Wilner Hotline – Pac-12 football: Our final, inalterable, indisputable transfer portal rankings

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)

More than 2,600 players entered the transfer portal in the 2021-22 recruiting cycle. Many remain there, in limbo and lacking satisfactory scholarship offers.

But we have enough clarity — more than enough, actually — to proffer a final assessment of the Pac-12 transfer classes.

The most comprehensive and respected national website tracking portal movements, 247Sports, is merely lukewarm on the conference’s overall success.

USC’s class is rated No. 1 in the country, with UCLA slotted eighth. But the likes of TCU, Louisville, UCF and SMU are rated higher than the third-best class in the Pac-12 (Arizona State).

The Hotline is less interested in where Pac-12 teams rank nationally than how they compare to each other.

Which coaches gained more than they lost?

Which teams improved their quarterback depth?

Which transfers will make the greatest impact?

After a deep dive into the comings and goings, we settled on the following pecking order …

1. USC: According to the 247Sports database, 26 players have left the USC program since late November. How many qualify as significant losses? Only a handful. Meanwhile, the number of impact newcomers is well into double digits. For all the attention paid to quarterback Caleb Williams (Oklahoma) and his playmakers, the defensive additions, including linebackers Shane Lee (Alabama) and Eric Gentry (Arizona State), will be vital.

2. Oregon: Despite the loss of tailback Travis Dye (to USC) and others, the Ducks finished in net positive territory thanks to the arrival of presumptive starters at three key positions: defensive lineman Sam Taimani (Washington), cornerback Christian Gonzalez (Colorado) and quarterback Bo Nix (Auburn). Don’t be surprised if Gonzalez emerges as the best cover corner in the Pac-12 — even better than Utah’s Clark Phillips III.

3. Arizona: Another situation in which the quantity of departures far exceeds the quality of departures. Meanwhile, a subset of newcomers seemingly will have a major impact on Arizona’s trajectory. That list starts with quarterback Jayden de Laura (Washington State) and includes receiver Jacob Cowing (UTEP), who had 69 receptions last season. That tandem alone is worth two or three victories.

4. Cal: Generally, we believe any team that finds its starting quarterback in the portal is victorious on a net basis (unless it experiences carnage elsewhere). The Bears lost several rotation players, including receiver Nikko Remigio, but picked up quarterback Jack Plummer (Purdue), who should start Week One. Add linebacker Jackson Sirmon (Washington) and edge rusher Odua Isibor (UCLA), and Cal emerges as a clear winner.

5. Washington State: As with the teams listed above, the Cougars found their starting quarterback, Cameron Ward (Incarnate Word), in the portal. That said, we should note they also lost their starter (de Laura) to the portal. (The exchange was a win for both WSU and Arizona, in our view.) Not to be overlooked: The Cougars collected an impact receiver in Zeriah Beason (Oregon State).

6. Washington: We have entered the muddled middle of our portal rankings. The Huskies probably found their starting quarterback, Michael Penix (Indiana), but they suffered significant attrition, as well. Ultimately, the ledger could show a victory if Penix stays healthy and plays well — and if the likes of linebacker Cam Bright (Pitt) and tailbacks Wayne Taulapapa (Virginia) and Aaron Dumas (New Mexico) are impact players.

7. Utah: The 247Sports database shows 13 Utes have departed since late November and only five players have arrived. We aren’t sure any of the former were difference-makers, but at least two of the latter should be: linebackers Gabe Reid (Stanford) and Mohamoud Diabate (Florida). When quarterbacks aren’t involved (incoming or outbound), transfer classes take on an entirely different look.

8. UCLA: It only seems like the Bruins lost their entire defense to the portal — a few of the 2021 starters instead left for the NFL. All in all, UCLA did well to offset the personnel hits up front, including a two-for-one deal with edge rushers Gabriel and Grayson Murphy (North Texas), but we wonder about the state of the back seven. The attrition wasn’t nearly as severe on offense. And obviously, UCLA had no need for immediate quarterback help.

9. Oregon State: A program that was making optimal use of transfers before the portal even existed was notably quiet during this cycle. Yes, the Beavers lost a few rotation players, including receivers Champ Flemings and the aforementioned Beason, and they might have gained an important piece in tailback Jamious Griffin (Georgia Tech). But OSU, which had few scholarships available to dangle, almost warrants its own category given the lack of activity.

10. Stanford: This exercise is inherently unfair to Stanford, which has extremely limited options with regard to transfers (graduate or undergraduate) because of the admissions bar. In this cycle, the Cardinal gained one player, safety Patrick Fields (Oklahoma), and lost nine, including tailbacks Nathaniel Peat and Austin Jones. Of course, that existence makes Stanford’s evaluation and development of high school recruits more critical.

11. Arizona State: We gave serious consideration to flipping ASU with Colorado for this spot but eventually settled on the Sun Devils, who lost loads of talent but gained more than CU with the arrival of quarterback Emory Jones (Florida), defensive lineman Nesta Jade Silvera (Miami), offensive lineman Chris Martinez (San Diego State) and a few others. Not that the net results were good for ASU, but it could have been worse.

12. Colorado: All you need to know about CU’s situation is that a sound case can be made for the net losses being worse than ASU’s. Two of many departed players top our list: receiver Brenden Rice (to USC) and cornerback Christian Gonzalez (to Oregon). The Buffaloes need incoming receiver RJ Sneed (Baylor) to play well — really well — in order to pull their transfer class out of the basement.

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