The 2024 college football season will feature a new-look ACC with 17 football members after California, Stanford and SMU join officially this summer. And across the conference there is a wide range of approaches to the transfer portal, with schools like Florida State and Louisville using highly ranked transfer classes to help power runs to the ACC Championship Game, while other schools pick and choose their spots.
Below, we have named one player from the transfer portal class for each ACC team that should have an immediate impact on the 2024 season. Most of the conference has somewhere close to 10 new additions from the portal, per 247Sports, but there are also outliers like Louisville welcoming in 26 new players from the portal. Meanwhile, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Stanford and Clemson all have five or fewer.
The Tigers stand out in particular with no transfer portal additions in the 247Sports database, continuing a trend of going against the grain when it comes to transfers. Coach Dabo Swinney and his staff recruit at a high level out of high school and often go toe to toe with the other top programs in the sport, but they have not seen as much of an influx from the portal as other conference title contenders from across the country.
So let’s get into the nitty gritty of it, with one player to know from the transfer portal class for every ACC team (except Clemson).
ACC transfers ready to make impact in 2024 season
Jerand Bradley, WR, Boston College: This first one comes with the caveat that Bradley has an opportunity to seek yet another transfer without penalty now that Jeff Hafley has left to become the new defensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers. Bradley was a big get for Hafley and the offensive staff as the former Texas Tech receiver possesses the size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) and experience (1,175 yards and 10 touchdowns in two seasons) to have an immediate impact. If he stays on board, he should be a primary target in the passing game in the fall.
Mikey Matthews, WR, Cal: A somewhat undersized but dangerous skill position talent, Matthews finished second on the team in all-purpose yards during his true freshman season at Utah thanks to his contributions as both a kick returner and punt returner. The Irvine, California, native has familiarity with the team thanks to former high school teammate wide receiver Marvin Anderson, and he joins an offense where he can provide a complement to one of the top running backs in the country in Jaydn Ott.
Maalik Murphy, QB, Duke: A strong showing in Texas’ spring practice back in 2023 had Murphy locked in ahead of five-star freshman Arch Manning on the Longhorns’ depth chart. He got two starts in place of Quinn Ewers and led Texas to wins against both BYU and Kansas State, and now the 6-foot-5, 238-pound signal-caller is a key piece for new coach Manny Diaz. Murphy not only answers the immediate concern at quarterback with Riley Leonard off to Notre Dame, but allows Duke to build around him moving forward with three years of eligibility remaining.
DJ Uiagalelei, QB, Florida State: The former Clemson and Oregon State quarterback makes his return to the ACC as the presumed frontrunner to be QB1 in Tallahassee. The fifth-year senior has 57 passing touchdowns and 21 rushing touchdowns in 47 career games, and he’s one of double-digit blue-chip transfer prospects that Mike Norvell has added in the winter window. Florida State also is bringing in six players from Alabama, with wide receiver Malik Benson among the former Tide players who could have the biggest impact in 2024.
EJ Lightsey, LB, Georgia Tech: A former 2A Defensive Player of the Year in the state of Georgia, Lightsey did not see any action with the Bulldogs in 2023 due to injury after redshirting in 2022. Now he gets a fresh start with the Yellow Jackets, who were in on Lightsey’s recruitment before his commitment to Kirby Smart and can provide opportunities for him to recapture that promise he had as a high school prospect.
Ja’Corey Brooks, WR, Louisville: In three years at Alabama, there were times when Brooks was clearly the most impactful wide receiver in the offense. Injuries in 2023 limited his contributions, and now Brooks is eyeing the chance to follow in Jamari Thrash’s footsteps by becoming Louisville’s leading receiver out of the transfer portal. Brooks caught 57 passes for 896 yards and 10 touchdowns with the Crimson Tide and added plenty of value during his career on special teams with a couple of blocked punts.
Cameron Ward, QB, Miami: After initially declaring for the 2024 NFL Draft, Ward committed to Miami and gave the Hurricanes the top quarterback in this transfer portal cycle. Ward totaled 48 passing touchdowns and 13 rushing touchdowns combined in just two seasons with Washington State, throwing for 6,968 yards on 65.5% passing. An electric playmaker and upgrade at the position, Ward raises Miami’s ceiling to ACC title contender.
Jake Johnson, TE, North Carolina: While initial headlines were focused on quarterback Max Johnson, Jake’s brother, committing to the Tar Heels, the outlook for North Carolina in 2024 could see the gifted pass-catcher playing a big role in the offense. Johnson was the No. 1 tight end in his class as a high school prospect, and 247Sports had him as the No. 3 tight end in this transfer portal cycle. He joins a tight end room that has experience but also lost veteran Kamari Morales. With a 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame, Johnson could be a matchup advantage and safety blanket for whoever takes over the QB1 duties in the wake of Drake Maye’s departure.
Grayson McCall, QB, NC State: There has not been stability at the quarterback position in recent years for NC State, but what they’re getting in McCall is one of the most celebrated active players in the sport. McCall was named the Sun Belt Player of the Year three years in a row, leading Coastal Carolina on transformative and memorable campaigns from 2020-22. That run included setting the NCAA passer rating record (at the time) in 2021 and a 29-4 record as a starter. Injuries limited his contributions to Coastal Carolina in 2023, but now healthy, he is an important piece of a portal class that has made NC State one of the teams to watch in the ACC title race in 2024.
Keye Thompson, LB, Pitt: Just a two-star prospect coming out of Barberton, Ohio, in the 2018 recruiting class, Thompson needed a few years before his breakout as one of the top defensive players in the MAC. Thompson earned all-conference honors at Ohio each of the last two seasons, with first-team recognition at the end of 2023. Now, the former Bobcats standout joins a Pitt defense that has routinely put players in the NFL, and he hopes to help the Panthers return to their program standard after a disappointing 2023 season.
Brashard Smith, WR, SMU: While there are plenty of important pieces that SMU has added in this portal cycle, it’s hard to ignore the potential for a gifted skill position player to have an immediate impact in coach Rhett Lashlee’s offense. Smith appeared in 34 games over the last three seasons with Miami, earning 10 starts and helping out on special teams as both kick returner and punt returner. He earned All-ACC honors as a specialist and all-purpose threat in 2023 following a campaign that saw him boast the fifth-best kickoff return average in the country (29.0) and finish second on the team with 979 all-purpose yards.
Jaivion Green, CB, Stanford: The transfer portal era has been difficult for a Stanford program that operates with different standards when it comes to admissions at both the graduate and undergraduate level. As such, you don’t have waves of transfers like at other schools, but of the Cardinal’s two portal additions we think Green could have an impact on the 2024 season. The former Washington cornerback appeared in 24 games over the last two seasons, including all 15 of the contests in the Huskies’ 14-1 run in 2023.
Fadil Diggs, DL, Syracuse: One of coach Fran Brown’s biggest recruiting wins since taking over was bringing Diggs, a Camden, New Jersey native, back to the Northeast after a couple years at Texas A&M. Fans are doubly excited that Diggs is coming along with Elijah Robinson, the highly touted defensive line coach who served as the Aggies interim coach after Jimbo Fisher’s dismissal, and together they represent a new era and raised expectations for Syracuse on defense. Diggs was a four-star prospect coming out of high school when he committed to Texas A&M and was later ranked as the No. 7 edge rusher in this transfer portal class, per 247Sports.
Chris Tyree, WR, Virginia: The all-purpose threat that is Chris Tyree should bring plenty of instant impact as the running back-turned-wide receiver arrives for his final year of eligibility after four productive seasons with Notre Dame. Tyree played in 49 career games with the Fighting Irish, totaling 3,284 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns (eight rushing, seven receiving, one kick return, one punt return). After three seasons of running back, Tyree switched to wide receiver prior to 2023 and averaged 18.62 yards per reception, which was the 15th-best average in the country. Virginia has him listed as a wide receiver, so we’re assuming that’s his primary role for 2024, but he’s going to be a matchup nightmare for opponents with his big-play ability.
Aeneas Peebles, DL, Virginia Tech: Part of a deep rotation along the defensive line at Duke, Peebles earned All-ACC honors after co-leading the Blue Devils in tackles for loss (8.5) and finishing second in sacks (4.0) despite not being a regular starter. Few defensive linemen in the conference were as productive per opportunity as Peebles, who has four years of experience and can be a star in the trenches for the Hokies in 2024.
Hank Bachmeier, QB, Wake Forest: After years of stability at the quarterback position, Wake Forest saw a drop-off in 2023 that impacted the offense and team as a whole. Enter Bachmeier, who arrives after four years at Boise State and a one-year stop at Louisiana Tech. Bachmeier’s experience provides a high floor, with 51 touchdowns and 8,663 yards on 63% passing across his career, but he needs to recapture the early career form that saw him go 18-6 as a starter from 2019-21 in order to help raise Wake’s ceiling.