Big Ten football transfers: Ohio State, Nebraska add key defensive pieces ready to make impact in 2022 season


It wasn’t that long ago when coaches treated the word “transfer” as if it had only four letters. They’d talk about them in hushed tones, and they were viewed as something of a last measure for a desperate coach. Sure, you might take one, maybe even two, but the heart of your roster was and always would be your recruiting classes.

Then the NCAA got rid of the transfer waiver, and the floodgates opened immediately. “Transfer” is no longer a dirty word, and if a coach were to say he didn’t think exploring the transfer portal was a good idea, he’d get the same look astrophysicists would give Kyrie Irving as he tried to explain to them that the Earth is flat.

You might not want to build the foundation of your program on transfers, but they’re a great way to make quick improvements in areas of need and they have proven to have an immediate impact across the country. In the Big Ten, these five players below will have the most significant impact of all in the 2022 season.

Michigan OL Victor Oluwatimi

The Michigan defense spent a lot of time in the spotlight as the Wolverines won the Big Ten and reached the College Football Playoff last season, but the offensive line performance was crucial to the team’s success. It opened holes for the running backs and kept Michigan’s quarterbacks on their feet. It’s a unit that loses some key players, but Oluwatimi goes a long way to ensure it’ll be one of the top units in the Big Ten in 2022.

You don’t think of interior linemen as impact players, but Oluwatimi isn’t your typical interior lineman, nor is he a typical transfer. He started 32 consecutive games at Virginia and was one of three finalists for the Rimington Trophy last season, the award given to the best center in the nation.

Scott Frost hit the transfer portal hard this offseason, bringing in 16 total players for a transfer class that ranks atop the Big Ten, according to 247Sports’ transfer class rankings. While there are a lot of players in there expected to have an impact for the Cornhuskers, Mathis is the biggest name and most likely to have a loud impact in Lincoln.

Mathis was named second-team All-Big 12 in 2020 and 2021, and was honorable mention for the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2020. He’s accumulated 12.5 sacks and 26 tackles for loss in his career at TCU, and Nebraska needs him to help a defense that finished 12th in the conference in sacks last season and 10th in tackles for loss.


McCalister’s numbers at Oklahoma State won’t tell you everything you need to know about its importance to Ohio State. The Buckeyes secondary has been seen as a weak spot in the last two seasons, and while McCalister is expected to solidify the back-end, he brings more than talent.

McCalister has spent the past four seasons at Oklahoma State playing for new Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. While he’s intercepted only one pass, he’s tallied 123 tackles and is familiar with the scheme Knowles will be implementing. His leadership will be just as important as his production.

Arnold Ebiketie transferred to Penn State from Temple last season and led the team with 9.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss before leaving for the NFL. Now the Nittany Lions have gone back to the portal to find Robinson, and they hope he can have the same impact as Ebiketie.

Robinson was a four-star member of Maryland’s 2021 class and was considered the No. 68 overall prospect in the class. He appeared in 13 games for the Terps last season, finishing with 19 tackles, two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. While asking for Robinson to give Penn State the same production Ebiketie did is unrealistic considering the difference in experience, it’s not entirely out of the question.

Corners become more important every season, as even the most run-happy teams have fled to throw the ball more often, and the Badgers landed one of the most experienced corners available in the portal. In the last three seasons, Shaw appeared in 27 games for UCLA, racking up 81 tackles, five interceptions, eight passes defended and two forced fumbles.

He steps into a Wisconsin defense that has been one of the best in the country under Jim Leonhard and has been one of the most productive at forcing turnovers. Wisconsin finished with 16 interceptions last season, which was second in the Big Ten and tied for eighth nationally. He should flourish playing behind a front seven that has proven to be one of the best in the country at pressuring opposing quarterbacks.

Top transfers for remaining Big Ten teams

  • Illinois – QB Tommy DeVito: The Illini managed to go 5-7 in Bret Bielema’s first season and nearly reach a bowl game despite not having a passing attack of which to speak. They’re hoping the former four-star recruit from Syracuse can provide one.
  • Indiana – QB Connor Basel: Bazelak seemed like Missouri’s QB of the future as a freshman in 2020 but didn’t show many signs of growth during the 2021 season. Indiana hopes a change of scenery provides a jolt to help Bazelak take a step forward in 2022 and help the Hoosiers rebound from an 0-9 record in the Big Ten last year.
  • Iowa – TE Steven Stilianos: It didn’t take much time to figure out the best transfer in Iowa’s class because Stilianos is the only one. The Lafayette transfer is seen as more of a blocking tight end but might impact the passing attack.
  • Maryland – WR Jacob Copeland: Maryland brings in five transfers this year, and Copeland is the biggest name of them all. The former four-star recruit led Florida with 41 receptions for 642 yards and four touchdowns last season. He also saw some touches in the run game and on special teams.
  • Michigan State – EDGE Khris Bogle: The transfer portal was good to Michigan State last year, and Mel Tucker hopes to strike gold again in 2022. The Spartans landed 10 transfers this cycle, and more than a few were strongly considered one of the top five spots. Bogle, a transfer from Florida, could be the breakthrough performer. The former four-star recruit managed 7.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss of the last three seasons with the Gators.
  • Minnesota – OL Chuck Filiaga: Filiaga is one of two big offensive line additions at Minnesota, joining Quinn Carroll from Notre Dame. I give the edge to Filiaga because he was with the team during spring practice and has plenty of experience. The sixth-year super senior appeared in 39 games with the Wolverines and saw starts at both guard spots. He’ll have an impact on a Minnesota offense that loves to run the football.
  • Northwestern – DL Ryan Johnson: Northwestern wasn’t overly active in the portal, though it did add five players. While I considered naming punter Luke Akers (UCLA) the most impactful, I’m going with the other Pac-12 newcomer, Ryan Johnson. Johnson is a sixth-year super senior from Stanford that brings experience and depth to the Wildcats defensive line. He’s appeared in 32 games for the Cardinal, and while he’s not likely to put up crazy numbers, he’ll help a rush defense that was torn apart last year.
  • Purdue – DL Cole Brevard: Brevard was a four-star recruit out of Indiana who began his career at Penn State but has played only one game in two seasons with the Nittany Lions. He returns closer to home to join a Purdue defense that lost a massive piece of its defense in George Karlaftis and can use a bit more depth on its defensive line. Brevard might have one of the highest ceilings of any Big Ten transfer this year if he can live up to his offer list out of high school.
  • Rutgers – WR Taj Harris: The Scarlet Knights overhauled their offensive line in the portal, as that’s where four of their six additions will play in 2022. Because of that, it’s hard to figure out which one will be the most impactful, so let’s go with the sexiest option! Harris was a big-play threat for Syracuse, catching 151 passes for 2,028 yards and 10 touchdowns over four seasons.




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