Thanks to mass transfers and the influx of name, image and likeness partnerships altering the college football landscape, never has the offseason calendar been as news-centric as this one. A plethora of head-coaching changes at major programs increases the intrigue, and leads to notable roster moves.
There’s momentum behind the 2023 NFL Draft crop of quarterbacks too, and many of those potential first-rounders have garnered hype coming out of spring. There’s even talk of opt-outs again, specifically future top 5 pick Will Anderson from Alabama, whose draft stock was solidified after a 17.5-sack sophomore sensation year.
Players appearing in most headlines coming out of spring jump off the page and won’t come as a surprise to the college football purists out there.
Here’s a look at eight players dominating the conversation and generating the most offseason buzz heading into summer.
Jordan Addison, WR, Pittsburgh
The reigning Biletnikoff winner entering the transfer portal just ahead of the spring deadline, followed by Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi reportedly accusing USC’s Lincoln Riley of tampering? That’s the kind of offseason fire college football fans never saw coming this month. According to 247Sports reporter Chris Hummer, Texas and USC are involved in the pursuit of Addison. He’s expected to visit the Trojans this weekend, fresh off a visit to the Longhorns. Several other power programs also project to enter the mix and teams looking for a wide receiver spark in the transfer portal include Alabama, Georgia and Miami.
Addison posted a photo from his visit to Texas this week via his Instagram story, kicking off his trek in Austin to see what the Longhorns have to offer the college football’s transfer portal’s best available player. Addison reportedly has no timetable on his transfer decision after he entered the portal prior to the deadline this month with a 247Sports transfer rating of 97, making him the No. 5 transfer overall in the 2022 cycle and the top transfer available. Addison set a Pittsburgh record with 100 receptions in a single season last fall and his touchdown total ranked second all-time, trailing just legendary receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
How did Kentucky’s starting quarterback appear in this mix? Levis is currently a “consensus” first-rounder in 2023 according to industry insiders and one recent CBS Sports Mock Draft slotted the former Penn State signee going No. 1 overall in next year’s loaded quarterback class. For starters, Levis has prototypical NFL size at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds and has impressive arm strength. Last fall with the Wildcats, Levis completed 66% of passes for 2,826 yards with 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and was a bit of a gunslinger at times given his penchant for taking chances downfield in the passing game. If he’s the first quarterback taken next spring, that means there’s an NFL franchise out there who prefers Levis over Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young, among others.
College football analyst Blake Brockermeyer published a film study piece this week on Levis, and is not buying into the first-round hype.
“I think Matt Corral and Sam Howell are comparable quarterbacks this year to his skills and personally prefer them both to Levis,” Brockermeyer writes.
Corral and Howell were third and fifth-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft despite putting up record-setting numbers during their college careers at Ole Miss and North Carolina, respectively. Levis has a long road to putting up those statistics this season with the Wildcats, especially after losing his top target, Wandale Robinson, from a season ago.
Spencer Rattler, QB, South Carolina
Rattler, a former five-star, is the highest-rated quarterback to pledge to the Gamecocks—based on his ranking coming out of high school in 2019 as the No. 11 player overall and top pro-style passer, according to the 247Sports Composite. Rattler threw 39 touchdown passes over 20 games during his past two seasons at Oklahoma and chose to enter the transfer portal in November after his NFL stock took a hit once he fell behind Williams on the Sooners’ depth chart. Intel suggests South Carolina’s coaching staff has been blown away by his talent level shown during spring camp as the program’s best player. He was the first major portal entry during the 2022 cycle to announce his decision before Christmas with abundant fanfare.
Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
There’s no doubt losing Jahmyr Gibbs to Alabama hurts for Georgia Tech’s Geoff Collins, who assumed he was heading into the 2022 season with his top returning player back to lead the charge offensively. Instead, Gibbs left for greener pastures with a national championship frontrunner and now has a chance to flex his talents as a possible future 2023 first-round pick in the Crimson Tide backfield. Gibbs should take the SEC by storm and is Alabama’s RB1 following the departure of Brian Robinson to the NFL. He’s a pass-catching threat too, and now gets to work with Heisman winner Bryce Young.
Caleb Williams, QB, USC
Riley’s pursuit of former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams in the transfer portal soon after his arrival in Los Angeles made him public enemy No. 1 among Sooners fans. A few months later, he secured Williams’ commitment and exits spring with the top-ranked transfer class in the country, per the 247Sports Team Transfer Rankings. A true freshman in 2021, Williams appeared in 11 games for the Sooners, completing 64.6% of his passes for 1,916 yards with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions. He rushed for 442 yards and six scores on the ground. Williams was a 247Sports Composite five-star recruit out of Washington (DC) Gonzaga. He was the no. 7 overall player and the no. 2 quarterbacks in the class of 2021.
Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas
Texas needed a program-changer at quarterback this offseason and all of the Longhorns’ eggs were in Quinn Ewers’ basket. Ewers was ranked as the 247Sports Composite’s No. 1 player in the 2021 class before his freshman season at Ohio State and returns to his home state with plenty of love for burnt orange. He has not been named the Longhorns’ starting quarterback just yet by coach Steve Sarkisian, but his performance in Texas’ recent spring game made waves nationally and ignited his starpower as one of college football’s most talked-about transfer additions. Ewers headlines a top 10-rated transfer haul for Sarkisian, who has landed every player he has wanted in the market besides TCU pass rusher Ochaun Mathis, who signed with Nebraska.
Ewers reclassified and enrolled at Ohio State early last year before announcing his transfer to Texas in December. Evers battled with Hudson Card, who began last season as the starter, throughout spring in Austin to determine 2022’s starting quarterback. Sarkisian raved about both players last month at the conclusion of camp.
“It’s hard to make life-changing decisions when you’re only 17 or 18 years old. But this time I really just tried to block out all the noise, and focus on what I wanted for myself,” Evers said, referencing his decision to transfer to Texas. “It took a lot of prayer, but I’m confident in the choice I made.”
Will Anderson, Edge, Alabama
No surprise college football’s nastiest defensive player in years is having to shield himself from opt-out murmurs this offseason. Alabama football’s best talent is projected inside the top 10 every way-too-early 2023 NFL Mock Draft that has surfaced this month, but any suggestion that the SEC’s reigning defensive player of the year should sit out his upcoming junior campaign for draft prep is a waste of breath, according to former Crimson Tide teammate Phidarian Mathis. The second-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles told ESPN this week that Anderson “ain’t that type of guy” to bail on teammates and ensure he’s ready for the NFL by not playing this fall.
However, the hypothetical opt-out noise…