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Forde-Yard Dash: Who’s Already Reaping the Benefits of Transfers?

Whether it was Zach Charbonnet at UCLA or a pair of former Oklahoma quarterbacks, several teams already have new faces making a large impact.

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where “Sissy Blue” looked good on UCLA, Mississippi and Tulane (not quite so good on North Carolina):

MORE DASH: Milton's Triumph | Big 12 Expansion | Rivals?


It’s early. The sample size is small. But instantly eligible transfers were instantly impactful in Week 1. The Dash identifies where the biggest splashes were made by the new guys on campus:

UCLA (21). The Bruins brought in running back Zach Charbonnet from Michigan, and he’s become their big-play threat out of the backfield. He leads the nation in number of plays from scrimmage of 10 yards or longer (11), and 20 yards or longer (six). He’s had consecutive games averaging more than 10 yards a carry while sharing the position with 2020 transfer Brittain Brown (from Duke). The Bruins also have gotten contributions from former Alabama linebacker Ale Kaho, who blocked a punt and recorded a sack against Hawaii.

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet runs the ball against LSU

Alabama’s latest burner is wide receiver Jameson Williams (22), who arrived from Ohio State. Williams had a career-high 126 receiving yards on four catches against Miami, ripping the top off the Hurricanes’ defense with a 94-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. Oh, and Tennessee fans just might have noticed that linebacker Henry To’o To’o made an immediate impact for the Crimson Tide, racking up seven tackles.

Kentucky (23) outsourced its offensive makeover to the portal, with quarterback Will Levis (Penn State), receiver Wan’Dale Robinson (Nebraska) and tackle Dare Rosenthal (LSU) all making immediate impacts in Liam Coen’s new attack. Levis threw for 367 yards and four touchdowns, with 125 of those yards and half the TDs going to Robinson. Kentucky gave up four sacks to Louisiana-Monroe, but Rosenthal, the 6​​' 7", 327-pound left tackle, “did some good things, and there’s a lot to build on from there,” coach Mark Stoops said Monday. “Again, we’re looking for the consistency, the consistency and effort and physicality. He showed that in the first game and we want to continue to see that.”

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Michigan State (24) suddenly has the nation’s leading rusher in Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker III, who trampled Northwestern for 264 yards and four touchdowns. The first play of his Spartans career was a 75-yard TD run, and Walker had a 50-yard run in the fourth quarter to help Michigan State put the game away. (Northwestern fans are forgiven if they experienced Trey Sermon flashbacks watching Walker tear through their defense.) The Spartans went heavy on the transfer portal in Mel Tucker’s second year on the job. Among the others who stood out in the opener: Tennessee linebacker transfer Quavaris Crouch racked up seven tackles, including a sack; Alabama transfer Ronald Williams Jr. recorded five tackles and a sack.

Notre Dame (25) put Wisconsin transfer quarterback Jack Coan to immediate and productive use. He threw for 366 yards in that dramatic win over Florida State, establishing a school record for most passing yards in a season opener. That total would have been closer to 400 yards if not for a couple of dropped passes by emerging star tight end Michael Mayer. Contrast Coan’s performance with what the Badgers got from Graham Mertz against Penn State, and Wisconsin fans are drinking to numb the pain on State Street this week.

UCF (26) started two 2021 transfers on offense and three on defense in the victory over Boise State. Isaiah Bowser was the offensive bell cow, with the Northwestern transfer carrying the ball 33 times for 172 yards and catching four passes. Receiver Brandon Johnson, formerly at Tennessee, had five catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, Auburn transfer Big Kat Bryant, Western Kentucky import Ricky Barber and Kennesaw State linebacker Bryson Armstrong combined to make 13 tackles.

Mississippi (27) gave its previously porous defense an upgrade with disruptive linebacker Chance Campbell, previously at Maryland. Campbell was all over the field Monday night against Louisville, recording seven tackles, 1 1/2 of them for losses. He delivered several big hits on Cardinals quarterback Malik Cunningham.

Florida State (28) added Jermaine Johnson II from Georgia and received instant dividends. The defensive end had seven tackles and 1 1/2 sacks against Notre Dame. (It’s indicative of the front-seven talent glut at Georgia right now that the Bulldogs could lose a high-level rush end and still completely destroy Clemson’s offensive line Saturday night.)

Western Kentucky (29) brought in 17 transfers in the offseason. That haul included taking everything but the last speck of Who Hash from Houston Baptist, bringing in four transfers and the offensive coordinator from that FCS school alone. Most prominent: the pass-and-catch combination of quarterback Bailey Zappe and receiver Jerreth Sterns, who hooked up seven times for 107 yards and two touchdowns in a rout of Tennessee Martin. Zappe had seven TDs in that game, and his 424 passing yards leads the nation.

And then there are the former Oklahoma (30) quarterbacks putting up numbers outside the Power 5: Tanner Mordecai at SMU and Austin Kendall at Louisiana Tech. Mordecai, who backed up Spencer Rattler last year, threw seven touchdowns in an opening rout of Abilene Christian. Kendall, who went to West Virginia between Oklahoma and SMU, threw for 269 yards in leading Tech to a near-upset of Mississippi State. 

MORE DASH: Milton's Triumph | Big 12 Expansion | Rivals?

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