Friday, April 12, 2024
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Michigan, Alabama among college football teams with transfer portal needs entering spring practices

Spring is right around the corner, and with the calendar change comes the first practice periods for most college football teams ahead of the 2024 season. Over the next few weeks, coaches will be able to better gauge how their teams stack up ahead of this coming season. 

With the spring transfer window looming in April, staffs will also evaluate any remaining needs now that the first transfer phase and both high school signing periods have passed. Most rosters are all but set at this point, and if a team is still seeking a complete overhaul … well, they’re probably in trouble. But there are some prominent teams that have specific areas of need. 

The spring transfer window is especially important for new coaches — such as Alabama’s Kalen DeBoer and Washington’s Jedd Fisch — that were hired in January. By the time they accepted their new positions, the winter window was close to closing or had already ended. That left little time for evaluation and recruiting, unless they brought players they were familiar with from their previous stops. 

Other teams simply missed on top targets or had needs emerge due to transfer defections they’ve not yet been able to replenish. Whatever the case, here are some prominent teams with glaring roster needs as spring practice kicks off around the country.

Michigan 

Need: Quarterback

The reigning national champions have a glaring need at the most important position on the field. Longtime starter J.J. McCarthy is off to the NFL after leading the Wolverines to the top of the mountain, and there is no apparent successor to his throne. Veteran Jack Tuttle will be back for a seventh season and isn’t the worst option as a pure game manager if all else fails. His upside is severely limited, and despite his years of collegiate experience, he lacks actual starting reps. Though Alex Orji may be an elite athlete that can give defenses different looks at quarterback — and he’ll certainly have an important role on the offense — he still has strides to make as a passer before he’s ready to be a starter. Quality spring transfer quarterbacks may be hard to come by, but Michigan needs to be prepared to make a run at any notable name that decides to test the waters. 

Alabama 

Need: Wide Receiver

Linebacker depth is another area of concern for Alabama and first-year coach Kalen DeBoer, but at least the Crimson Tide have a couple of veteran starters on which to rely. The wide receiver room looks quite barren right now. Jermaine Burton is off to the NFL Draft, while breakout star Isaiah Bond transferred to Texas. Factor in tight ends and the Crimson Tide are only returning two of their top five receivers from 2023. Kobe Prentice is the only player with at least 15 catches from last season returning. Having Germie Bernard follow DeBoer from Washington was a good start, and people should keep their eyes on Prentice in DeBoer’s offensive scheme. Alabama sorely needs both experience and depth at its wide receiver position. 

Oklahoma 

Need: Offensive Line 

Oklahoma is tasked with replacing its entire starting offensive line this offseason. Four departures were expected — two declared for the NFL and two ran out of eligibility — but losing freshman Cayden Green to the transfer portal was a huge blow given his blue-chip status and versatility. The Sooners were able to nab four offensive linemen during the winter transfer window, and some in-house options will likely step up. Still, coach Brent Venables acknowledged ahead of Oklahoma’s spring practice that there’s still work to be done with this unit. Whether it be an instant-impact guy or a solid depth piece that can step in if needed, it wouldn’t hurt Oklahoma to continue to evaluate its options — especially as it begins its SEC tenure, where games are won and lost in the trenches. 

Notre Dame 

Need: Linebacker 

Notre Dame has four starting spots up for grabs along its offensive line as it continues to serve as an NFL pipeline at that position, but the Fighting Irish have plenty of depth pieces that will battle it out for a bigger role in the spring. It wouldn’t hurt to land one veteran, though it certainly isn’t the most pressing need. Rather, Notre Dame has a huge question mark in the middle of its defense. Veteran starting linebacker Jack Kiser is back, but he’s missing a running mate. As it stands entering spring, Drayk Bowen is the clubhouse leader to start alongside Kiser. Bowen played in 12 games — largely on special teams — in 2023 as a freshman, finishing the year with 14 tackles. Behind him, Notre Dame’s options are a redshirt freshman that played in four blowouts (Preston Zinter) and a true freshman that has yet to even get a full practice under his belt (Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa). 

LSU

Need: Defensive Tackle 

LSU is losing a pair of stalwarts in Maason Smith and Mekhi Wingo to the draft. Top backup Jordan Jefferson ran out of eligibility, while three other depth pieces entered the transfer portal. That leaves the Tigers with just two scholarship defensive tackles returning: Jacobian Guillory and Jalen Lee. They combined for 29 tackles — 27 of which came from Guillory — last season. Both are redshirt seniors, which should cause LSU some concern beyond this season. Whether it be starters or extra depth, LSU just needs some more bodies at this point. 

Washington 

Need: Offensive Line 

The reigning Joe Moore Award-winning unit will look entirely different as Washington embarks on a new era under Fisch. In fact, the Huskies’ offensive front — which paved the way to its appearance in the College Football Playoff National Championship — has been completely gutted; Washington lost each of its top seven offensive linemen from 2023 to either natural attrition (graduation/NFL Draft) or the transfer portal. Center Landen Hatchett is really the only returner with meaningful playing experience, and on top of the fact that he wasn’t even a starter, he’s coming back from major knee surgery that might keep him sidelined for most of the offseason. Rebuilding from the ground up with a move to the Big Ten on the horizon isn’t ideal, so the Huskies could do with a couple starting-caliber additions via the portal. 

Clemson

Need: Offensive Line

Noticing a trend here? It’s really hard to project offensive line talent out of high school, and it’s even harder to hold on to great offensive linemen for more than a few years, so that means teams are turning to the transfer portal more often to shore up the line of scrimmage. Dabo Swinney, who is renowned for his largely anti-transfer portal stance, even admitted that Clemson needs help along the offensive line. He even revealed in December that the Tigers made a run at a few options in the winter window, though they ultimately didn’t land any of the prospective targets. He then went on to say that he didn’t anticipate taking another swing in the portal, but the need didn’t magically go away. Spring practice will give Swinney and his staff the opportunity to really evaluate where things stand. 

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