The NCAA transfer portal is more important than ever in college football, which doesn't mean a whole lot considering it hasn't been around very long. Still, you know how prevalent it is since coaches are complaining about it louder than before, and there is a strong correlation between the volume of complaints and how often the portal is being utilized by said complainers.
The more they use something, the more they hate it. So they'll be complaining about other schools tampering with their players while one of their assistants is, at that very moment, likely sliding into the DMs of a player on another team.
They do it out of necessity. In this day and age of ridiculous salaries, expectations are even more unrealistic and patience is at an all-time low. The transfer portal may not contain players with higher ceilings than the 17-year-old high schooler you've been texting relentlessly, but the floor is high and you know the player can step in and fill the hole on your roster much quicker.
We will hear more complaints about the portal as the years go on, yet every year we'll see more coaches diving into the portal for key pieces that can yield immediate dividends. The Big Ten is no different, and these transfers should have the most significant impacts in 2023 for their new teams.
There isn't a team in the Big Ten serving as a better example of how the transfer portal is changing the sport than Iowa. Last year, the Hawkeyes had one incoming transfer -- a blocking tight end. This year, the Hawkeyes are overhauling their entire offense through the portal. While players like tight end Erick All and receiver Kaleb Brown will shine, it's All's former teammate at Michigan that will have the biggest impact.
Cade McNamara helped lead Michigan to a Big Ten title and College Football Playoff berth in 2021. He lost his job to J.J. McCarthy last year, but he hopes to recapture the magic and have a similar impact in the Big Ten West. McNamara is a former four-star recruit who has played in 21 games and thrown for 3,181 yards in his career. He may not have NFL "juice," but he's the most proven and talented QB Iowa has had since C.J. Beathard.
Michigan EDGE Josaiah Stewart
The Wolverines are coming off another Big Ten title and playoff berth, and have been a bit more proactive in the portal this offseason. Former Coastal Carolina EDGE rusher Josaiah Stewart is a name Big Ten offensive coordinators will want to familiarize themselves with as Michigan is hoping he can become its latest pass-rush specialist. Michigan lost all its most productive pass rushers from last year's team, and Stewart brings experience and production. In 25 games with the Chanticleers, Steward had 16 sacks, 25.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles.
Michigan LB Ernest Hausmann
Stewart isn't the only impact defender the Wolverines plucked from the portal as they stayed in the Big Ten to land Ernest Hausmann from Nebraska. Hausmann fills a need at the position for Michigan. He played in 12 games as a freshman for Nebraska last season, finishing with 54 tackles, including two for a loss and a sack. The Wolverines are hopeful he can help fill the shoes of Michael Barrett. Also, while he's not included in this list, we shouldn't look past another Michigan transfer in offensive lineman Ladarius Henderson. Henderson comes with plenty of starting experience from his time at Arizona State and is looking to improve his draft stock with the Wolverines.
If you're a fan of MACtion, you're already familiar with Dante Cephas. If you're not, you'll learn quickly. Cephas was the star of a Kent State offense that moved quickly and put up points even faster. In 28 games with the Golden Flashes, Cephas caught 145 passes for 2,139 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Nittany Lions need to replace the production of Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley, and Cephus and KeAndre Lambert-Smith should prove to be popular targets of new starting QB Drew Allar.
If you were to ask me to rank the Big Ten's incoming transfer QBs, there's a good chance I'd rank Tanner Mordecai behind every one of them. That said, none will have the impact of Mordecai because of what his transfer represents. Wisconsin is transitioning from the 3 yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense it's utilized for years into an Air Raid (the Dairy Raid) offense. Mordecai is a crucial part of that because he has plenty of experience in similar schemes.
Mordecai has appeared in 36 games between stops at Oklahoma and SMU, throwing for 7,791 yards and 76 touchdowns. While he probably won't be throwing the ball as often in Madison, Wisconsin, as he did at SMU -- Braelon Allen does still exist -- Mordecai will play a key role in helping the Wisconsin offense learn some new tools of the trade.
Top transfers for remaining Big Ten teams
Illinois QB Luke Altmyer: Illinois had a great season behind an incredible defense last year, but the Illini could've accomplished even more if they had a more explosive and consistent offense. While last year's transfer QB, Tommy DeVito, was an improvement on what the team had, Illinois is hoping the Ole Miss transfer Altmyer can add a stronger vertical element to the passing attack in 2023.
Indiana DL Andre Carter: I nearly included Carter in the top five; that's how much I like him. Carter was a game-wrecker at Western Michigan. He has 134 tackles in his career, including 12.5 sacks, 28 TFL, five forced fumbles and an interception to boot. He's something the Hoosiers defense sorely lacked last year and needs to give itself a chance in a difficult division.
Maryland WR Tyrese Chambers: I don't want to overlook the addition of fellow receiver Kaden Prather, but while the West Virginia product has more name recognition, I believe Chambers will have the more significant impact. Chambers isn't a deep threat, but his consistency and reliability on shorter routes could provide the Terps offense with a reliable release valve.
Michigan State DL Tunmise Adeleye: Adelaye was a top-100 player in the 2021 class who committed to Texas A&M. After redshirting in 2021, he started the first two games of the 2022 season before going down with an injury. How he's looking for a fresh start in East Lansing, Michigan, and has the talent to be an All-Big Ten-type player for the Spartans.
Minnesota WR Elijah Spencer: Minnesota is Minnesota, so Western Michigan transfer running back Sean Tyler will play an important role in the Gophers offense. However, the thing this team has lacked on offense in recent seasons is an impact receiver, and that's where Spencer comes in. The tall, lanky receiver caught 57 passes for 943 yards and nine touchdowns for Charlotte last year, and Minnesota wants him to be a vertical threat for their passing attack.
Nebraska QB Jeff Sims: Matt Rhule's been active in the portal in his first season at Nebraska, but none of the newcomers will be as important as the likely starting QB. Sims has plenty of room to grow as a passer but is the kind of player who can make things happen with his arm or his legs. He's hoping a change of scenery can help him tap into the talent that saw him throw for 3,300 yards and 25 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Yellow Jackets.
Northwestern WR AJ Henning: Henning returns closer to home after beginning his career at Michigan as a four-star prospect. While Henning had a big impact with the Wolverines on special teams, he struggled to become an integral part of the offense, catching only 25 passes in three seasons. He could double that reception total with Northwestern as he joins a team without a clearcut top option at the receiver position. His ability with the ball in his hands is something the Northwestern offense needs.
Ohio State CB Davison Igbinosun: It isn't difficult to figure out what area of the defense Ohio State felt compelled to strengthen this offseason considering Igbinosun and safety Ja'Had Carter are two of the biggest names they landed in their transfer class. Carter is the more experienced player, and was productive at Syracuse, but I'm giving Igbinosun the slightest of edges for impact in 2023 due to his ceiling. The four-star recruit in the 2022 class appeared in 13 games for Ole Miss last year, finishing with 37 tackles and five passes defended.
Purdue QB Hudson Card: Card is the most talented addition at the QB position in the Big Ten this year. However, I didn't include him in the top five because Purdue has had plenty of production at the QB position in recent years. Card will be the latest, and Purdue will need him to be if it wants to repeat as Big Ten West champion. Card has been very impressive the last two years as a backup with Texas. He's athletic, accurate and takes care of the football. You don't find a lot of QBs like that at this level!
Rutgers WR Naseim Brantley: Rutgers added a lot of transfers on the defensive side of the ball as it looks to add depth and improve on that side, but I don't know if any of those additions are capable of having Brantley's sort of impact. Brantley transferred to Rutgers from Western Illinois, where he had 53 receptions for 893 yards and nine touchdowns. He could quickly become the top option in Rutgers' passing attack in 2023.