Last year, Baker Mayfield helped turn OU into a playoff team while Chad Kelly and Jake Rudock helped lead Ole Miss and Michigan to Top 12 finishes. This year, there’s a bunch of promising transfers. In picking our Top 10 impact transfers, I held off on some guys who could have big seasons like TCU’s Kenny Hill, Florida’s Luke Del Rio and Auburn’s John Franklin because they’re still in QB battles.
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Garett Bolles, Utah, OT
A five-star recruit for the Utes out of junior college, the 6-foot-5, 300-pounder is an intriguing talent. He’s already 24 years old. He played D-line and lacrosse in high school before going on an LDS mission. He’s played offensive line for only two years but already is working as Utah’s starting left tackle. Boles is getting tested every day in camp as he’s matched up against a very talented and deep D-line.
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Gehrig Dieter, Alabama, WR
As if the Tide needed more options at receiver, Nick Saban got one of the most productive receivers in the country in the Bowling Green grad transfer, who caught 94 passes for 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. Dieter, a sturdy 213-pounder with good speed and toughness should be a terrific compliment to Calvin Ridley and O.J. Howard.
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J.C. Jackson, Maryland, CB
A one-time Florida Gator, Jackson’s off-field issues forced him to go the junior college route, but he’s resurfaced at Maryland (under new Terps head coach and former UF assistant D.J. Durkin, pictured here) where the former blue-chip HS prospect has emerged as a strong contender to start opposite standout Will Likely.
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Hardy Nickerson, Illinois, LB
There’s been a ton of change in Champaign of late. Most notably: new head coach Lovie Smith, who brought his close friend Hardy Nickerson to run the defense, and he ended up bringing his son, Hardy, a very productive LB from Cal in as a grad transfer. His presence provided a much-needed jolt after T.J. Neal left to become an Auburn Tiger as a graduate transfer earlier in the offseason. The younger Nickerson amassed 246 tackles at Cal, including a team-high 112 in 2015. He’s a very smart, instinctive football player who also should provide plenty of guidance to the young linebackers around him.
Getty ImagesSteve Dykes
Dakota Prukop, Oregon, QB
For the second year in a row, the Ducks are leaning on a grad transfer quarterback from FCS. Last year it was Vernon Adams, who had actually displayed his talents by lighting up some Pac-12 opponents in previous non-conference games. The 6-2, 200-pound Prukop is actually a better runner than Adams and did have more time to gel with the system and his new teammates, but he still needs to show he can be as sharp as the former EWU star was in the passing game, where he shredded opponents.
APLarry C. Lawson
Kyzir White, WVU, safety
The Mountaineers have some impressive JC transfers. I could’ve gone with RB Justin Crawford but instead opted to go with the defensive guy. The third of the gifted White brothers to come to Morgantown, this one is a DB and the most heralded recruit of the bunch. Kyzir, a 6-3, 208-pounder, could’ve gone just about anywhere last year. He’s likely to be the guy to replace K.J. Dillon, who was disruptive for the Mountaineers. "It’s a shame that he’s the last son that they have,” said WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “They're all just really good football players. Kyzir is the real deal. He’s tough, big, plays with great effort, is very, very physical and he has good coverage skills. I think he’s gonna be special in this defense."
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Byron Pringle, Kansas State, WR
Bill Snyder has hit the jackpot with a lot of JC transfers over the past two decades and it appears he just found a much-needed playmaker for his offense. The 6-2, 212-pounder, who had a series of off-field legal incidents while in his teens, has wowed his new teammates with his football talent. “He’s great at high-pointing the football,” said QB Jesse Ertz. “He can be covered and still make the play.”
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Trevor Knight, Texas A&M, QB
The early returns on Knight have been exceedingly positive from folks inside the Aggies program. Knight, a former OU captain, has been a great addition to a locker room that needed more stability. Knight also is a good dual-threat talent who beat Alabama in a bowl game a few years back, throwing four TDs and for 348 yards. He inherits a very potent group of wideouts. “He’s a confident leader at quarterback,” said A&M DE Myles Garrett. "He’s what we needed. He’s beaten the best."
Getty ImagesDavid K Purdy
Duke Catalon, Houston, RB
Tom Herman already had a pretty dynamic offense with Greg Ward running the show at QB, but with the arrival of this Texas transfer, the Cougars are even more dangerous. Catalon, a 5-11, 210-pound sophomore, is an upgrade from what UH played with last year in that he’s not only a powerful back willing to be physical, but he also is shifty and can make people miss. Last year, UH had 39 runs of 20 yards or longer -- second-most in the country -- with Ward accounting for 16 of them. Don’t be surprised if the Cougars are in the 50s in that category this year with Catalon in the backfield.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsTroy Taormina
Davis Webb, Cal, QB
The Bears have to replace the first pick of the NFL draft, Jared Goff, and his top six receivers from last year, but landing the 6-5, 220-pound Webb, a former starter at Texas Tech, was a huge get for new Bears OC Jake Spavital. Webb (46 TD passes at Tech) has a terrific arm and the kind of presence Cal was sorely lacking until he showed up. He also has a lot of familiarity with the new offense.