot-5, 325-pound Johnson started in all 12 games for the Cougars in 2023 and had seven games with a pass-blocking grade of 77.9 or better, according to Pro Football Focus. If Johnson holds up his end of the bargain, it’ll be a major step in the right direction for a maligned unit.
Corey Platt Jr., LB, Houston: After following coach Willie Fritz from Tulane to Houston this winter, there’s a sense of unfinished business for Platt at his new home. He seemed poised for a breakout season with the Green Wave in 2023 before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury during the team’s opener against South Alabama, a game in which Platt registered 15 total tackles before exiting. He previously registered 25 tackles with a sack and an interception across 13 appearances in 2022. If he can stay healthy, watch for Platt to emerge as a leader within a Cougars defense that will be hitting the reset button in 2024 under a new regime.
Kenard Snyder, EDGE, Iowa State: Snyder enjoyed a breakout sophomore season at Louisiana-Monroe in 2023, finishing with 60 tackles — 14.5 for loss — 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Even with plenty of talent set to return in 2024 among the Cyclones’ defensive front, the stage is set for Snyder to make his presence felt after totaling 24.5 tackles for loss in two seasons with the Warhawks. A strong spring could even vault him into contention for a starting role.
DeShawn Hanika, TE, Kansas: Hanika is no stranger to the Big 12 after transferring from Iowa State, where he was set to play a large role in the Cyclones offense last season before he was implicated in the illegal sports gambling probe involving athletes at both Iowa and Iowa State. Hanika caught 17 passes for 244 yards and four touchdowns in 2022 before missing last season. There may be some rust to shake off, but Hanika gives quarterback Jalon Daniels another target in what should be an explosive Jayhawks offense in 2024.
Dante Cephas, WR, Kansas State: The 23-year-old Cephas, who had previous stops at Kent State (2019-22) and Penn State (2023), should factor heavily into a Kansas State offense that lost its leading two pass-catchers — tight end Ben Sinnott and wide receiver Phillip Brooks — to the NFL Draft. Cephas has more than 2,000 yards receiving in his career, including a breakout 2021 season at Kent State that saw him finish with 1,240 yards and nine touchdowns. Watch for him to be a go-to target for quarterback Avery Johnson, who will be in his first season as the Wildcats’ full-time starter this fall.
Obi Ezeigbo, EDGE, Oklahoma State: One of defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo’s former players at Division II program Gannon, Ezeigbo finished 2023 with eight tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks — both career highs. He makes for a welcomed addition along a Cowboys defensive line that needs new faces to step up with the departures of defensive ends Anthony Goodlow and Nathan Latu. Although a jump from Division II to the FBS is quite the undertaking, Ezeigbo’s familiarity with Nardo’s system could make for a smoother transition than most players in his situation.
Eric McAlister, WR, TCU: McAlister took his game to another level during Boise State’s run to a Mountain West championship in 2023, leading the team with 873 yards receiving and tying for first with five touchdowns. In committing to TCU, McAlister reunites with ex-Broncos coach Andy Avalos, who was fired midseason in 2023 before being hired as the Horned Frogs’ defensive coordinator in December. With TCU unable to establish a clear WR1 last season — leading pass-catchers Savion Williams (573 yards) and JP Richardson (536 yards) finished within an earshot of one another — look for McAlister to immediately factor into an offense that will presumably feature Josh Hoover as its starting quarterback in 2024.
Josh Kelly, WR, Texas Tech: Kelly makes for a much-needed boost within a Texas Tech receivers room that loses three of four leading receivers from 2023, including top pass-catcher Xavier White. The former Fresno State wideout from 2019-22 enjoyed a career season during his lone year at Washington State in 2023, leading the team with 923 yards and eight touchdowns. Look for Kelly to be a go-to target in 2024 for quarterback Behren Morton, who is in line to start after seeing considerable action in place of an injured Tyler Shough in each of the past two seasons.
KJ Jefferson, QB, UCF: There might not be a more high-profile transfer addition for any Big 12 school this offseason than Jefferson. The three-year starter at Arkansas saw his production dip with the Razorbacks in 2023, but Jefferson’s upside is still clear after he accounted for more than 3,000 yards of total offense in both 2021 and 2022. And of course, any quarterback with 39 career starts at an SEC West institution is bound to be battle-tested. Jefferson tracks to be the second consecutive SEC transfer within the Knights’ quarterback lineage after coach Gus Malzahn’s squad enjoyed two seasons with Ole Miss transfer John Rhys Plumlee.
Dorian Singer, WR, Utah: At his best, Singer can be a lethal target on a Utah offense that will return veteran quarterback Cameron Rising for his final year of eligibility in 2024. The former Arizona signee enjoyed a breakout season as a sophomore for the Wildcats in 2022 with 1,105 yards receiving and six touchdowns before transferring to USC ahead of the 2023 season. Although Singer’s impact was minimal in his lone season with the Trojans — he only appeared in five games — he still averaged 13.1 yards per catch en route to 157 yards and three touchdowns. Watch for Singer to look more like his 2022 self as he embarks on the third stop of his collegiate career.
Ayden Garnes, CB, West Virginia: A breakout season that included a career-high 10 pass breakups and a pair of interceptions at Duquesne in 2023 puts Garnes in position to immediately contribute within the Mountaineers secondary. It’s an area of need for West Virginia, too. Cornerback and first-team All-Big 12 selection Beanie Bishop Jr. is among the noteworthy departures from that position group. The Mountaineers also lose cornerback Malachi Ruffin and safety Marcis Floyd, who, along with Bishop, combined for a total of 32 pass breakups last season.