College Football
Top newcomers for each Big Ten college football program heading into 2024 season
College Football

Top newcomers for each Big Ten college football program heading into 2024 season

Updated May. 30, 2024 12:57 p.m. ET

In the ever-changing landscape of college football, building and managing rosters has become a full-time job. Players can enter and exit the transfer portal as often as they'd like. Traditional recruits are graduating early to enroll in college long before their senior years of high school are meant to finish, all for the purpose of participating in spring practice. Financial compensation through NIL deals further clouds the space. 

But with the transfer portal's spring feeding frenzy in the rearview mirror and 2024 high school recruits all signed or enrolled at their schools of choice, rosters are finally beginning to take shape as teams transition into summer workouts. New faces are appearing in new places all across the country.

In an effort to bring fans up to speed, here's a closer look at the key newcomers for each Big Ten program, with teams listed in order of their combined high school and transfer portal classes for the 2024 cycle as ranked by 247Sports: 

[Big Ten football recruiting: Ohio State, USC leading the way heading into summer]


Oregon: Dillon Gabriel
Position: Quarterback
Height: 5-11
Weight: 204 pounds
Experience: Five seasons (2019-21 at UCF; 2022-23 at Oklahoma)

A year ago, Bo Nix set an NCAA record for career starts by a quarterback with 61 between his time with the Ducks and Auburn. Gabriel, who made 49 combined starts for UCF and Oklahoma, should break that record if he remains healthy in 2024, his final year of eligibility. The veteran signal-caller was rated the No. 78 overall prospect and No. 12 quarterback in the transfer portal after throwing for 3,660 yards and 30 touchdowns with just six interceptions last year. He will enter the season ranked fourth in NCAA history for career touchdowns (152), seventh in total yards (15,925) and eighth in passing yards (14,865), with the chance to challenge for the Heisman Trophy this fall. Gabriel's presence is a key reason why the Ducks should be viewed as national championship contenders. 

Bonus player: Five-star edge rusher Elijah Rushing (No. 45 overall, No. 5 edge rusher) from Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, Arizona.

Ohio State: Caleb Downs
Position: Safety
Height: 6-0
Weight: 205 pounds
Experience: One season (2023 at Alabama)

Given the array of high-level transfers head coach Ryan Day added during the 2024 cycle, this was no easy choice. But Downs, who was rated the No. 1 overall player and No. 1 safety in the portal, gets the nod over the likes of former Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins (No. 9 transfer, No. 1 RB); former Alabama quarterback Julian Sayin (No. 6 transfer, No. 1 QB) and former Kansas State quarterback Will Howard (No. 41 transfer, No. 7 QB). A former five-star prospect, Downs became the first freshman in school history to lead Alabama in tackles with 107 and chipped in five passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He was named SEC Freshman of the Year by the league's coaches and also added first-team All-SEC and various All-America honors to his resume. 

Bonus player: Five-star wide receiver Jeremiah Smith (No. 1 overall, No. 1 WR) from Chaminade-Madonna Prep in Hollywood, Florida

Penn State: A.J. Harris
Position: Cornerback
Height: 6-1
Weight: 188 pounds
Experience: One season (2023 at Georgia)

A native of Phenix City, Alabama, which is hard by the Georgia border, Harris was a premier prospect in the 2023 recruiting cycle (No. 41 overall, No. 3 CB) with scholarship offers from powerhouse programs across the country: Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Texas and USC, to name a few. He played 89 snaps from scrimmage as a true freshman with 82% of them coming in the first four weeks. Harris should be an immediate contender for a starting role on a defense that lost cornerbacks Daequan Hardy and Kalen King to last month's NFL Draft. That the Nittany Lions have sent 14 defensive backs to the NFL since 2015 played a significant role in Harris' decision to choose Penn State, according to an interview he gave earlier this spring. 

Bonus player: Four-star transfer wide receiver Julian Fleming (No. 61 overall, No. 11 WR) from Ohio State

Michigan: Jaishawn Barham
Position: Linebacker
Height: 6-3
Weight: 248 pounds
Experience: Two seasons (2022-23 at Maryland)

The Wolverines were in the market for a starting-caliber inside linebacker after losing veterans Junior Colson (662 snaps) and Michael Barrett (598 snaps) from a unit that ranked No. 1 in the country for total defense last season. Enter Barham, a two-year standout who started all 23 games he played for the Terrapins. A native of District Heights, Maryland, Barham was a top-150 prospect in the 2022 recruiting cycle with scholarship offers from Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC, among others. He finished high school at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, the same school that produced current Michigan edge rusher Derrick Moore and ex-Wolverines Blake Corum, Nikhai Hill-Green and Eyabi Okie in recent years. Barham tallied 9.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and 41 quarterback pressures across two seasons at Maryland.

Bonus player: Four-star running back Jordan Marshall (No. 78 overall, No. 4 RB) from Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati, Ohio

USC: Kamari Ramsey
Position: Safety
Height: 6-0
Weight: 204 pounds
Experience: Two seasons (2022-23 at UCLA)

Rated the No. 63 overall transfer and the No. 6 safety in the portal, Ramsey is one of two ex-UCLA defensive backs who followed defensive coordinator D'Anton Lynn in his move across town late last year. USC announced the hiring of Lynn on Dec. 1, 2023, and Ramsey entered the portal within a week, ultimately committing to the Trojans shortly before Christmas. Originally a four-star prospect in the 2022 recruiting cycle, Ramsey, who played at Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth, California, committed to UCLA over Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas and a slew of additional offers from Pac-12 schools. He played sparingly during a redshirt season in 2022 and then blossomed into a full-time starter with five pass breakups and one interception for a defense that ranked 10th nationally last year. 

Bonus player: Four-star transfer quarterback Jayden Maiava (No. 149 transfer, No. 23 QB) from UNLV

Nebraska: Dylan Raiola
Position: Quarterback
Height: 6-3
Weight: 220 pounds
Experience: True freshman 

The long and winding recruitment of Raiola, a five-star quarterback in the 2024 cycle, ended with a bang during the early signing period last winter. It was Dec. 18 when Raiola flipped his commitment from Georgia to Nebraska and two days later when he officially signed the letter of intent. His decision closed the door on a prolonged drama that spanned three states, three high schools and three verbal commitments to Ohio State, Georgia and Nebraska, respectively. When it finally ended, Raiola, who is rated the No. 7 overall prospect and No. 2 quarterback in the class, pledged himself to the same school where his father, Dominic, was an All-American center and where his uncle, Donovan, is the Cornhuskers' offensive line coach. Getting Raiola to Nebraska was a paradigm-shifting recruiting win for second-year head coach Matt Rhule. 

Bonus player: Four-star transfer running back Dante Dowdell (No. 167 transfer, No. 13 RB) from Oregon

Why Dylan Raiola will be vital to Nebraska and Matt Rhule

Wisconsin: Tyler Van Dyke
Position: Quarterback
Height: 6-4
Weight: 230 pounds
Experience: Four seasons (2020-23 at Miami)

Around this time last year, expectations surrounding a revamped Wisconsin offense were soaring as new offensive coordinator Phil Longo (North Carolina) and transfer quarterback Tanner Mordecai (SMU) seemed like an ideal pairing for first-year head coach Luke Fickell. But things never quite clicked for the Badgers as Mordecai battled injuries and inconsistency during his final season of eligibility, and the offense finished tied for 106th in passing touchdowns with 14. Van Dyke figures to be the next veteran signal-caller to try his hand at Wisconsin following three years of starting experience at Miami. He completed 65.8% of his passes last season while throwing for 2,703 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a team that finished 7-6 overall and 3-5 in the ACC. He was the No. 114 overall transfer and the No. 17 quarterback in the portal. 

Bonus player: Four-star transfer edge rusher John Pius (No. 133 transfer, No. 16 edge rusher) from William & Mary

Purdue: Nyland Green
Position: Cornerback
Height: 6-1
Weight: 185 pounds
Experience: Three seasons (2021-23 at Georgia)

Three years ago, Green was one of the highest-rated defensive backs in the country following a standout career at Newton County High School in Covington, Georgia, about an hour southwest of the Georgia campus. He was rated the No. 72 overall prospect and No. 4 cornerback in the 2021 recruiting cycle with scholarship offers from Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State, Texas and USC, among others. But playing time proved difficult to come by on a loaded Bulldogs' defense, and Green logged just 143 snaps the last three seasons combined. The move to Purdue, which finished 97th in pass defense in 2023, should afford Green the chance to compete for a starting job. Had he committed to the Boilermakers out of high school, Green would have been the program's fourth-best prospect of the recruiting rankings era. 

Bonus player: Four-star cornerback Tarrion Grant (No. 77 overall, No. 10 CB) from Siegel High School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Iowa: Brendan Sullivan
Position: Quarterback
Height: 6-3
Weight: 225 pounds
Experience: Three seasons (2021-23 at Northwestern)

What was supposed to be a showcase season for former Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara in 2023 devolved into disappointment when he suffered a torn ACL after starting Iowa's first five games. Without a suitable backup — and without enough experience or talent to withstand additional injuries at the skill positions — the Hawkeyes' offense sunk to 133rd in the country, better known as dead last among FBS teams. McNamara is likely to earn the starting job again this fall, but Sullivan is the player to watch if the transition to new offensive coordinator Tim Lester's system is bumpy. Sullivan completed 63 of 99 passes (63.6%) for 714 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions for Northwestern last season. He entered the transfer portal in late April after going through spring ball with the Wildcats. 

Bonus player: Four-star tight end Gavin Hoffman (No. 277 overall, No. 17 TE) from Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kansas

Rutgers: Athan Kaliakmanis
Position: Quarterback
Height: 6-4
Weight: 215 pounds
Experience: Three seasons (2021-23 at Minnesota)

It feels like ages ago when Kaliakmanis, then a four-star prospect in the 2021 cycle, signed with Minnesota as one of the highest-rated quarterbacks in school history during the recruiting rankings era. Only Clint Brewster (2007) and MarQueis Gray (2008) were deemed to be better recruits coming out of high school. After splitting time with veteran Tanner Morgan earlier in his career, Kaliakmanis became the Gophers' starter in 2023 but never found his footing. He finished 156-of-294 (53.1%) for 1,838 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions for an offense that ranked 126th in passing. But Kaliakmanis showed enough in spring practice at Rutgers to win the job over incumbent Gavin Wimsatt, a former four-star prospect and the second-best quarterback recruit in program history. Wimsatt has since transferred to Kentucky

Bonus player: Four-star wide receiver Korey Duff Jr. (No. 296 overall, No. 20 TE) from St. Anthony's High School in South Huntington, New York

Minnesota: Jaxon Howard
Position: Edge rusher
Height: 6-4
Weight: 241 pounds
Experience: One season (2023 at LSU)

Getting Howard to Minnesota was a huge recruiting win for head coach P.J. Fleck, albeit at the second time of asking. Howard starred at Robbinsdale Cooper High School in the suburbs of Minneapolis and developed into the No. 1 prospect in the state for the 2023 recruiting cycle. He took official visits to Minnesota, Michigan, Miami and LSU before ultimately committing to the Tigers as a top-150 player and a top-20 edge rusher. But his time in Baton Rouge was brief. Howard only played 30 snaps from scrimmage during the 2023 campaign while recording two tackles and one quarterback hurry. He entered the transfer portal in mid-April (No. 71 transfer, No. 9 edge rusher) and committed to Minnesota three days later. He has the talent to become an impact pass rusher in the Big Ten. 

Bonus player: Four-star transfer quarterback Max Brosmer (No. 118 transfer, No. 19 QB) from New Hampshire

Maryland: Jalen Huskey
Position: Cornerback
Height: 6-1
Weight: 188 pounds
Experience: Two seasons (2022-23 at Bowling Green)

Huskey is the prototypical example of a lightly recruited high school prospect outperforming his initial list of suitors and using the transfer portal to reach the next level. Originally viewed as the No. 2,079 overall prospect and the No. 175 cornerback in the 2022 recruiting cycle, Huskey committed to Bowling Green over Army, Buffalo, Duke, Marshall, UMass and Navy. Nine appearances as a true freshman gave way to a full-time starting role for Huskey last season. He led the team in interceptions (four) and ranked third in tackles (52) to earn first-team All-MAC honors. Only four cornerbacks from the Group of 5 were rated higher than Huskey by Pro Football Focus. With multiple years of eligibility remaining, he's expected to play a prominent role for a Terrapins' secondary that has sent three defensive backs to the NFL in the last two drafts. 

Bonus player: Three-star transfer offensive tackle Aliou Bah (No. 385 transfer, No. 16 OT) from Georgia

Michigan State: Aidan Chiles
Position: Quarterback
Height: 6-3
Weight: 213 pounds
Experience: One season (2023 at Oregon State)

Former Alabama signal-caller Julian Sayin, who ultimately enrolled at Ohio State, was the only transfer quarterback rated above Chiles in the 247Sports rankings. A four-star prospect in the 2023 recruiting cycle, Chiles committed to Oregon State over scholarship offers from Oregon, Kansas State and Washington, among others. He completed 24 of 35 passes (68.6%) for 309 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions last season as the primary backup to Clemson transfer DJ Uiagalelei, though head coach Jonathan Smith worked Chiles into nearly every game. Chiles also carried 17 times for 79 yards and three additional scores. When Smith made the move from Oregon State to Michigan State last November, taking over for the disgraced Mel Tucker, whose messy firing dragged the program toward the bottom of the conference, Chiles quickly followed suit. He's the unquestioned QB1 for the Spartans. 

Bonus player: Four-star transfer interior lineman Andrew Dennis (No. 73 transfer, No. 3 IOL) from Illinois

Aidan Chiles connects with Jack Velling for a 10-yard touchdown

Washington: Will Rogers
Position: Quarterback
Height: 6-2
Weight: 204 pounds
Experience: Four seasons (2020-23 at Mississippi State)

Rogers endured the full transfer portal experience when his initial decision to leave Mississippi State for Washington was further complicated by the unexpected departure of then-Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer, who accepted the job as Nick Saban's replacement at Alabama on Jan. 12. He wasted little time reentering the portal as Washington searched for its next head coach — with the gig ultimately going to Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch two days later — and then withdrew his name on Jan. 24 to stand firm on his initial decision. Now Rogers will contend with fellow transfer Demon Williams Jr., who followed Fisch from Arizona, for the throne most recently occupied by Michael Penix Jr., the eighth overall pick in this year's NFL Draft. Rogers threw for more than 12,000 yards and 94 touchdowns in four years at Mississippi State. 

Bonus player: Four-star transfer offensive tackle Drew Azzopardi (No. 89 transfer, No. 4 OT) from San Diego State

Illinois: Terrance Brooks
Position: Cornerback
Height: 6-0
Weight: 200 pounds
Experience: Two seasons (2022-23 at Texas)

Among the reasons why Illinois ranked third nationally in total defense for the 2022 campaign was the stellar performance of its secondary, a unit that featured three players selected in the subsequent NFL Draft: cornerback Devon Witherspoon (Round 1, Pick 5); safety Quan Martin (Round 2, Pick 47) and safety Sydney Brown (Round 3, Pick 66). But once those stalwarts were gone, the Illini slipped to 63rd in total defense and 71st in passing defense last year. Brooks is the kind of player who can change the tune for second-year defensive coordinator Aaron Henry. A former top-100 overall prospect in the 2022 recruiting cycle, Brooks developed into a full-time starter in his sophomore season and earned honorable mention All-Big 12 recognition after helping Texas reach the College Football Playoff. He was the No. 11 cornerback in the transfer portal. 

Bonus player: Four-star transfer tight end Cole Rusk (No. 154 transfer, No. 12 TE) from Murray State

Indiana: Kurtis Rourke
Position: Quarterback
Height: 6-5
Weight: 222 pounds
Experience: Five seasons (2019-23 at Ohio)

The Hoosiers lost three quarterbacks to the transfer portal amid a coaching change that bid farewell to Tom Allen and replaced him with Curt Cignetti from James Madison. Gone were Brendan Sorsby (No. 116 transfer, No. 18 QB); Broc Lowry (No. 915 transfer, No. 72 QB) and Dexter Williams II (No. 1,219 transfer, 93 QB) — only one of whom later enrolled at a Power 4 school — and Rourke (No. 127 transfer, No. 22 QB) was the lone signee to take their collective places. A former two-star recruit, Rourke started 33 games over five seasons at Ohio and was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2022 after throwing for 3,257 yards with 25 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He also has more than 800 career rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. 

Bonus player: Four-star transfer wide receiver Elijah Sarratt (No. 166 transfer, No. 32 WR) from James Madison

Northwestern: Mike Wright
Position: Quarterback
Height: 6-4
Weight: 195 pounds
Experience: Four seasons (2020-22 at Vanderbilt; 2023 at Mississippi State)

Wright was a late addition to Northwestern's roster after going through spring practice at Mississippi State, where the Bulldogs are transitioning to new head coach Jeff Lebby. He chose to use his final year of eligibility with the Wildcats after making 14 total starts at Vanderbilt and Mississippi State over the last four seasons. Originally the No. 19 dual-threat quarterback in the 2020 recruiting cycle, Wright committed to Vanderbilt over scholarship offers from the likes of Arkansas, Cincinnati, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Ole Miss and Northwestern, a school to which he previously took an official visit. Wright, who has thrown for more than 2,500 yards and rushed for more than 1,200 yards with 34 combined touchdowns, will compete with veteran Ryan Hilinski and redshirt sophomore Jack Lausch for the starting job. 

Bonus player: Three-star edge rusher Patrick Schaller (No. 937 overall, No. 47 edge rusher) from Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Illinois

UCLA: Rico Flores Jr. 
Position: Wide receiver
Height: 6-2
Weight: 205 pounds
Experience: One season (2023 at Notre Dame)

Flores finished second on the Fighting Irish in receptions (27) and third in receiving yards (392) as a true freshman last season before entering the transfer portal in December, ultimately returning to his home state of California. He was the No. 225 overall prospect and the No. 31 wide receiver in the 2023 recruiting class with additional scholarship offers from Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Texas and USC, among others. First-year offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who joined the Bruins after stints as offensive coordinator for both the Washington Commanders and the Kansas City Chiefs, has two intriguing perimeter weapons in Flores and fellow newcomer Kwazi Glimer, a four-star freshman receiver and the No. 237 overall prospect in the 2024 cycle. UCLA ranked 60th in passing offense last season. 

Bonus player: Four-star transfer quarterback Dermaricus Davis (No. 180 transfer, No. 24 QB) from Washington

Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.


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