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All-Portal Team: Top defenders available in transfer market

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

Ykili Ross
Ykili Ross (AP Images)

ALL-PORTAL TEAM: Top offensive standouts available in transfer market

With National Signing Day in the rear-view mirror and the new transfer rules in place, several schools and their fan bases are looking to the transfer portal as a potential way to plug holes on their respective roster. With that in mind, we take a look at the defensive side of the ball and provide our “all-portal team” of available talent.


As a recruit: A two-star in the 2015 class, Danna’s lone FBS offer came via Central Michigan and he committed to the school in the summer prior to his senior year.

With the Chippewas: After redshirting his first year on campus, Danna worked his way into the lineup and developed into one of the team’s best players on either side of the ball. In 2018, his 8.5 sacks were more than double any other player on the team and his 14 tackles for loss were also a team high. In his three years with CMU, Danna had 151 total tackles, 27.5 tackles-for-loss, 15 sacks, four fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns. He entered his name into the portal late last month and is expected to graduate in May.

Grad transfer with immediate eligibility?: Yes

Why he can make an impact: “Danna isn’t the biggest or longest defensive end but he plays with great leverage and has a non-stop motor. He was a two-star out of high school with one offer because of that lack of length but it’s hard to determine heart in rankings and he has plenty of it. He could be an instant impact guy for someone.” -- Mike Farrell, National Recruiting Director

As a recruit: Bates committed to Arizona State prior to the start of his senior season and stuck with the Sun Devils despite late pushes from Mississippi State and Texas Tech.

With the Sun Devils: Bates didn’t have an impact in his first three years with Arizona State but blossomed after the arrival of Herm Edwards and his staff prior to last season. Playing primarily as a reserve in 2018, he had 31 total tackles, including six for loss. He announced his plans to transfer earlier this year in an effort to find an opportunity to start.

Grad transfer with immediate eligibility?: Yes

Why he can make an impact: “Bates has good size and was a kid with a high ceiling out of high school. He can stuff the run and rush the passer so someone should be happy to land the versatile lineman.” -- Farrell

As a recruit: Lucas had a long list of offers but committed to Duke following his senior season over Maryland, Nebraska and several others.

With the Blue Devils: Lucas has seen mostly spot duty with the Blue Devils but when given an opportunity he has made the most of it in this three years at the school. In 2018, he had 14 total tackles, but 3.5 were for loss and 2.5 were sacks. For his career, he has 33 total tackles, seven of which were for loss.

Grad transfer with immediate eligibility?: No

Why he can make an impact: “Lucas is a quick defensive end with a good first step who can get after the passer and also has excellent technique. He hasn’t been as productive as expected but there is plenty to work with here.” -- Farrell

As a recruit: Thompson was late to emerge on the recruiting scene and he committed to Baylor on National Signing Day in 2017 over Utah and a number of Group of Five programs.

With the Bears: After seeing minimal playing time as a freshman, Thompson moved to defensive end and evolved into a pass rushing specialist as a sophomore. In 10 games with Baylor in 2018, he had 15 total tackles, five of which were for loss, including four sacks. Thompson also blocked three kicks during the 2018 season. He announced his plan to transfer last month.

Grad transfer with immediate eligibility?: No

Why he can make an impact: “Thompson is a tall and lanky defensive lineman who can make plays with his long arms and is a solid pass rusher. He works at his best lined up outside the tackle and could be a pass rushing specialist for someone.” -- Farrell


As a recruit: Abercrumbia surprised many when he committed to Rice in the summer prior to his senior season, choosing the Owls over Stanford, Texas Tech, TCU and several other Power Five options.

With the Owls: Abercrumbia played mainly as a reserve during his first few seasons with the Owls and his sophomore year was cut short due to an injury, allowing him to appear in only four games. But his career blossomed after that as he 37 tackles and two sacks as a junior, followed by 55 total tackles as a senior. A team captain for the Owls in 2018, Abercrumbia was granted an extra year of eligibility and entered the portal last month.

Grad transfer with immediate eligibility?: Yes

Why he can make an impact: “Abercrumbia is a veteran who can provide leadership for a team and is good against the run. He’s an active tackler who strings things out well and picks the right gap. Someone will want him as a potential captain of their defense.” -- Farrell


As a recruit: Phillips collected his share of national offers, but kept a relatively low profile, committing to UCLA over Stanford, USC, Notre Dame and Washington during the spring of his junior year. Despite the best efforts of other programs to get him to revisit his options, Phillips never wavered on his pledge to the Bruins.

With the Bruins: Phillips made an immediate impact with the Bruins as a true freshman in 2017, recording 21 total tackles, including seven for loss, in his first six games. But an injury cut his freshman season short, and the same would happen again in 2018, as Phillips played in only four games and finished with 20 total tackles. UCLA announced he had taken a medical retirement during the fall, but Phillips is now looking for another school to resume the rest of his career.

Grad transfer with immediate eligibility?: No

Why he can make an impact: “Phillips has one of the highest ceilings of any player I’ve scouted over the years as he’s simply a freak athlete. If he can stay healthy, he will be a home run for someone as a player who can stand up or play with his hand in the dirt.” -- Farrell

As a recruit: Maeva committed to Boise State over San Diego State, Fresno State and others during the summer prior to his senior year.

With the Broncos: Maeva was a very productive player during his time at Boise State, working his way into the rotation and starting 25 of 26 games over his sophomore and junior seasons. After being sent home from the team’s bowl game in December, Maeva was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules in January. He finished his Broncos career with 166 total tackles and five sacks.

Grad transfer with immediate eligibility?: No

Why he can make an impact: "Maevea is a sawed off linebacker who is a solid tackler and takes on blockers well. He can also cover a lot of ground with his speed and instincts. He will be a tackling machine for someone.” -- Farrell


As a recruit: Sewell committed to Nevada over Colorado following his senior season.

With the Wolf Pack: After redshirting his first year on campus, Sewell quickly became a star at Nevada, recording 78 tackles in 2016, 59 in 2017 and 91 along with three sacks in 2018. After the transfer of his younger brother Nephi out of the program in December, Sewell followed suit by entering his name into the portal earlier this month.

Grad transfer with immediate eligibility?: Yes

Why he can make an impact: “Sewell isn’t the tallest or fastest linebacker but he has really good instincts and reads the play well. His anticipation will help some team out.” -- Farrell

As a recruit: A national-level recruit, Betiku committed to USC over Notre Dame and Florida State just after Christmas in 2015.

As a Trojan: A relative newcomer to the game of football, Betiku played primarily as a reserve in 2016 and 2017, notching two total tackles over his first two seasons. USC fans had hoped he would make a leap forward in 2018, but he missed the entire year after having hip surgery. Rather than return to USC, Betiku elected to enter the portal and find a new home for his final two years of eligibility.

Grad transfer with immediate eligibility?: Yes

Why he can make an impact: “Betiku is a freak athlete who is still learning the game. You can’t teach his natural athleticism and once he learns the technique and nuances of the game he can be a vicious pass rusher for someone who can also work in space.” -- Farrell


As a recruit: Spencer committed to the Bruins over Oregon and Purdue following his senior season.

As a Bruin: After playing mainly as a reserve in 2015 and 2016, Spencer had a breakout season in 2017, recording 32 tackles, four pass deflections and an interception in 13 games. After looking like he would compete for a starting job in 2018, Spencer was dismissed from the team and announced his plans to transfer in August.

Grad transfer with immediate eligibility?: Yes

Why he can make an impact: “Spencer has adequate size and is a solid instinctual defensive back who should be a plug-and-play guy for someone at the corner position. He’s solid in run support and could impact in the return game for someone as well.” -- Farrell

As a recruit: Watkins looked like he might head to the FCS level before a late offer and the chance to play with his high school teammate, four-star running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, led to him committing to Illinois on Signing Day in 2015.

As an Illini: After redshirting as a freshman while learning the position, Watkins became a regular contributor for Illinois over the next few seasons. By the time 2018 was over, he had played in 31 career games, making 98 tackles and breaking up 10 passes. He announced his plans to transfer for his final year of eligibility last month.

Grad transfer with immediate eligibility?: Yes

Why he can make an impact: “Watkins can play nickel, corner or safety in college and is a good tackler in run support as well as a prospect who breaks on the ball well. He could be an instant starter for someone.” -- Farrell

As a recruit: Initially committed to Iowa, he backed off that pledge after a disagreement with the staff over his visits to other college campuses. Calloway ended up visiting Texas, Nebraska, Ole Miss and Arkansas before committing to the Razorbacks on Signing Day in 2017.

As a Razorback: Calloway saw the field as a freshman and seemed to get better as the season went along, capping it off with a strong performance against Missouri in the Hogs season finale in 2017. Coming into 2018, Calloway was poised to be a starter, but after playing in two games and recording seven tackles, he left the team for personal reasons. Following the season, he announced his plans to transfer.

Grad transfer with immediate eligibility?: No

Why he can make an impact: “Calloway has average size as a corner but can play bigger than he looks and has excellent ball skills. He turns on a dime and closes very well, so he could be a lockdown cornerback for someone.” -- Farrell


As a recruit: A national level recruit, Ross had offers from several major programs, but his recruitment boiled down to Miami, Notre Dame and USC. He elected to stay home and play for the Trojans, announcing his commitment on national TV.

As a Trojan: Ross’s career at USC never really got off the ground as he redshirted as a freshman and then played sparingly as a redshirt freshman and a sophomore. Coming into 2018, many thought Ross would land a starting position, but after failing to do so during fall camp, he left the program with the plan to graduate transfer. He had 15 total tackles and one pick-six during his time at the school.

Grad transfer with immediate eligibility?: Yes

Why he can make an impact: “Ross is an extremely gifted athlete who could play numerous positions in college and has the skills to be a corner or safety at the right program. His natural ability is off the charts and he just needs to get more focused and work a bit harder to be successful.” -- Farrell

As a recruit: A late offer by Illinois, Williams committed to the Illini over several Group of Five programs just prior to Signing Day in 2017.

As an Illini: Williams burst onto the scene as a star in his first year, earning freshman All-American honors while recording 64 tackles and three interceptions. He ran into issues off the field prior to the 2018 season and after being suspended for the school’s first three games, he was dismissed halfway through the year. Williams is now in the transfer portal and will have at least two years of eligibility at his next school.

Grad transfer with immediate eligibility?: No

Why he can make an impact: “Bennett has really good size and is a very productive player if he can keep his head on straight. He had a great freshman year at Illinois and showed he can be a star in the defensive backfield, so if he can clean up his act, he’ll be very good for someone.” -- Farrell