Ranking college football's instant-impact newcomers: The top 50 transfers and freshmen

by Ricardo Gutierrez - From Caleb Williams and Zach Evans to Walter Nolen and Travis Hunter, which new faces are going to make the most impact in 2022?

Ranking college football's top 50 newcomers: Where do top transfers and freshmen land? Gabriel Meza 7:00 AM ET Tom VanHaarenESPN Staff Writer Close ESPN staff writer Joined ESPN in 2011 Graduated from Central Michigan When wide receiver Jordan Addison announced he was transferring from Pitt in the spring, months after winning the Biletnikoff Award, it made national headlines for how surprising a move it was and how it could reshape college football . Big names and award winners have transferred before, but Addison's decision signaled how different the college football landscape has become and how impactful the transfer portal can be. First-time transfers no longer need to sit out a year to play right away, and more than 3,600 FBS players entered the portal over the past year. Still, college coaches aren't ignoring high school prospects. Numerous incoming freshmen are bound to make an impact on the field from day one. That includes LSU offensive lineman Will Campbell , who has a shot at starting at left tackle for the Tigers. The combination of transfers and high school prospects joining new teams has helped coaches quickly transform rosters this offseason. Besides Addison and Campbell, there are plenty of newcomers who will make an impact on their new teams. Here are the top 50 incoming freshmen and transfers you need to know this season. 1. QB Caleb Williams Transferred to USC from Oklahoma Williams was a star as a true freshman at Oklahoma under coach Lincoln Riley. He supplanted then-starter Spencer Rattler and finished the season with 1,912 passing yards and 21 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He also had 442 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground. The former top-20 prospect followed Riley to USC and has a chance to not only improve on what he did as a freshman, but also elevate the Trojans' offense expeditiously. 2. WR Jordan Addison Transferred to USC from Pitt Addison won the Biletnikoff Award as the country's best receiver last season. It's rare to see such a high-caliber player transfer, but he transferred to USC and is now part of what could be a high-powered offense for the Trojans. He had 1,593 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns last season, and he'll factor into a receiving corps that lost leading receiver Drake London to the NFL. 3. QB Jaxson Dart Transferred to Ole Miss from USC Ole Miss needed a quarterback since last season's starter, Matt Corral , is now in the NFL. Dart broke state high school records in Utah as a recruit, throwing for 4,691 yards with 67 touchdowns his senior season. He was named the Gatorade Player of the Year and signed with USC. He threw for 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns last season on 189 attempts. UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel has sole command of the Oklahoma quarterback room after Caleb Williams and Spencer Rattler transferred out. Brian Bahr/Getty Images 4. QB Dillon Gabriel Transferred to Oklahoma from UCF Gabriel played for offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby at UCF, and now Lebby is the coordinator at Oklahoma. The two are reuniting at a perfect time after the Sooners lost quarterbacks Caleb Williams and Spencer Rattler. In 2019 and 2020, Gabriel threw for a combined 7,223 yards and 61 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. He suffered an injury that cut his 2021 season short and now he has an opportunity to lead Oklahoma. 5. DB Eli Ricks Transferred to Alabama from LSU Ricks was an All-America cornerback for LSU before injuries derailed his time with the Tigers. As a sophomore, Ricks had season-ending shoulder surgery this past October. He had five interceptions in 14 games for LSU and joins Alabama's defense that lost Jalyn Armour-Davis (draft) and Marcus Banks (transferred to Mississippi State). 6. DB Brandon Joseph Transferred to Notre Dame from Northwestern Notre Dame needed someone to replace safety Kyle Hamilton , who was a first-round pick in this year's NFL draft. Joseph was an All-American for Northwestern and should step in to help the Irish secondary right away. Notre Dame's defense returns safeties Houston Griffith , DJ Brown , Ramon Henderson and Xavier Watts , but Joseph has experience and talent that will get him on the field right away. 7. DE Ochaun Mathis Transferred to Nebraska from TCU Nebraska finished last season ranked 101st in sacks, 86th in team defensive pressures and 78th in disrupted dropbacks. Over the past two seasons, Mathis recorded 30.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks at TCU. He is a much-needed addition to the defense to give Nebraska a pass-rush presence and someone that will cause problems for opposing quarterbacks. 8. RB Zach Evans Transferred to Ole Miss from TCU Evans was a five-star running back in the 2020 class, and after initially signing with Georgia, eventually ended up at TCU. He had 658 yards and five touchdowns on 92 carries last season for the Horned Frogs. He's joining Ole Miss after the Rebels lost their four leading rushers: running backs Jerrion Ealy , Snoop Conner and Henry Parrish Jr ., as well as quarterback Matt Corral. Evans has an opportunity to get more carries for Ole Miss than he did at TCU and should have success in Lane Kiffin's offense. 9. RB Jahmyr Gibbs Transferred to Alabama from Georgia Tech Gibbs was the top rusher for Georgia Tech last season with 746 yards and four touchdowns on 143 attempts. He also had 470 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns on 37 catches. Alabama lost leading rusher Brian Robinson , but is returning Trey Sanders , Roydell Williams and Jase McClellan . Gibbs can be versatile in how he helps in both the run and pass game and should be a big contributor for the Crimson Tide. Editor's Picks 2 Related 10. QB Spencer Rattler Transferred to South Carolina from Oklahoma South Carolina had some bad luck at quarterback with injuries last season -- so much so that the team was playing grad assistant Zeb Noland at quarterback. Rattler threw for 3,031 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions with 160 rushing yards and six touchdowns in his first full season starting in 2020. He had Heisman hype going into 2021, but was replaced by Caleb Williams and finished the season with 1,483 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions on 187 attempts. He is coming into a situation at South Carolina where he can start over, win the starting job and try to regain what he had in 2020. 11. WR Mario Williams Transferred to USC from Oklahoma As a freshman last season, Williams had 380 yards and four touchdowns on 35 receptions. He was ranked No. 17 overall in the 2021 class and was the No. 1 receiver. He already has chemistry with Caleb Williams and understands Riley's playbook, so he should contribute early on. 12. WR Jermaine Burton Transferred to Alabama from Georgia It's not every day that someone transfers from the national champion to the national runner-up. Burton was second on the team in both receiving yards and touchdowns behind tight end Brock Bowers . Alabama had to replace John Metchie III , Jameson Williams , Slade Bolden , Agiye Hall and Javon Baker at receiver. Burton and Louisville transfer Tyler Harrell should help fill that void and be on the field early. 13. OL Olu Oluwatimi Transferred to Michigan from Virginia Michigan won the Joe Moore Award for the country's best offensive line unit last year. Most of the unit returns, and although it had a hole at center, the staff brought in Oluwatimi. The former Cavalier was a finalist for the Rimington Award last season for the nation's best center, and the coaches have been talking him up for how quickly he has picked up on Michigan's scheme. 14. RB Travis Dye Transferred to USC from Oregon Dye was Oregon's leading rusher last season with 1,271 yards and 16 touchdowns. With a new staff coming in, Dye transferred to Pac-12 foe USC. The Trojans lost Keaontay Ingram and Vavae Malepeai and needed to add to the running back room. Dye should see significant carries alongside Stanford transfer Austin Jones . 15. QB Casey Thompson Transferred to Nebraska from Texas Thompson was the Texas starter last season and threw for 2,113 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Nebraska starter Adrian Martinez transferred to Kansas State, which left a hole open for Thompson and Florida State transfer Chubba Purdy . Nebraska was ranked 27th in pass yards per game last season, but ranked 97th in interceptions per attempt, 96th in sacks per attempt and 71st in total interceptions. 16. OT Will Campbell LSU | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 14 Campbell was an important signee for new coach Brian Kelly and his staff. He was a five-star prospect from Louisiana at a position of need. Campbell has already enrolled at LSU and looks as though he will be the starting left tackle barring anything unusual happening. It's rare to see a true freshman come in and start at left tackle for an SEC program, but Campbell is a 6-foot-6, 325-pound lineman who has the talent and strength to play right away. Five-star cornerback Travis Hunter shocked the college football world in December when he flipped his commitment from Florida State to Jackson State. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis 17. CB Travis Hunter Jackson State | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 2 Hunter made history when he spurned Florida State to sign with Jackson State . He was the first five-star recruit to sign with an FCS program and has the ability to play in the secondary or at wide receiver for Deion Sanders' program. 18. QB Cameron Ward Transferred to Washington State from Incarnate Word Ward is coming from an FCS school where he threw for 4,468 yards, 47 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2021, and had 2,260 yards and 24 touchdowns in only six games during the 2020 season. Big school or not, the impressive numbers give the Cougars hope after last year's starter Jayden de Laura transferred to Arizona. 19. DE Chop Robinson Transferred to Penn State from Maryland Robinson was the No. 38 prospect in the 2021 class and one of the top linebackers. He signed with Maryland and had two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss in 13 games as a freshman. Penn State lost Arnold Ebiketie and Jesse Luketa on the edge and needed more pass-rush options. The 6-3, 242-pound Robinson should be on the field early next season. 20. DL Mekhi Wingo Transferred to LSU from Missouri Wingo was one of the more sought-after defensive line transfers and adds to the options up front for Kelly and his staff. The Tigers lost Neil Farrell Jr . and Joseph Evans at defensive tackle, but have Jaquelin Roy and Maason Smith coming back. Wingo can add to that group and provide an excellent rotation along the defensive line. 21. WR Evan Stewart Texas A&M | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 13 Ainias Smith led Texas A&M with six touchdown receptions, and his 509 receiving yards trailed only tight end Jalen Wydermyer , who isn't on the roster anymore. Neither is running back Isaiah Spiller , who helped in the passing game, nor receiver Demond Demas . The five-star Stewart is set to step in and play early in his career. He is joined in Texas A&M's top-ranked recruiting class by receivers Chris Marshall (No. 4 WR recruit) and Noah Thomas , as well as tight ends Jake Johnson , Donovan Green and Theodor Melin Ohrstrom . 22. DT Walter Nolen Texas A&M | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 1 Nolen was the top-ranked prospect in the 2022 class and part of a huge defensive line haul for the Aggies. Texas A&M signed seven ESPN 300 defensive linemen, including four ranked as five-stars. Defensive tackle Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy and defensive ends Lebbeus Overton and Shemar Stewart should all be part of this pick in a package deal given they're all very talented and have the opportunity to contribute right away. 23. RB Raleek Brown USC | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 64 Brown had been committed to Oklahoma, but flipped to USC after Riley took over as coach. He was the No. 5 running back in the class and has a chance to help out in multiple ways this season. He can play running back, help in the return game and be a slot receiver for USC, so his versatility should allow him to see the field very early. 24. DE Jared Verse Transferred to Florida State from Albany Florida State lost star Jermaine Johnson (12 sacks, 70 tackles, 18 TFLs) to the NFL, and the staff also lost Keir Thomas , who ranked second on the team with 6.5 sacks. Verse had nine sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss and 52 total tackles in 11 games at Albany last season. He'll bring some much-needed help in the pass rush as some of the younger edge players on the roster get acclimated. 25. RB Trey Benson Transferred to Florida State from Oregon Florida State lost its leading rusher, Jashaun Corbin , to the NFL, but is returning Treshaun Ward , who ran for 515 yards and four touchdowns last season. The staff still needed help at running back, so it added Benson from Oregon. Despite limited snaps at Oregon a year ago, Benson has performed above expectations in camp so far and should be a major contributor this season. Follow ESPN recruiting 26. OL Cole Hutson Texas | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: unranked (four stars) Texas has an incredible offensive line class coming in from the 2022 class, and most of them could be interchangeable here. Hutson enrolled early, though, and has garnered rave reviews at guard. He has had some reps with the first team and should be in the mix early on. 27. OL Devon Campbell Texas | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 10 Campbell is another Texas offensive line signee from the 2022 class who has a shot at contributing early. He, Hutson and Kelvin Banks Jr . could all realistically be on this list. Campbell was the No. 1 guard in the class and has the talent to play very early. 28. RB Nicholas Singleton Penn State | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 57 Penn State ranked 118th in rush yards per game, 121th in yards per rush and 117th in rushing touchdowns (11) last season. Noah Cain and John Lovett are both gone, and although leading rusher Keyvone Lee returns, the coaches restocked the running back room with Singleton and Kaytron Allen , two ESPN 300 running backs. Despite Lee's experience, both should push for playing time and will have the chance to improve the Nittany Lions' run game. 29. WR Isaiah Neyor Transferred to Texas from Wyoming Texas hit big with receiver Xavier Worthy , who had 981 yards and 12 touchdowns as a true freshman last season. Outside of Worthy, there wasn't another player with more than 377 yards receiving, and running back Bijan Robinson was second on the team in receiving touchdowns with four. Neyor had 878 yards and 12 touchdowns last season for Wyoming and gives the Longhorns another outside player to help Worthy and whoever starts at quarterback. 30. CB Ryan Watts Transferred to Texas from Ohio State The Longhorns have lost quite a bit in the secondary from last season and needed help at corner. Watts had one pass breakup and two interceptions last season for Ohio State and should be able to come in and compete alongside D'Shawn Jamison for one of the corner spots. 31. LB Shane Lee Transferred to USC from Alabama This pick could've been linebacker Eric Gentry , who transferred from Arizona State, or Romello Height , who transferred from Auburn. All three will likely play, but Lee, who starred in place of Dylan Moses as a freshman in 2019 but dealt with injuries since, has already taken on a leadership role within the defense at USC. 32. WR Luther Burden III Missouri | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 5 Burden was a five-star receiver in the 2022 class out of East St. Louis, Illinois. He's a 6-1, 195-pound prospect who has an opportunity to instantly help an offense that ranked No. 66 in pass yards per game and lost its starting quarterback. Missouri is returning a few of its receivers from last season, but Burden has the talent to compete with anyone currently on the roster. 33. DE Mykel Williams Georgia | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 24 Georgia lost defensive end Travon Walker and tackles Devonte Wyatt and Jordannnnn Davis this offseason. The staff has the depth to replace them, but Williams might be too talented to keep off the field. Though only a freshman, he could work himself into a rotation and contribute early on. 34. DB Toriano Pride Clemson | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 150 Clemson lost corners Mario Goodrich and Andrew Booth Jr ., as well as safety Nolan Turner , who combined for half of Clemson's 12 interceptions a season ago. The Tigers will need multiple people to step up and help in the secondary, and the 5-11, 185-pound Pride could earn playing time early this season. 35. DB Tanner McCalister Transferred to Ohio State from Oklahoma State McCalister joined Ohio State after his Oklahoma State defensive coordinator, Jim Knowles, joined the Buckeyes' staff. McCalister knows Knowles' system and had five pass breakups and an interception last season for Oklahoma State. The Buckeyes are returning Denzel Burke and Cameron Brown at corner, as well as Ronnie Hickman and Josh Proctor at safety. Adding an experienced player like McCalister will improve their secondary even more. Recruit Cade Klubnik is coming off Elite 11 MVP honors in 2021 and could challenge D.J. Uiagalelei for Clemson's starting quarterback role. John Byrum/Icon Sportswire 36. QB Cade Klubnik Clemson | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 29 Clemson returns starter DJ Uiagalelei this season, but it's never a bad thing to have some competition and someone to push another player to improve. Last season, Uiagalelei ranked 77th in total passing yards, 117th in yards per attempt, 101st in passing touchdowns, 92nd in total interceptions thrown and 112th in completion percentage. If those numbers don't improve, Klubnik, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the class, could push Uiagalelei for playing time. 37. WR Talyn Shettron Oklahoma State | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 73 Shettron initially committed to Oklahoma out of high school, but then decommitted and picked Oklahoma State. He will have an experienced quarterback throwing to him in Spencer Sanders and is also coming in when the team is looking to replace production from leading receiver Tay Martin . There are other receivers in front of him, but with Oklahoma State's offense, he should have plenty of opportunity. 38. WR Jordan Hudson TCU | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 58 Hudson will fit in to new coach Sonny Dyke's offense. A 6-1, 190-pound receiver from Garland, Texas, Hudson was the Horned Frogs' highest-ranked recruit this cycle. They return quite a bit at receiver, but Hudson has size and speed that should get him looks early on. 39. DB Will Johnson Michigan | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 23 Michigan is replacing a ton of production from last season's defense, namely safeties Daxton Hill and Brad Hawkins and cornerback Vincent Gray . Corners DJ Turner and Gemon Green return, but the Wolverines need more talent at corner. At 6-1, Johnson has the size and talent to see the field early. 40. LB Dasan McCullough Indiana | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 43 McCullough was a huge get for the Hoosiers not only because he's ranked so high, but also because of their need at linebacker. Micah McFadden was one of the leaders of the defense for Indiana last season, but he's now in the NFL. McCullough is a 6-5, 230-pound linebacker whose father, Deland, is a coach at Notre Dame. It would be a surprise if McCullough doesn't help the defense in some way this season. 41. DB Xavier Nwankpa Iowa | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 155 Nwankpa was a big target for the Iowa coaches as an in-state recruit and a highly sought prospect nationally. He was one of the top safeties in the class and is coming in after the Hawkeyes lost safety Jack Koerner and defensive backs Dane Belton and Matt Hankins . Nwankpa has a chance to play in some capacity in the secondary despite some experience in front of him. 42. S Malaki Starks Georgia | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 12 Starks was a five-star athlete in the 2022 class who will play safety for the Dawgs. He was the highest-ranked recruit in the class for Georgia and is joining the team as safety Lewis Cine and defensive backs Derion Kendrick , Latavious Brini , Ameer Speed , Lovasea Carroll and Jalen Kimber are all leaving. Starks should have an opportunity to earn playing time in what looks to be a thin safety room this season. 43. DB Domani Jackson USC | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 9 Jackson has been recovering from an injury, which might prevent him from playing immediately. But the five-star recruit and No. 2 corner in the 2022 class could be versatile in how he helps the defense. If and when he's fully healthy, he can be a big part in Riley's new-look defense. 44. LB C.J. Hicks Ohio State | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 17 A deep linebacking corps could make it tough for Hicks to crack the starting lineup, but with Knowles as the new defensive coordinator, there are a few spots open, and Hicks is too talented to not be on the field. His speed, paired with his 6-3, 225-pound size, will make him a factor. Hicks was an important addition to the Buckeyes' 2022 class given his five-star rating and the fact he is from in-state Kettering. 45. OL Kiyaunta Goodwin Kentucky | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 44 Goodwin is a 6-8, 351-pound freshman, ranked as the No. 5 tackle in the 2022 class out of Indiana. The coaching staff needs to fill spots along the offensive line, and there aren't a ton of experienced players to fill them. Offensive line is always difficult to predict if a freshman can come in and play right away, but given his size and strength, Goodwin should have every chance to play early on for Kentucky. 46. DL David Bailey Stanford | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 122 Bailey was the No. 11 outside linebacker in the class and one of the top prospects in California. He is listed as an edge rusher for Stanford, and while the Cardinal typically don't sign recruits who play right away, Bailey could buck that trend. The staff lost Gabe Reid , Jordan Fox , Andres Fox and Tangaloa Kaufusi , leaving a hole at the position. Bailey has every opportunity to contribute this season with the lack of experience in front of him. 47. WR Tetairoa McMillan Arizona | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 144 Arizona needs more playmakers on offense, and McMillan could be a day-one starter at receiver. Quarterback Jayden de Laura transferred in but won't have Stanley Berryhill , BJ Casteel , Tayvian Cunningham and Boobie Curry as receiving targets. McMillan has every opportunity to be a big target for de Laura this season, and at 6-4, 185 pounds, he has the size to come in and make a difference right away. 48. LB Jaishawn Barham Maryland | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 136 Barham, a 6-3, 230-pound recruit from in-state, was the No. 15 outside linebacker in the class. The Terps signed an excellent linebacker class in 2021, but Chop Robinson , Branden Jennings and Terrence Lewis all transferred out. The staff brought in VanDarius Cowan from West Virginia, but Barham has the ability to crack the lineup and help this defense this season. 49. DB Jaden Mickey Notre Dame | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 273 The Irish have depth at corner, but Mickey stood out during the spring. He's a 5-11, 176-pound corner from California, and his father has coached high school defensive backs. He came in ready to play, and despite having experience in front of him, Mickey could break into the rotation. 50. DT Mason Graham Michigan | 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: unranked (three stars) Graham was a little bit of a late bloomer and skyrocketed up recruiting boards later in the process. A 6-3, 290-pound defensive tackle from California, Graham signed with Michigan to give depth at tackle. Michigan is thin in the middle, also adding UCF transfer Cam Goode . Graham has already shown flashes of what he can do, and because there is opportunity there, he could see early playing time this season.