College football coaches in 2022 have to know how to play the portal and work the recruiting trail.
When you're Alabama, that may not be too hard. The Crimson Tide routinely reel in top recruiting classes and — despite Nick Saban's sometimes prickly comments about players changing schools — it also wins in the transfer portal.
For example, Bama not only got a top tackle Jaheim Oatis and top wideout Shazz Preston, along with several other four- or five-star recruits, but previously injured cornerback Eli Ricks, who an All-American as a freshman, is headed to Alabama as is Georgia Tech running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who gained over 1,110 yards and scored six touchdowns last year between his rushing and receiving. Any of those players could be a key factor in another College Football Playoff appearance next season.
Michigan State football and Michigan football each saw benefits from newcomers, either from the portal or the preps level, in 2021. Of course, there was Walker Camp award winner and likely NFL draft pick Kenneth Walker III who transferred to MSU from Wake Forest, and U-M true freshman J.J. McCarthy who threw five touchdowns and ran for two more as a backup quarterback.
Heading into the 2022 season, each team is looking for more new faces to become difference-makers and one ESPN writer likes their chances. Tom VanHaaren looked at each projected top-25 program and pointed out where they may have major contributions from newcomers. Along with transfers and 2022 prospects, freshmen who didn't see the field this season were considered by VanHaaren.
Right behind Alabama in ESPN's projected 2022 top 25 is Ohio State followed by Georgia and Texas A&M, which each boast top recruiting classes, per ESPN and 247Sports.
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Michigan, which lost to Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinal was ranked No. 5 followed Notre Dame and Utah. North Carolina State was projected at No. 8, Oklahoma State was projected at No. 9 and Michigan State, which beat Pitt in the Peach Bowl, was projected at No. 10.
The only other Big Ten teams that ESPN likes are Iowa (15) and Wisconsin (24). Here are the biggest additions, according to VanHaaren, as well as some little-used freshman who may have an opportunity for more playing time:
Wolverines carried by offensive transfer, defensive freshmen
Olusegun "Victor" Oluwatimi, who spent the last four seasons at Virginia, is the crown jewel on the transfer side. He is a 6-foot-3, 310-pound center who was a Rimington Award finalist and has been recognized as one of the best run-blockers in the country.
"Johnson will help in a secondary that's losing a few starters, and Moore will help replace a pass-rush void left by Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo departing for the NFL," VanHaaren writes. "... Michigan's offensive line won the Joe Moore Award for the best offensive line unit, and adding Oluwatimi will help keep consistency along the line next season."
Rayshaun Benny was a highly recruited four-star defensive lineman who played limited snaps this past season as a freshman. Former four-star prospects George Rooks and Jaydon Hood didn't play much in 2021 but each made an appearance on special teams during the Big Ten title win vs. Iowa and could see larger a role next season.
More transfers to East Lansing
The Spartans, for the second offseason in a row, welcomed several players from other programs into the fold. There's Florida defensive Khris Bogle, Mississippi State linebacker Aaron Brule and Wisconsin running back Jalen Berger, but the headliner, VanHaaren says, is UNLV linebacker Jacoby Windom
"Windmon led UNLV with 118 total tackles this season; the next closest, Austin Ajiake, had 74," VanHaaren writes. "Windmon also led the team in sacks with six and should pair well with current Michigan State starter Cal Haladay."
Alex VanSumeren, one of the top recruits in the state, is a four-star defensive lineman who may see some early snaps. Antonio Gates Jr. and Germie Bernard are four-star wideouts, but face competition for playing time from the Spartans' three top returning receivers Jalen Nailor, Jayden Reed and Tre Mosley. Dillon Tatum is another four star, however, his college position is undefined.
A.J. Kirk was a solid safety prospect coming into college but didn't see much action last season — that could change as the Spartans try to improve a lowly 2021 pass defense. Detroit native Derrick Harmon played in four games and notched one tackle this past year and could find more playing time as well.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State, Michigan football's largest 2022 additions