Transfer Candidates for College Football in 2023
The transfer portal has provided players with new opportunities to achieve success across the country and work in a system that matches their playing style.
With the addition of impact players to rosters every offseason, the battle for a starting spot has gradually shifted over the years. Coaching staffs can find the right players for their schemes and recruit them as if they were high school prospects, but the majority of them already have collegiate film.
A player may enter the portal for a variety of reasons, including limited snaps on their current team, a change in coaching staff, or a breakout season. If a player can establish themselves as a consistent contributor, they may be able to transfer to a high-level program, whereas a player who is trailing a rising star may choose to leave and pursue a larger role.
The transfer portal has shown what it can do for the college football landscape in recent seasons, reviving some programs while transforming others into dark horse College Football Playoff candidates.
The players listed below may be in the market to enter their names into the transfer portal.
Texas quarterback Hudson Card
The Texas Longhorns have had an up-and-down season, but their program is clearly on the right track under head coach Steve Sarkisian.
The process of competing for a national championship may be slower than Longhorns fans had hoped, but the focus may be on building a team capable of competing with SEC programs such as Alabama and Georgia.
When a program is on the rise, there is usually a star quarterback involved, and for the Longhorns, that is young star Quinn Ewers. They appear to have given Ewers the keys, with Arch Manning, another upcoming phenom, in the passenger seat.
This puts quarterback Hudson Card in a difficult position, as he knows he’ll be the backup if he stays in the burnt orange.
Card has been with Texas since the 2020 season, but has never had the full opportunity to carve out a starting role in the same room as proven signal callers. On the season, he has six touchdowns and 923 yards with a 69.2 completion percentage. The Texas native had a strong “tryout” earlier this season, filling in for an injured Ewers for a couple of games.
He demonstrated that he has the potential to be a full-time starter in the FBS if a team is willing to commit to his abilities and give him a chance. The only thing stopping Card is that he grew up in Austin and wants to stay, but if he leaves, he’ll definitely have the opportunity to play meaningful minutes.
Texas A&M wide receiver Chris Marshall
Texas A&M has talent on its roster, but it appears that rankings and high school popularity were the Aggies’ top priorities in recent classes.
Texas A&M’s 2022 freshman class is one of the most notable high school classes in CFB recruiting history. According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, they brought in the highest-ranked class ever seen by any recruiting site, with eight 5-star prospects and twenty 4-star prospects.
Wide receiver Chris Marshall is one of the biggest names on the blue-chip list. Early in his college career, he had his sights set on producing for a high-level program. USC and Alabama were two other programs that were heavily involved in his recruitment. Marshall, on the other hand, doesn’t have many highlights on the stat sheet, with 11 receptions and 108 yards this season.
After dealing with a dramatic environment for the past few months, there are bound to be several players on Texas A&M’s current roster who leave. The Aggies entered the season as the No. 6 team in the country, but a culture change is the most important requirement in College Station.
It’s unclear who will leave Texas A&M, but the coaching staff and Marshall appear to have a strained relationship. Marshall has been suspended twice this season, once in September for violating curfew and again last month for a locker room incident that has kept him off the team indefinitely, so he may be looking to move on next year.
UNC quarterback Jacolby Criswell
With quarterback Drake Maye, the North Carolina Tar Heels struck gold. Although he has some flaws in his game, he is already regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Maye leads the nation with 31 passing touchdowns and 3,477 total yards. He rarely makes mistakes, so the Tar Heel staff can ride the Maye train for several years.
Backup Jacolby Criswell had to wait his turn behind former star Sam Howell, and he may be experiencing flashbacks as a result of having to sit on the bench for so long.
Criswell has been at UNC for three years, and wasting more eligibility or time does not appear to be the best option. With several years left on his contract, he should weigh his options in the transfer portal and see where he can compete for a starting role.
Criswell is a former 4-star prospect who was projected by 247 Sports’ Gabe Brooks to be a Power-Five starter. According to his recent film, he has a strong arm as a dual-threat quarterback with a solid frame. In his three years with the Tar Heels, he has thrown 17 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 114 yards and another score.
The most important factor for Criswell is finding the right team that has experience with a running quarterback. Criswell should enter his name, knowing that being trapped in a quarterback room with Maye is an uncomfortable situation for many players.
Auburn Tigers wide receiver Ja’Varrius Johnson
Auburn, which is currently led by interim head coach Carnell Williams, is another program with an extremely hazy future. The Tigers began the season with a 3-1 record, but things quickly deteriorated. They are on a five-game losing streak after winning their last game in September, an overtime victory over Missouri.
The Tigers are far behind the majority of SEC programs, having to compete in the toughest division in college football. The SEC West features teams like Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss, so Auburn will have to wait several years before it can compete with those programs again.
This could be the most interesting head coaching position available, and players may want to wait for that hire before leaving the program.
Ja’Varrius Johnson, their leading receiver, is a name to keep an eye on for potential portal candidates. Johnson entered the transfer portal after the 2021 season, but he stayed due to his relationship with former head coach Bryan Harsin, according to reports. His decision to stay with the team resulted in one touchdown on 23 receptions and 428 yards this season.
Following Harsin’s dismissal, Johnson is left on the Plains to play with Robby Ashford, a run-first quarterback. He could already be mentally checked out, viewing his decision to stay as a mistake. Auburn’s offense isn’t even close to being SEC-caliber, so there’s not much reason for Johnson to stick around.
Carson Steele, Ball State running back
Every year, a handful of stars from lower-level FBS teams shine in their respective positions, allowing them to move up the conference ladder.
Carson Steele of Ball State has been one of the most productive running backs in the country. He has a strong resume and will most likely be recruited by a Power-Five program if he decides to leave the Cardinals.
With a 5-5 record, Ball State is ranked third in the MAC West. Aside from the 2020 season, the Cardinals have consistently fielded a mediocre team. Steele may be looking for success on a larger stage, but he’ll have to give up his heavy workload. On 249 attempts, he has 12 touchdowns and 1,280 yards.
Steele’s matured frame, standing at 6’1″ and 215 pounds, is the main reason for his possible move. There is always talent at the bottom of the FBS, but for some teams, recruiting players who aren’t physically prepared for a stronger, faster game has been a huge issue.
Steele appears to have the tools necessary to make an impact on a team in 2023. Most players enter the transfer portal in search of a higher snap count, but Steele should be looking for a healthier role with the opportunity to improve under an experienced coaching staff.
He’s only in his second year of college and has 441 carries. Instead of throwing Steele into the fire with the offense on his back, he should look for a team that uses him wisely and helps him improve different aspects of his game.