Over 1,600 players entered the transfer portal by the time December’s Early Signing Period came and another 200 joined them in time for National Signing Day on February 2.
All of this player movement has resulted in programs across the country tapping into the portal’s resources in search of key pickups that can help a team win immediately — with Conference USA clubs being no exception. Five C-USA teams were ranked among the top-65 programs in transfer portal recruiting rankings, per 247 Sports and half of the league’s teams added at least five players from the portal in time for NSD.
While there’s still plenty of time between now and August for more additions, let’s take a look at 10 players who will make their way to C-USA in time for spring football and have the potential to make an impact in 2022.
10. Donovan Manuel — FIU
Mike MacIntyre’s first recruiting class at FIU saw him take in 13 transfers from other programs, signaling that the Panthers are looking for experienced players who can step in immediately.
One of those transfers who will be called upon is FCS transfer, Donovan Manuel. The 6-1, 235-pound linebacker tallied 232 tackles with 21 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 30 games at East Tennessee State. Given MacIntyre’s history with the 3-4 scheme, a sizable linebacker like Manuel has the tools to step in immediately.
9. Jared Sackett — UTSA
The selection of a kicker on a list of impact players may seem odd. However, Jared Sackett’s collegiate journey has been anything but normal. The Fort Worth, Texas native was named as a Freshman All-American after hitting 19-of-22 kicks for UTSA in 2017. Sackett would transfer to Arkansas after his sophomore season with the Roadrunners, then make his way to South Florida in 2020 and went 5-of-7 on attempts.
Sackett didn’t see action in 2021 and after entering the portal, he’s come full circle and will look to fill Hunter Duplessis’ shoes in San Antonio — following Duplessis filling Sackett’s role after his departure.
8. Jacob Zeno — UAB
Former four-star recruit Jacob Zeno lands in Birmingham with Bill Clark’s UAB Blazers after three seasons as a Baylor Bear. The 6-2, 210-pound Zeno was the eighth-ranked pro-style quarterback in the 2018 recruiting class according to 247 Sports and chose Baylor over Florida, NC State and Georgia.
Clark has shuffled through multiple quarterbacks since UAB’s return to football in 2017, but has managed to get enough production to be consistent winners. If Zeno is able to win the job and live up to his billing coming out of high school, the Blazers’ offense could reach new heights.
7. Amir Siddiq — Charlotte
Former Central Michigan Chippewa Amir Siddiq now resides in Charlotte with the 49ers and will look to bring a sturdy presence to Club Lit’s defensive line. The 6-2, 245-pound defensive lineman racked up 57 tackles and eight sacks in four seasons at CMU, including 33 tackles and four sacks in 2021.
6. Myles Brooks — Lousiana Tech
Brooks was a three-star recruit coming out of Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville, Texas and had interest from FBS programs, but chose to take his talents to FCS Stephen F. Austin in 2019.
In three seasons with the Lumberjacks, Brooks played in 31 games and was one of the better defensive backs at the FCS level. He recorded 17 pass breakups and five interceptions along with being an excellent tackler, notching 65 stops.
5. Sam Crawford Jr. — Rice
Over Mike Bloomgren’s four seasons at the helm of Rice, the Owls have struggled to maintain consistent success on offense. While the quarterback position is still a question mark entering 2022, a huge help for whichever signal-caller wins the job will be receiver Sam Crawford Jr.
The 6-1, 210-pound wideout hauled in 114 catches for 1,623 yards and 10 touchdowns over three seasons at Tulsa. Crawford Jr. was second on the team in catches and yards in 2018, making 59 grabs for 777 yards and five touchdowns and led the Golden Hurricane in yards per catch last season (17.5).
4. Devonta Lee — La Tech
Former four-star recruit Devonta Lee heads 3.5 hours north to play for Sonny Cumbie and Louisana Tech after starting his career at LSU. In three seasons for the Tigers, Lee didn’t see much action, recording 11 catches for 112 yards and one touchdown, but should have every opportunity to crack the starting lineup for the Bulldogs immediately. Tech has had success with transfer wideouts before (Adrian Hardy) and Cumbie’s offensive philosophy will call for a player with playmaking ability like Lee.
3. Henry Colombi — Marshall
Following the transfer for two-year starter Grant Wells to Virginia Tech, Marshall will presumably turn to former Texas Tech and Utah State starter Henry Colombi. The Fort Lauderdale native has large shoes to fill, especially with Charles Huff’s team very much in win-now mode.
Colombi has thrown for 2,810 yards with 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in four seasons in college. With wideouts such as Corey Gammage and Talik Keaton in place and standout running back Rasheen Ali returning, Colombi has all of the weapons around him needed to have instant success.
2. Zahodri Jackson — North Texas
A two-year starter, Zahdori Jackson brings 35 games of experience with him to a North Texas secondary that is in need of talented defensive backs.
Jackson tallied 56 tackles and six pass breakups over four seasons and should be able to immediately step into a contributing role for a Mean Green defense that’s had its share of struggles stopping opposing offenses for several seasons.
1. Jarret Doege — Western Kentucky
After hitting big on former Houston Baptist signal-caller Bailey Zappe as a transfer last season, Tyson Helton has again picked up a prolific quarterback, this time former Bowling Green and West Virginia starter Jarret Doege.
The 6-2, 215-pounder beat out former FIU starter James Morgan as a true freshman, starting 19 games over two seasons at BGSU. Doege transferred to West Virginia in 2019 and threw for 6,453 yards and 40 touchdowns in 27 games. For his career, Doege has thrown for over 10,000 yards and 79 touchdowns in five seasons. Especially given his experience in an offensive system similar to what the Hilltoppers ran last year, Doege should be able to come in and hit the ground running.