Ranking the top 20 players in college football’s transfer portal this spring

The 2023-24 transfer portal cycle is on pace to be another record-setting one, with 2,600 scholarship college football players already in the portal at the FBS level. So far, more than 1,400 have announced commitments as we near the end of the 14-day spring transfer window from April 16-30.

Which big names do you need to know ahead of the portal deadline? In an effort to help you keep track of who’s going where and which top transfers are still on the market, The Athletic ranks the best available players in the portal.

Transfers are ranked based on their experience, production, potential, interest they’re generating and feedback from coaches throughout the country. This is a fluid list that we’ll constantly update as players make decisions, so be sure to keep this one bookmarked.



Top takeaways from Day 1 of CFB’s spring transfer portal window

1. CB Tacario Davis, Arizona: Here’s a situation we haven’t really seen in the portal era. Davis entered his name in the transfer portal in late January after Arizona’s coaching change but stayed and is going through spring practice with the team. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound corner led the Pac-12 with 15 pass breakups in his first season as a starter and earned all-conference recognition from the AP.

Davis says he stuck around to see how it goes with his new coaches, but he has yet to officially withdraw from the portal. Until he takes that step, other schools can continue to recruit him. This is a day-to-day deal, and it’ll be interesting to see whether the Wildcats can hang on to him.

2. DE Tyler Baron, Louisville: The 6-foot-5, 260-pound senior from Knoxville, Tenn., was a productive edge rusher for the Vols for three years and is coming off his best season yet with 28 tackles, 41 pressures, 10.5 TFLs and six sacks. Baron was one of the most coveted edge defenders in the portal back in December and initially committed to Ole Miss before flipping to Louisville. After going through spring ball with the Cardinals, Baron is back on the market for his final season of eligibility.

3. DT Damonic Williams, TCU: The former three-star from California emerged as one of the Big 12’s best young defensive tackles in his two seasons in Fort Worth. He started all 15 games up front at nose as a true freshman for a Horned Frogs team that played for a national title in 2022 and earned Freshman All-America honors, then started every game in his sophomore year to pick up honorable mention All-Big 12 recognition. He has two more seasons of eligibility and will have lots of Power 5 contenders competing for him. Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri got his first three official visits, with LSU up next and a decision expected soon.

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4. DT Derrick Harmon, Michigan State: Harmon put his name in the portal in December after  Michigan State’s coaching change and took official visits to Oregon, Ohio State and Auburn. The Spartans’ new staff was able to fight them off and keep Harmon on campus, but the 6-foot-5, 320-pound redshirt junior has decided to go back on the market. Harmon has started 15 games and recorded 71 tackles, 35 pressures, 6.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks in his career and has two remaining seasons of eligibility. Now that he’s back in the portal, expect those same schools to battle for his services with USC and Colorado also entering the mix.

5. WR Elijhah Badger, Arizona State: The 6-foot-2, 190-pound playmaker has been the Sun Devils’ leading receiver in back-to-back seasons and produced a total of 135 catches for 1,579 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, which is tough to do when your team plays five different QBs over those two seasons. Badger was set to be one of the top returning wideouts in the Big 12 this fall and has two more seasons of eligibility, but he’s a likely draft pick a year from now if he puts together another strong year. Washington got his first official visit.

6. OL Jason Zandamela, USC: The 6-foot-3, 306-pound center was one of the highest-ranked members of the Trojans’ 2024 recruiting class, with multiple services rating him as the No. 1 interior line prospect in the country. Zandamela, who was born in Mozambique and played at Clearwater Academy International in Florida, enrolled early at USC but is now looking to move closer to home. UCF and Florida are reportedly in the mix.

7. DB Peyton Woodyard, Alabama: Woodyard, a four-star safety who was the No. 115 overall recruit in the class of 2024, flipped from Georgia to Alabama ahead of his senior season and enrolled early with the Crimson Tide. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound defender from St. John Bosco in California went through spring ball with their new coaching staff and opted to hit the portal and reopen his recruitment. Woodyard indicated in his portal entry that he doesn’t want to be contacted by schools, which typically means the player knows where he’s going. Oregon is reportedly one school to watch.

8. DT Simeon Barrow Jr., Michigan State: Barrow, a three-year starter for the Spartans, briefly put his name in the portal after Mel Tucker’s firing but opted to stay through the spring. Now he’s officially on the market and commanding a lot of interest. The 6-foot-3, 296-pound senior has been disruptive throughout his career with 110 tackles, 18.5 TFLs, 10.5 sacks and two blocked field goals and has twice picked up honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. LSU, Miami and Florida State are among the schools battling for Barrow.

9. DT CJ West, Kent State: The 6-foot-2, 315-pound senior developed into a three-year starter for the Flashes, with 110 tackles, 59 pressures, 19.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in his career. West graded out as the top defensive tackle in the MAC last season according to Pro Football Focus and picked up third-team All-MAC honors from the league’s coaches. He became one of the most popular players in the portal as soon as he entered, with LSU, Miami and Texas A&M among a long list of Power 5 offers.

10. CB Ed Woods, Arizona State: Woods developed into a two-year starter for Arizona State who has recorded 66 tackles, five TFLs, 10 pass breakups, three forced fumbles and an interception in his career. The 6-foot, 175-pound cover man graded out as one of the top starting corners in the Pac-12 last season and looks poised for another big year. Now he’s in the portal and planning to visit Alabama. The new Crimson Tide coaching staff is quite familiar with Woods from Washington’s games against the Sun Devils and quickly emerged as the frontrunner in this recruitment.

11. CB D’Angelo Ponds, James Madison: Ponds had a remarkable true freshman season for James Madison, earning Freshman All-America and second-team All-Sun Belt honors and grading out as one of the best corners in the Group of 5 according to PFF. He logged 51 tackles, 13 pass breakups, two interceptions and a touchdown return on a blocked punt while only allowing catches on 30 of 66 targets. The Florida native might not have ideal size (5 foot 9, 165 pounds), but he’s a playmaker who should pick up Power 5 offers.

12. CB Terrance Brooks, Texas: Brooks put together a solid first season as a starter for the Longhorns in 2023 with 20 tackles, six pass breakups and three interceptions to earn honorable mention All-Big 12 honors. The 6-foot, 200-pound corner was a top-100 recruit who played early for Texas and looked poised to start again in 2024. Brooks has two more seasons of eligibility and should have good Power 5 options.

13. DB Jacoby Mathews, Texas A&M: The former top-50 recruit from Louisiana was the No. 2 safety prospect in the Class of 2022 and one of the many gems of the Aggies’ loaded No. 1 class. Mathews moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore and recorded 42 tackles, four pass breakups and an interception. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound defender decided to transfer in February and is now officially on the market for his final two seasons of eligibility.

14. RB Peny Boone, Louisville: The 6-foot-1, 230-pound redshirt junior spent two seasons as a reserve at Maryland before joining Toledo in 2022. Boone took his game to another level and earned MAC Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2023 after producing a league-high 1,400 rushing yards on 7.2 yards per carry plus 219 receiving yards and 16 total TDs for a Rockets squad that won 11 games. Boone transferred to Louisville this spring but is already back in the portal, though his academic situation after multiple transfers could make it tough to find a better option.

15. OL Bryce Foster, Texas A&M: Foster is one of the more experienced offensive linemen available in the portal, a 28-game starter at center who started from Day 1 for the Aggies and earned Freshman All-America honors in 2021. He’s a two-sport athlete who also throws shot put for the Aggies’ track and field program and opted to focus on that this spring rather than practice with Mike Elko and his new coaching staff. If he dedicates himself to football going forward, Foster could be an impactful pickup for his next school.

16. CB Jay’Vion Cole, San Jose State: The 5-foot-10, 175-pound cover man picked off four passes during his freshman season at FCS Cal Poly, transferred up to San Jose State and proved just as productive in the Mountain West. Cole recorded 10 pass breakups, grabbed three interceptions and finished as the No. 1 corner in the conference in PFF grading. Expect Texas and Arizona to be in the mix in this recruitment.

17. CB Cormani McClain, Colorado: Deion Sanders’ flip of McClain, a five-star cornerback from Florida, away from Miami in his first months on the job made a serious statement, and the opportunity to play for Coach Prime and with Travis Hunter was hard to beat. McClain struggled early on in his freshman season and was called out by his head coach for his lack of preparation, but he eventually stepped up and showed progress while earning four starts and logging 13 tackles and two pass breakups. McClain still has a bright future if he’s willing to put in the work at his next stop.

18. QB Dermaricus Davis, Washington: “Mar Mar” Davis, a 6-foot-5, 187-pound true freshman from California, was an under-the-radar take for Ryan Grubb who finished as a four-star recruit and the No. 17 QB in the 2024 class. He enrolled early, lost Grubb and Kalen DeBoer, tested the portal and chose to stay with the Huskies even though Jedd Fisch brought Arizona QB signee Demond Williams Jr. to Seattle. After going through spring ball with the new staff, Davis is now back in the portal. He’s a gifted passer who could develop into a steal for his next school.

19. OL Andrew Chamblee, Arkansas: Chamblee won the starting left tackle job for the Razorbacks as a redshirt freshman and earned SEC All-Freshman honors for his performance over eight starts. When the 6-foot-6, 304-pound lineman left the program in March, coach Sam Pittman claimed he’d “lost the love for the game” and decided to give up football. A month later, he’s in the transfer portal, and plenty of schools are trying to sign him, including Colorado, Kansas State, Maryland and UCLA.

20. DE Jayden Wayne, Miami: The 6-foot-5, 245-pound edge defender was a top-100 recruit in the 2023 class and played early for the Hurricanes, logging 135 snaps over eight games and earning a start in their bowl game. Wayne recorded 13 tackles, nine pressures and half a sack in his reserve role and showed good potential but got passed up this spring by Miami’s star-studded freshman D-line class. The Tacoma, Wash., native took his first official visit to Washington and is also considering UCLA, Cal, Pitt and Kansas.

Previously ranked

1. RB Damien Martinez, Oregon State to Miami: Martinez emerged as one of college football’s best young backs in 2022, earning Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-America honors after rushing for 982 yards and seven touchdowns. The 6-foot, 232-pound rusher from Texas was even better as a sophomore, ranking second in the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,185 yards and nine scores and once again earning first-team all-conference honors.

5. WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Penn State to Auburn: Lambert-Smith started 38 games over his four years with the Nittany Lions and emerged as the clear No. 1 target for quarterback Drew Allar in 2023, finishing with 53 catches for 673 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 184-pound senior has one more season of eligibility and is looking to boost his NFL Draft position elsewhere.

7. DT Jay Toia, UCLA (withdrew from portal): Toia began his career at USC in 2021 but left before his freshman season began and joined UCLA, where he developed into one of the Pac-12’s best run stuffers.

7. WR Samuel Brown, Houston to Miami: The 6-foot-2, 195-pound wideout spent two years at West Virginia but took his game to another level at Houston, where he caught 103 passes for 1,286 yards and seven TDs in two seasons. Brown ranked sixth in the Big 12 in receptions (62) in his first season back in the conference and helped fill the void of Tank Dell going pro by breaking out as the Cougars’ leading receiver in 2023.

11. OL Branson Hickman, SMU to Oklahoma: Hickman was a three-year starter at center for SMU who earned second-team All-AAC honors last year and finished as the fourth-best starting center in the country by PFF’s grading. The 6-foot-3, 294-pound senior has two more seasons of eligibility.

11. OL Marcus Bryant, SMU to Missouri: The 6-foot-8, 318-pound left tackle developed into a 30-game starter for the Mustangs during his four years in the program and was a first-team All-AAC selection for the league champs in 2023.

12. QB Jaden Rashada, Arizona State to Georgia: By now, you’ve probably read all about Rashada’s wild high school recruitment and his $13 million contract with Florida that fell through. He became one of the most high-profile cautionary tales of the NIL era before he ever played a college snap. Arizona State took a chance on Rashada and let the former top-100 recruit start two games as a true freshman. He threw for 485 yards with four TDs and three interceptions on 184 snaps and ended up redshirting. Now at Georgia, he’ll get to spend a year learning behind Carson Beck before competing for the job in 2025.

15. RB Dylan Edwards, Colorado to Kansas State: The 5-foot-9, 170-pound back emerged as one of Colorado’s most talented offensive playmakers as a true freshman. He debuted with 177 yards and four TDs in the upset win at TCU and led the team in rushing while accounting for 744 all-purpose yards. Edwards needs to keep developing as a between-the-tackles rusher but can add a lot of value to an offense as a pass catcher out of the backfield and as a kick returner. Edwards was previously committed to the Wildcats in high school and is close with starting QB Avery Johnson.

16. DE Dayon Hayes, Pitt to Colorado: After leading the Panthers with 10.5 tackles for loss in his first season as a starter, Hayes is moving on for his final season of eligibility. The 6-foot-3, 265-pound edge defender logged 45 tackles, 44 pressures, four sacks and four pass breakups in 2023 but told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he’s transferring because he didn’t believe Pitt can “win now.”

17. DE Nyjalik Kelly, Miami to UCF: The 6-foot-5, 250-pound edge defender has dealt with hip and shoulder injuries early in his career and was sidelined for eight games last season as well as this spring, but he has flashed exciting potential as a pass rusher. Kelly produced 15 pressures and four sacks on 183 snaps as a true freshman and became a starter for the Hurricanes in 2023 before his season-ending shoulder injury.

18. CB Dyoni Hill, Marshall to Miami: Here’s a sleeper whom personnel staffers at several Power 5 schools circled based on his tape. The 6-foot, 172-pound corner from Gainesville, Fla., moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore for the Herd and recorded 55 tackles, 10 pass breakups and an interception.

19. DE Keyron Crawford, Arkansas State to Auburn: The 6-foot-4, 243-pound pass rusher had a strong sophomore season for the Red Wolves with 45 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles and ranked in the top 10 among Sun Belt defensive linemen in pressures (39), according to PFF. He’s a former basketball player who has only played football for three years, so there’s plenty of room to grow.

20. DT Philip Blidi, Indiana to Auburn: The 6-foot-3, 295-pound defensive tackle played a rotational role at Texas Tech for three seasons before he joined the Hoosiers and recorded 30 tackles, four TFLs and 15 pressures over 11 starts.

(Photo of Tacario Davis: Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today)

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