SEC proving to be a preferred destination for transfers

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Dart wound up landing at Mississippi and in the SEC, along with a number of other top players in the transfer portal. In some cases, such as Alabama, the rich got richer. Other teams may have picked up a new starting quarterback, runner, pass rusher or receiver.

“I knew when I was going into the portal, I wanted to go to the SEC,” Dart said earlier this spring. “So those were some of my main schools.

“Because it gets you developed to play in the NFL. I feel like if you can be successful in the SEC, then it’s an easier transition to the NFL.”

First, the SEC swept the top three spots in the recruiting rankings, according to 247Sports. Then, the league that had Georgia and Alabama in the national championship game added to those prospects with a number of transfer portal pickups who could have huge impacts this fall.

Dart was one of 14 transfers for Ole Miss, which had 247Sports’ top portal class. LSU also nabbed 14 additions from other schools to rank third. The website ranked Alabama’s transfer class fifth, South Carolina’s seventh and Arkansas’s ninth.

Dart is among at least seven transfer quarterbacks at six SEC programs, including former Oklahoma starter Spencer Rattler at South Carolina, Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels at LSU and former LSU starter Max Johnson at Texas A&M.

Auburn signed both Zach Calzada (Texas A&M) and Robby Ashford (Oregon) to compete with T.J. Finley, who arrived from LSU last spring.

Ole Miss and LSU appeared to be two of the big winners nationally in the portal lottery, while national champion Georgia may not have needed much additional reinforcements and didn’t sign a transfer.

Other SEC teams weren’t quite so well-stocked across the board.

Lane Kiffin and the Rebels mined the portal for a potential starting backfield, edge rushers and players such as ex-USC tight end and Dart’s close friend Michael Trigg. “He texted me right away and was like, `Hey bro, I’m going where you’re going,”‘ Dart said.

Dart is a former Gatorade National Player of the Year who played in six games as a Trojans freshman after suffering a knee injury in his debut. He and Luke Altmyer are competing to replace potential NFL first-round pick Matt Corral.

Tailbacks Zach Evans (TCU) and Ulysses Bentley (SMU) could be key for a team replacing its top three running backs.

– Alabama landed potential starters at running back (Jahmyr Gibbs, Georgia Tech), cornerback (Eli Ricks LSU), wide receiver (Jermaine Burton, Georgia; Tyler Harrell, Louisville) and on the offensive line (Tyler Steen, Vanderbilt). The Tide hit the jackpot last season with receiver Jameson Williams and linebacker Henry To'oto'o.

– Rattler appears to be the favorite to start at quarterback for South Carolina, but he’s not alone in potential impact transfers. The Gamecocks are also banking on help from Wake Forest leading rusher Christian Beal-Smith, former Sooners tight end Austin Stogner, James Madison record-setting receiver Antwane Wells Jr. and North Carolina State defensive end Terrell Dawkins.

Said Rattler: “I’ve definitely learned the majority of the offense. Still settling into a few things with it being a brand new system, but for me, I’m really comfortable right now. I’m more comfortable under center with the passing game.”

– Arkansas built on the momentum of a 9-4 season with a strong group of transfers. The group includes linebacker Drew Sanders, a former five-star prospect who spent his first two seasons at Alabama and started three games in 2021. Cornerback Dwight McGlothern and edge rusher Landon Jackson came on board from LSU while ex-Oklahoma wide receiver Jadon Haselwood is among those trying to help fill the void left by Treylon Burks.

South Florida transfer Cade Fortin joins the mix at quarterback behind K.J. Jefferson.

On the flip side, the SEC team hit hardest by the portal was Auburn, which had 15 players enter it while the Tigers signed five.

New LSU coach Brian Kelly lost and gained some key players via the portal. Daniels is jockeying for position on the depth chart with Myles Brennan, Garrett Nussmeier and freshman Walker Howard.

The spring game didn’t settle much in that regard.

“We didn’t clear up anything in the quarterback.” Kelly said. “We probably made it even more difficult.”

Miami hiring Michigan’s Gattis as offensive coordinator

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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Miami is hiring Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis to run new coach Mario Cristobal‘s offense with the Hurricanes.

A person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Sunday that Gattis was leaving Michigan after three seasons to join Cristobal’s staff. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of an agreement were still being finalized, and no announcement was imminent from either school.

Gattis confirmed his decision in an interview with The Athletic. “It had to be something special to get me to leave something special, and this was it, man,” he said.

Gattis won the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach this past season. He helped Michigan to a Big Ten championship and its first appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Michigan ranked 22nd in the nation in yards per play at 6.39 and averaged 214 yards rushing per game, 15th best in major college football and No. 1 in the Big Ten.

The news comes just days after Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh announced he was staying with his alma mater after interviewing with the Minnesota Vikings.

Harbaugh will now have to replace both of his coordinators from last year’s 12-2 team. Former defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald left last month to become the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator.

Gattis joined Harbaugh at Michigan in 2019 after stints as an assistant coach at Alabama and Penn State.

At Penn State, he was passing game coordinator and receivers coach. He worked for two seasons at Penn State with Joe Moorhead, who was Cristobal’s offensive coordinator for the last two seasons at Oregon.

Cristobal is reportedly expected to hire veteran assistant Kevin Steele as defensive coordinator. Steele was most recently defensive coordinator at Auburn in 2020.

Cristobal, a former Hurricanes’ offensive lineman, left Oregon after four full seasons as head coach to return home to Miami in December.

Former Oklahoma QB Caleb Williams is transferring to USC

BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK
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LOS ANGELES — Quarterback Caleb Williams is transferring to Southern California, following head coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to the Trojans.

Williams posted his long-awaited announcement on social media Tuesday with a video that included the former five-star recruit in a USC uniform and famous Trojans fan Snoop Dogg rapping.

The 20-year-old Williams started seven games as a freshman last season for Oklahoma, passing for 1,912 yards and 21 touchdowns. After taking the Sooners’ starting job from Spencer Rattler, Williams confirmed his status as one of the most promising quarterbacks in college football under the tutelage of Riley, who has also mentored Heisman Trophy winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.

Williams entered the transfer portal on Jan. 3, five weeks after Riley’s stunning move from Norman to Los Angeles. Williams was immediately linked to USC, but he kept fans waiting until February – although Riley and the Trojans tipped their hand when they weren’t linked to any other quarterbacks in the transfer portal despite the departures of last season’s top two USC passers.

Williams is the biggest name yet to join Riley with the Trojans, who have added elite talent from across college football in the transfer portal to participate in Riley’s rebuilding project at the West Coast’s marquee program. USC went 4-8 last season under Clay Helton and interim coach Donte Williams in its worst season in three decades.

Gifted Oklahoma receiver Mario Williams transferred to USC last month, along with experienced Pac-12 wideouts Brenden Rice (Colorado) and Terrell Bynum (Washington). Prolific Oregon running back Travis Dye also transferred home to his native Southern California last month, joined by veteran Stanford running back Austin Jones.

Cornerback Latrell McCutchin also made the move from Oklahoma to USC along with cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (Colorado), offensive lineman Bobby Haskins (Virginia) and defensive linemen Tyrone Taleni (Kansas State) and Earl Barquet (TCU). USC also added edge rusher Romello Heights (Auburn) and linebacker Shane Lee (Alabama).

Williams is all but certain to be the immediate starter for the Trojans. USC’s top two quarterbacks last season were Kedon Slovis and Jaxson Dart, but both left the school after Riley’s arrival.

Slovis, the Pac-12’s offensive player of the year in 2020, transferred to Pitt. Dart is joining former Trojans coach Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss along with former USC tight end Michael Trigg.

Caleb Williams, who is from Washington, D.C., made a visit to Los Angeles in early January along with Mario Williams, his close friend. The duo took in a Rams game and a Lakers game during their weekend in LA, fueling speculation they had already made their transfer decision.

Oklahoma quickly filled the vacancy left when Caleb Williams decided to transfer by landing transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel from UCF.

Along with his prolific additions in the transfer portal, Riley quickly made progress in shoring up USC’s recruiting, particularly in the talent-rich Los Angeles metroplex. The Trojans quickly received commitments from five-star running back Raleek Brown, five-star cornerback Domani Jackson and cornerback Fabian Ross, among other top talents.