Confused by “The Portal? Here’s an easy transfer breakdown of Mississippi’s Big 3.
Published 8:42 pm Saturday, December 30, 2023
Here’s a look at the transfer movements in the latest round of college football free agency for Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss football. The transfer portal window closes on Jan. 2 and will reopen again for two weeks in April.
University of Mississippi head coach Lane Kiffin has made “Transfer to the Sip” into his rallying cry since the portal process began to take off two years ago. Kiffin has poached the portal for the top ranked transfer class in the nation, solidified by the recent addition of Texas A&M defensive lineman Walter Nolen.
Nolen was a five-star recruit when he signed with former TAMU head coach Jimbo Fisher and was ranked as the no.1 player in the class of 2022, a recruiting cycle that was dominated by the Aggies and their huge NIL war chest.
Another member of that highly coveted 2022 Texas A&M recruiting class is wide receiver Evan Stewart. Stewart is ranked the no. 1 wide receiver in the portal and is also considering Ole Miss.
Ole Miss has already signed the no. 1 edge rusher in the class, defensive end Princely Umanmielen from the University of Florida. The Rebels also signed the no. 1 linebacker available in Arkansas transfer Chris “Pooh” Paul Jr.
So far Ole Miss has 11 transfers pledges, many of them from fellow SEC programs.
Two Tennessee Volunteers are coming to Oxford in defensive end Tyler Baron and safety Tamarion McDonald. Ole Miss is also getting a wide receiver from South Carolina in Antwane “Juice” Wells.
From Mississippi State, Ole Miss has added a defensive back transfer in Decamerion Richardson. The Rebels also added another in-state transfer in offensive lineman Gerquan Scott, who’d previously played at Southern Miss.
Other transfers for Ole Miss include Oklahoma safety Key Lawrence, Illinois defensive back Tahveon Nicholson, Indiana defensive back Louis Moore and Florida Atlantic wide receiver Devin Price.
Like every school in today’s world of college football, Ole Miss has its share of players looking to transfer out of the program. Just 12 players remain on the current roster from Kiffin’s first two recruiting classes in Oxford.
Wide receiver Larry Simmons, wide receiver Jeremiah Dillon, wide receiver JJ Henry, wide receiver Bralon Brown, wide receiver Rayf Vinson, tight end Kyirin Heath, tight end Michael Trigg, offensive lineman Cedrick Nicely, offensive lineman Cedric Melton, linebacker Reginald Hughes, defensive back Demarko Williams and kicker Caden Costa are members of the 2023 Ole Miss team that have jumped into the portal.
Dillon, who was a highly touted prospect out of Tylertown High School, has committed to next play at Vanderbilt.
Even though Kiffin and his staff have worked on the system as well as any staff in the country, he’s still not a big fan of the current set up and said as much in a press conference ahead of the Peach Bowl on Saturday.
“Again, it’s a terrible system,” said Kiffin. “I wouldn’t think any other sports, professional sports, have ever set up a system where free agency starts while the season is still going, so it really makes no sense. You can leave, you can stay, you can go other places. Coaches can call you and our season is still going. It would be like before the NFC or AFC playoffs start in a couple weeks, all of a sudden free agency the week before opens. So you can start recruiting other people’s players and fly them on trips and get them to transfer. So really a really bad system.”
One of the prime attractions of the portal for new head coaches, like Jeffy Lebby at Mississippi State, is the ability to use it in finding a starting quarterback.
MSU and Lebby were able to grab an experienced signal caller in Baylor transfer Blake Shapen. Shapen threw for nearly 5,000 combined yards over the last two seasons. In that time, he tossed 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Offensively, the Bulldogs have also added wide receiver Kelly Akharaiyi from UTEP, tight end Cameron Ball from Buffalo, tight end Justin Ball from Vanderbilt, offensive lineman Ethan Miner from North Texas, offensive lineman Marlon Martinez from LSU and offensive lineman Maklyan Pounders from Memphis.
Linebacker Nathaneil “Boogie” Watson highlights a group of five Bulldogs who have declared for the NFL Draft. Also in that group is defensive lineman Jaden Crumedy, defensive back Marcus Banks, wide receiver Tulu Griffin and wide receiver Freddie Roberson.
On the defensive side of the ball, MSU is adding three portal pickups thus far. They include defensive lineman Kedrick Bingley-Jones of North Carolina, defensive lineman Sulaiman Kpaka of Purdue and Traveon Wright, a defensive back from Memphis.
The portal giveth and it taketh away and State is losing some veteran players to other Power 5 programs. Players leaving Starkville who’ve already found their next home include quarterback Will Rogers (Washington), defensive back DeCarlos Nicholson (Southern California), tight end Ryland Goede (Georgia Tech), offensive lineman Steven Losoya (Vanderbilt), running back Jo’Quavious Marks (Southern California), defensive back Decamerion Richardson (Ole Miss) and wide receiver Zavion Thomas (LSU).
Southern Miss head coach Will Hall and his staff have developed a pattern in their portal experiences over the last few seasons. The Golden Eagles look to grab players from Ole Miss and MSU that might be looking for more playing time, while also focusing on Mississippi natives that have been playing at out-of-state schools and who might be looking to get closer to home.
From Ole Miss, the Golden Eagles recently added tight end Kyirin Heath and wide receiver Larry Simmons. Simmons prepped at Moss Point High School.From Mississippi State, USM has picked up safety Will James.
Safety Jermarius Lewis, a North Pike graduate, is coming to Hattiesburg after previously playing at the University of New Mexico. He’ll be joined at USM by his brother, linebacker Fred Lewis, a transfer from Henderson State University.
Defensive lineman Ryan Johnson, a native of Starkville, is joining the Golden Eagles from Akron University. Desmyn Baker, who played high school football at Clinton, is a linebacker transfer from Western Kentucky.
Hall and his staff also picked up linebacker Tre Pinkney from Coastal Carolina and offensive lineman Zack Conti from Eastern Michigan.
Conti was the focus of national news stories during the regular season. He joined the team at EMU as a walk-on and became a significant piece of the offensive line while juggling school and a number of odd jobs needed to pay his tuition.
When Conti thought he might have to give up the sport due to being stretched too thin, his linemate Brian Dooley went to the coaching staff and asked them to give Conti his scholarship.
The Southern Miss offensive line is the area where the Golden Eagles have been hit the hardest by players transferring out. Leaving Hattiesburg from that position group are James Middleton, Bryce Ramsey and Gerquan Scott. Scott is transferring to Ole Miss. Additionally, another starting lineman, John Bolding, has declared for the NFL Draft.
Wide receiver Tyquan Henderson, who signed with Southern Miss after a standout career at Copiah-Lincoln CC, is another Southern Miss player who’s announced he will transfer.