Big Ten football transfers: New Ohio State, Oregon stars poised to make immediate impact in 2024 season



Remember the days when you followed high school football recruiting? Breathlessly anticipating the same quotes from different players about how much they enjoyed their official visit and how the coaching staff made them feel like they were family. Remember anxiously awaiting the announcement of a commitment and then white-knuckling it until National Signing Day, hoping nothing changed before they signed on the dotted line?

Those days feel like a long time ago, don’t they? Well, they weren’t. It was only a few years ago, but it speaks to the impact of the transfer portal that it feels like The Stone Age. These days, we don’t spend nearly as much time worried about what a high school junior is doing; we’re far more interested in the disgruntled player looking for more playing time or the ascendant superstar looking to move up a level (both on the field and in the checking account).

Transfers dominate the sport now. Five of the last seven Heisman Trophy winners were transfers. Instead of waiting for the four-star sophomore to develop into a reliable starter, title contenders not named Clemson fill gaps in the roster through the portal. Sometimes, they find another ruby to stick on an already jewel-adorned, gold-plated crown.

The portal means you can turn things around in one offseason, making it one of the most important roster-building tools available. Every season, well-known faces show up in new places, and in top conferences like the Big Ten and SEC, there is never a shortage of big-name newcomers.

As we head into the summer, here’s a look at the Big Ten transfers poised to make the most significant impact in the 2024 season.

Michigan State isn’t considered a threat in the Big Ten after finishing 4-8 last year, but if there’s one reason to believe first-year coach Jonathan Smith can turn things around quickly, it’s the quarterback he brought with him from Oregon State. Chiles was a four-star recruit in 2023 and considered the No.7 QB in the class by 247Sports. This year, as a transfer, he was the No. 2 QB in the portal behind Julian Sayin (Ohio State).

Chiles doesn’t have a wealth of experience, but he appeared in nine games with the Beavers last season as a change of pace to D.J. Uiagelelei. He threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 79 yards and three touchdowns. He’s an enticing dual-threat who could immediately emerge as one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten.

Caleb Downs was the No. 1-ranked player in the transfer portal this offseason. A five-star freshman for Alabama last season, Downs helped lead the Crimson Tide to an SEC title and College Football Playoff berth. Now, he’s hoping to do the same thing for Ohio State. This is very much a rich-get-richer situation for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State already had one of the best defenses in the country, kept most of its best players and then added Downs — one of the best safeties in the country and a likely first-round pick in two years — to it. Downs is the complete package, as he can come up into the box to stop the run and is also a plus in coverage. He’s also won at every level he’s played.

Quinshon Judkins is the definition of a workhorse running back; he carried the ball 545 times (21 carries per game) over the last two seasons with Ole Miss. While his yards per carry numbers dipped to 4.27 last year from 5.71 the year before, we should anticipate improvement now that he’ll be lining up in the Buckeyes backfield.

While he had the most carries, Judkins had Zach Evans helping to carry the load his freshman season. Last year, he had 176 more carries than any other back on the Rebels roster, and his production dipped as the season wore on. At Ohio State, Judkins will have TreVeyon Henderson sharing the load, which should help keep him fresh. Also, for a team that struggled to finish drives in the red zone last year, having a player like Judkins (29 red zone rushing touchdowns) will make a serious impact, even if he doesn’t get nearly as many carries overall.

I wrote about Dillon Gabriel being a left-handed Bo Nix, which is precisely what Oregon needs in 2024. The Ducks are moving into a new league and are seen as an immediate threat to win the Big Ten, so having a quarterback with Gabriel’s experience is huge. And it’s not like experience is all he has! Gabriel’s been a good player throughout his college career. He threw for 6,828 yards and 55 touchdowns the last two seasons with Oklahoma and also displayed more of a dual nature with the Sooners than he did at UCF.

After rushing for 372 yards and eight touchdowns in 26 games with the Knights, Gabriel rushed for 688 yards and 18 touchdowns in 24 games with the Sooners. Given his numbers and ability, there’s a strong argument to be made Gabriel is the best quarterback in the Big Ten from his first snap with the Ducks.

We can also be pretty confident we know who Gabriel’s top target in a Ducks uniform will be. Troy Franklin led the Ducks with 1,383 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns last season, but he’s an NFL player now. Evan Stewart will be in his place. Stewart was the No. 6 overall player and No. 1 wideout in the 2022 high school class, and the former five-star was the No. 6 overall player in this year’s transfer class. Texas A&M had a revolving door at QB last year due to injuries, which hindered Stewart’s growth a bit, but he still finished the year with 38 catches for 514 yards and four touchdowns. This was after leading the Aggies in receiving as a freshman.

Stewart’s growth as a player, more consistency at the quarterback position and Tez Johnson’s presence helping keep defenses honest mean he could be on the precipice of a breakout season. He hasn’t shown it yet, but Stewart has Biletnikoff Award-winning talent.

Top transfers for remaining Big Ten teams

Illinois OT J.C. Davis: Davis transferred to Illinois from New Mexico where he was first-team All-Mountain West, and he immediately steps in at left tackle. It’s not out of line to think Davis could be All-Big Ten this season, too.

Indiana QB Kurtis Rourke: New coach Curt Cignetti has done excellent work in the transfer portal this offseason, but none of it matters if the QB doesn’t work out. Luckily for the Hoosiers, Rourke is a good bet to work out, as he was a highly productive player for one of the MAC’s best programs at Ohio.

Iowa QB Brendan Sullivan: After the Kadyn Proctor fiasco, there is no bigger name in Iowa’s incoming transfer class than Brendan Sullivan. The former Northwestern QB isn’t a lock to be the starter, but given Cade McNamara’s uncertain status and the lack of other options, the odds are good Sullivan will take meaningful snaps with the Hawkeyes in 2024.

Maryland QB M.J. Morris: The Terrapins added a few key pieces to the offensive line in the portal, but Morris is the most important newcomer as he replaces the Big Ten’s all-time leader in passing yardage, Taulia Tagovailoa. Morris was once seen as the future of the NC State offense but redshirted after appearing in four games for the Wolfpack last season to preserve a year of eligibility, and Maryland looks to take full advantage of that year. 

Michigan LB Jaishawn Barham: There’s a strong case to be made that the biggest impact transfer for Michigan was the players it kept, but don’t sleep on the impact Barham could have with the Wolverines. Barham was a freshman All-American at Maryland in 2022 and has impressed Michigan’s coaching staff since moving to Ann Arbor. He could lead the Wolverines in tackles this season.

Minnesota QB Max Brosmer: Athan Kaliakmanis has moved on to Rutgers, and in his place is Brosmer, who threw for 8,713 yards and 70 touchdowns in five seasons at New Hampshire. The Gophers’ passing game has not been a strong suit in recent seasons, and the hope is that Brosmer’s experience and arm will turn that around in 2024.

Nebraska WR Jahmal Banks: There’s plenty of hype surrounding Nebraska’s five-star freshman QB Dylan Raiola, but he needs pass catchers. Enter Banks, who led Wake Forest in receiving last season. At 6-4 and 205 pounds, Banks is a big-bodied, reliable target for a young quarterback, and one who should pair well with his fellow transfer receiver Isaiah Neyor, who joins Nebraska from Texas.

Northwestern QB Mike Wright: This is purely speculative. The Wildcats added offensive linemen Matt Keeler and Jack Bailey in the portal, and both will have an impact. That said, while Mike Wright isn’t guaranteed a starting gig, he’s an intriguing addition! Wright spent the first three seasons of his career at Vanderbilt before transferring to Mississippi State last season. I don’t know what Northwestern’s plan is for him or if he’ll win the starting QB job, but it’s hard to believe new offensive coordinator Zach Lujan won’t find a way to get Wright on the field this fall.

Penn State WR Julian Fleming: I went back and forth between Fleming and cornerback A.J. Harris, but following the departure of KeAndrew Lambert-Smith, it’s hard not to side with Fleming. Fleming isn’t a No. 1 receiver, but given the lack of proven options Penn State has at the position, it’s safe to say he’ll get plenty of touches in the new-look Penn State offense. Plus, if you’ve seen new offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki’s offenses at Kansas and Buffalo, you know how important it is for the scheme that the receiver can block. Fleming looks like a guy who loves pancaking cornerbacks as much as he does catching touchdowns. He won’t be a 1,000-yard receiver (or maybe he will!), but he’s a perfect fit.

Purdue CB Nyland Green: The defensive scheme Ryan Walters brought to Purdue puts a lot on the plates of its corners, who are often left alone in man coverage. For that reason alone, Nyland Green will have a huge impact on Purdue’s 2024 season. If the Georgia transfer can perform at a level matching his ranking out of high school (Green was the No. 2 CB in the 2021 class), it will go a long way in helping the Boilermakers defense improve significantly this season.

Rutgers WR Dymere Miller: It’s not often a team gets a new starting quarterback in the portal and he’s not the most impactful transfer. While Athan Kaliakmanis will play a huge role in how the 2024 season goes, Miller’s presence will be massive as well. Rutgers has lacked a playmaker at the receiver spot in recent years, and Miller, who wrote his name all over the record books at Monmouth, could be that player.

UCLA Edge Collins Acheampong: Acheampong comes to UCLA from Miami with the chance to make an immediate impact. There’s been plenty of change for the Bruins this offseason, but replacing first-round pick Laiatu Latu is a priority for new Bruins coach Deshaun Foster. To this point, the former four-star Acheampong has much more potential than production, but if the Bruins can tap into it, they could have a monster on their hands.

USC S Kamari Ramsey: I was tempted to name every new coach on the defensive side of the ball here, starting with D’Anton Lynn, but instead I opted to go with a player Lynn made sure made the trip acrouss town with him. Ramsey had 40 tackles as a redshirt freshman with UCLA last season and will be an important player for Lynn as he looks to implement not only a new defensive playbook but mentality with the Trojans.

Washington QB Will Rogers: It won’t be easy stepping into the shoes of Michael Penix Jr., but in an offseason filled with a lot of change for every part of the Washington program, having a QB with Rogers’ experience is important. Rogers lost his starting gig with Mississippi State last season (I’ll leave you to decide if that was the right decision), but he threw for 12,315 yards and 94 touchdowns in his four seasons with the Bulldogs.

Wisconsin QB Tyler Van Dyke: It’s important to note here that Tyler Van Dyke has not been named the starter in Madison yet. He’s still battling Braedyn Locke, and the two were rotating with the first team in the spring. Whether that’ll remain the case as we inch closer to the start of the season, we don’t know, but considering how quickly the Badgers went after Van Dyke (he committed in mid-December), I think I know which direction this will go. If offensive coordinator Phil Longo can resurrect the Van Dyke who threw for 2,931 yards and 25 touchdowns as a freshman in 2021, the Badgers will make plenty of noise in the Big Ten.





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