Comings, goings in football transfer portal

The state’s football players are looking for better situations while teams try to fill holes during the offseason

Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall said last week he'll transfer to NC State following an injury-plagued season in which he appeared in only seven games. (Mike Stewart / AP Photo)

The transfer portal is still active with many uncommitted players from around the country, but the initial rush seems to have passed, giving us a chance to look around the state and see how college football’s version of free agency has impacted North Carolina’s college programs.

The big winner — NC State: The transfer portal has been good to Dave Doeren and the Wolfpack this offseason. NC State is ranked in the top 10 nationally for its portal class, and only Louisville is higher among ACC teams. The Wolfpack has added tight end Justin Joly from UConn and Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall, which helps ease the sting of losing MJ Morris, who left for Maryland. State has also added offensive linemen Valen Erickson from Missouri and Zeke Correll from Notre Dame, as well as Wake receiver Wesley Grimes. Outside of Morris, defensive tackle CJ Clark (Miami) is the biggest loss, although several skill position players have departed from the offense, including tight end Christopher Toudle, receivers Anthony Smith and Porter Rooks, and running backs Michael Allen and Jordan Houston.

The big loser (so far) — Duke: The coaching change has hurt the Blue Devils in the transfer portal twice. When Mike Elko first left for Texas A&M, several top players followed him out the door, most notably quarterback Riley Leonard, who almost immediately committed to Notre Dame. He’ll be joined in South Bend by pass rusher RJ Oben. Defensive tackle Aeneas Peebles is also leaving, although he’s still sorting through offers. Now that Manny Diaz is on board as the new coach, a second wave of Blue Devils, either unhappy with the choice or with their prospects after meeting with the new coach, are now in the portal, most notably running back Jordan Waters, who is being courted by both UNC and NC State, and corner Brandon Johnson.

Meanwhile, Diaz has been busy hiring a staff and working on high school recruiting with signing day approaching and hasn’t been able to add anyone from the portal. Duke has offers outstanding from the Elko era to Penn’s Joey Slackman, the Ivy League defensive player of the year, and Harvard offensive tackle Jacob Rizy. Diaz also brought in former Texas quarterback Maalik Murphy on an official visit.

Here’s a look at the other programs in the state, ranked from best to worst impact of transfer portal comings and going.

Charlotte: The 49ers have added seven incoming transfers, including five from Power Five conferences. The defense adds edge rusher D’Andre Martin from South Carolina and Western Michigan corner Anthony Romphf. The offense adds three linemen, from Clemson, Texas A&M and Tennessee, as well as Florida quarterback Max Brown. The biggest losses are running backs Shadrick Byrd and Durell Robinson, linebackers Nikhai Hill-Green and Derek Boykins, and defensive lineman Miguel Jackson.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have added three players, but it’s debatable whether they stand at a net positive or negative regarding the portal. Quarterback Hank Bachmeier arrives from Louisiana Tech to help replace starter Mitch Griffis, who left for Marshall, and backup Santino Marucci, who is still looking for a new home. Bachmeier has started 38 games in four years for Tech and Boise State. Wake also added a pair of standouts from the FCS level in Southern Illinois linebacker Branson Combs and Indiana State offensive lineman Keagan Trost.

In addition to losing two quarterbacks, the Deacs lost a host of receivers, topped by team-leading pass catcher Jahmal Banks and another member of the 100-career catch club, Ke’Shawn Williams, as well as running back Justice Ellison (Indiana).

UNC: The Tar Heels have had a string of strong recruiting classes under Mack Brown, and several blue-chippers are ready for a new start with another team. Running back George Pettaway, who arrived with (and eventually took a back seat to) Omarion Hampton, is leaving. Kedrick Bingley-Jones, one of the bumper crop class of defensive linemen a few years ago, left for Mississippi State. Other big names on the move out of Chapel Hill are tight end Kamari Morales (Boston College), receivers Doc Chapman (Marshall) and Andre Green (uncommitted), and linebacker Deuce Caldwell. Brown has only added a pair of incoming transfers, but both should have an impact: Texas A&M quarterback Max Johnson and Georgia offensive lineman Austin Blaske.

App State: The Mountaineers added one transfer in former NC Central corner Jason Chambers, who led the Eagles in interceptions and pass breakups and was first-team All-MEAC. They got hit hard on departing transfers, however. The number of departees was relatively low — 10 players — but several were huge contributors. The list includes 2022 All-American kick returner Milan Tucker, running back Nate Noel, who was second in the nation in rushing before going down to injury in October, and starting receiver Dashaun Davis. On the other side of the ball, starting linebacker Donovan Spellman departs.

East Carolina: Like Duke, the Pirates have yet to add anyone from the portal. They’ve lost a bunch of talent, however, shedding a half-dozen players who started games for East Carolina, including quarterback Mason Garcia (3), defensive back Teagan Wilk (4), offensive linemen Richard Pearce (3) and Isaiah Foote (13), and linebacker RaRa Dilworth (7). Taylor Jackson was fifth on the team in tackles this season and had 4.5 tackles for loss.