From the ACC to the SEC and beyond, talented transfer players are set to join Big 12 Conference teams this season, providing the league a boost and increasing the competition for the Texas Longhorns following a season that saw a lot of talented players graduate.
The Longhorns have, of course, been players on the transfer market, too, landing left tackle Calvin Anderson from Rice and running back Tre Watson from Cal. Those two graduate transfers fill some key holes from last season and boost the outlook for the 2018 season.
But other conference teams are receiving similar help, so it’s worth breaking down what exactly the Big 12 is adding this year in terms of impact transfers.
Quarterback Jalen McClendon — The Bears desperately needed to find another scholarship quarterback on the graduate transfer market and came through by landing Jalen McClendon from North Carolina State. Though the 6’5, 221-pounder isn’t likely to earn the starting role over Charlie Brewer, he does have experience after appearing in 14 games during his career.
Tight end Jalen Hurd — The former running back made the surprising decision to transfer from Tennessee during the middle of the 2016 season, citing injuries, a lack of a schematic fit in the Vols offense, and a desire to go somewhere to catch the ball more frequently.
The 6’4, 229-pounder is now technically listed as a wide receiver for head coach Matt Rhule, but he’ll probably play a hybrid role in the offense and spend time as a blocker. Expect to see him lined up all over the field to take advantage of his skill set.
Left tackle Jake Fruhmorgen — Even when Baylor was recruiting well, it was difficult for the Bears to land top-flight offensive tackles like Fruhmorgen, who was a top-10 player at his position in the 2015 class. After starting nine games over two seasons at Clemson, Fruhmorgen left the program and planned to sit out to heal a shoulder injury. He landed at Florida, but decided to quit football, then reversed course and ended up at Baylor.
With most of the offensive linemen returning from last year’s team, Baylor should be improved in the trenches with the addition of Fruhmorgen. Protecting the quarterback will be especially key, as the Bears allowed 38 sacks last season, which ranked No. 199 nationally.
Quarterback Dru Brown — Head coach Mike Gundy has a highly-rated quarterback arriving this summer in Spencer Sanders, but didn’t have much experience to replace departed star Mason Rudolph. Enter Brown, an undersized graduate transfer from Hawaii who played in junior college out of high school. Brown only average 6.8 yards per attempt last season, but he did throw 18 touchdowns passes and complete 61.7 percent of his passes.
Linebacker Jawaun Johnson — Even TCU missed on the undersized Johnson out of high school in New Boston. After a monster season at Northern Illinois that featured 98 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, and five interceptions, Johnson was a hot commodity on the graduate transfer market and got the opportunity to return to his home state. With last season’s leading tackler departed and a need at linebacker, Johnson is a perfect fit for the Horned Frogs.
Defensive tackle Preston Gordon — Anderson’s former teammate at Rice will provide a further boost to a Texas Tech defensive line that was much improved in 2017. Like Brown, Gordon is a bit undersized for his position at 6’1 and 280 pounds. Still, he’s recorded 17.5 tackles for loss in his career, so he’s been a productive player.
Wide receiver TJ Simmons — The wide receiving corps for the ‘Eers returns three of the top four pass catchers from last season, including David Sills V, so adding Simmons to the group will make it one of the nation’s best. Mostly a special teams player at Alabama, Simmons wasn’t an elite prospect out of high school like many Crimson Tide players, but he has drawn buzz at West Virginia for his play in practice.
Defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow — Another player from a big-time program, the USC transfer was a top-10 player nationally before knee injuries ended his time with the Trojans. He originally planned on retiring, but will give football one last shot in Morgantown, where he hopes to make a difference on a defensive line that struggled last season.
Defensive tackle Jabril Robinson — The better bet to provide a solid presence inside for West Virginia this season is Robinson, who wasn’t a highly-rated player out of high school, but developed into a solid player at Clemson. He lettered twice for the Tigers and had 19 tackles last season as a reserve.