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Three-Point Stance: Pac-12 transfers, top defenders, coach fits

Rivals national columnist Mike Farrell is here with the best Pac-12 transfer classes, five defenders who could make a run at the Heisman Trophy in 2022 and five very odd coaching fits in college football.


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Caleb Williams
Caleb Williams (USA Today Sports Images)

Today I finish out my evaluation of the Power Five transfer classes with a look at the Pac-12.

1. USC

Total additions: 13

Headliners: Caleb Williams (Oklahoma), Mario Williams (Oklahoma), Romello Height (Auburn), Latrell McCutchin (Oklahoma), Makhi Blackmon (Colorado), Brenden Rice (Colorado), Terrell Bynum (Washington), Travis Dye (Oregon), Austin Jones (Stanford)

Lincoln Riley brought in arguably the strongest transfer class in the country, headlined by Caleb Williams. The former Oklahoma quarterback is joined by one of his favorite targets in Mario Williams and they will form one of the best quarterback-receiver tandems in the Pac-12. Riley also brought in another former Sooner at corner in McCutchin who should start immediately. Rice and Bynum join Mario Williams at receiver as well, while Dye and Jones should both be immediate contributors at running back. Blackmon and Height are also potential starters on defense.


Total additions: 10

Headliners: Azizi Hearn (Wyoming), Grayson Murphy (North Texas), Gabriel Murphy (North Texas), Jacob Sykes (Harvard), Darius Muasau (Hawaii), Gary Smith (Duke)

A big class for the Bruins who also lost a lot of guys to the portal as well. Hearn is the gem here, and he was one of the best defenders in the Mountain West last season - he'll push for all-conference honors immediately. The Murphy twins are both strong players off of the edge and could both be starters, while Muasau has a chance to start at MLB. Sykes and Smith should both factor in to the defensive line rotations as well.

3. Arizona State

Total additions: 10

Headliners: Nesta Jade Silvera (Miami), Xazavian Valladay (Wyoming), Chris Martinez (SDSU), Des Homes (Penn State), Messiah Swinson (Missouri), Emmit Bohle (Northern State)

Valladay is a huge addition for a Sun Devils squad that is in desperate need of running backs after losing their top two backs from last season. He had two seasons over 1,000 yards at Wyoming, and comes in as the presumed starter. Silvera was a multi-year starter at Miami and will beef up a unit that finished 12th against the run in the country last year. Swinson should slot in as the starting tight end, while Martinez, Holmes, and Bohle will look to rebuild a line that is losing a lot from last year.

4. Oregon

Total additions: 6

Headliners: Bo Nix (Auburn), Jordan Riley (Nebraska), Chase Cota (UCLA), Christian Gonzalez (Colorado), Sam Taimani (Washington)

The big name here is obviously Nix, the three-year starter at Auburn, who will compete with 2021 five-star Ty Thompson for the starting job. Gonzalez should lock down one of the starting safety spots and offers great versatility on the back end of the defense. Riley and Taimani will both be rotation pieces on the defensive line, while Cota is a big body at receiver who can win 50-50 balls.

5. Utah

Total additions: 4

Headliners: Logan Kendall (Idaho), Mohamoud Diabate (Florida), Landon Morris (Syracuse)

Kendall is one of the most underrated pickups in the country, as the FCS All-American offers the toughness and versatility that Kyle Whittingham loves. A great blocker with soft hands, he's a potential all Pac-12 contributor. Diabate will look to replace All-American Devin Lloyd at linebacker. Morris is a nice addition at receiver as well.

6. Arizona

Total additions: 8

Headliners: Jayden De Laura (Washington State), Tiaoalii Savea (UCLA), Jeremy Mercier (Utah), Anthony Solomon (Michigan), Jacob Cowing (UTEP), Hunter Echols (USC), DJ Warnell (UCLA)

De Laura enters spring ball as the presumed QB1 and he'll be a major upgrade over what they had last season. Cowing is a really nice addition at receiver, and they'll form an explosive tandem. Mercier, Solomon, Savea, Echols and Warnell will all have a chance to be solid contributors on the defensive side of the ball as Jedd Fisch continues to rebuild the program.

7. Washington State

Total additions: 4

Headliners: Cameron Ward (Incarnate Word), Jordan Lee (Nevada), Nusi Malani (Virginia), Daiyan Henley (Nevada)

Ward was one of the most electric players at any level of collegiate football last season, and he's reuniting with his old offensive coordinator Eric Morris at Wazzu. He's going to put up massive numbers. The pair of defenders from Nevada, Lee and Henley, could both start immediately, while Malani adds depth on the defensive line. Not a huge class, but some really nice pieces.

8. Washington

Total additions: 5

Headliners; Michael Penix Jr. (Indiana), Cam Bright (Pitt), Aaron Dumas (New Mexico), Jordan Perryman (UC-Davis)

Penix will look to recapture the magic he had in the 2020 season under new coach Kalen DeBoer, but he'll be competing with Dylan Morris and Sam Huard for the starting spot. Perryman was a standout at FCS UC-Davis and should be in line for a starting spot at corner. Dumas is a really nice addition at running back after he showed flashes as a true freshman at New Mexico last season, while Bright should slot in to replace the departed Jackson Sirmon at linebacker.

9. Colorado

Total additions: 5

Additions: Ramon Jefferson (Sam Houston State), Tommy Brown (Alabama), RJ Sneed (Baylor), Maddox Kopp (Houston)

The addition of Jefferson, an FCS All-American, is huge for the Buffaloes and will bring some serious talent to the running back room in Boulder. Sneed is another offensive playmaker that should see a lot of targets. Kopp showed off a big arm in high school and will compete for the starting position immediately, while Brown should be a factor on the offensive line.

10. Cal

Total additions: 3

Headliners: Jackson Sirmon (Washington), Xavier Carlton (Utah), Jack Plummer (Purdue)

Only three additions for the Golden Bears, but both Sirmon and Carlton should be immediate impact players. Sirmon led the Huskies in tackles last season while Carlton is a really strong edge player. Plummer had moments at Purdue, and will push incumbent Chase Garbers at quarterback.

11. Stanford

Total additions: 1

Headliners: Patrick Fields (Oklahoma)

Only one addition for David Shaw and the Cardinal, but that one is a really good one. Fields is a veteran safety who will help shore up a unit that has struggled over the past few seasons.

12. Oregon State

Additions: None

Headliners: N/A

Surprisingly the Beavers have yet to add anyone via the portal but should be in the market after spring ball, especially at the skill positions.



Will Anderson
Will Anderson (USA Today Sports Images)

The Heisman Trophy is typically reserved for quarterbacks. It is, at the very least, an award that has almost exclusively been awarded to offensive players. Charles Woodson was the last defensive player to win the Heisman but he also pulled double-duty as an elite return man for Michigan. Some players have had high finishes in the voting — Aidan Hutchison last season, Ndamukong Suh years ago — but we all know each year it’s not going to happen.

Let’s pretend anyhow. Who could make a push next year? My list is led by the player who probably should have won it last season and wasn’t even invited to New York.

1. Will Anderson, Alabama - It was a crime that Anderson didn't even make the final ceremony last season after leading the country in sacks and tackles for loss. He's an absolutely electric player off the edge and has as good a shot as any defender has had in the last 20 years to win the trophy from the defensive side of the ball.

2. Nolan Smith, Georgia - With the departures of so many guys off of the Bulldogs' national championship-winning defense, Smith is now the unquestioned leader along with Jalen Carter. He's got exceptional quickness as an edge rusher and should pile up big numbers in 2022.

3. Myles Murphy, Clemson - Murphy has been simply phenomenal in his first two seasons for the Tigers, as he's garnered some of the highest PFF grades in the country at defensive end. He's got a chance to put up double-digit sacks, especially as teams focus on double-teaming Bryan Bresee on the inside.

4. Noah Sewell, Oregon - We all saw what new coach Dan Lanning can do with a super-athletic middle linebacker last season, where Nakobe Dean had one of the best seasons we've seen at that position. Sewell has a lot of the same qualities that Dean did but is an even better pass rusher.

5. Denzel Burke, Ohio State - As a true freshman in 2021, Burke assumed the CB1 spot for the Buckeyes early in the season and never let it out of his grasp. One of the best cover corners in the country, he can run with anyone yet still has the frame and strength to press at the line of scrimmage.



Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly (USA Today Sports Images)

And finally I labeled some coaches as perfect fits on Tuesday — “they fit like a glove” — but there are some fish out of water as well. We’ll see how they fare.

Bryan Harsin, Auburn — Harsin came to Auburn before last season from Boise State and has clearly figured out what an odd fit he is already as the boosters tried to oust him after one season. He’s not long for Auburn whether he wins or loses and his lack of SEC ties was evident when he was hired.

Brian Kelly, LSU — Yes, Nick Saban had success as a fish out of water but he’s Nick Saban. Can Kelly, a New Englander who has coached mainly in the Midwest for so many seasons, be successful in an area that loves their locals?

Dan Lanning, Oregon — Lanning was at Arizona State for a short stop but he hails from Missouri and made his name in the SEC. Will it work up in the Pacific Northwest?

Jed Fisch, Arizona — Fisch has coached at UCLA and with the Los Angeles Rams but he hails from New Jersey and went to Florida. Can he succeed in the West? So far it’s been rough.

Lance Leipold, Kansas — He’s a very good coach, we all know that, but the Wisconsin native who made his name in New York seemed better suited for the Big Ten or ACC.