2012 Spring Preview - All-Transfer Defense
Arizona LB Brian Wagner
Arizona LB Brian Wagner
Posted Mar 6, 2012

New faces in new places. The defensive transfers who'll make the biggest impact.

2012 Spring Football    

All-Transfer Defense

By Richard Cirminiello  
Follow Us ... #ColFootballNews 

- 2012 All-Transfer Offense

Unlike professional sports, the college game has no free agency. It does, however, have transfers, those gems who began their careers at another FBS program, yet for myriad reasons seek a fresh start elsewhere.

Every year, dozens of players from across the country opt to relocate to a different university in order to continue their athletic and academic pursuits. Their impetus runs the gamut from being closer to family and seeking more playing time to getting out from under the thumb of a prickly coaching staff. Many are looking to reinvent themselves, having lost some of the luster that accompanied their final season in high school. A new environment can sometimes be the perfect remedy for a turnaround.

Many of this season's top transfers have been forgotten, thanks to that questionable NCAA rule that requires these opportunity seekers to sit out one full season before becoming eligible in 2012. Forgotten, yes, but hardly gone. Having spent the past months to a year learning new playbooks and hitting the weights in earnest, each is itching to make the most of this second chance in a new locale. 

DE Derrick Bryant, West Virginia via UCLA

Bryant's desire to move closer to his family in Columbus, OH could wind up being a windfall for the Mountaineers over the next three seasons. The three-star prospect from the class of 2010 has the raw skills to develop into a tenacious pass rusher on the outside. At 6-3 and 250 pounds, he gets off the ball very quickly, allowing him to beat heavy-footed tackles around the edge. Bryant figures to be one of a handful of candidates looking to replace Bruce Irvin in Morgantown.

DT Brandon Willis, UCLA via North Carolina
Willis can't wait to hit someone after not playing in his first season in Chapel Hill, and sitting out 2011 per NCAA transfer rules. One of the top-rated defensive tackles of 2010 feels as if he's found a home in Westwood, finally putting down roots after bouncing around for the past two years. Although he lacks ideal size and girth at this stage of career, that ought to change over time. Plus, he's the kind of interior lineman who tends to rely more heavily on his quickness, athleticism and good hands for making stops for minus yards.

DE Forrest West, NC State via Colorado
West has headed east for the second half of his amateur career. The two-time letterwinner in Boulder is essentially an end in the body of an outside linebacker, employing a good first step to make his way into opposing backfields. In his second year as a Buffalo, West finished the season with a flurry of big plays, making 8.5 stops for loss and 5.5 sacks in limited reps. He's hoping to provide additional reinforcements for a Wolfpack defense that ranked No. 8 in the country in sacks a year ago.

LB Ryan Donohue, Connecticut via Maryland
Even if a starting job eludes Donohue, there's little doubt he'll help bolster the depth of an already talented corps of Huskies linebackers. The two-time letterwinner while with the Terrapins will provide help on special teams, and provide a veteran presence from off the bench. He's a tough and stout inside linebacker who does his best work on running downs.

LB Uani Unga, BYU via Oregon State
With his first child on the way, Unga chose in early 2011 to transfer to BYU, which is closer to his in-laws. After sitting out last season, he's eligible to compete for playing time on the second level of the D. A mature athlete, who already served on a two-year LDS mission to Chile, he figures to fit in nicely with the Cougars. Although playing time was scarce in Corvallis, he possesses the range and high-level reps to make an instant impact in his debut in Provo.

LB Brian Wagner, Arizona via Akron
Who'd have imagined that Akron could be a pipeline to Arizona? Wagner, who has spent his entire athletic career bucking the odds, is making the improbable move to Tucson in part because the school affords him an opportunity to pursue a graduate degree in biostatistics. Oh, and a chance to test his skills against Pac-12 competition was appealing as well. Wagner was a tackling machine for the Zips almost from the moment he stepped foot on campus in 2008. The two-time All-MAC selection made no less than 130 stops in each of the last three seasons.

CB Cullen Christian, Pittsburgh via Michigan
The nation's third-ranked cornerback of 2010 found a new home not long after arriving in Ann Arbor. Christian moved closer to his Penn Hills, Penn. home, good news for a family that missed him. He got a taste of action in 10 games as a rookie, making six tackles and gradually adapting to the speed of the game. The Panthers return three starters in the secondary, but one of the vacancies is the corner position held by Antwuan Reed in 2011. Christian hopes to fill that void or the backup role with a solid offseason of practice.

S Jonathan Dowling, Western Kentucky via Florida
Yeah, there's a degree of risk associated with Dowling, who was booted from Florida for a general lack of maturity, but he has enough talent for the Hilltoppers to roll the dice. The 6-4, 195-pounder had offers from major programs throughout the southeast two years ago, when he was considered one of the best defensive backs in the country. If he remains focused on improvement, Dowling can dominate at a Sun Belt program, such as Western Kentucky, very early in his career.

S Shamiel Gary, Oklahoma State via Wyoming
Gary successfully used Laramie as a proving ground for an opportunity to perform on a much bigger stage. Spurned by the Pokes and the Sooners coming out of Booker T. Washington High School, the Tulsa, Okla. native posted back-to-back successful seasons as a starter for Wyoming, earning Freshman All-American honors in 2009. The 6-0, 205-pounder can really pack a punch, pressing up from the secondary to defend the run with a vengeance. Gary will be difficult to keep out of the lineup this fall, especially since All-Big 12 SS Markelle Martin has exhausted his eligibility.

CB Jajuan Harley, Middle Tennessee via Florida State
The Blue Raiders didn't land an ordinary defensive back. In Harley, they now have access to one of the most coveted recruits of the 2010 class. An original commit to play in Tallahassee, the four-star prepster will maintain some ties to the ‘Noles as he prepares to play for former Florida State QB Rick Stockstill. He can play multiple positions, which is a good thing for his new squad because Middle Tennessee must replace three starters from a depleted secondary that picked off just four balls all last year.

Jordan Haden, Toledo via Florida
Haden followed the same path as older brother Joe, originally signing with the Gators out of high school. Now the pair will both be playing ball in Ohio, Jordan with the Rockets, and Joe as a corner for the Cleveland Browns. The younger Haden was a four-star prospect two years ago, a hard-hitting safety with a bright future regardless of where he put on pads.

Ray Vinopal, Pittsburgh via Michigan
Like Christian, Vinopal is a former Wolverine defensive back hoping to finish his career as a Panther. The three-star safety from the 2010 recruiting class started six games as a rookie, making 33 stops. Barring an unforeseen event, like an injury to holdover Jarred Holley or Jason Hendricks, Vinopal might have to wait until 2013 for his next starting nod.

- 2012 All-Transfer Offense