Thursday, July 18, 2024

Big Ten football transfer portal additions: One newcomer for each team ready to make impact in 2024 season

There’s an argument to be made that the biggest incoming transfers to the Big Ten in 2024 are Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington. While the conference will look a lot different next season, there’s one thing that feels constant in the modern era of college football: if you aren’t using the transfer portal to patch holes in your roster, you’re putting yourself in a hole.

Thousands of players enter the portal every year, and most end up somewhere. While you’re always at risk of losing key players, by and large, conferences like the Big Ten and SEC feature the schools hoovering up the top available players. Ohio State has dominated the headlines this offseason with some of its big-name transfer acquisitions, but the Buckeyes aren’t the only Big Ten team that’s been doing work in the portal.

Let’s look at the incoming transfer for each Big Ten school likely to make the biggest impact in 2024.

Big Ten transfers ready to make impact in 2024 season 

Cole Rusk, TE, Illinois: The Illini have added multiple players along the offensive and defensive lines, and while they fill higher-priority needs, there’s a good chance Rusk will be the most impactful transfer. Surprisingly, considering the tight ends produced on Bret Bielema teams at Wisconsin and Arkansas, Illinois hasn’t had much production at the position. Tip Reiman’s 19 catches for 203 yards and three touchdowns were the most by any TE in Bielema’s three seasons; Rusk should eclipse those numbers. The 6-foot-6, 252-pound Rusk caught 36 passes for 485 yards at Murray State last season. The Illini also lose their two leading receivers, Isaiah Williams and Casey Washington, so there will be plenty of targets to go around, and Rusk seems in line for many of them.

Kurtis Rourke, QB, Indiana: I considered getting cute here with WR Donaven McCulley changing his mind and withdrawing his name from the portal to return. He led the Hoosiers with 48 catches for 644 yards and six touchdowns. Instead, I’ll go with the player who would be wise to target McCulley often. Rourke was a productive dual-threat QB in the MAC with Ohio over the last four seasons and will be a good fit for the style of play new coach Curt Cignetti is bringing from James Madison.

Kadyn Proctor, OT, Iowa: This was an easy choice for two reasons. Proctor was one of the highest-rated transfers in the portal, and he’s the only incoming transfer in Iowa’s class. There’s no underselling this one. Proctor started every game at left tackle for Alabama as a true freshman. Week after week, he went against some of the best pass rushers in the country. While he struggled early and was not perfect, he got better as the season went along and more than held his own. And Iowa gets him at left tackle for at least the next two seasons. Proctor joins an offensive line that returns every starter, so this unit should be much better in 2024. That will go a long way in making the Iowa offense better overall.

MJ Morris, QB, Maryland: Morris has large shoes to fill. Taulia Tagovailoa leaves Maryland as the Big Ten’s all-time leading passer, and now the Terps will turn the offense to Morris. The 2023 season was an awkward one for the former four-star recruit. He began the season behind transfer Brennan Armstrong but took over the starting job against Marshall. Morris started the next four games for NC State, throwing for 719 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions, but was then asked to sit out the rest of the season to preserve his redshirt. So far, Morris hasn’t lived up to the promise he showed as a recruit, but perhaps he feels better suited to the offense run by Mike Locksley than the one at NC State.

Josh Priebe, OL, Michigan: The Wolverines currently have only two incoming transfers. Linebacker Jaishawn Barham is rated higher, but Priebe will fill a larger need. The Northwestern transfer comes to a Michigan team with a lot of snaps to replace along the offensive line, and Priebe has played 1,785 snaps over the last four seasons. He’ll get a shot at earning a starting role on the interior for the reigning national champions.

Aidan Chiles, QB, Michigan State: How long has it been since Michigan State had somebody you felt was a true difference-maker at the QB position? Since Kirk Cousins left following the 2011 season, it’s felt like a run of indistinguishable Spartan QBs. Chiles could change all of it. Chiles was the No. 58 overall player in the 2023 class, according to 247Sports, and spent his freshman season seeing limited snaps behind DJ Uiagalelei at Oregon State. He has the inside track to becoming the starter in East Lansing, where his arm and legs could provide a jolt for an offense that averaged only 15.9 points per game last year — only half a point more per game than Iowa.

Max Brosmer, QB, Minnesota: This combines talent and need. Brosmer is a sixth-year senior who comes to Minnesota from New Hampshire, where he threw for 8,713 yards and 70 touchdowns (while rushing for 10 more) in 36 games. He finds himself in a QB room that’s largely empty following the transfer of last season’s starter, Athan Kaliakmanis, as well as backup Drew Viotto. Minnesota averaged only 143.4 passing yards per game last year. Brosmer averaged 242 during his time at New Hampshire.

Jahmal Banks, WR, Nebraska: By the time the 2023 season ended, you and I had a realistic shot of finding snaps at receiver for the Cornhuskers as Matt Rhule’s program ran low on healthy scholarship bodies. Banks is a big-bodied target at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds who was productive at Wake Forest over the last two seasons. Banks averaged 12.7 yards per catch with Wake, finishing with 1,289 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns. He could quickly become a favored target of incoming phenom Dylan Raiola.

Northwestern: There are no incoming transfers for coach David Braun and the Wildcats right now. That could change before the summer, but schools like Northwestern with higher admission standards are at a disadvantage in the portal.

Will Howard, QB, Ohio State: Howard is not the biggest name in Ohio State’s transfer class, nor is he the most talented. However, as good as Caleb Downs is (and he’s so freaking good), no transfer will be as important to the Buckeyes in 2024 as Howard. This is a team with a clear mandate to win the Big Ten next season and compete for a national title, and Howard is one of the biggest question marks on the team. How will the Ohio State offense look with a dual-threat QB rather than a true pocket passer? Will he be a definitive upgrade on Kyle McCord? Howard was a revelation for Kansas State in 2022, but there was a dip in production as a full-time starter in 2023.

Dillon Gabriel, QB, Oregon: Oregon loses one of the country’s oldest, most experienced quarterbacks in Bo Nix and immediately replaces him with one of the country’s oldest, most experienced quarterbacks. Gabriel took his first college football snap at UCF during the 2019 season. Now, 50 starts, 14,865 yards passing and 125 touchdowns later (plus 1,060 yards rushing and 26 TDs on the ground), Gabriel will be suiting up for the Ducks. And it makes plenty of sense. Not only is Gabriel familiar with the style of offense Oregon runs, but the Ducks enter the Big Ten well-positioned to compete immediately in the league. Relying on an inexperienced QB would’ve made it more difficult. With Gabriel, you’re getting a QB who might not be familiar with the opponents or the stadiums, but there’s not a defensive scheme or a loud environment he hasn’t seen before.

Julian Fleming, WR, Penn State: As I’ve written already, Fleming is not the answer to Penn State’s need for a vertical threat in the passing game, but there’s plenty he brings to the offense. He’s a reliable receiver underneath, and his blocking in the run game will be a big factor in new offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki’s offense. I wouldn’t expect a 1,000-yard season out of Fleming with the Nittany Lions, but he’s a better option than anybody the program had last season.

Nyland Green, CB, Purdue: Coach Ryan Walters is bringing in one of the largest transfer classes in the league as he heads into the second season. Many will play roles, but I have Green being the most important. Walters got the Purdue job in large part due to the work he did with an Illinois defense that produced a handful of NFL defensive backs in his short time there. The defense Walters plays puts a lot of onus on its corners as they’re often left on an island. Watching last season, I don’t think Purdue had the right personnel for the style of play. Green looks like the right kind of personnel. The former five-star recruit had trouble cracking the depth chart at Georgia, but there’s a chance that says more about the depth of talent Georgia accumulated than Green’s ability to play.

Dymere Miller, WR, Rutgers: Listen, Rutgers needs somebody (anybody) to emerge as a reliable player at the QB position. Based on what I saw in Minnesota, I’m not sure incoming transfer Athan Kaliakmanis will be the answer. He might be. Whoever wins the job, it’d be nice if the Knights had somebody at the receiver position to help out. Enter Miller, who spent the past four seasons at Monmouth and is one of the school’s all-time leaders in every receiving category. He has a chance to be the playmaker this Rutgers offense needs.

Collins Acheampong, EDGE, UCLA: Wide receiver Nico Flores is the biggest name in UCLA’s transfer class of 11 players, but Acheampong may be the most impactful. UCLA had a terrific defense last season, but it lost key players like edge rusher Laiatu Latu, as well as its defensive coordinator. Neither will be easy to replace, but Acheampong was a four-star recruit lured to Miami in the 2023 class. He’s a bit raw, but there’s a reason teams like Miami, LSU and Michigan were all chasing him. If the Bruins can tap into the potential, they might have a 6-foot-7 monster on the edge.

Kamari Ramsey, DB, USC: Like many, I’m surprised USC didn’t land a big-name transfer QB to replace Caleb Williams. It did get Jayden Maiava from UNLV, but there’s no guarantee he’ll win the starting job over Miller Moss. Plus, you know, I’m not going to worry about the offense with a Lincoln Riley team. The complete overhaul of the Trojans defense will decide this team’s fate in 2024, which is why Ramsey should have an impact. He comes to USC from rival UCLA and is familiar with new defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn’s scheme. Ramsey had 40 tackles and four passes defended last season for the Bruins and can be a tone-setter with the new-look Trojans defense.

Will Rogers, QB, Washington: What a transfer saga! Rogers transferred to Washington and sat on the bench in uniform during the national title game, only to reenter the portal when Kalen DeBoer left for Alabama. Ultimately, though, he opted to stay in Seattle. He has plenty of experience and will be a crucial part of Jedd Fisch’s first Huskies team as this offense looks to replace so many stars. Rogers is not Michael Penix Jr., but he’s an accurate passer who performed well in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense at Mississippi State. He did not fit nearly as well with the Bulldogs offense last season, but that was more about pounding a square peg into a round hole. I wouldn’t count on any Heisman votes for Rogers in 2024, but he’ll rebound and be a productive player.

Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Wisconsin: I was a big-time believer in Van Dyke following his freshman season at Miami when he averaged 9.0 yards per attempt while completing 62.3% of his passes with 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions. It’s been all downhill from there the last two seasons, but Van Dyke is a better fit for the offense he’ll be running with the Badgers than what he ran the last two years with the Hurricanes. Tanner Mordecai was a serviceable option for Wisconsin in 2022, but Van Dyke should prove to be much more than serviceable.

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