Highlighting 13 Non-Quarterback Transfers That Could Be Intriguing Additions for Ohio State

By Garrick Hodge on December 7, 2023 at 4:30 pm
LT Overton
Jerome Miron – USA TODAY Sports

Transfer portal season is off and running, with nearly 1,500 FBS players nationwide opting to transfer since the portal officially opened on Monday.

Ohio State has seen 13 of its own players enter the transfer portal, including quarterback Kyle McCord, running backs Evan Pryor and Chip Trayanum, wide receiver Julian Fleming, centers Victor Cutler Jr. and Jakob James, defensive end Omari Abor, linebacker Reid Carrico, cornerbacks Jyaire Brown and Ryan Turner, safeties Cameron Martinez and Kye Stokes and kicker Parker Lewis.

But while it’s unclear just how many players OSU hopes to add via the portal, there will certainly be at least some additions with all the attrition. A few days after the portal has opened, we’ve identified some transfers that could be of interest to Ohio State this offseason. As a disclaimer, it’s not a given that OSU will even pursue all of these players, let alone land all of them considering NIL often plays a factor in the decision of many transfer targets, but it could be fun to dream about some of these prospects. 

We’re focusing on non-quarterback transfer options on this list, as we wrote about a slew of options the Buckeyes could pursue at quarterback on the day McCord entered the portal. 

The players below are not in any particular order and have been listed by name, position and their former school.

Marley Cook, defensive tackle, Middle Tennessee

Cook is the lone transfer on this list that has already publicly set up a visit with Ohio State as of this writing, as he’ll visit Columbus on Dec. 15. OSU defensive line coach Larry Johnson visited Cook in person this week and will have the chance to further impress him next week on his visit.

The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Cook has been with Middle Tennessee since the start of the 2019 season and has been a starter for two consecutive years. In 2023, he racked up 22 tackles, six tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery while earning a grade of 73.4 per Pro Football Focus. The 2022 season was Cook's best in college, where he earned an 85.2 grade from PFF after recording 6.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss.

LT Overton, defensive end, Texas A&M

Like Cook, Overton is another prospect that has been officially contacted by Johnson, but it’s too early to tell if that will result in an official visit or not considering he’s received no shortage of interest. Other schools that have reached out include LSU, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Oregon, Alabama and Georgia, per 247Sports

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Overton was ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the 2023 class before he eventually reclassified to the 2022 class. He’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining. 

This season, Overton recorded 17 total tackles and three quarterback hits for the Aggies.

Chase Bisontis, offensive tackle, Texas A&M

After starting all 12 games for Texas A&M in his freshman season, offensive tackle Chase Bisontis will have plenty of interest from multiple schools considering he was one of the more highly-touted offensive tackles in the 2023 class. Ohio State heavily recruited Bisontis, so the familiarity with offensive line coach Justin Frye and Ryan Day should already be there. 

Bisontis was named a true freshman All-American by On3, but he’ll still have tweaks to make in his game as he turned in a PFF grade of 57.5 overall as a true freshman, grading at 46.8 as a pass blocker and 63.3 as a run blocker. 

Carter Smith, offensive tackle, Indiana

Considering his family resides in Powell, Smith seems like a logical fit for Ohio State if the Buckeyes are interested in the hometown product.

Per Pro Football Focus’ grades, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound Smith was the 10th-best offensive tackle in the Big Ten this season, turning in an overall grade of 68.6. Smith had little difference in his pass blocking (68) and run blocking (69) grades for the Hoosiers this season.

Trevor Etienne, running back, Florida

Let’s get a big disclaimer out of the way for the next three names we’ll discuss. Ohio State will be a much more enticing option for any of them if TreVeyon Henderson opts to declare for the NFL draft rather than return for another season. But even if Henderson does return to OSU, Ohio State could need depth at running back, considering Trayanum and Pryor have both opted to transfer and Miami is working hard to flip 2024 running back commit Jordan Lyle before National Signing Day. 

With that said, Trevor Etienne, the brother of former Clemson star Travis Etienne, opted to leave Florida on Thursday after two seasons with the Gators and will have two more years of eligibility remaining.

In 2023, Etienne ran for 753 yards on 131 carries with eight touchdowns while adding 21 catches for 172 yards and a touchdown. In his two-year career with Florida, he totaled 1,472 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.

Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, running back, Arkansas 

Sanders was a first-team All-SEC running back in 2022, then had a down year in 2023. The 6-foot-2, 242-pound running back only appeared in six games this season for the Razorbacks and ran for 209 yards on 62 carries with two rushing touchdowns. In 2022, Sanders amassed 1,443 rushing yards on 222 carries with 10 rushing touchdowns. In his three-year career, he’s run for 2,230 yards and 17 touchdowns. 

Treshaun Ward, running back, Kansas State

Ward is looking for his third team in as many years after the graduate transfer put his name in the portal. In his lone season with the Wildcats in 2023, Ward racked up 643 yards on 124 carries with six touchdowns while adding 17 catches for 129 yards and two receiving touchdowns. He played for Florida State in 2022, rushing for 628 yards on 95 carries with seven rushing touchdowns. 

Andrew Mukuba, safety, Clemson

A three-year starter for Clemson, Mukuba could be an intriguing option at safety if the Buckeyes opt to pursue one in the portal. In his career with the Tigers, Mukuba played in 35 games, recording 142 total tackles, 15 pass deflections, a sack and an interception. He was a freshman All-American and the ACC Defensive Rookie of The Year in 2021.

Jaylin Lucas, running back, Indiana

While we applied the Henderson disclaimer on the previous three running backs, it probably wouldn’t apply as much to Lucas, who could serve as a valuable depth piece in the backfield and out wide, perhaps in an Xavier Johnson role of sorts. But his greatest contributions would likely come as a kick returner. 

Tired of watching Ohio State signal for a fair catch on every kickoff? Then the prospect of adding Lucas will surely excite you, who has been one of college football’s best return men the past two seasons. This year, he averaged 26 yards per return, which included a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He was even better in his freshman season in 2022, where he was named an All-American as a kick returner by various outlets, averaging 28.1 yards per return and returning two kickoffs for touchdowns.

He also added 34 catches for 247 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver this season and totaled 67 carries for 275 yards and two touchdowns in 2023 for the Hoosiers.

Monroe Mills, offensive tackle, Texas Tech

Mills, who signed with Texas Tech in the 2020 cycle, is one of the best pass blockers available in the portal, as he turned in a 78.3 pass-blocking grade in 2023 per PFF. His overall grade was 67.9 and he earned a 60.3 grade as a run blocker. 

Jaishawn Barham, linebacker, Maryland

Ohio State has plenty of familiarity with Barham, having faced him each of the past two seasons. Barham was consistently one of the Terrapins’ top players defensively, earning Freshman All-American honors in 2022 then following that up with 37 tackles (three for loss), an interception and three sacks. Barham started 23 games in two seasons for Maryland and was the team’s top-ranked recruit in the 2022 recruiting class. 

Princely Umanmielen, defensive end, Florida

Umanmielen will play one more year in college and is decidedly one of the best pass rushers available on the market, having recorded 39 tackles (11.5 for loss), seven sacks and 17 quarterback hurries in 2023. He was named to the Associated Press’ All-SEC second team for his efforts this season. 

Patrick Payton, defensive end, Florida State

Payton is probably the best player on this entire list, but he’ll also likely command the most NIL dollars as well, considering it was a bit curious why he'd opt to transfer from a 13-0 team, even if Florida State did miss out on the College Football Playoff. 

The redshirt sophomore recorded 42 tackles with a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, six quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and 10 pass breakups for Florida State this season. He was named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2022 after recording five sacks, six tackles for loss, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.

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