Top 20 college football impact transfers for 2017

Jarrett Stidham, a Baylor transfer, was the offensive MVP of Auburn’s spring game. (AP)

The season is getting closer and closer as our countdown continues. This week we look at 20 players who are at new schools in 2017. There are a lot of familiar faces at new places and a few players who you may not know right now but will definitely know by the end of the season. Who will make the biggest impact at their new school?

20. Chris James, RB, Wisconsin (from Pittsburgh): Wisconsin needs to replace a lot of rushing production from 2016 and Chris James is going to be counted on significantly. The Badgers lost Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale, who ran for nearly 1,900 yards. Enter James, who will share time with Bradrick Shaw. James, a transfer from Pitt, had 690 yards in two seasons for the Panthers before joining the Badgers.

19. Sunny Odogwu, OL, UCLA (from Miami): Jim Mora would sure like to keep star quarterback Josh Rosen upright this season, so he brought in Odogwu, a massive — 6-foot-8, 340 pounds — offensive lineman from Miami. With 14 starts under his belt for the Hurricanes, Odogwu should slide into a starting tackle spot for the Bruins as they look to rebound from a disastrous four-win season in 2016.

18. Scott Pagano, DL, Oregon (from Clemson): Pagano’s transfer destination was perhaps the biggest defensive graduate story of the offseason. A former starter at Clemson, Pagano picked Oregon over a host of other schools and should step immediately into the starting lineup. Oregon needs him too. The Ducks’ defense was beyond bad in 2016.

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17. Anu Solomon, QB, Baylor (from Arizona): After seeing things fizzle out at Arizona, Anu Solomon saw an opportunity at Baylor, despite what has gone on off the field the past few years. Solomon’s 2016 was derailed by injuries, but he threw for more than 6,400 yards and 48 touchdowns during the two previous seasons for the Wildcats. He can put up big numbers and, provided he beats out sophomore Zach Smith, should be a nice veteran piece for Baylor in Matt Rhule’s first season.

16. Dee Delaney, CB, Miami (from The Citadel): Delaney is the only FCS-to-FBS transfer on our list. A former All-American player at The Citadel, Delaney will play his final season at Miami after a graduate transfer. Delaney was one of the best defensive backs in FCS in 2016 with six interceptions. Don’t be surprised if he becomes a Week 1 starter for Miami.

15. James Butler, RB, Iowa (from Nevada): Iowa could have two 1,000-yard rushers for a second year in a row. Last year it was LeShun Daniels (1,058 yards, 10 TDs) and Akrum Wadley (1,081 yards, 10 TDs). Daniels graduated but Wadley is back, and he’ll have Nevada transfer James Butler, who rushed for 1,336 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2016, alongside him. It’s a huge addition for the Iowa offense. In addition to the obvious boost to the running game, Butler and Wadley are both very capable pass-catchers and will be useful weapons for whoever ends up starting at QB.

Brandon Harris lost the starting job to Danny Etling at LSU in 2016. (Getty)

14. Brandon Harris, QB, North Carolina (from LSU): The former prized recruit leaves the high expectations at LSU to go to North Carolina … where he will succeed a guy who went No. 2 in the NFL draft. No pressure, Brandon. UNC is an ideal landing spot for Harris. He should slide into an uptempo offense that could better suit his talents than an LSU offense that didn’t exactly play fast. But Harris needs to fix his accuracy issues if he’s going to match the production Mitch Trubisky had in 2016.

13. T.J. McCollum, LB, Purdue (from Western Kentucky): Purdue needs all the help it can get on both sides of the ball, so new coach Jeff Brohm brought some with him from Western Kentucky. Check out these stats in two seasons from linebacker T.J. McCollum: 191 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. The Boilermakers won’t win too many games in 2017, but McCollum should be given the opportunity to make a name for himself in the Big Ten.

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12. Shaq Wiggins, DB, Tennessee (from Louisville): Wiggins is at his second SEC school and his third school overall. The former Georgia defensive back transferred to Louisville, where he played in 2015 and 2016. After graduating from Louisville, where he was honorable mention All-ACC in 2015, Wiggins sought a grad transfer and picked Tennessee over Mississippi State. Tennessee needs to replace CBs Cam Sutton and Malik Foreman. Wiggins should have a good chance to be one of their replacements.

11. Jalen Brown, WR, Northwestern (from Oregon): With the return of QB Clayton Thorson and RB Justin Jackson behind a super-experienced offensive line, Northwestern has the chance to be pretty good on offense. However, it must find a replacement for Austin Carr. Carr came out of nowhere to be an All-Big Ten receiver as a senior. Jalen Brown, a graduate transfer from Oregon, has a chance to fill the void. Brown was a four-star, top 100 recruit in 2014 that showed flashes for the Ducks. He has good size (6-2, 185), the speed to get behind the defense and can make people miss in the open field. He should fit in nicely opposite Flynn Nagel on the outside.

Max Browne started the first three games of 2016 for USC. (Getty)

10. Max Browne, QB, Pittsburgh (from USC): If your memory gets foggy going through the 2016 season, Browne was the starting quarterback at USC to begin the year, not Sam Darnold. The Trojans went 1-2 to start the season and Browne never started again as Darnold became one of the better quarterbacks in the country. Now Browne has a chance to replace Nathan Peterman in a Pitt offense that was quite productive. But in addition to replacing Peterman, the Panthers also have to replace RB James Connor and offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who left for LSU. Shawn Watson will now run the Pitt offense.

9. Adrian Baker, CB, Oklahoma State (from Clemson): Everybody who watches college football knows Oklahoma State can score. But can the Cowboys stop anybody? That’s where Baker, a defensive back from Clemson, should help an OSU defense that was 98th in the country in passing yards allowed. Baker missed the entire 2016 season due to a torn ACL but saw significant action for the Tigers in 2015. He has three career interceptions and will be a much-needed veteran presence at cornerback — especially with Ramon Richards moving to safety.

8. Tyron Johnson, WR, Oklahoma State (from LSU): The Cowboys have a great chance of unseating Oklahoma atop the Big 12 and that’s thanks to an offense that could have the best passing attack in the country. Johnson, a former five-star recruit who began his career at LSU, joins receivers James Washington, Jalen McCleskey and Marcell Ateman as guys who will catch 40 or more passes from QB Mason Rudolph. If OSU can continue to establish a consistent rushing attack — RB Justice Hill helped a lot with that in 2016 — watch out.

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7. Tanner Lee, QB, Nebraska (from Tulane): There have been a lot of glowing reviews of Lee since he arrived in Lincoln from Tulane a few years ago. Lee completed 13-of-19 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns in the spring game and was subsequently named starter by coach Mike Riley. His numbers from his two seasons as starter for the Green Wave — 3,601 yards, 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions on 53.5 percent throwing — certainly won’t wow you, so Huskers fans are hoping his redshirt year paid dividends. If it didn’t, it could be another season without a Big Ten West title.

Kyle Allen moved down the road from Texas A&M to Houston. (Getty)

6. Kyle Allen, QB, Houston (from Texas A&M): Remember all of the quarterback drama at Texas A&M in 2015? Allen and Kyler Murray both saw significant playing time and subsequently left the program, leaving the Aggie offense in the hands of Jake Hubenak for the bowl game. While Murray was off to Oklahoma, Allen was recruited to Houston by now-Texas coach Tom Herman. The former five-star recruit has running back Duke Catalon alongside him in the backfield and a capable receiving corps. If he plays to his potential, Houston, now coached by Major Applewhite, should challenge for the AAC title again.

5. Jeff Badet, WR, Oklahoma (from Kentucky): Coming off back-to-back Big 12 titles, Baker Mayfield and the Sooners lost a lot on offense, so they brought in Kentucky graduate transfer Jeff Badet to bolster the receiving group. Badet had 31 catches and led Kentucky with 670 yards and four scores. On top of that, Badet’s 21.6 yards per reception was best in the SEC. He has the chance to be a home-run hitter in the explosive Sooners offense with Dede Westbrook now in the NFL. He could potentially make an impact in the return game as well.

4. Blake Barnett, QB, Arizona State (from Alabama): Remember how we said Browne started for USC in Week 1? Barnett started that 55-3 Alabama win too. But we’re also not going to blame you if you forgot that fact. He was replaced during the game by Jalen Hurts and Hurts ended up being the team’s starting quarterback the rest of the season. Barnett left the team to transfer during the season and the decision paid off. After choosing Arizona State — where former Alabama assistant Billy Napier is now the offensive coordinator — he was granted immediate eligibility in 2017. Barnett should be ASU’s starter in Week 1 and give some stability to a position that didn’t have any in 2016.

3. Malik Zaire, QB, Florida (from Notre Dame): It took months to come to fruition, but ex-Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire was officially announced as a Florida Gator last week. It took an adjustment of an SEC rule on grad transfers for it to happen, but Jim McElwain will finally have some stability at the quarterback position in 2017. He hopes. Zaire only made three starts at Notre Dame. He got the nod over Everett Golson in the Music City Bowl to cap off 2014 and entered 2015 as the starter, only to break his ankle. Recent second-round draft pick DeShone Kizer stepped in from there and never relinquished his starting job, despite a strong fight from Zaire in camp last year. Now at Florida, Zaire finally has his chance to be a full-time starter. We don’t think he’ll waste it.

Will Grier sat out the 2016 season after a suspension. (Getty)

2. Will Grier, QB, WVU (from Florida): Grier’s term in college football purgatory is almost over. He was undefeated as a starter for Florida in 2015 before he was suspended a season for testing positive for a banned substance. Grier decided to transfer and sat out the 2016 season behind Skyler Howard at West Virginia. Much like Blake Barnett, Grier’s decision to change schools paid off and he was declared eligible at the start of the 2017 season. He’ll take the helm of a Mountaineer offense that’s capable of contending for a Big 12 title. Whether or not the Mountaineers can truly be contenders may hedge on the defense.

1. Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn (from Baylor): Jarrett Stidham started only three games as a freshman in 2015 at Baylor, but he showed a world of potential. Stepping in for injured veteran Seth Russell, Stidham impressed by throwing for 934 yards and six touchdowns before breaking a bone in his ankle. Before the 2016 season, Stidham decided to leave the turbulent situation in Waco after Art Briles was fired. He landed at Auburn in December and impressed during spring practice, including a stellar 16-of-20 for 267 yards on A-Day. He joined a crowded depth chart but is the most-talented signal caller of the group. Though he isn’t the most mobile guy in the world, he gives Gus Malzahn the chance to run his offense at a much higher level than it’s been in recent years.

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