Transfer Tuesday: Matching players in portal to perfect fit
With the 2019 college football season officially in the books, names from all across the country are pouring into the transfer portal on a daily basis, with pretty much every program in the country being impacted.
The timing of the increasing growing number of players in the portal comes just as the coaching carousel is slowing down. With that in mind, we take a look at each Power Five school with a new coach and play the match game with players in the portal to find the best fit.
KELLEN DIESCH - Arkansas
As a recruit: A Texas native, Diesch surprised many when he committed to Arkansas over in-state options during the summer of 2016. But as his recruitment went along he began to look around and ended off backing off his pledge in Oct. 2016. He took official visits to Tennessee and Texas A&M before committing to the Aggies in November.
At Texas A&M: Diesch never really found a spot in the rotation at Texas A&M, redshirting his first season and playing only sparingly in his second year on campus. The arrival of Jimbo Fisher brought new hope for Diesch, and while his playing time increased slightly, he never played more than 68 offensive snaps in a season according to Pro Football Focus. Diesch is a graduate transfer and will be able to use his final season of eligibility next season.
Why it’s a match: Diesch actually committed to new Razorbacks head coach Sam Pittman when he was the Hogs offensive line coach back in 2015 and while the two never got to work together, the relationship is still there. Arkansas obviously needs help at every position and Pittman is likely to look at offensive line transfers. Could he unlock the potential that once led to Diesch being ranked as a Rivals100 prospect? The potential pairing is intriguing.
BRIAN HIGHTOWER - Washington
As a recruit: Hightower began high school in California before moving to IMG Academy later in his career. His move to Florida also gave him a chance to bond with the schools in the Sunshine State and he committed to Miami during the spring of his junior year.
At Miami: Hightower saw the field plenty as a freshman in 2018, including catching a touchdown in his first career game. But that was pretty much the highlight for Hightower as he failed to produce much while playing mostly a rotation role. In seven games in 2019, Hightower had eight catches for 88 yards. He will have two years of eligibility remaining at his next school.
Why it’s a match: This was a tougher pick to make because new Huskies head coach Jimmy Lake is taking over a program he helped build. But the Huskies were missing some star power in the receiving corps in 2019 and with tight end Hunter Bryant leaving early for the NFL Draft, a name like Hightower could make sense. The Huskies offered him as a high school prospect and it’s likely that he looks for a home back on the West Coast.
THEO HOWARD - Ole Miss
As a recruit: Howard just missed out on five-star status, but he had one of the most talked about recruitments in the 2016 class. He ended up at UCLA, choosing the Bruins over USC, Texas A&M and Oregon.
At UCLA: Howard was a spot contributor as a freshman in 2016 but his play and his yardage numbers increased each of his three full seasons with the Bruins, capped off by a 51-catch, 677-yard season in 2018. But injuries slowed Howard in 2019 and he didn’t record a stat while missing several of UCLA’s games. Rather than risk further injury, Howard sat out the rest of 2019 and entered the portal in the fall. He will have one year of eligibility at his next school.
Why it’s a match: New Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin is known for having high-powered offenses but he will have a bit of a void to fill at the wide receiver position in Oxford. His relationship with Howard goes way back to his time at USC, when Howard was a rising underclassman recruit. Could the two make a match in the SEC? It’s not out of the question as Kiffin has shown an aggressive willingness to pursue transfers over the past few years.
MATT MCKAY - Missouri
At NC State: McCay had to wait his turn behind Ryan Finley to get a crack at the job but given the chance during fall camp in 2019 he beat out the competition to be named the season-opening starter. He would go on to start the first five games of the season for the Wolfpack but was eventually benched as the team struggled. He finished the year with 910 yards, three touchdowns and one interception while also running for three scores. He will have at least one season of eligibility remaining at his next school.
Why it’s a match: New Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz recruited McCay to NC State when he was the Wolfpack offensive coordinator. The fact that McCay took over for Finley, a transfer that Drinkwitz brought with him from Boise State, only makes this match more plausible. Could the two reunite in Columbia? The Tigers need quarterbacks and even if it’s just to provide depth this is a sensible match.
JUSTIN SHORTER - Rutgers
As a recruit: Shorter didn’t wait long to commit to Penn State after becoming a national level recruit, pledging to the Nittany Lions in the summer prior to his junior year.
At Penn State: During his first year at Penn State, Shorter took advantage of the four-game redshirt rule and hauled in three passes for 20 yards in his first season. He came 2019 as a starter, but he didn’t put up the type of consistent numbers expected for a player of his pedigree. The most passes he caught in a game was three against Ohio State, and he finished the year 12 catches for 137 yards. He entered the portal late last month. and will have at least two years of eligibility remaining at his next school.
Why it’s a match: This one is almost too easy as the Scarlet Knights need all the help they can get and Shorter is a New Jersey native so ending up back close to home seems like a no-brainer. There were rumors that Shorter had hoped Greg Schiano would get the job, so this one has a very realistic chance of happening.
DILLON STERLING-COLE - Florida State
At Arizona State: The peak of Sterling-Cole’s career came as a true freshman, when he saw the field after a rash of injuries at the position. He started for the Sun Devils against Oregon, at the time becoming just the fifth true freshman QB in program history to start a game. He finished his freshman year with 388 passing yards. After redshirting in 2017, he served as Manny Wilkins' backup in 2018 and looked to be in position to win the starting job prior to the 2019 season. But he was beat out by true freshman Jayden Daniels. After falling down the depth chart and playing primarily special teams, Sterling-Cole entered the portal in October. He will have at least one year of eligibility left at his next school.
Why it’s a match: New Seminoles coach Mike Norvell recruited Sterling-Cole to Arizona State but left before ever getting to coach him. At Memphis, he brought in a former Sun Devil in Brady White and the duo had incredible success. Could he try to do it again in Tallahassee? Sterling-Cole will be eligible to play next season at his next school.