Both Teams In ACC Championship Game
Utilized New Transfer/Portal Rules Wisely
(10 Of FSU’s 11 Offensive Starters = Transfers)

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

In 2018, the NCAA created the transfer portal. In 2021, the organization’s member schools voted to revise its player eligibility rules to allow — for the first time in its history, which dates to 1906 — virtually all first-time transfers to be eligible immediately at their new school.

In 2023, the massive impacts of those two simple but revolutionary changes are virtually everywhere you look in college athletics.

In men’s basketball, for example, the Atlantic Coast Conference experienced something truly unprecedented in March. For the first time in the league’s 70-year history, a majority of its very best players — six of the top 11 vote-getters on the postseason All-ACC team — were major college transfers. Furthermore, when Miami advanced to the Final Four for the first time in program history, three of the Hurricanes’ four best players were major college transfers.

In football, Saturday’s ACC championship game (8 pm, ABC) at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte will be a contest between 12-0 Florida State and 10-2 Louisville, the two conference members that utilized the transfer portal most successfully last year.

Just two years ago, FSU coach Mike Norvell seemed to be trending toward the hot seat in Tallahassee, after posting 3-6 and 5-7 records during his first two seasons with the Seminoles. About one year ago, Cardinals coach Jeff Brohm was completing his sixth and final season at Purdue; he was hired by Louisville, his alma mater, on Dec. 8.

For different reasons, both coaches decided to hit the transfer portal — hard.

“We’re looking for the right fit,” Norvell said last year. “Now maybe some positions we’re looking to get a little older or more experienced guys (from the transfer portal) that can come and pair with some of the younger players who are getting developed.

“But the message is the same for everybody: You’re going to come in, and you’re going to get an opportunity. … That’s what I tell every transfer and high school recruit. I try to be as transparent as possible of the expectation of being part of this team. We’re not going to have just individuals. We’re building a team to be able to win a championship.”

After a 10-3 season, a bowl victory and a #10 final national ranking in 2022, the Seminoles appear poised to do exactly that — win a championship. It’s been a full decade since FSU’s last national title (2013), and it’s been nine years since their last ACC title (2014).

Now, thanks in large part to the transfer portal, they have at least a chance to accomplish both of those things in the coming weeks.

FSU’s most frequently used starters on offense this season illustrate the truly revolutionary and rampant nature of the Seminoles’ use of the portal. On an 11-man unit, 10 of the team’s 11 regular starters came from the transfer portal. Among those 10 incoming transfers, seven have earned All-ACC honors for their current team.

2023 Florida State Offense
(10 of 11 Starters = Transfers)

QB Jordan Travis*^, Sr. (Louisville 2019) — minimal playing time with Cardinals
RB Trey Benson*, Jr. (Oregon 2022) — minimal playing time with Ducks
WR Keon Coleman*, Jr. (Michigan State 2023) — 3rd-team All-Big Ten for Spartans (2022)
WR Johnny Wilson*, Jr. (Arizona State 2022) — only 3 starts in 2 seasons with Sun Devils
TE Jaheim Bell*, Jr. (South Carolina 2023) — top receiving TE in Gamecocks history
TE Kyle Morlock, Jr. (Shorter 2023) — 2-time Division Two All-American
LT Bless Harris, Sr. (Lamar 2022) — left tackle starter for FCS program
LG Casey Roddick*, Sr.—(Colorado 2023) — All-Pac-12 HM, 3-year starter, team captain for Buffaloes
RG D’Mitri Emmanuel*, Sr. (Charlotte 2022) — 24 straight starts (2019-21) for 49ers
RT Emmanuel Byers, Jr. (UTEP 2023) — 1st-team All-CUSA (2022), 3-year starter for Miners

*—All-ACC selection during time with Seminoles
^—injured/unavailable (college playing career is over)
NOTE: Year listed with transfer = first season at Florida State

Impressively, while many of the Seminoles’ successful transfers were All-Americans or all-conference performers at their previous school, essentially removing one often-challenging aspect (talent evaluation) of the typical recruiting process, some others (see chart above) were NOT stars at their previous school.

Two-time All-ACC running back Trey Benson, for example, missed the entire 2020 season at Oregon because of injury, then rushed only six times for 22 yards and a touchdown as a redshirt freshman in 2021. Sixth-year senior quarterback Jordan Travis (now injured), a two-time All-ACC player who received first-team honors this year over North Carolina star Drake Maye, barely played at Louisville before developing into a four-year starter for the Seminoles.

On defense, too, the Seminoles have relied heavily on transfers, including five starters: tackle Braden Fiske (2023 Western Michigan transfer), end Jared Verse (2022 Albany transfer), linebacker Tatum Bethune (2022 UCF transfer) and cornerbacks Fentrell Cypress II (2023 Virginia transfer) and Jarrian Jones (2020 Mississippi State transfer).

All but Jones were all-conference performers at their previous school, and all five players received All-ACC honors this week — Verse on the first team, Fiske on the second team, Bethune on the third team, and Cypress and Jones as honorable mentions.

Louisville, meanwhile, had seven players earn first-, second- or third-team All-ACC honors this season. Five of them were major college transfers: first-team running back Jawhar Jordan (Syracuse), first-team center Bryan Hudson (Virginia Tech), second-team wide receiver Jamari Thrash (Georgia State), third-team quarterback Jack Plummer (Purdue/California) and third-team safety Devin Neal (Baylor).