Aaron Lynch, Nick Marshall headline impact transfers in 2013
As college football's preseason winds down and teams begin to finalize their depth charts, it's time to take stock of the players who have changed teams -- or those who changed teams last season, but only became eligible this fall. While touted incoming freshmen typically get the majority of fan and media attention, it's often the transfers who make the biggest impact. They're more experienced and, in many cases, better prepared to contribute from day one.
So which transfers could be poised for big things over the coming weeks and months? Here are 10 situations to keep an eye on heading into the 2013 campaign.
Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn
• Former school: Garden City Community College
• The buzz: When head coach Gus Malzahn left Arkansas State to return to Auburn last December, there was a lot of optimism surrounding how he would be able to use junior Kiehl Frazier, a dual-threat quarterback originally recruited to run Malzahn's preferred offense. Yet Frazier has since been converted to safety; in a surprising twist, Malzahn instead chose Marshall, a junior college transfer, to lead his high-powered spread attack. The last juco transfer to inherit the Tigers starting quarterback job was Cam Newton, and while Marshall might not bring similar results, he should help Auburn improve its scoring output. The Tigers averaged just 18.7 points per game in 2012, 112th nationally.
Aaron Lynch, DE, USF
• Former school: Notre Dame
• The buzz: Formerly one of the top defensive end recruits in the class of 2011, Lynch burst onto the scene as a freshman at Notre Dame. He racked up 33 tackles and 5.5 sacks to earn first-team freshman All-America honors. While many speculated attitude issues played into Lynch's decision to transfer in April 2012, the Cape Coral, Fla., native said he made the move because he wanted to be closer to home. He should pick up right where he left off, and most reports indicate he feels comfortable under new USF coach Willie Taggart. Paired with senior end Ryne Giddins (3.5 sacks, four tackles for loss in 2012), Lynch could help turn the Bulls' pass rush into one of the American conference's best.
Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
• Former school: Houston
• The buzz: After announcing his intent to leave Houston in May, Sims reportedly considered entering the NFL's supplemental draft. Instead, he opted to transfer to West Virginia, where he will be eligible to play right away thanks to the NCAA's graduate transfer clause. The Mountaineers return junior tailback Andrew Buie, who led the team with 851 rushing yards last season, but there are plenty of touches to go around in coach Dana Holgorsen's no-huddle attack. Sims' versatility -- he caught 158 passes for 1,707 yards and eight touchdowns in three years at Houston -- makes him a perfect fit. The transition should be close to seamless; Sims joins an offense similar to the one he previously played in at Houston under Kevin Sumlin and Kliff Kingsbury in 2009 and '11.
Max Garcia and Tyler Moore, OT, Florida
• Former schools: Maryland (Garcia) and Nebraska (Moore)
• The buzz: With Florida still searching for playmakers at receiver, establishing a reliable rushing attack early in the season is critical. Sophomores Mark Herndon and Matt Jones (who is expected to miss Florida's opener at Toledo, but should play most of the season) and redshirt junior Mack Brown should form an effective backfield trio, but the Gators need to shore up the offensive line. That's where Garcia and Long, two former starters capable of playing multiple positions, come in. Florida made visible improvements up front in 2012, and adding Garcia and Long to a unit that features Jonotthan Harrison, D.J. Humphries and Jon Halapio (also ruled out for the Toledo game, but who could return for the Gators' SEC opener against Tennessee on Sept. 21) should only bolster quarterback Jeff Driskel's protection. Garcia and Moore will have plenty of time to jell with their new line mates before facing SEC East foe South Carolina -- and pass-rushing beast Jadeveon Clowney -- on Nov. 16.
Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State
• Former school: Iowa Western Community College
• The buzz: Bill Snyder has had success with juco transfers in the past, and he's hoping that trend continues this season. He named Waters, the top-ranked juco quarterback out of Iowa Western, as the Wildcats' starter entering Week 1 against North Dakota State. Kansas State returns most of its offensive skill players, including senior All Big-12 running back John Hubert and junior receiver Tyler Lockett, who should help offset the lost of Heisman finalist Collin Klein. Replacing Klein's won't be easy, but given the wealth of talent surrounding Waters -- who led Iowa Western to an undefeated record last fall -- the Wildcats should be able to field one of the better offenses in the conference.
Jake Heaps, QB, Kansas
• Former school: BYU
• The buzz: After throwing for 2,316 yards and 15 touchdowns as a freshman at BYU, Heaps lost the starting job as a sophomore, as Riley Nelson took over after five games and went on to lead the Cougars to an impressive 9-3 finish. Once the top-ranked pro-style quarterback in the class of 2010, Heaps was recruited by Charlie Weis (then at Notre Dame) before choosing BYU. Now he's reconnected with Weis at Kansas, and he has quickly ascended to the top of the depth chart and was recently named team captain. The Jayhawks figure to struggle in the Big 12 this season, but Heaps, Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay and senior tailback James Sims should help Kansas try and keep pace with the league's crop of high-scoring offenses.
Brandon Williams and Tra Carson, RB, Texas A&M
• Former schools: Oklahoma (Williams) and Oregon (Carson)
• The buzz: No matter how the NCAA's investigation into allegations that reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel was paid for autographs turns out (or whether Texas A&M keeps him off the field to preempt an unfavorable eligibility ruling), the Aggies should field one of the SEC's top offenses in 2013. Offensive tackles Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi will anchor a deep and talented line. Receivers Mike Evans and Ricky Seals-Jones will stretch opposing defenses. And backs Williams and Carson will join starter Ben Malena and Trey Williams to give the Aggies an explosive rushing attack. Williams, a five-star recruit in the class of 2011, is expected to have the bigger impact. Carson, a 227-pound power back, should be used in short-yardage situations.
Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh
• Former school: Arizona
• The buzz: It's been a long and winding road for Savage. The senior last played for Rutgers in 2010, before he transferred to Arizona and ultimately decided to leave once spread aficionado Rich Rodriguez was hired as the Wildcats' head coach. Savage didn't meet Rodriguez's preferred dual-threat quarterback mold, but his conventional pocket-passing style should fit well in former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst's system at Pitt. The Panthers boast one of the better defenses in the ACC Coastal division, but even with the strong-armed Savage starting under center, their offense needs to find playmakers if they hope to challenge the likes of Miami, Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
Gerald Christian, WR, Louisville
• Former school: Florida
• The buzz: Watching last season's Sugar Bowl must have been a gratifying experience for Christian. The West Palm Beach native and former consensus top-100 recruit signed with Florida out of Dwyer (Fla.) High in 2010, but he never caught on with the Gators' run-heavy offense. He recorded just four catches for 72 yards and one touchdown over two seasons. Christian transferred to Louisville last fall, but he was forced to sit out due to the NCAA's transfer rule. Now, after watching quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and company carve up Florida to the tune of 33 points and 336 total yards in a 33-23 win in January, he'll join the Cardinals' dynamic attack. He should provide a dangerous intermediate receiving complement to deep threat DeVante Parker.
Michael Dyer, RB, Louisville
• Former school: Arkansas Baptist College
• The buzz: From BCS title game MVP to the relative obscurity of Arkansas Baptist College, Dyer has taken one of the rockiest career arcs in recent college football memory. Yet the former Auburn standout is back on his feet, ready to put his past behind him and motivated to help Louisville make good on its preseason top-10 ranking. Louisville coach Charlie Strong may be taking a risk by bringing in Dyer, but the move has plenty of upside. If the junior can stay out of trouble and regain some of the potential he flashed on while starring at Auburn, Louisville will have added another potent weapon to an already loaded offense.
Other transfers to watch: Tyler Ferguson, Penn State; Clint Trickett, West Virginia; Drew Allen, Syracuse; Brandon Mitchell, NC State; Pete Thomas, NC State; Marcus Hardison, Arizona State; Aaron Green, TCU; Jonathan Rumph, Georgia; Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn; Leff Luc, Cincinnati; Cortez Johnson, Oklahoma; Jameill Showers, UTEP; David Gilbert, Miami; Deon Long, Maryland