CU’s Transfer Class: Something Special, or a List of “JAGs”?

Hope springs eternal, especially during, well, the spring.

Spring practices for Major League Baseball are getting underway, and the sights and sounds of players catching and hitting on grass fields in the warm Florida and Arizona sun not only gives winter-weary fans hope for the (eventual) arrival of spring, but gives them hope that this year – this year! – things might be different, and their team might contend for a championship.

It’s no different for college football fans this time of year, even though the first meaningful snaps and tackles are still six months away. The previous season is in the books, and the shortcomings of our favorite team are fading into the background of our memory.

The development and maturity of a few returning players here; the upgrade in the lineup from new players there … and viola! … the chances for victory in the fall have been dramatically increased.

Colorado fans, in spite of their better judgment, have been just as guilty as other fans in being overly optimistic about the turnover of the Buff roster each spring. We have spent every off-season for the last decade-plus convincing ourselves that, if we squint really hard, we can see the makings of a good CU team for the fall.

You would have thought we would have learned our lesson by now.

Ah, but this year is different, we argue.

This year we have an infusion of talent never seen before in a single year. In less than three months, Coach Prime and his staff have already overhauled over half of the roster, and the talent level has improved dramatically.

After all, CU signed one of the few Top 25 Recruiting Classes in school history, and Colorado currently has the No. 1 Transfer Portal Class in the entire nation. Of course the Buffs will be better, we argue, as everyone can agree that the lineup is dramatically better than the 2022 team.

Could we be wrong, or at least overzealous?

Probably not. From almost any objective measurement, the Colorado roster has improved. Coach Prime and his staff have brought in more blue-chip talent in a single off-season than the previous five coaching staffs combined.

By while there are undeniable upgrades across the board, the bar which the 2022 team set was absurdly low. Colorado not only finished with a 1-11 record, the Buffs did so in spectacularly embarrassing fashion. The Buffs were horrid on both sides of the ball, finishing in the bottom ten nationally in most major offensive and defensive categories. CU finished as not only the worst Power Five team in the nation, but arguably one of the worst teams in all of the FBS.

Pretty much any transfer or high school recruit would have been an upgrade over what CU put on the field last fall.

But just how much better is the transfer Class than the players they will be replacing?

There is the argument, not without merit, that college football fans, and  the coaching staffs of their favorite teams, become too enamored with any new replacement which can be signed. They look at how that player was rated out of high school, how many Power Five offers they may have had, and revel in how excited the new recruit sounds about getting a fresh start with their new team.

The reality is, however, that few of the transfers are coming to Boulder as former starters for other Power Five schools. They may have been injured while playing for another Power Five team, or may have been playing behind quality talent on that other team.

But they rarely come to Boulder as established starters for other Power Five schools … and that can lead to overly optimistic assumptions about their abilities.

Others transfers may have been stars … but at a lower division. How well will this stardom translate to the Power Five level? If they were so talented, an argument can be made, why weren’t they at the Power Five level to begin with?

In other words, most transfers come with flaws. We as fans tend to overlook them, as we are hopeful that the fresh start with the Buffs will generate stardom for those players in Boulder.

The reality is, though, that a good number of these transfers – transfers in the No. 1 Portal Class in the country! – will not work out.

They are “JAGs” … or Just Another Guy.

Just Another Guy who may not be any better than the guy he is replacing, he just happens to be the new guy, so he gets the benefit of the doubt over the returning player who was part of such a dreadful product last season.

So … is there any way to try and objectively rate the CU Transfer Class?

Bill Connelly at ESPN, he of the SP+ fame, came up with a simple methodology for rating transfers:

I created a quick scoring system based primarily on two things: How much did a transfer play, and how well did he play?

Loosely speaking, the scoring scale was set up like this:

1. Almost never played (or played at a level lower than FBS) 

2. Played a little

3. Played quite a bit and performed at an average or worse level

4. Played quite a bit and did well

5. Absolute star, one of the best in college football at their position

Using this scale, I thought I would take a look at CU’s FBS Transfer Class, and see how they rate on Connelly’s scale:

  • WR Xavier Weaver … starter at South Florida, led the team in receptions for the past two seasons … four stars
  • LB Demouy Kennedy … played in five games at Alabama in 2022 before being injured; mostly on special teams … two stars
  • CB Kyndrich Breedlove … played two seasons at Ole Miss; mostly on special teams … two stars
  • DE Jordan Domineck … played in all 13 games for Arkansas last season, no starts, with 34 tackles … two stars
  • DE Taylor Upshaw … played in all 14 games for Michigan, no starts, with 12 total tackles … two stars
  • RB Kavosiey Smoke … 1,583 career rushing yards at Kentucky, 20th all-time in program history … four stars
  • S Myles Slusher … Played in three seasons at Arkansas, played in 23 games, started in 15, had 93 total tackles … three stars
  • OF Yousef Mugharbil … two seasons at Florida, injured throughout. Never played for the Gators … one star
  • K Jace Feely … Played in four games at Arizona State; four kickoffs; one PAT; one punt … one star
  • DL Leonard Payne … A starter for Fresno State in 2021; played in ten games in 2022 with no starts … two stars
  • P Mark Vassett … Two-year starter for Louisville; set school record for average punt yardages in 2022 … four stars
  • TE Seydoe Traore … Earned honorable mention All-American and first-team All-Sun Belt Conference at Arkansas State … four stars
  • WR Jimmy Horn, Jr. … Played in 11 games with 37 receptions for 551 yards and three touchdowns; all-conference kick returner for USF … four stars
  • OL Savion Washington … Saw action in 12 games at Kent State, including starting all 11 games in 2022 … four stars
  • LB Vonta Bentley … Played in all 13 games in 2022 at Clemson, registering 21 tackles … two stars
  • DE Taijh Alston … Played in all 12 games in 2022 at West Virginia, recording 18 total tackles … two stars

Under Connelly’s scoring system, Coach Prime is bringing in six “four star” transfers from other FBS schools one “three star” performer, seven “two-star” players, and two players who only rate “one star” treatment.

That may sound disappointing, but compared to the 2022 transfer Class (ranked 78th nationally), it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Last season, only wide receiver RJ Sneed from Baylor and linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo would have garnered “four-star” status, and it appears clear that the CU Transfer Class of 2023 is infusing the lineup with considerably more talent.

And the above list does not count the nine transfers CU signed from the FCS or lower levels, including seven players from Jackson State. Under Connelly’s reckoning, these players would all be given one star ratings, as they all come from a lower division. However, we can state with out too much fear of contradiction that these players are not your run-of-the-mill FCS transfers. Ignoring the school from which they came, we can probably classify CU’s other transfers as follows:

  • QB Shedeur Sanders … Helped JSU to a 23-3 record as the starting quarterback, including a perfect 16-0 mark in SWAC games. Multiple Power Five offers out of high school … five stars
  • CB Travis Hunter … The No. 1 overall prospect in the Recruiting Class of 2022, Hunter was limited only by injury in 2022 … five stars
  • CB Tavion Beasley … Played in nine games for Jackson State, finishing the season with eight tackles, two interceptions … two stars
  • LB Jeremiah Brown …  Played in all 13 games for Jackson State with 10 starts, coming up with 47 tackles … four stars
  • K Alejandro Mata … Kicker for Jackson State, Mata hit 12-of-13 field goals and 50-of-51 extra points; 3rd-team freshman All-American … four stars
  • S Cam’Ron Silmon … Played in 25 games at Jackson State; first-team All-SWAC in 2022 when he had 63 tackles … four stars
  • OL Tyler Brown … Started all 13 games for Jackson Sate; earned AP third-team FCS All-American honors … four stars
  • OL Landon Beebe … 35 career starts at Missouri State; a three-time all-Missouri Valley selection … four stars
  • DL Shane Cokes … Started all 10 games at Dartmouth in 2022, registering 53 total tackles; second-team All-Ivy League … four stars

Does success at the FCS level translate into success at the FBS level? Not always, with arguing that “rarely” would be the more appropriate term. But, as Coach Prime so eloquently put it on his first day on the CU campus, he brought some luggage with him from Mississippi, and it is Vuitton. Other than cornerback Tavion Beasley, all of the Jackson State transfers were established starters, and likely would have been playing for FBS schools this past season if they weren’t playing for Deion Sanders at Jackson State. The other two FCS transfers, Landon Beebe and Shane Cokes, have shown themselves to be longtime starters.

Are Buff fans overly exuberant about the 2023 season? Perhaps.

Are Buffs fans guilty of having a bit too much spring enthusiasm for the new CU roster? Probably.

But it also appears clear that the new coaching staff is not bringing in a transfer list of “Just Another Guys”. There are established starters on the transfer list, and a number of players who have competed – and shone their mettle – at the Power Five conference level.

And that’s not counting the incoming freshman Class, the fifth-highest rated Recruiting Class this century.

This spring, “hope” for Buff fans is more than just hope … it’s justifiable expectation.


9 Replies to “CU’s Transfer Class: Something Special, or a List of “JAGs”?”

  1. Stuart, thank you for the insightful rundown of portal players. Stars and recruiting ratings are one thing…can Prime and his coaching staff coach them up!?!?! If so, for the next few years we have a great shot of reliving the 90’s again! Go Buffs!

  2. In 2021 Arizona went 1-11, with the victory being CAl. They lose 34-0 to the Buffs.
    Then they have a good recruiting haul (# 17 rank, 5 4 star players) and 6 transfers.
    Then in 2022 they go 5-7, with a win over UCLA.
    I have no idea how the Buffs will do this year. Their roster upgrade is much more extensive than AU’s was, and it seems to be better (college experience vs high school experience).

  3. So after finishing the whole article, if my reading comprehension is correct, Stuart made the second list, and it seemed more accurate, maybe easier to rate due to playing time & performance.

    “Ignoring the school from which they came, we can probably classify CU’s other transfers as follows:”

    Since we know that the other guy would just give them a 1 star rating and maybe Stuart’s ratings are the high (homer) side of reality, then somewhere between three stars, they did play a lot and were productive on a winning team, and Stuart’s ranking is where they would land, which would be a 3.5 or higher, so yea, 4 & 5 stars.

    I don’t really see your ratings as “homer” these are players that did play and produced on a winning team. There are some studs on Air Force that would fit in on a P5 team, but they have different plans.

  4. To me, not all the new guys will start. Duh. But at the very least it raises the competition level and depth. Depth has been as big a problem as anything at CU for a long time. And, my guess is roughly 70% of the new players will start. Granted I have not looked position by position. The former starters will still be better than whoever was behind them.

    That should help a lot.

    Go Buffs

  5. This ranking is still too subjective for my liking. Immediately, just going down the list in order, the 4th player is ranked a two star: DE Jordan Domineck … played in all 13 games for Arkansas last season, no starts, with 34 tackles … two stars.

    How many tackles more to get to three stars? Played in all 13 games, so how many more minutes needed to get to four stars?

    The next player played at a top school in the running for a CFC, same questions when you’re playing for a top 10 v. a top 50, maybe less time, but more experience learning behind the best.

    I’ve only gone through part of the list, and I haven’t even looked at second one, the one I see below it while scrolling to write this, but it’s already too subjective. A two star that did well for say half a season or almost half a season, before an injury ended the season may have been a four and still can be a four, so???

    I keep thinking ep going to go nuts over this list.

  6. so we have 3 O linemen that are 4 stars. They will all have to pan out as such. I feel like the quick Lewis offense will help them to do that along with a couple of last year’s players. Probably Van Wells and the giant guy with the German name. The previous guys were playing with one hand tied behind their back with predictable, dull and redundant plays and play calling. It would be so refreshing if we have finally seen the end if that.

    D line? good luck and hopefully good coaching. There is one guy who looks like anything. I googled him (Cokes) and he looks the part too. It will be a new experience for him coming from Dartmouth

    One guy who seems underrated may be Kennedy. From what I have read he is an animal. His special teams play was special. It sounds like the only reason he wasnt starting is because of discipline. If the coaches can keep him following assignments he may be a surprise. Please let some of the last year’s young LBs emerge with better coaching.

    On the flip side a guy who may be overrated is Smoke. Love the name but it seems he was 2nd string most of the time at KY which makes me wonder if he was playing behind anyone that was special. Anyone know who that was?

    1. Chris Rodriguez led Kentucky in rushing last season, with 904 yards rushing last season, and 1,379 yards in 2021.
      Kavosiey Smoke’s best season was in 2019, when he had 616 yards on only 101 carries (a 6.1 yards/carry average).

      1. Thanks Stuart. Thinking also the RB spot may not be as controversial as I am fully expecting a Buffalo air raid with Shedeur and his crazy WRs. …….which will also help whoever lines up behind him. Blocking and pass catching is something that may determine PT at different points in the game for the RBs. Getting Edwards in space will be part of the plan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *