For most college football teams across the FBS, spring practice is either over or will be winding down during the next couple of weeks.
But the transfer portal, into which more than 3,600 FBS players have entered this year already, never stops churning. Coaches around the country will look to address weaknesses (and, sadly, recruiting mistakes) over the next couple of months.
Many of the top teams have already tackled roster deficiencies through the portal, and the rich will probably continue to get richer between now and the start of the 2022 season on Aug. 27.
It’s a good time to update the 2022 Way-Too-Early Top 25. The top three teams remain unchanged, at least for now, but Utah has moved up to No. 4. Southern California was another team that rose sharply, while Iowa took a pretty big fall.
Pittsburgh, which admittedly should have been ranked in the first version in January, debuts at No. 15. Tennessee is another new team, while South Carolina and Wisconsin have dropped out.
Previous ranking: 1
2021 record: 13-2 (7-1 SEC)
Returning starters: 5 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams
Key departures: OT Evan Neal, DL Phidarian Mathis, LB Christian Harris, WR Jameson Williams, CB Josh Jobe, RB Brian Robinson Jr., WR John Metchie III, WR Agiye Hall
Key additions: CB Eli Ricks, WR Jermaine Burton, OL Tyler Steen, DE Jeremiah Alexander, WR Shazz Preston, RB Jahmyr Gibbs
Spring update: Alabama brings back many players from the team that lost to Georgia 33-18 in the College Football Playoff National Championship game, and coach Nick Saban has deftly added a few new faces through the transfer portal. Gibbs, a transfer from Georgia Tech, earned high praise in the spring for his pass catching out of the backfield and ability to pick up the offense. Burton, who played at Georgia last year, is an experienced addition to a wide receiver corps that lost Williams, Metchie and Slade Bolden to the NFL draft. Hall, one of the Tide’s top young wideouts, was suspended from the team and entered the transfer portal earlier this month. Steen, who started 10 of 11 games at Vanderbilt in 2021, will get a long look at offensive tackle, after starters Neal and Chris Owens departed.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba returns to lead Ohio State’s receiving corps. Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire
Previous ranking: 2
2021 record: 11-2 (8-1 Big Ten)
Returning starters: 6 offense, 7 defense, 1 special teams
Key departures: WR Garrett Wilson, WR Chris Olave, G Thayer Munford, OT Nicholas Petit-Frere, DT Haskell Garrett, DE Tyreke Smith, CB Marcus Williamson
Key additions: S Tanner McCalister, ATH Alex Styles, OLB C.J. Hicks, DE Kenyatta Jackson Jr., OLB Gabe Powers, ATH Kaleb Brown, DT Caden Curry
Spring update: After failing to win a Big Ten title for the first time in coach Ryan Day’s three seasons, much of the attention this spring was on the 4-2-5 defense under new coordinator Jim Knowles. The Buckeyes ranked ninth in the Big Ten in scoring defense (22.8 points) and total defense (372.6 yards), and they’ll have to vastly improve to get back to the playoffs. The addition of McCalister, who started 23 games the past two seasons at Oklahoma State, should help in Knowles’ “safety-driven” defense. Finding adequate replacements for Olave and Wilson also was a priority, although the return of Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who caught 95 passes for 1,606 yards with nine touchdowns, should make things easier. Noah Ruggles, one of the top kickers in the FBS, took the spring off, but he is expected to return this summer, according to Day.
Previous ranking: 3
2021 record: 14-1 (8-0 SEC)
Returning starters: 7 offense, 4 defense, 1 special teams
Key departures: DE Travon Walker, NT Jordan Davis, DT Devonte Wyatt, LB Nakobe Dean, LB Channing Tindall, CB Derion Kendrick, OT Jamaree Salyer, RB James Cook
Key additions: S Tykee Smith, DB Malaki Starks, CB Jaheim Singletary, RB Branson Robinson, OLB Jalon Walker, CB Daylen Everette, QB Gunner Stockton
Spring update: After finally ending a 41-year drought without a national championship, Georgia spent the spring rebuilding its historically good defense, which might have at least four players selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Defensive linemen such as Zion Logue, Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins, Chaz Chambliss, Warren Brinson and Nazir Stackhouse might play dramatically bigger roles in 2022. At least the Bulldogs bring back D-tackle Jalen Carter, who might be even better than the first-rounders who left. There’s plenty of firepower coming back on offense, especially if onetime LSU transfer Arik Gilbert continues to progress after missing all of last season because of personal reasons. All-American tight end Brock Bowers missed the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery, but he should be ready by the start of preseason camp.
Previous ranking: 7
2021 record: 10-4 (8-1 Pac-12)
Returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense, 2 special teams
Key departures: LB Devin Lloyd, LB Nephi Sewell, DE Mika Tafua, WR Britain Covey, RB TJ Pledger, C Nick Ford, OT Bamidele Olaseni, S Vonte Davis
Key additions: LB Mohamoud Diabate, QB Nathan Johnson, LB Lander Barton, S Elijah Davis, LB Justin Medlock, WR Landon Morris, TE Logan Kendall, DE Gabe Reid
Spring update: If the Utes are going to repeat as Pac-12 champions, they’re going to have to rebuild a defense that lost many of its top playmakers, including All-American linebacker Lloyd. Barton, an early enrollee and younger brother of NFL players Cody and Jackson Barton, has made quite an impression on coach Kyle Whittingham this spring. Diabate, a Florida transfer, couldn’t do much this spring after having surgery for a torn labrum. After injuries decimated the secondary a year ago, the Utes are trying to build depth, especially after Davis and safety Brandon McKinney left.
Previous ranking: 4
2021 record: 8-4 (4-4 SEC)
Returning starters: 6 offense, 4 defense, 1 special teams
Key departures: OT Kenyon Green, DT DeMarvin Leal, RB Isaiah Spiller, TE Jalen Wydermyer, DL Jayden Peevy, DB Leon O’Neal Jr., DE Tyree Johnson, LB Aaron Hansford, DE Micheal Clemons
Key additions: QB Max Johnson, QB Conner Weigman, DT Walter Nolen, DT Gabe Brownlow-Dindy WR Evan Stewart, DE Lebbeus Overton
Spring update: The Aggies will try to end an 83-year drought without a national championship this season. First, coach Jimbo Fisher must choose a starting quarterback. Johnson, a former LSU starter, is the most experienced and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Haynes King, who is coming back from a broken leg, might be more dynamic but continues to make questionable decisions. Weigmann was the No. 1 pocket passer in the 2022 ESPN 300. Stewart, the No. 2 wide receiver in the ESPN 300, looked like the Aggies’ No. 1 pass-catcher in the spring. On defense, Texas A&M will have to replace the entire front four, but Fisher signed four of the top seven players in the country to fill those voids.
Previous ranking: 6
2021 record: 11-2
Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense, 1 special teams
Key departures: S Kyle Hamilton, RB Kyren Williams, G Cain Madden, QB Jack Coan, NG Kurt Hinish, DE Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, LB Drew White
Key additions: LB Jaylen Sneed, WR Tobias Merriweather, CB Jaden Mickey, DE Tyson Ford, ILB Niuafe Tuihalamaka, OT Aamil Wagner, S Brandon Joseph, DL Chris Smith
Spring update: It seems as if everything wasn’t rosy between former Irish coach Brian Kelly and the administration before his unexpected departure to LSU. New coach Marcus Freeman, who was Kelly’s former defensive coordinator, can make Irish fans forget about Kelly in a hurry if he can win this season. Notre Dame’s offensive line, led by tackles Joe Alt and Blake Fisher, has a chance to be one of the best in the FBS. Bringing back respected offensive line coach Harry Hiestand won’t hurt their chances, either. Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne are locked in a pretty good battle for the starting quarterback job, which might not be decided until late in preseason camp. New defensive coordinator Al Golden has some holes to fill up front. Defensive tackle Aidan Keanaaina tore an ACL in the first spring practice. The Irish quickly signed Harvard transfer Smith to help.
NC State quarterback Devin Leary looked impressive in the Wolfpack’s spring game. AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker
Previous ranking: 8
2021 record: 9-3 (6-2 ACC)
Returning starters: 8 offense, 9 defense, 1 special teams
Key departures: OT Ikem Ekwonu, RB Zonovan Knight, RB Ricky Person Jr., WR Emeka Emezie, DE Daniel Joseph, LB Vi Jones
Key additions: ATH Michael Allen, DT Brandon Cleveland, OLB Torren Wright, G Jacarrius Peak, QB M.J. Morris, P Shane McDonough, WR Darryl Jones
Spring update: With so many starters coming back, there weren’t many areas of concern for the Wolfpack this spring. But one of them was replacing Ekwonu, the starting left tackle, who might be a top-five pick in the NFL draft. Sophomore Anthony Belton got the first chance this spring, followed by Timothy McKay. With top rushers Knight and Person departing, Jordan Houston, who ran for 83 yards in 2021, left the spring as the No. 1 running back. Quarterback Devin Leary picked up where he left off from last season, throwing for 355 yards with three scores in the spring game.
Previous ranking: 10
2021 record: 11-2 (7-2 Big Ten)
Returning starters: 5 offense, 9 defense, 1 special teams
Key departures: RB Kenneth Walker III, WR Jalen Nailor, C Matt Allen, OT Kevin Jarvis, DE Jacub Panasiuk, DE Drew Beesley, K Matt Coghlin
Key additions: CB Ameer Speed, RB Jarek Broussard, LB Aaron Brule, DE Khris Bogle, LB Jacoby Windmon, RB Jalen Berger, CB Caleb Coley, DT Alex VanSumeren, TE Daniel Barker, OL Brian Greene
Spring update: After posting the biggest turnaround in school history, the Spartans spent the spring searching for Walker’s replacement and filling in key transfers on defense. Berger has already transferred from Wisconsin, and Broussard, who ran for 1,556 yards the past two seasons at Colorado, is expected to enroll in May. Greene, a Washington State transfer, might be able to help at guard or center. Two other transfers — Windmon (UNLV) and Brule (Mississippi State) — started at inside linebacker in the spring game. Speed, a Georgia transfer, was one of the starting cornerbacks.
Previous ranking: 5
2021 record: 12-2 (8-1 Big Ten)
Returning starters: 8 offense, 4 defense, 2 special teams
Key departures: DE Aidan Hutchinson, OLB David Ojabo, RB Hassan Haskins, LB Josh Ross, SS Brad Hawkins, CB Vincent Gray, S Daxton Hill, C Andrew Vastardis, OT Andrew Stueber, DT Christopher Hinton
Key additions: OT Olu Oluwatimi, CB William Johnson, DE Derrick Moore, OT Tyler Morris, S Keon Sabb, WR Darrius Clemons
Spring update: The Wolverines will have to reload, as well, after losing the heart and soul of the team that won a Big Ten championship and reached a CFP semifinal. Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald returned to the Baltimore Ravens, and offensive coordinator Josh Gattis took a job at the University of Miami. New D-coordinator Jesse Minter has many holes to fill. Defensive tackle Mazi Smith was impressive this spring, along with fellow tackle Kris Jenkins and edge rusher Jaylen Harrell. The quarterback battle between returning starter Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy didn’t materialize this spring, as McCarthy didn’t throw in practice because of soreness in his shoulder. Oluwatimi, a transfer from Virginia, was working as the No. 1 center.
Previous ranking: 9
2021 record: 12-2 (8-1 Big 12)
Returning starters: 7 offense, 4 defense, 2 special teams
Key departures: RB Jaylen Warren, WR Tay Martin, G Josh Sills, LB Malcolm Rodriguez, LB Devin Harper, S Kolby Harvell-Peel, S Tanner McCalister, CB Jarrick Bernard-Converse
Key additions: RB Ollie Gordon, WR Talyn Shettron, QB Garret Rangel, RB Braylin Presley, OT Tyrone Webber, LB Xavier Benson, RB CJ Brown, OL Jason Brooks, OT Casey Collier
Spring update: Coming off one of the best seasons in school history, the Cowboys have to replace many of their key players on defense. Coordinator Jim Knowles, who transformed the Cowboys into one of the top defensive units in the FBS, left for Ohio State. Coach Mike Gundy hired former Auburn D-coordinator Derek Mason to replace him. Mason inherits a unit that lost leading tacklers Rodriguez and Harper and four starters in the secondary, including Bernard-Converse, who transferred to LSU. On offense, the Pokes lose top wideout Martin and leading rusher Warren. Gordon, an early enrollee, has made a strong impression this spring.
D.J. Uiagalelei struggled as Clemson’s starter in 2021, but left spring ball atop the Tigers’ depth chart. Getty Images
Previous ranking: 11
2021 record: 10-3 (6-2 ACC)
Returning starters: 10 offense, 6 defense, 1 special teams
Key departures: LB Baylon Spector, LB James Skalski, CB Andrew Booth Jr., FS Nolan Turner, CB Mario Goodrich, WR Justyn Ross
Key additions: QB Cade Klubnik, CB Jeadyn Lukus, WR Antonio Williams, OT Collin Sadler, WR Adam Randall, CB Toriano Pride, CB Sherrod Covil Jr.
Spring update: Clemson has two new coordinators — Brandon Streeter on offense and Wes Goodwin on defense — and coach Dabo Swinney hopes the Tigers return to their old ways after slipping with three losses in 2021. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei shed about 25 pounds in the offseason after struggling in his first season as the full-time starter. Uiagalelei left spring practice atop the depth chart, but he might continue to be pushed by Klubnik, an early enrollee, who looked good over 15 practices. Clemson’s defensive line had its way in the spring game against a thin offensive line. Randall, who was expected to help the wide receiver corps, might miss the season after suffering a torn ACL in his knee during the spring.
Previous ranking: 22
2021 record: 4-8 (3-6 Pac-12)
Returning starters: 6 offense, 5 defense, 1 special teams
Key departures: WR Drake London, LB Drake Jackson, LB Kana’i Mauga, CB Chris Steele, CB Isaac Taylor-Stuart, TE Erik Krommenhoek, OT Jalen McKenzie, G Liam Jimmons
Key additions: QB Caleb Williams, RB Travis Dye, WR Mario Williams, WR Brenden Rice, WR Terrell Bynum, OL Bobby Haskins, LB Romello Height, LB Shane Lee, CB Mekhi Blackmon
Spring update: Former Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley’s face-lift of USC’s roster includes the addition of 13 players through the transfer portal, including former Sooners starting quarterback Caleb Williams and Oregon star tailback Dye. Riley also has vastly upgraded the wide receiver corps by bringing in Mario Williams, Rice and Bynum. Haskins, who started 20 games at Virginia, might get plugged in at left tackle. USC’s defense seems to need more work, although former Alabama linebacker Lee and ex-Colorado cornerback Blackmon should help. The Trojans won’t play Oregon or Washington during the regular season, and they’ll hit the road for games with Stanford, Utah and UCLA.
Previous ranking: 13
2021 record: 12-2 (8-0 AAC)
Returning starters: 7 offense, 5 defense, 1 special teams
Key departures: G Keenan Murphy, WR Jake Herslow, C Kody Russey, OT Dennis Bardwell, DE David Anenih, LB Deontay Anderson, DB/KR Marcus Jones, DT Logan Hall
Key additions: WR Matthew Golden, QB Lucas Coley, OL Tyler Johnson, RB Brandon Campbell, OL Lance Robinson, WR Joseph Manjack IV, LB Jamal Morris, WR Brice Johnson
Spring update: As the Cougars prepare for what might be their final season in the AAC before potentially moving to the Big 12 in 2023, coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff have been very active in the transfer portal. They recently added Robinson, who started 12 games at Middle Tennessee State last season, and Tyler Johnson, a former ESPN 300 recruit who played sparingly the past three seasons at Texas, to help shore up losses on the offensive line. Coley, an Arkansas transfer, might be Houston’s quarterback of the future. The Cougars were dealt a big blow in the spring when starting tailback Alton McCaskill, who ran for 961 yards with 16 touchdowns in 2021, tore the ACL in his left knee on April 1. He is expected to miss the 2022 season. Ta’Zhawn Henry, who ran for 513 yards with seven scores last season, and Campbell, a Southern California transfer, might split carries in his absence.
Previous ranking: 17
2021 record: 11-2 (7-2 Big 12)
Returning starters: 4 offense, 5 defense, 1 special teams
Key departures: QB Caleb Williams, WR Mario Williams, DE Nik Bonitto, LB Brian Asamoah, DE Isaiah Thomas, DL Perrion Winfrey, S Delarrin Turner-Yell, S Pat Fields, WR Jadon Haselwood, RB Kennedy Brooks, G Marquis Hayes
Key additions: QB Dillon Gabriel, G McKade Mettauer, TE Daniel Parker Jr., OL Tyler Guyton, CB Trey Morrison, DL Jonah Laulu, CB C.J. Coldon, RB Gavin Sawchuk, ATH Gentry Williams
Spring update: The Sooners’ roster was decimated by players leaving for the NFL draft and transferring after Riley left for USC. But first-time head coach Brent Venables has done a nice job of reloading through the transfer portal. Gabriel threw for more than 8,000 yards with 70 touchdowns in three seasons at UCF. Coldon, a transfer from Wyoming, and Morrison, from North Carolina, were nice additions to the secondary. Laulu had eight tackles for loss and four sacks at Hawai’i last season. Venables will get things fixed on defense, and the offense will be good enough to outscore most teams in the Big 12. The Sooners will play Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State at home.
Previous ranking: Not ranked
2021 record: 11-3 (7-1 ACC)
Returning starters: 8 offense, 7 defense, 1 special teams
Key departures: QB Kenny Pickett, LB Phil Campbell III, LB Cam Bright, CB Damarri Mathis, DT Keyshon Camp, WR Shocky Jacques-Louis, TE Lucas Krull
Key additions: QB Kedon Slovis, WR Konata Mumpfield, LB Shayne Simon
Spring update: The post-Pickett era at Pittsburgh began with a new quarterback as well as a new offensive coordinator — albeit a familiar name for Panthers fans. Frank Cignetti Jr. is back for a third time to call plays on offense, and Pittsburgh should be more balanced than it was under pass-happy Mark Whipple the past three seasons. Slovis, who threw for 7,576 yards with 58 touchdowns in 27 games at Southern California, was battling Nick Patti to replace Pickett. The Panthers added Mumpfield, who had 751 receiving yards and eight scores as a freshman at Akron in 2021. Replacing two starting linebackers, including Bright, who transferred to Washington, was a priority this spring.
When Travis Dye transferred, Byron Cardwell moved up the running backs chart at Oregon. Troy Wayrynen/USA TODAY Sports
Previous ranking: 12
2021 record: 10-4 (7-2 Pac-12)
Returning starters: 6 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams
Key departures: DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, CB Mykael Wright, CB DJ James, QB Anthony Brown, WR Devon Williams, G George Moore, S Verone McKinley III, RB Travis Dye
Key additions: QB Bo Nix, DL Sam Taimani, CB Christian Gonzalez, WR Chase Cota, DL Jordon Riley, LB Devon Jackson, ATH Jalil Tucker, DE Gracen Halton, S Trejon Williams, OL Josh Conerly Jr.
Spring update: New Ducks coach Dan Lanning, a former defensive coordinator at Georgia, has spent the spring installing new schemes on both sides of the ball. Nix, who started three seasons at Auburn, has been working with the No. 1 offense. He will continue to battle Ty Thompson and Jay Butterfield for the starting quarterback job. Dye transferred to Southern California, so sophomores Byron Cardwell, Seven McGee and Sean Dollars are competing for carries. The Ducks added some beef up front on defense in Taimani (6-foot-2, 330 pounds) and Riley (6-foot-6, 310 pounds). Gonzalez, a two-year starter at Colorado, should help in the secondary, where three of four starters departed.
Previous ranking: 14
2021 record: (11-3, 7-1 ACC)
Returning starters: 8 offense, 6 defense, 2 special teams
Key departures: WR Jaquarii Roberson, TE Brandon Chapman, DT Miles Fox, DE Luiji Vilain, LB Luke Masterson, CB Ja’Sir Taylor, K Nick Sciba, S Traveon Redd, RB Christian Beal-Smith
Key additions: DT Kobie Turner, WR Jaydn Girard, CB Zamari Stevenson, DE Eli Hall, WR Wesley Grimes, LB Tommy Bebie, TE Jaeger Bull
Spring update: The Demon Deacons won 11 games and reached the ACC championship game in 2021. If its defense can improve after ranking 10th in the league in scoring defense (28.9 points) and 12th in rushing defense (195.6 yards) last season, Wake Forest might be even better. Turner, an All-Colonial Athletic Association first-team selection at Richmond, was a big addition on the defensive line. Chase Jones emerged as a top linebacker this spring. New defensive coordinator Brad Lambert, a former Charlotte head coach, has had success at Wake Forest in the past. Finding a replacement for Beal-Smith, the team’s leading rusher the past two seasons, is a priority after he transferred to South Carolina.
Previous ranking: 16
2021 record: 12-2 (7-2 Big 12)
Returning starters: 7 offense, 6 defense, 2 special teams
Key departures: RB Abram Smith, CB Kalon Barnes, S Jalen Pitre, WR Tyquan Thornton, LB Terrel Bernard, S JT Woods, WR R.J. Sneed, CB Raleigh Texada, RB Trestan Ebner
Key additions: LB Josh White, DL Jaxon Player, WR Armani Winfield, TE Kaian Roberts-Day, G George Maile, S Devyn Bobby, OLB Jeremy Patton, RB Richard Reese
Spring update: If Baylor is going to continue its success under coach Dave Aranda, it’s going to have to find hardworking running backs to replace Smith and Ebner and rebuild a defense that ranked second in the Big 12 in scoring defense (18.3 points) and rushing defense (118 yards). Smith and Ebner combined for 2,400 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns in 2021. The good news: Four super seniors are back on the offensive line, including center Jacob Gall and left tackle Connor Galvin. Four starters must be replaced in the secondary, including Pitre, an All-American. Player, a native of Waco, Texas, was an All-AAC selection at Tulsa in 2020 and had 23.5 tackles for loss over the past two seasons combined.
Previous ranking: 18
2021 record: 10-3
Returning starters: 8 offense, 11 defense, 2 special teams
Key departures: RB Tyler Allgeier, WR Neil Pau’u, C James Empey
Key additions: OT Kingsley Suamataia, CB Gabe Jeudy-Lally, WR Cody Hagen, WR Dominique McKenzie, DE Aisea Moa, DE Logan Fano, RB Christopher Brooks, FB Houston Heimuli, OL Lisala Tai
Spring update: Coming off back-to-back seasons with 10 victories and entering their final one as an independent, the Cougars bring back almost everyone who was a big contributor in 2021. In fact, BYU will return 88% of its production, according to ESPN’s Bill Connelly, and that ranks second in the FBS. If the Cougars can keep quarterback Jaren Hall healthy and find a capable replacement for Allgeier, who left for the NFL, they’ll be poised for another campaign with 10 wins or more. One concern: BYU’s schedule next season includes home games against Baylor and Arkansas, road games versus Oregon, Boise State and Stanford and a contest with Notre Dame in Las Vegas.
Former Oklahoma wide receiver Jadon Haselwood can play a role in replacing Treylon Burks at Arkansas. Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Previous ranking: 20
2021 record: 9-4 (4-4 SEC)
Returning starters: 6 offense, 3 defense, 2 special teams
Key departures: WR Treylon Burks, WR Tyson Morris, OT Myron Cunningham, LB Grant Morgan, S Joe Foucha, CB Montaric Brown, DT John Ridgeway
Key additions: WR Jadon Haselwood, DE Landon Jackson, LB Drew Sanders, CB Dwight McGlothern, S Latavious Brini, DE Jordan Domineck, OT Andrew Chamblee
Spring update: After guiding the Razorbacks to nine victories in his second season (which was two more than Arkansas tallied over the previous three years combined), coach Sam Pittman is having to rebuild his defense and find a new No. 1 receiver this spring. The Hogs will attempt to fill holes on defense with a handful of veteran transfers, including four from SEC schools: Brini (Georgia), Jackson (LSU), Sanders (Alabama) and McGlothern (LSU). Haselwood, who caught 39 passes with six touchdowns at Oklahoma in 2021, will help offset the loss of Burks, who had 66 receptions for 1,104 yards and 11 scores last season.
Previous ranking: 23
2021 record: 10-3 (6-2 SEC)
Returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense, 1 special teams
Key departures: QB Matt Corral, RB Jerrion Ealy, WR Braylon Sanders, WR Dontario Drummond, C Orlando Umana, DE Sam Williams, LB Mark Robinson, SS Jake Springer, LB Chance Campbell
Key additions: RB Zach Evans, QB Jaxson Dart, S Isheem Young, DE Jared Ivey, TE Michael Trigg, OT Mason Brooks, DL J.J. Pegues, LB Khari Coleman, LB Troy Brown, RB Ulysses Bentley IV, WR Jordan Watkins, S Ladarius Tennison
Spring update: Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, the self-proclaimed “King of the Portal,” has reloaded the Rebels’ roster with more than a dozen transfers. Dart, from Southern California, is battling Luke Altmyer for the unenviable task of replacing Corral. Evans, who transferred from TCU, will be the No. 1 tailback, and Western Kentucky transfer Brooks will solidify the offensive line at right tackle. Kiffin has raved about the potential of Southern California transfer Trigg. Brown, a three-time All-MAC selection at Central Michigan, and Coleman, who had 15 tackles for loss and three sacks at TCU in 2020, are nice additions on defense.
Previous ranking: 21
2021 record: 10-3 (5-3 SEC)
Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense, 1 special teams
Key departures: OT Darian Kinnard, C Luke Fortner, WR Wan’Dale Robinson, DE Joshua Paschal, NG Marquan McCall, CB Cedrick Dort Jr., FS Yusuf Corker
Key additions: WR Tayvion Robinson, WR Javon Baker, OL Tashawn Manning, OT Kiyaunta Goodwin, DE Tyreese Fearbry, LB Keaten Wade, WR Dane Key
Spring update: After guiding Kentucky to its second 10-win season since 1977, coach Mark Stoops and his staff spent the spring trying to rebuild both lines of scrimmage. Three starting offensive linemen must be replaced. Manning, an Auburn transfer, looks like one of the starting guards. On the defensive line, three starters departed, including tackle Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald, who is attempting to join the WWE. Adding Tayvion Robinson, who had at least 31 catches in each of the past three seasons at Virginia Tech, should shore up the wide receiver corps.
Previous ranking: 19
2021 record: 13-1 (8-0 AAC)
Returning starters: 7 offense, 2 defense, 1 special teams
Key departures: QB Desmond Ridder, CB Ahmad Gardner, CB Coby Bryant, DE Myjai Sanders, WR Alec Pierce, RB Jerome Ford, LB Joel Dublanko, LB Darrian Beavers, DT Curtis Brooks
Key additions: QB Ben Bryant, RB Corey Kiner, LB Ivan Pace Jr., WR Nick Mardner, K Ryan Coe
Spring update: With Ridder leaving for the NFL, the Bearcats turned to a familiar face — former backup Bryant — to compete with Evan Prater for the quarterback job. Bryant spent three seasons at Cincinnati before transferring to Eastern Michigan in 2021; last season, he completed 68.4% of his attempts for 3,121 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Prater, who attempted 11 passes in 2021, was Mr. Football in Ohio in 2019. Kiner, a Cincinnati native, is transferring from LSU, where he was the Tigers’ second-leading rusher with 324 yards for two scores last season. Another former Mr. Football in Ohio, Kiner will be a favorite to replace Ford. Arquon Bush and Leroy Bowers look like the top candidates to replace Gardner and Bryant at cornerback, but that won’t be easy.
Previous ranking: Not ranked
2021 record: 7-6 (4-4 SEC)
Returning starters: 8 offense, 8 defense, 2 special teams
Key departures: OL Cade Mays, WR JaVonta Payton, WR Velus Jones Jr., S Theo Jackson, DL Ja’Quain Blakely, DT Matthew Butler
Key additions: OT Gerald Mincey, LB Jackson Hannah, TE Charlie Browder, S Wesley Walker
Spring update: Volunteers coach Josh Heupel and his staff did a remarkable job in their first season, given the state of the program they inherited. With quarterback Hendon Hooker, tailback Jabari Small and wide receiver Cedric Tillman coming back, the Volunteers should again be potent on offense. Mincey, a transfer from Florida, might get a long look in replacing Mays at tackle. The Vols lost two of their top wideouts, and they remain in the mix for former Southern California wide receiver Bru McCoy. The top three tacklers are coming back from last season, but help is needed in the secondary. Walker, a transfer from Georgia Tech, might help at nickelback. Tennessee could add another cornerback through the portal. With potential NCAA sanctions looming, the Volunteers still face an uncertain future. Road games versus Pittsburgh, LSU, Georgia and South Carolina will be tricky.
Previous ranking: 15
2021 record: 10-4 (7-2 Big Ten)
Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams
Key departures: C Tyler Linderbaum, RB Tyler Goodson, G Kyler Schott, DE Zach VanValkenburg, FS Jack Koerner, CB Matt Hankins, S/LB Dane Belton
Key additions: DE Aaron Graves, S Xavier Nwankpa, DE Caden Crawford, RB Kaleb Johnson, RB Jaziun Patterson, OT Jack Dotzler, TE Steven Stilianos
Spring update: Iowa fans haven’t questioned too many of coach Kirk Ferentz’s decisions in his previous 23 seasons, but more than a few are scratching their heads and holding their breath about his plan to fix the Hawkeyes’ struggling offense. With Ken O’Keefe moving into an off-field position, Ferentz gave his son, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, the role of quarterbacks coach. A former offensive lineman at Iowa, Brian Ferentz has never coached quarterbacks. He was heavily criticized last season when the Hawkeyes finished 99th in the FBS in scoring (23.4 points) and 121st in total offense (303.7 yards). Quarterback Spencer Petras, who has started 10 of the past 20 games, will try to hold off Alex Padilla, who went 3-0 as the starter when Petras was injured in 2021.