College football’s version of free agency looks to deliver some needed talent to Utah, Utah State and BYU through what has been described as the crazy transfer portal.
Some coaches are calling it crazy, out of control and generally nuts, but the transfer portal is doing exactly what it is intended to do — give players flexibility in choosing their future without restrictions.
It also gives college coaches an injection of talent they hope brings impact and experience immediately.
This was a building block of USU’s tremendous 11-win season, Mountain West title and a bowl win over Oregon State.
Simply put — it can work.
BYU just signed California running back Christopher Brooks, who had previously committed to Purdue of the Big Ten, then added Stanford fullback Houston Heimuli, a legacy recruit as the son of former Cougars great Lakei Heimuli, who holds a 1984 national championship ring.
Utah, meanwhile, just collected a linebacker from Florida named Mohamoud Diabate, who could fill an immediate need for the Utes and continue the developmental build rep of coordinator Morgan Scalley.
Utah State will get the services of an Alabama transfer, receiver Xavier Williams, a former four-star recruit out of Hollywood, Florida. USU’s Blake Anderson looks to continue his role as the ultimate purveyor of the portal, Dr. Transfer.
On paper, these transfers are impressive additions. They come to fill needed voids.
Utah loses one of its best linebackers of all time in junior Devin Lloyd, a consensus first-round pick in this year’s NFL draft. Diabate’s resume, size, speed and other measurables project to give the Ute defense some choices in extending the success at that position vacated by Lloyd.
“Mohamoud Diabate is a unique transfer situation,” according to Alex Markham, publisher of UteNation.com.
“He did his research and he liked the fit and Utah. Utah never initiated the transfer conversation. A lot of credit goes to Colton Swan and his developmental track with his linebacker group. It also helps that Diabate sees similarities between himself and Lloyd’s style of play, and believes he can jump right in to fill some of that void.”
The move by Williams to USU is simple. He had only to look at the Aggies pass game and numbers posted by Deven Thompkins, who ranked No. 2 nationally in receiving yards in 2021. Thompkins announced he is leaving for the NFL and taking his 112 catches for 1,704 yards and 10 touchdowns with him.
Williams, a 6-1, 190-pound senior did not play in 2021 at Alabama due to unspecified medical reasons, said Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban before the season. He last played six games in 2020 and had three catches for 24 yards.
Out of high school, Williams was part of Alabama’s 2018 class, ranked No. 24 among the nation’s high school receivers, and was the No. 24 recruit in Florida according to 24/7 Sports.
Obviously, Brooks saw BYU’s production using Tyler Allgeier the past two seasons and when he announced he’d put his name in for the NFL draft, this big Cal Bears runner saw an opportunity.
Brooks ran for 1,734 yards and 14 touchdowns for Cal the past three seasons and will have one year in Provo.
Heimuli, a team captain for Stanford this past year, earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors this past season as a blocking back. His career parallels that of BYU head coach Kalani Sitake — he consistently pushes people around at 5-11, 265 pounds.
What Brooks and Heimuli give BYU is immediate experience, maturity, physicality and leadership on the field. Brooks is a bruising running back with breakaway speed and Heimuli will join Masen Wake as a pass protector and lead blocker, runner and receiver.
Brooks, who is from Oceanside, California, told ESPN 960 radio that he chose BYU for three reasons: The opportunity to run the ball, be in a physical offense, and win.
Heimuli, one of the top fullbacks in the nation when at Bountiful High in 2015, graduated from Stanford with a degree in human biology after serving a church mission to Indianapolis from 2015-17.
“Watching BYU, I just watched the physicality of their offense and the physicality of their running backs,” Heimuli told ESPN 960. “I felt that this was a place where I could fit in, and not just fit in but do what I can to help.”
The Brooks/Heimuli transfers are added to BYU’s obtaining Oregon five-star offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia, now enrolled in school.
“Heimuli will make a huge impact in the locker room,” predicted Jeff Hansen of 24/7sports.com. “ He is a born leader and the team will follow his lead. He was a captain at Stanford and it wouldn’t be surprising if he was voted a captain this season after his leadership shines during spring ball. Even if he never touches the ball on the field, he will be a huge benefit to BYU off the field.
“Brooks is really intriguing. He averaged nearly 3.5 yards per carry AFTER contact. He is tough to bring down, he is strong, and he has been pretty durable in his career. Playing at BYU, he will get the benefit of playing behind an offensive line that is better than any offensive line he ever had at Cal. That is intriguing. He was productive at Cal and could be more productive at BYU.”
Hansen said fortunately for BYU, Heimuli will touch the ball more than he did at Stanford. “I expect him to drop some weight and look a lot like Paul Lasike did for BYU during his senior season. He’s an excellent blocker and will give Aaron Roderick the ability to get really, really creative in short-yardage situations.”
The one-time transfer rule, and the grad transfer rule allows athletes to be eligible to play immediately without sitting out a year as in the past. This makes it all extremely fluid.
Meanwhile, the rule is driving many coaches crazy, although it is fitting the needs of many. Looking at the QB derbies across the country from USC to Ohio State and Oklahoma, the domino effect is a little crazy.
For instance, Central Florida QB Dillon Gabriel, who BYU faced in a 2020 bowl game, announced he had transfered to UCLA, and then switched to Oklahoma after five-star Sooners QB Caleb Williams put his name in the portal, likely to follow coach Lincoln Riley to USC. Wyoming QB Levi Williams transferred to MWC divisional rival USU, prompting Wyoming’s head coach to put out a “QB Wanted” advertisement on social media.
USC’s new coach says every position on his roster will be challenged and the Trojans could bring in as many as 35 transfers if needed. ASU’s Herm Edwards says his roster could look completely different before and after spring practice.
There have been more than 1,500 football players enter their names in the transfer portal the past two months.
According to The Athletic, this has caused a lot of griping and complaining among the nation’s coaches.
“The complaining is deafening and ever-present.” writes David Ubben in The Athletic.
“It’s chaos right now. Tampering galore. Adults manipulating young men,” said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, long the most prominent opponent of the transfer portal, who recently softened his stance and offered Louisiana transfer O’Cyrus Torrence this week. “Education is like the last thing now.”
“Out of control,” one Power Five coach told The Athletic.
When Florida’s new coach Billy Napier built his staff, he reportedly hired former NFL scout Bird Sherrill to basically recruit the transfer portal. This is a trend that will likely be the norm.