One of the largest beneficiaries of the rise of the transfer portal has been Group of Five athletes who found new opportunities at Power Five programs. In the 2023 NFL Draft alone, three players who did just that were drafted in the second round: DT Keion White, WR Jayden Reed, and G O’Cyrus Torrence.
With an abundance of talent across the nation, plenty of under-looked athletes should be immediate game-changers when they take the field at their new universities.
Top 10 Group of Five to Power Five Transfers
This ranking includes the top players who transferred from a Group of Five program into a Power Five program this offseason. Players from FCS or DII universities were not considered for this list. The criteria involved in the organization include an athlete’s impact at their previous university, the potential for impact in their upcoming season, and skill sets that translate toward future success.
1) Zakhari Franklin, Ole Miss
Besides Arizona State’s Jacob Cowing, Zakhari Franklin leads all active FBS wide receivers in career receiving yards with 3,348 yards; however, his best season might be yet to come.
Franklin is transferring from UTSA, where he had a 1,136-yard, 15-touchdown season. He helped lead the Roadrunners to a Conference USA title and earned his second consecutive All-Conference USA nod. At UTSA, Franklin showed off an all-around skill set and ranks as the top WR in the SEC in our preseason SEC Rankings.
With one more year of eligibility, he will finish his college career at Ole Miss. Lane Kiffin’s offense takes advantage of defenses by spreading opponents out and utilizing dynamism and skill. By having a threat in the backfield like sophomore running back Quinshon Judkins, Franklin will be given plenty of favorable opportunities in 2023.
He could follow in the footsteps of other Kiffin-led Rebel receivers like Elijah Moore, Jonathan Mingo, and Dontario Drummond.
2) Carson Steele, UCLA
After being the MAC’s leading rusher in 2022, Ball State’s Carson Steele is leaving behind his home state of Indiana, and his pet alligator Crocky-J, to potentially take the lead-back role at UCLA. Steele ran for 1,556 yards and 14 touchdowns on a yards-per-carry average of 5.4. His 2022 total is the second-highest mark in the nation among returners, trailing only Judkins.
His long, blond hair isn’t the only thing that makes him a fit at UCLA. Steele will slot right into the hole left by Zach Charbonnet as a hard-nosed runner with excellent contact balance and an aggressive running style. He’ll make defenders miss or run right over them in the hole or in the open field.
3) Devontez Walker, North Carolina
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye will miss Josh Downs and Antoine Green in 2023, but he’ll miss them a little less when he plays with Tez Walker. As a redshirt sophomore at Kent State, the North Carolina native caught 58 passes for 921 yards and 11 touchdowns. This production earned Walker All-MAC First Team honors.
UNC head coach Mack Brown said Walker was like a 6’3″ Dyami Brown and would help the Tar Heels continue to unleash the deep ball. Walker’s got the speed and height needed to compete on the outside as a Power 5 receiver.
He proved it against his toughest competition; against Georgia and Washington, Walker tallied 11 catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
4) Dante Cephas, Penn State
Despite their 5-7 finish, the Golden Flashes had two standout receivers on their roster. Like Walker, though, Dante Cephas also saw his way out of Kent State. He is staying in the Midwest, joining the Penn State Nittany Lions. Cephas will bring a legitimate WR1 skill set to University Park.
Cephas played just nine games in 2022 but still totaled 744 yards and three scores. However, as a redshirt sophomore in 2021, the Pennsylvania native had 82 catches for 1,240 yards and nine touchdowns. Cephas plays bigger than his 6’0″ listing and adjusts well to catch difficult deep balls.
He’s not just a threat on the outside but in the middle of the field. Cephas is a natural with the ball in his hand and can use his sticky hands to catch passes through traffic. With Drew Allar throwing the ball and Nick Singleton in the backfield, Cephas can find favorable opportunities in the passing game.
5) Ali Jennings III, Virginia Tech
Between Walker and Ali Jennings III, the ACC will receive an influx of talent at receiver. Jennings started his career in the Power Five and as a member of the West Virginia Mountaineers. Two seasons and 26 catches later, Jennings transferred to Old Dominion in 2021, where he had 2,025 yards and 14 touchdowns in two years.
Jennings, who is 6’2″, is most dangerous when working along the sidelines. Jennings’ is a true deep threat and wins with a combination of skills along his routes and at the catch point.
Virginia Tech had one of the worst passing attacks in the ACC in 2022 and Jennings – and the rest of their assortment of transfer wideouts – will look to help turn that around in 2023.
6) Braden Fiske, Florida State
Formerly an offensive lineman in high school, Braden Fiske has made a name for himself on the defensive interior. At Western Michigan, Fiske was dominant against the run and plays with a ton of energy.
That’s not to say he isn’t also a talented pass rusher. As a redshirt junior, Fiske recorded six sacks, 59 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles. This production led him to earn the first All-MAC nod of his career.
By having the capability of playing multiple spots on the defensive line, Fiske also brings versatility to Tallahassee. With the Seminoles, Fiske adds even more ammunition to arguably the best defense in the ACC. Paired alongside Jared Verse on the defensive front, Fiske should help create plenty of opportunities defensively.
7) Matt Lee, Miami
Staying in Florida, All-AAC Second Team center Matt Lee is transferring from UCF to Miami. The Hurricanes struggled in 2022 on the offensive line and they hit the transfer portal hard this offseason to address those issues.
Lee has long since been a top interior offensive lineman, proving himself in both facets for UCF over the years. Miami had a middling offensive attack in 2022, and Lee can help bolster the line. Lee started 39 games for the Knights and played on some of the most potent offenses in the FBS.
8) Jeremiah Byers, Florida State
Joining Fiske at Florida State is Jeremiah Byers, a 2022 All-Conference USA First Team member. Coming out of high school in Texas, Byers was a two-star defensive tackle, according to 247Sports Composite. At UTEP, however, they moved him to the offensive tackle, starting 30 games over four seasons there, making his name known nationally.
Byers, who is 6’4″ and 325 pounds, is still developing as a true stalwart at right tackle, but his skills are evident. He’ll provide security on Jordan Travis’ right side and help bolster the Seminoles offensive line.
9) Andre Carter, Indiana
Alongside Fiske, Andre Carter helped man a defense at Western Michigan that gave opposing offenses fits in 2022. As a redshirt senior in 2022, Carter was among the nation’s most productive edge defenders, accumulating 13.5 sacks, 70 tackles, 13 TFLs, and two forced fumbles.
The All-MAC Second Team honoree is transferring to Indiana as the Hoosiers had one of the worst pass rushes in the country a season ago. Their 20 sacks were the third-fewest amount in the Big Ten. Carter will help big time on a team typically known for their defensive prowess.
10) Caden Prieskorn, Ole Miss
Coming out of high school at Lake Orion, Mich., Caden Prieskorn didn’t even receive a “star” on his recruiting pages as a potential quarterback recruit. He changed positions to tight end at Memphis and after a 602-yard, seven-touchdown season in 2022 with Memphis, he was one of the most sought-after tight ends in the transfer portal.
The former walk-on made a name for himself and transferred to Ole Miss with two years of eligibility.
Prieskorn has a path for production at Ole Miss, similar to his future teammate Franklin, due to the favorability of the system coached by Kiffin. It would be hard to say 2023 could be a breakout year considering he arguably broke out already.
At 6’6″ and with his ability to line up all over the field, he will create mismatches that the Rebels can exploit.
Honorable Mentions for Top G5-to-P5 Transfers
- Tanner Mordecai, QB, Wisconsin
- Aidan Robbins, RB, BYU
- Jamari Thrash, WR, Louisville
- Tez Johnson, WR, Oregon
- Var’Keyes Gumms, TE, Arkansas
- Dillon Wade, OT, Auburn
- Gunner Britton, OT, Auburn
- Emmanuel Pregnon, OG, USC
- Avery Jones, C, Auburn
- Oluwaseyi Omotosho, EDGE, Oregon State
- Evan Williams, DB, Fresno State to Oregon
- Jordan Anderson, DB, UCLA
- Patrick McMorris, S, California