College football transfer portal – Chain reaction for each defensive position

NCAAF

College football’s transfer portal received a lot of attention from coaches building and adding to their rosters this offseason.

It’s not the transfer market of old with players who might not make an immediate impact or any impact at all. Nowadays, more high-end athletes are entering the portal, some of whom are expected to play right away for their new teams.

With so much movement from roster to roster, we took a look at some of the more important offensive transfers and how their decisions impacted the school they left and the school they joined.

Last week, we broke down the key transfers for each offensive position. Now, we analyze the chain reaction that some key defensive players created through the portal, from defensive line to the secondary.

DE: Arnold Ebiketie
Temple to Penn State

How it impacts Penn State: The Nittany Lions lost edge defenders Odafe Oweh and Shaka Toney to the NFL. Both players combined for 69 total tackles and 14 tackles for loss. That was second and third on the team in tackles for loss and is going to be difficult to replace.

Ebiketie will absolutely help in that category though, as he had 42 tackles, 4 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss last season for Temple. He was an All-AAC defender and should be able to contribute right away for Penn State.

The 6-foot-3, 253-pound Ebiketie helps fill a huge hole along the defensive line and will be disruptive in the Penn State defense.

How it impacts Temple: Losing that type of production is difficult for any team to recover from, but a team such as Temple in the AAC conference is not recruiting players with Ebiketie’s ability every class.

The team does still have defensive end Manny Walker, who took advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA and ranked second on the team last season in tackles for loss with seven.

Linebackers George Reid and William Kwenkeu, who were third and fourth in tackles for loss, are also back this season. Outside of Walker, there is only one other senior at defensive end, so Temple is going to need a younger player to step up to help fill Ebiketie’s role.

DT: Jay Toia
USC to UCLA

How it impacts UCLA: The Bruins made a really good push in the 2021 recruiting cycle for defensive linemen. The staff flipped ESPN 300 defensive end Quintin Somerville from Michigan, and also signed ESPN 300 defensive tackle Tiaoalii Savea out of Nevada.

Somerville was the No. 108 recruit and Savea was ranked 126th overall. They were joined in the class by three-star defensive end Hayden Nelson as well. That was coming after a very good linebacker haul in the 2020 class when the coaches signed Damian Sellers, ranked No. 115, and Mitchell Agude and Caleb Johnson, both ranked in the ESPN JC 50.

Adding in Toia, who was the No. 178 prospect overall in the 2021 class, UCLA has a good stock of young defensive linemen and linebackers for the future defense. It also doesn’t hurt that the staff is keeping a talented defensive tackle away from conference opponent in USC.

How it impacts USC: Toia committed to USC in the 2021 class, but eventually said he felt rushed in his decision because of the COVID-19 restrictions in recruiting and decided to transfer.

He was supposed to offset the loss of Marlon Tuipulotu, who was drafted to the NFL, and Brandon Pili, who tore his Achilles in the spring. The Trojans did not sign any ESPN 300 defensive tackles in the 2020 class, and Toia was the only one in the 2021 class.

The staff brought in transfer Ishmael Sopsher, but he missed the spring because of surgery. Toia’s loss highlights the lack of USC’s depth at the position.

LB: Henry To’o To’o
Tennessee to Alabama

How it impacts Alabama: Nick Saban and his staff recruited To’o To’o out of high school, but he signed with the Vols. Saban was able to add him to his defense this time around and the 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker could be a big playmaker as early as this season.

Joining an already great linebacking corps with Christian Harris, Christopher Allen, Will Anderson Jr. and Jaylen Moody, To’o To’o doesn’t need to be the star right away for this defense to have success.

If he is able to play the way he played at Tennessee though, he could elevate the Crimson Tide defense even higher than it was prior to his arrival. Saban has already said To’o To’o can be a quarterback of the defense, and there’s no reason to think he won’t shine on the field this season.

How it impacts Tennessee: To’o To’o was one of many key players to leave Tennessee this offseason, along with running back Eric Gray, offensive tackle Wanya Morris, linebackers J.J. Peterson and Quavaris Crouch and safety Key Lawrence.

To’o To’o alone would be a huge blow to the Vols’ defense, but losing that many talented defenders, especially at one position, is tough to recover from immediately.

To’o To’o was one of the top prospects in the 2019 class, ranked No. 47 overall. He finished second on the team his freshman year with 72 total tackles with five tackles for loss and two pass breakups. With a new coaching staff, losing a quarterback of the defense will be tough to replace, both in terms of presence and production.

CB: Derion Kendrick
Clemson to Georgia

How it impacts Georgia: We will see the impact of Kendrick’s transfer immediately as Clemson and Georgia play each other in the first week of the season.

Georgia’s defense needed some experience in the secondary after losing Eric Stokes, Tyson Campbell, Richard LeCounte III and Mark Webb to the NFL. Adding in someone such as Kendrick, who has College Football Playoff experience, is invaluable.

It’s a huge advantage for Georgia’s coaches to be able to plug a void at corner with a player who has Kendrick’s talent level. Adding him to the roster also takes some pressure off younger defensive backs, like former five-star Kelee Ringo, who has struggled with injuries early in his career.

How it impacts Clemson: Losing an All-ACC cornerback is never easy, but Kendrick was dismissed from the team in the offseason. He was initially recruited as a wide receiver, but switched to corner after his first season on campus.

Despite the loss, Clemson’s defense is going to be just fine. The Tigers’ defensive line and linebacking corps return most of their top producers, and the secondary has Andrew Booth Jr., who is primed for a big season.

Clemson has recruited well in the secondary, landing ESPN 300 defensive backs Nathaniel Wiggins and Andrew Mukuba in 2021, and Fred Davis and R.J. Mickens in 2020.

S: Tykee Smith
West Virginia to Georgia

How it impacts Georgia: The Dawgs added Kendrick at corner and brought in Smith at safety this offseason. The staff lost Tyrique Stevenson and Major Burns at safety, so adding in a big name like Smith was important.

Smith was an Associated Press third-team All-American this last season for West Virginia, when he had 61 tackles, two interceptions and eight tackles for loss for the Mountaineers.

Losing LeCounte, Webb and Stevenson at safety, it was imperative that the staff have another option, and Smith was one of the best additions of any team on defense this offseason.

How it impacts West Virginia: The Mountaineers already had a small taste of what life without Smith would be like in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl this past season against Army. Transfer Scottie Young played in his place and had four total tackles in the game.

There are still some other options for the coaches, including Alonzo Addae, Kerry Martin Jr. and potentially some of the other younger players if the coaches want to move pieces around. Replacing Smith will be difficult given his production, but West Virginia has options in the secondary.