It used to be that college football coaches would recruit players out of high school for three or four years and only sprinkle in some transfers here and there. Those days have come and gone. Roster management is a whole new game and now players are coming and leaving at a rapid pace.
The passing of the one-time transfer rule from the NCAA plus relaxed transfer rules have made it easier than ever for players to be mobile during their careers. While it’s not quite full-blown free agency, it’s as close as it’s ever come. As a result, there are several teams who will benefit from those transfers in the 2021 season.
Here’s a look at the most important transfer players in the ACC as the upcoming campaign approaches.
There’s an obvious asterisk next to Milton’s name on this list. He’s finally coming back from his brutal, nearly career-ending knee injury three years ago. His durability and level of play will be a question mark. And, technically, he hasn’t won the starting job yet. But if he’s close to the player he was at UCF — he looked ready during FSU’s spring game — then Mike Norvell’s offense just upgraded its quarterback two-deep in a big, big way. Milton was a two-time AAC Offensive Player of the Year and previously finished sixth in the Heisman voting in 2018. He’s also a tremendous leader and is a good addition to the locker room. It’s possible that bringing in Milton may not work out exactly like either side hoped, but the chance that it does makes Milton a worthy selection.
And while Milton may grab a lot of headlines, Johnson is equally as impactful, if not more so, for the Seminoles. In eight games with Georgia a season ago, Johnson had four sacks and five tackles for loss off the edge. The former No. 1 JUCO recruit in 2019 never led the Bulldogs in sacks, but he was pretty active and disruptive. The Seminoles haven’t had a true threat off the edge since Brian Burns in 2018; since his departure, Florida State’s pass rush has gone in the wrong direction and was practically nonexistent last year. Johnson has the freakish athleticism to be an impact player for the Noles’ defense at a time when they desperately could use a disrupter.
If you recall from our transfer-themed Staff Picks from May, I was bullish on Chandler as an impact player for a Tar Heels team eager to fill the role of a dark horse playoff contender. He’s an experienced and productive player from his time at Tennessee (nearly 3,300 career all-purpose yards and 17 rushing touchdowns) and he fills a big need for North Carolina’s offense following the departures of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. He’s a solid plug-and-play guy who’s going to have a meaningful season with his new team.
Stevenson is an interesting case. He arrived at Georgia with a lot of fanfare — he was a four-star recruit and a top-50 player per 247Sports Composite rankings in 2019 — and was going to be a starter for the Bulldogs in 2021. But he was unhappy with how he was used during his first two seasons and had just four starts to his name. At Miami, he should be stationed permanently at his more natural position at cornerback. He’s a big corner at 6-feet and 214 pounds with the speed of someone 30 pounds lighter. His impact on the outside of Miami’s defense in 2021 could be huge if he sees more snaps.
Rambo never became the No. 1 guy at Oklahoma, for one reason or another, but he was playing alongside the likes of Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb, Theo Wease and Marvin Mims. Drops were a problem, too, as he led the team with five last year. All in all, 2002 was a down year for Rambo, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be valuable. He’s an explosive deep threat that can give the Hurricanes the downfield passing game to complement D’Eriq King’s mobility out of the pocket. Speed kills, and Miami’s offense has it in spades now with Rambo’s addition to the offense.
A 22-game starter over the past three years at Georgia Southern, Duncan is a big-bodied defender that gives Louisville’s defense an instant boost. The Cardinals are filling holes on the back end of their defense after leading the ACC in passing defense a year ago. An All-Sun Belt selection, Duncan is huge for a safety — 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds — and has been proven to be a capable tackler while also excelling in pass defense. Despite missing four games due to offseason hip surgery, he still had five pass break-ups a season ago. He made a big impression during spring practices and should step in right away as a major role player on the back end of the Cardinals’ defense.