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14 for ’14: Impact FBS-To-FBS Transfers
West Virginia's new RB Rushel Shell
West Virginia's new RB Rushel Shell
Campus Insiders & CFN
Posted Feb 2, 2014

14 for ’14: Impact FBS-to-FBS Transfers: With Signing Day coming up, who are the true top pickups for 2014?

January 30, 2014 14 for ’14: Impact FBS-to-FBS Transfers

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Sometimes, the grass is greener after all.

Athletes transfer schools every year and for all kinds of reasons, from a desire to be closer to family to the need for a fresh start. Above all else, the quest for more playing time and more exposure is always at the forefront of the decision-making process. While college football doesn’t have free agency, like in pro sports, its coaches recognize the annual opportunity to serve as safe havens for those one-time high school and college stars who’ve decided to take their skills to a new zip code. In many cases, they sat out last year, drifting from the spotlight. They’re eligible in 2014, though, and eager to resume careers that have taken intriguing detours.

14. WR Davonte’ Neal, Arizona via Notre Dame
Neal had an offer to be a Wildcat—and a Sun Devil—when he graduated from Chaparral (Ariz.) High School, but he opted instead to play for Notre Dame. After just one year, though, he’s returned home in order to be closer to his young daughter. Neal was a four-star recruit in 2012, with the elite athleticism to contribute on offense, defense or special teams. He’ll be a wide receiver in Tucson, where he’s reuniting with another high-profile transfer, quarterback and high school teammate Connor Brewer.

13. QB Tyler Ferguson, Louisville via Penn State
Ferguson was all set to join Petrino at Western Kentucky. Instead, he’ll follow the coach to a different Kentucky campus, one that’s looking for a successor to Teddy Bridgewater. While Will Gardner is the favorite after serving as the backup in 2013, Petrino lured Ferguson to his third school in three years to compete for a starting job. The junior was a record-setter at College of the Sequoias (Calif.), but he was unable to beat out Christian Hackenberg in Happy Valley. Petrino has a long history of elevating the play of young passers.

12. OL Malcolm Bunche, UCLA via Miami
Jim Mora needs more depth and more experience in the trenches. He got a well-sized addition from a very unlikely source. The 6-7, 327-pound Bunche, a Delaware native, has decided to finish his amateur career on the opposite side of the country. He was an anchor at left tackle for Miami in 2012, but he started just a single game a year ago. UCLA is hoping to address the needs of an O-line that was too young, too thin and too inconsistent last fall.

11. WR Jeff Greene, Ohio State via Georgia Tech
Greene knew what he was getting into when he agreed to become a Yellow Jacket. He just felt the offense would become a little more receiver-friendly over time. It didn’t, so he sought out an opportunity to move closer to his father, a personal trainer in Dayton, OH. The Buckeyes and QB Braxton Miller are going to do a better job of utilizing Greene’s 6-4 frame and ability to snare passes at their highest point. As a sophomore in 2012, he caught 18 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns.

10. QB Connor Brewer, Arizona via Texas
Brewer is the latest in a growing line of heralded hurlers who start their careers in Austin, but finish it someplace else. The country’s 11th-rated quarterback of 2012 figures to be a nice fit for an offense that demands versatility and sound decision-making from behind center. Brewer spent last fall on the Wildcat scout team, laying the groundwork for what he hopes will be a starting assignment this season. He’ll have three years of eligibility remaining in Tucson.

9. QB Tyler Murphy, Boston College via Florida
For the second year in a row, Eagle head coach Steve Addazio has leveraged his Gainesville connections to bolster the roster in Boston. BC has added a pair of former Gators, Murphy and part-time O-line starter Ian Silberman. Murphy has decided to spend his fifth year of eligibility on the Heights, attempting to fill the void left by Chase Rettig. He understands Addazio’s offense and expectations, and he has the luxury of starting six games in 2013 after Jeff Driskel suffered a season-ending.

8. RB Braylon Heard, Kentucky via Nebraska
By a stroke good fortune, Heard and Wildcat head coach Mark Stoops attended the same high school, Cardinal Mooney in Youngstown, Ohio. Maybe that was the difference for Kentucky, which failed to produce a 500-yard rusher a year ago. Heard has the talent and enough experience to emerge as the focal point of the ground game. In his first two seasons in Lincoln, he had 77 carries for 462 yards and four touchdowns, but was never going to jump Ameer Abdullah on the depth chart.

7. WR Nick Harwell, Kansas via Miami University
Harwell made every attempt to become eligible for the 2013 season after being dismissed by the RedHawks following an arrest. He fell short, but stuck to his commitment and will finish his college career in Lawrence. Harwell is a next-level talent, with a terrific resume to back it up. He earned All-MAC honors in each of his three seasons at Miami, making 229 career catches for 3,166 and 23 touchdowns. Harwell provides an instant upgrade to a Kansas attack that was 123rd nationally in passing efficiency last fall.

6. DT Delvon Simmons, USC via Texas Tech
Simmons is looking to reinvent himself with the Trojans after spending his first two seasons in Lubbock. No ordinary recruit for Tommy Tuberville and the Red Raiders, he was a five-star gem from Western Pennsylvania. Simmons started all 13 games as a sophomore in 2012, making 27 tackles, six stops for loss and a pair of sacks. He has two years of eligibility remaining to approach lofty expectations, beginning with this season’s chance to replace some of the production of early NFL entry George Uko.

5. QB Jacoby Brissett, NC State via Florida
Brissett lost a battle with Jeff Driskel in Gainesville. The Pack gained a key piece of the offensive puzzle. NC State needs a quarterback to operate Dave Doeren’s spread offense, a reality that became increasingly obvious as Pete Thomas and Brandon Mitchell combined to throw more interceptions than touchdowns in 2013. A lack of opportunities will no longer be a worry for Brissett, a junior, who has the big frame, athleticism and leadership that Doeren believes can be molded into a star in his system.

4. RB Rushel Shell, West Virginia via Pitt
The only thing worse for Pitt fans than Shell’s unexpected departure after just one fall is that he’ll resume his career with the hated Mountaineers. It’s been a chaotic past year for the former can’t-miss high school recruit. After leaving the Panthers, he verbally committed to UCLA, attempted to return to Pitt and eventually opted to play in Morgantown to remain closer to his twin daughters. Shell may be indecisive, but not when the ball is in his hands. The bruising downhill runner debuted in 2012 with 641 yards and four scores on 141 carries.

3. QB Wes Lunt, Illinois via Oklahoma State
It was just two years ago that Lunt appeared to be on the fast track toward becoming a superstar in Stillwater. He won the starting gig shortly after arriving from Rochester (Ill.) High School, and he was being tutored by Mike Gundy, one of the top offensive coaches in America. However, injuries derailed that debut, and when the level of competition at OSU stiffened, Lunt opted to transfer closer to home. He arrives at a perfect time, as the Illini begin auditioning replacements for Nathan Scheelhaase.

2. QB Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati via Notre Dame
To say that Kiel has been indecisive since being named Indiana Mr. Football a little over two years ago would be a gross understatement. The top-rated quarterback of the 2012 recruiting class initially verbally committed to Indiana and LSU, eventually signed with the Irish and then transferred after just a year in South Bend. Sure, Kiel has yet to accomplish anything at this level. However, he possesses all of the raw ability to bloom into a franchise quarterback for Tommy Tuberville and Cincinnati over the next three seasons.

1. QB Jacob Coker, Alabama via Florida State
No transfer has the potential to shift the 2014 college football landscape more than Coker’s will in Tuscaloosa. No guarantees, of course, but he’s uniquely positioned to become the heir apparent to AJ McCarron with the Tide. Coker lost a battle with Jameis Winston last summer, but he’s good enough to start for a slew of schools, including ‘Bama. He’s 6-5 and 230 pounds, with the arm talent to make a smooth transition. As long as Coker graduates in May, his two years of eligibility will begin immediately in 2014.