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Instant Impact: The 10 best available grad transfers

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Ykili Ross
AP Images

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With nearly 80 percent of the nation’s recruits already signed, many schools are having to look far and wide to plug various holes on their roster. That includes the graduate transfer market, which is just starting to heat up. With it becoming easier for college players to transfer on an annual basis, this year is expected to see plenty of movement.

Today, we look at the 10 most high-profile names on the market and speculate on what type of impact they can have as they finish up their careers at new schools.

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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.

Career so far: 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.

Farrell’s take: “A big-time athlete out of high school who just missed five-star status, Ross could play many positions. He’s shown flashes of that ability on defense and could be a real surprise for someone as a transfer.” -- National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell

As a recruit: Despite a national list of offers, Petibon didn’t wait long before pledging to Alabama, making a commitment during the spring of his junior year and never wavering.

Career so far: Petibon’s career has been marred by injuries and he struggled to breakthrough after falling behind several other talented Crimson Tide offensive linemen. During his career he has appeared in 10 games as a reserve, including six games this season. Petibon will stay with Alabama through the College Football Playoff before transferring, with many thinking he will join soon to be former Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Mike Locksley at Maryland.

Farrell’s take: “I liked Petibon out of high school because of his size and nasty attitude but he hasn’t been able to live up to his lofty ranking yet. He’s a plug and play guy for someone who is physically ready to contribute and I think he will be an asset for some team.”

As a recruit: Wimbush’s recruitment turned out to have a major impact on the current college football landscape, especially considering the "what if?" possibilities. He originally pledged to Penn State and seemed destined to end up in Happy Valley, at least until Notre Dame lost quarterback commit Blake Barnett and turned up the heat on Wimbush. Wimbush ended up committing to the Irish in October 2014 and enrolled early with the school in January of 2015.

Career so far: Wimbush saw limited action as a freshman in 2015 and didn’t appear in a game in 2016. But in 2017 he grabbed the job and showed some pretty impressive flashes, throwing for 1,870 yards and 16 touchdowns while also rushing for 803 yards and a team-leading 14 scores. Wimbush opened 2018 as the starter, but his ineffectiveness as a starter opened the door for Ian Book to take the job a few games into the season. He finished the year with 719 yards passing with four touchdowns and six interceptions as well as 256 yards rushing. Wimbush will stay with Notre Dame throughout the College Football Playoff before exploring his transfer options.

Farrell’s take: “I liked Wimbush a lot out of high school because he improved as a passer and as a leader each year in high school. He went from being a young high school quarterback with a big arm to a polished quarterback by his senior year. Unfortunately his progression stopped a bit at the college level but he could still be immediate help for someone as a transfer.”

As a recruit: Griffin had a long list of national offers but committed to the Ducks in the spring of his junior year over Georgia, Alabama, Clemson and several others.

Career so far: Griffin suffered a knee injury that cut short his junior year of high school, but he showed no ill effects after arriving at Oregon, accounting for 732 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns as a true freshman in 2015. But injuries would limit Griffin’s playing time over the next two years and after limited playing time to start the 2018 season, he announced his intention to transfer. For his career, Griffin had 1,287 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns.

Farrell’s take: “Griffin has regressed statistically every year at Oregon after a very promising start but can still show flashes of the speed and escapability we loved out of high school. He’s an excellent all-purpose back who can also play slot receiver if needed.”

As a recruit: Delton was a star on the camp circuit but never saw a ton of scholarship offers roll in. Kansas State was on him early and that resulted in a commitment during the winter of his junior year.

Career so far: Delton saw action during all four seasons of his time in Manhattan but maintains a year of eligibility after receiving a medical hardship after playing in two games as a true freshman. Despite being an exciting change of pace at the quarterback position, he never established himself as a consistent passer and finished his Kansas State career with 1,202 passing yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions while also running for 857 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Farrell’s take: “I always liked Delton out of high school because of the way he could run and extend the play and he’s shown a bit of that at Kansas State. He didn’t have great size but he was so shifty we almost gave him a fourth star as a dual-threat quarterback. Anyone looking for a running quarterback will want him.”

As a recruit: Stephens had a national list of offers but his recruitment went all the way until Signing Day 2016, when he committed to UCLA.

Career so far: Stephens saw playing time as a reserve during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, rushing for 277 yards and a touchdown while also catching 12 passes for 108 yards. After not playing in 2018, Stephens is set to graduate and will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Farrell’s take: Stephens was a big, physical running back coming out of high school who was highly-ranked and coveted. He’s never emerged at UCLA but has the power and size to be a big back for someone else.

As a recruit: Bankhead committed to Cal over Arizona and SMU during the spring of his junior year.

Career so far: Bankhead’s career has been star-crossed from the start as he suffered both on and off field injuries. He initially grayshirted his first year on campus, meaning that even though he was a member of the class of 2015, he will have two years of eligibility remaining at his next stop.

Farrell’s take: “Bankhead put up nice numbers in high school and showed a lot of promise but injuries have killed his career at Cal. He’s not big at all but when healthy he can be an excellent slot receiver for someone.”

As a recruit: Hicks initially made a commitment to Houston but after a coaching change he entertained other offers. Despite having multiple Power Five options, including Texas Tech, he elected to go to SMU instead.

Career so far: After redshirting his first year on campus, Hicks flourished playing in then-coach Chad Morris’ pass-heavy offense. In 2016, he threw for nearly 3,000 yards and he had the best year of his career in 2017, throwing for 3,569 yards and 33 touchdowns with just 12 interceptions. After Morris left for Arkansas, Hicks bounced in and out of the lineup in 2018, still managing to throw for 2,582 yards and 19 touchdowns while setting SMU’s all-time passing yards record. Hicks announced earlier this month that he plans to transfer and he could reunite with Morris at Arkansas.

Farrell’s take: “Hicks was a low three-star out of high school who had good size and strength but was erratic with his accuracy at times. He’s had a great career at SMU and now could easily lead another team and put up big numbers.”

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As a recruit: King burst onto the national recruiting scene after an incredible senior season and he made a surprise commitment to Kentucky on National Signing Day over Washington State, Wake Forest and Middle Tennessee.

Career so far: King saw the field right away at Kentucky, rushing for 127 yards while also contributing as the team’s main kick returner. As his career moved along and the Wildcats offense evolved, his contributions became more sporadic, with his best season as a runner coming in 2017 when he had 364 yards. After starting the 2018 season as a backup to Benny Snell, King elected to take advantage of the new redshirt rule and is expected to transfer for his final year of eligibility.

Farrell’s take: “King has always had speed and was difficult in space but we worried about his lack of size. He’s been a situational player in college so far and will likely play that role for someone else when he transfers.”

As a recruit: Smith committed to Louisville during the fall of his senior season, with the Cardinals being one of two Power Five offers he received as a recruit.

Career so far: Smith started his career as a wide receiver but moved to running back and increased his production each of the last three seasons, capped off by a 263-yard four-touchdown season in 2018. Despite leading the Cardinals running backs in touchdowns, Smith elected to leave the program for his final year of eligibility.

Farrell’s take: “Smith was a two-star athlete out of high school who had good size and power as a running back prospect but lacked great speed. He had a solid season this past year and could be a power back for someone.”