A complete breakdown of every SEC football team's most important transfer portal addition on offense and defense for the 2023 college football season.
The deadline to enter college football's transfer portal prior to spring practice is officially closed, but player movement is expected to continue for the next few months as teams look to land key commitments to shape rosters for the 2023 season. Several SEC teams have been active in the portal, with LSU, Ole Miss, Auburn and Arkansas each over double digits in new transfer additions. Georgia has only added three players, but each addition could play a huge role as the reigning champs look to defend their title next fall. And after losing seasons, Florida, Auburn and Missouri sought instant help through the portal on both sides of the ball and came away with a handful of potential impact players.
Which players are slated to make the biggest impact for their new team in 2023? Athlon Sports takes a look at all 14 teams in the SEC and picks the biggest impact transfer on offense and defense:
SEC Football: Every Team's Most Important Transfer Portal Additions on Offense and Defense for 2023
Best Offensive Addition: QB Graham Mertz (from Wisconsin)
The Gators have a couple of transfers along the line and at running back, but Mertz is the biggest addition simply due to need and positional importance. With Jaden Rashada released from his NLI, the Gators were down to Jack Miller III and redshirt freshman Max Brown as scholarship quarterbacks. Mertz's play at Wisconsin left plenty to be desired, but a change of scenery might help the former four-star prospect.
Best Defensive Addition: DL Caleb Banks (from Louisville)
Banks doesn't have an extensive track record of production since he transferred after just seven appearances (2021-22) at Louisville. However, his size (6-7, 300) is intriguing for a Florida front that must get tougher against the run (175.2 rushing yards a game allowed in '22).
Best Offensive Addition: WR Dominic Lovett (from Missouri)
It was hard to find flaws with Georgia's offense in 2022, but depth and playmaking ability at receiver was at times a concern. And with AD Mitchell transferring to Texas, getting Lovett - a second-team All-SEC selection after catching 56 passes for 846 yards - is a boost to the weapons and overall depth on the outside. According to PFF, 339 of Lovett's 403 snaps at Missouri in '22 took place in the slot.
Best Defensive Addition: DB Smoke Bouie (from Texas A&M)
Bouie is the only defensive addition for Georgia through the portal by late January. After playing in a reserve role at Texas A&M in '22, Bouie returned to his home state of Georgia and should push for a spot at corner or nickel. The Bulldogs are losing starting corner Kelee Ringo and safety Christopher Smith, so coach Kirby Smart will have to do some shuffling on the back end this spring.
Best Offensive Addition: QB Devin Leary (from NC State)
With Will Levis off to the NFL, Kentucky had to bring in a transfer to compete for the starting nod in '23. Not only did the 'Cats find a signal-caller, but Leary is also arguably one of the best to hit the portal this offseason. In four years at NC State, Leary accounted for 6,807 yards and 62 touchdowns to only 16 picks. The New Jersey native was considered one of the top quarterbacks in college football coming into '22, but his season was derailed midway due to injury.
Best Defensive Addition: CB JQ Hardaway (from Cincinnati)
The Wildcats have two holes to fill at cornerback with Carrington Valentine and Keidron Smith off to the NFL. According to PFF, Hardaway had 51 snaps in coverage last year and gave up three receptions on seven targets for just 19 yards.
Best Offensive Addition: QB Jake Garcia (from Miami)
It's a toss-up between Garcia or Oklahoma receiver Theo Wease here. But the late pickup of Garcia - the No. 48 overall prospect in the '21 signing class gets a slight edge. Starting quarterback Brady Cook had shoulder surgery which will sideline him for the spring, and No. 2 Sam Horn - a former four-star recruit from '22 - has attempted only two passes.
Best Defensive Addition: S Tre'Vez Johnson (from Florida)
Could Johnson fill the void left behind by Martez Manuel's departure to the NFL? The Florida transfer played 371 snaps (per PFF) in the slot last year and finished '22 with 26 tackles (two for a loss) and two pass breakups.
Best Offensive Addition: TE Trey Knox (from Arkansas)
Knox followed new South Carolina coordinator Dowell Loggains from Fayetteville to Columbia. He should be a key weapon for quarterback Spencer Rattler, especially with last year's starting tight end (Jaheim Bell) transferring to Florida State.
Best Defensive Addition: LB Jaron Willis (from Ole Miss)
As of late January, Willis is the only defensive addition by South Carolina from the portal. However, linebacker is a significant position of need with Sherrod Greene and Brad Johnson out of eligibility.
Best Offensive Addition: WR Dont'e Thornton (from Oregon)
The cupboard isn't completely bare at receiver with Bru McCoy and Squirrel White returning, but the Volunteers have a need for pass catchers with Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman off to the NFL. Thornton certainly has the talent (No. 7 receiver prospect by the 247Sports Composite in the '21 class) and experience (26 catches) to make an impact right away.
Best Defensive Addition: LB Keenan Pili (from BYU)
The Volunteers improved on defense from 2021 to '22 but still need help across the board. With Juwan Mitchell and Jeremy Banks departing the linebacker unit, look for Pili - essentially a three-year starter at BYU - to make a play for snaps. He recorded 190 tackles in 36 games with the Cougars.
Related: Early SEC Predictions for 2023
Best Offensive Addition: None
As of late January, the Commodores did not have an addition through the transfer portal on offense.
Best Defensive Addition: Edge Aeneas DiCosmo (from Stanford)
DiCosmo is Vanderbilt's only defensive addition from the portal through late January, but he fills a significant positional need with the Commodores losing end Elijah McAllister to transfer.
Best Offensive Addition: TE CJ Dippre (from Maryland)
Dippre is Alabama's lone offensive transfer addition through late January. The Pennsylvania native caught 30 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns at Maryland in 2022 and could start from Day 1 with Cameron Latu off to the NFL
Best Defensive Addition: LB Trezmen Marshall (from Georgia)
The middle of Alabama's linebacker unit is in transition with Henry To'o To'o and Jaylen Moody departing Tuscaloosa. Marshall should fill that void and arrives at Alabama after his best overall season at Georgia (19 tackles and 4.5 TFL). Considering the similarity in defensive scheme, he should be able to get up to speed quickly for coach Nick Saban.
Best Offensive Addition: WR Andrew Armstrong (TAMU-Commerce)/Tyrone Broden (BGSU)
Let's cheat a little and list two players here. Arkansas is bringing in four receivers to restock a group losing tight end Trey Knox and wideouts Matt Landers, Jadon Haselwood and Ketron Jackson. Armstrong posted huge numbers at Texas A&M-Commerce (62 catches for 1,020 yards and 13 TDs in '22), while Broden grabbed 32 receptions for 506 yards and seven touchdowns at Bowling Green last fall.
Best Defensive Addition: DB Al Walcott (from Baylor)
Arkansas needs help at all three levels of the defense, so any transfer in the current '23 haul would fit here. But given the struggles on the back end (13.8 yards per completion allowed and 114th nationally in pass efficiency defense), solidifying this area is arguably the top priority for new coordinator Travis Williams. Walcott is a versatile piece in the secondary and is coming off his best season at the collegiate level, recording 82 tackles (10 for a loss), one pick, three forced fumbles and two sacks.
Best Offensive Addition: OL Gunner Britton (from Western Kentucky)
With the entire offensive line slated to turn over after the 2022 season, targeting immediate help in the portal was a must. The Tigers did exactly that, landing three players who can be instant starters. Britton is the best of the bunch, as he arrives on the Plains after playing more than 1,000 snaps and earning second-team All-Conference USA honors for the '22 season.
Best Defensive Addition: LB DeMario Tolan (from LSU)
Fortifying the front seven was a priority in the portal for coach Hugh Freeze and coordinator Ron Roberts. And on paper, with at least seven transfers arriving this offseason, the situation up front looks better going into spring ball. Tolan is one of the key pickups, as he should fill the void left at linebacker when Owen Pappoe departed to the NFL.
Best Offensive Addition: WR Aaron Anderson (from Alabama)
Even with Kayshon Boutte off to the NFL, LSU should have one of the strongest receiving corps in the SEC for '23, and the addition of Anderson only adds to the weapons for quarterback Jayden Daniels (or Garrett Nussmeier). Anderson was rated as the No. 4 receiver prospect in the '22 signing class but played in only three snaps for the Tide.
Best Defensive Addition: LB Omar Speights (from Oregon State)
LSU's haul of transfer talent is easily one of the best in college football for the '22-23 cycle. At least five players who can help in the trenches or off the edge are on the way, and four defensive backs to replenish in the secondary are also coming to Baton Rouge. However, Speights might be the most important addition for coach Brian Kelly. The Pennsylvania native was all over the field for Oregon State's defense over the last four years. In 45 games, Speights accumulated 308 tackles (25 for a loss), five sacks, and seven passes defended. He also earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors last season.
Best Offensive Addition: WR Freddie Roberson (from Eastern Washington)
Mississippi State's offense is going to look a little different with Kevin Barbay as play-caller instead of the Air Raid attack the program deployed in recent years. Although the exact look of the Bulldogs' offense is unsettled right now, a receiver of Roberson's caliber will find ways to make plays in '23. Over four seasons at FCS Eastern Washington, Roberson grabbed 141 receptions for 2,266 yards and 17 scores. His per-catch average (16.1) suggests he should be able to help quarterback Will Rogers stretch the field after the offense had only three completions of 40-plus yards.
Best Defensive Addition: DB Kobi Albert (from Kentucky
New coach Zach Arnett has been aggressive in adding to the secondary through the portal this offseason. Albert is one of four defensive backs coming to Starkville, which comes at a key time with the position experiencing significant turnover, including All-American cornerback Emmanuel Forbes leaving for the NFL. The Alabama native played in 10 games (88 snaps) in his freshman season for the Wildcats and accumulated three tackles.
Best Offensive Addition: QB Spencer Sanders (Okla. State)/Walker Howard (LSU)
This one is a tough call. Although Jaxson Dart is back, the additions of Sanders and Howard certainly indicate there will be a quarterback competition. However, the Rebels are also losing their top two receivers - Malik Heath and Jonathan Mingo - and could use more overall pop out of the downfield passing attack next year. Marshall ranked as a five-star prospect in the '22 signing class at Texas A&M and made an instant impact. In the first six games, he caught 11 passes for 108 yards. However, he was suspended in late October and did not record a snap for the rest of the year. Sanders has one year of eligibility remaining and is likely to push Dart for the starting nod. But where does that leave Howard? Could he sit in '23 and take over the No. 1 role in '24? Ole Miss has a fascinating quarterback battle ahead this offseason.
Best Defensive Addition: LB Monty Montgomery (from Louisville)
Improving the defense is a must if Ole Miss wants to push for double-digit wins in '23, and coach Lane Kiffin is importing another hefty haul of transfers on this side of the ball. Montgomery is the best of the bunch. The Louisville transfer was one of the top linebackers in the portal this cycle and is coming off his best season (70 tackles and six sacks) at the FBS level.
Related: Early SEC Predictions for 2023
Best Offensive Addition: WR Tyrin Smith (from UTEP)
Smith is quietly an excellent addition for the Aggies. He was one of just three players to top 1,000 receiving yards in Conference USA last fall and amassed 104 catches for 1,609 yards and 11 scores over two years in El Paso. The 5-foot-7 speedster will help to take some pressure off of Evan Stewart on the outside.
Best Defensive Addition: CB Tony Grimes (from North Carolina)
The Aggies have major holes to fill at corner after Jaylon Jones and Antonio Johnson departed for the NFL, and Smoke Bouie, Denver Harris, Brian George, Josh Moten, Myles Jones, and Marquis Groves-Killebrew opted to transfer. Grimes was a five-star prospect at North Carolina from the 2020 class, but his play over the last two years was up and down. Can Grimes get back on track? If so, he will be a major addition to a position of significant need.