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2023 Pac-12 Football Championship Game

Friday, Dec. 1
Allegiant Stadium | Las Vegas, NV

Top incoming transfers to know for each Pac-12 football team

Jan 24, 2023
Courtesy of Stanford Athletics

Recruiting is the lifeblood of college football teams, and the transfer portal has played an increasingly vital role in roster construction the last few years.

The Pac-12 saw first-hand how valuable transfers can be, as quarterbacks like Caleb Williams, Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. changed the Conference landscape seemingly overnight.

Which incoming transfers that joined the Pac-12 could impact the 2023 season in a similar way? Here are some names to know. (Note: this list does not include student-athletes who transferred within the Conference.)

Arizona — Bill Norton, DL

The Wildcats struggled to stop the run last season, finishing 124th (of 131) in FBS in rushing yards allowed per game (209.1). Arizona needed an influx of talent and size on its interior defensive line and Norton fits the bill. The 6-foot-6, 300-pound graduate transfer didn't light up the stat sheet at Georgia —12 tackles (3.5 for loss) in four years — but he was originally a four-star recruit and ranked among the top 200 prospects of the 2019 class, according to 247Sports.

Arizona State — Drew Pyne and Jacob Conover, QBs

Former walk-on Trenton Bourguet took over the starting job midway through last season and new head coach Kenny Dillingham said that he will be QB1 in the spring, but Arizona State recruited former four-star quarterbacks Drew Pyne (Notre Dame) and Jacob Conover (BYU) through the transfer portal to compete with him.

Pyne became Notre Dame's starter early last season, starting the final 10 games of the season. In all, he threw for 2,021 yards and 22 touchdowns. Conover, an Arizona native, only attempted 11 passes in his BYU career but will be in the mix as well. Dillingham will get to have his pick and Sun Devil fans should trust him after seeing the success of Oregon's Bo Nix last year. 

California — Sam Jackson V, QB

The quarterback position is certainly a question mark for Cal heading into the spring with Jack Plummer (Louisville), Kai Millner (Northern Arizona) and Zach Johnson transferring away. The Golden Bears were down to one remaining scholarship quarterbacks in redshirt freshman Fernando Mendoza, so it was huge to bring in Sam Jackson V, who had been behind Heisman runner-up Max Duggan at TCU, to give them another option. Jackson has limited experience after his two seasons in Fort Worth, but the dual-threat QB was a four-star recruit coming out of Naperville High School in Illinois.

"Sam is a young and talented athlete who is developing rapidly as a quarterback," head coach Justin Wilcox said via a team-issued release. "We are excited to get him started in our program and continue to accelerate his development."

Colorado — Travis Hunter, CB/WR

The former No. 1 overall recruit in Class of 2022 followed Deion Sanders from Jackson State to Colorado. Much like Coach Prime, Hunter displays his talents on both sides of the ball. He's a lockdown cornerback — Hunter had two interceptions and 10 pass breakups last season — and already has a connection with new Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders, who followed his father from Jackson State and and should electrify the offense.

With Sanders at JSU, Hunter reeled in 18 catches for 188 yards and four touchdowns, including this spectacular grab to tie the Celebration Bowl in the closing seconds. 

Oregon — Jordan Burch, EDGE

The former South Carolina Gamecock was one of the best recruits in the 2020 class. 247Sports rated him as the second-best defensive tackle and eighth overall prospect in its composite rankings. Burch has a 6-foot-6, 275-pound frame and athleticism to play on the edge to rush the passer. He also showed his athletic ability his sophomore season with this pick six against Eastern Illinois. Burch played the his most snaps last season resulting in 14 quarterback hits, 7.5 tackles for loss and 60 total tackles. 

Oregon State - DJ Uiagalelei, QB

For the Beavers to make another leap following their 10-win season, they needed to upgrade the quarterback position. Former five-star DJ Uiagalelei does that. He started 28 games, going 22-6 during that stretch for the Tigers but there's still room to grow under head coach Jonathan Smith. Uiagalelei vastly improved his touchdown-to-interception from 9-10 in 2021 to 22-7 last season. He has a cannon for an arm and can stretch the field, which would add another layer to the Oregon State offense.

Uiagalelei brings his underrated rushing ability to Corvallis too. The 6-foot-4 quarterback scampered for 15 touchdowns during his time at Clemson and rushed for a career-high 545 yards in 2022. There could be some fun designs in the backfield with Uiagalelei and star running back Damien Martinez. 

Stanford - Gaethan Bernadel, LB

The Cardinal typically doesn't make a ton of moves through the transfer portal, but new head coach Troy Taylor needed to make an addition after Stanford's top three tacklers departed this offseason. Enter Gaethan Bernadel, Stanford's first undergraduate transfer in the Transfer Portal era. Bernadel led FIU last season with 103 total tackles, including a season-best 15 tackles versus UTSA. He also had eight tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and two QB hurries. 

UCLA - Carson Steele, RB

The Bruins are losing their workhorse running back Zach Charbonnet to the NFL. Charbonnet carried the ball nearly 400 times the past two seasons and caught 61 passes. Carson Steele has no problem carrying a similar load. The Ball State transfer had 1,556 rushing yards, nine 100-yard games and 14 touchdowns in 2022, carrying the ball 289 times last season and reeling in 29 passes. He will be a weapon in Chip Kelly's offense and a helpful supplement to the Bruins' new starting quarterback.

Steele also joins fellow MAC transfers QB Collin Schlee from Kent State and Safety Jordan Anderson from Bowling Green.

USC - Anthony Lucas, DL

The 6-foot-6, 270-pound Anthony Lucas was a prized recruit of the 2022 class. After a year at Texas A&M, Lucas, an Arizona native, decided to come back out west to USC. The Trojans will need a handful of players step up to replace the production of Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Tuli Tuipulotu, who led the nation with 13.5 sacks and will be entering the NFL Draft. Lucas, a former five-star himself, will be joining Korey Foreman, another five-star recruit, and Purdue transfer Jack Sullivan as players who will try to fill Tuipulotu's void. 

Utah - Logan Fano, Edge

Utah fans will get to know the Fano family rather quickly. Logan Fano arrives from BYU to play for the Utes and join his brother, Spencer, who arrives as a four-star freshman offensive tackle. Fano was originally a four-star edge defender in the 2021 class from Timpview High School in Provo, Utah. However, he never played a game at BYU. He served a mission in his first year and missed this past season after suffering an ACL injury during the spring.

Utah is losing Gabe Reid, who led the Utes in sacks last season before he ran out of eligibility, so there will be opportunity for Fano to contribute to the Utes' pass rush right away.

Washington - Jabbar Muhammad, CB

The Huskies were incredible on offense last year, and with quarterback Michael Penix returning next season, that should continue. However, the defense ranked 100th (of 130) in FBS against the pass in 2022, giving up an average of 251.5 yards per game. A big part of that was a secondary so wracked with injury they had to start a different group almost every game. Washington will have a void at one of its starting boundary corner spots after Jordan Perryman exhausted his eligibility. That's where Jabbar Muhammad will slot in. 

Muhammad was a two-year starter at Oklahoma State. Pro Football Focus credited Muhammed with 19 coverage stops and deemed him the Big 12’s third-highest-graded cornerback over the last two seasons.

Washington State - Kyle Williams and Josh Kelly, WRs

For an offense that threw the ball 500 times last season, Washington State needed some receivers heading into 2023. Through graduations and transfers, the Cougars lost their top four pass-catchers in terms of receiving yards from last season. Insert Kyle Williams and Josh Kelly from UNLV and Fresno State, respectively.

Williams was a three-year starter for the Rebels, catching 35 passes every season and accumulating 1,568 career receiving yards in his time in Las Vegas. He is also coming off his best year scoring-wise with five touchdowns.

Kelly spent four years at Fresno State. However, he hardly played his freshman year and battled injuries last year. His best season came in 2021 when he was the Bulldogs second-leading receiver, catching 52 passes for 778 yards and three touchdowns. He has big-play potential with catches of 60, 69 and 71 yards in his career. He'll now get to work with