SEC: Ten transfers who will make the biggest impact in 2023
The transfer portal window for December and January officially closed last week, and while there will still be plenty of movement with commitments in the coming days, most programs have settled on a majority of their offseason transfer additions heading into the spring semester.
In this feature, Rivals.com takes a look at 10 transfers that will have the biggest impact heading into the 2023 season for teams in the SEC.
1. QB Devin Leary — Kentucky
Kentucky is losing a projected top-five draft pick in Will Levis but will replace him with the best quarterback on the market. Devin Leary burst onto the scene in 2021, passing for 3,433 yards and 35 touchdowns with just five interceptions for N.C. State. His redshirt junior season was cut short last year after he tore his pectoral against Florida State on Oct. 8, but he is expected to be cleared in time to take part in spring practice with the Wildcats.
Leary’s pro-style skill set should be a nice fit for offensive coordinator Liam Coen, who returned to Kentucky after spending a season with the Los Angeles Rams last year. The Wildcats return their top five receivers from last season, giving Leary plenty of weapons to work with.
2. WR Dominic Lovett — Georgia
Star tight end Brock Bowers is returning, but Georgia will need to revamp its offense if it wants to make another title run this year. Dominic Lovett is coming off a breakout season in which he led Missouri with 56 receptions for 846 yards while pulling in three touchdowns. He could see those numbers increase this year with defenses keying on Bowers over the middle.
3. WR Dont’e Thornton — Tennessee
Could Dont’e Thornton be the next receiver to capitalize from Josh Heupel’s offense in Tennessee? The Volunteers are losing star wideouts Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman to the NFL and will need to find a new top target for the coming season. While Thornton posted modest numbers in his two years at Oregon, the former Rivals100 receiver showed promise toward the end of last season, tallying four catches for 151 yards in the Ducks’ 20-17 victory over Utah. The 6-foot-5, 199-pound playmaker has plenty of speed to go with his towering frame. Look for Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton III to unleash a few deep balls his way this fall.
4. CB Tony Grimes — Texas A&M
Texas A&M was in desperate need of defensive backs after its secondary was decimated by the transfer portal this offseason. After starting 28 games for North Carolina over the past three years, Tony Grimes should step in and fill a first-team role right away for the Aggies. Grimes, a former five-star recruit, has recorded a combined 16 pass deflections over the past two seasons. The 6-foot, 195-pound defender has the ability to play either outside cornerback or in the slot.
5. CB Denver Harris — LSU
After playing in just five games for Texas A&M due to suspension last season, Denver Harris is set to take on a starting role at LSU. The former five-star recruit brings elite athleticism to the cornerback position and should be able to capitalize by playing behind a dangerous group of Tigers’ pass rushers.
6. QB Graham Mertz — Florida
Florida was in desperate need of a quarterback after Anthony Richardson departed for the NFL, Jalen Kitna was dismissed from the team and Jaden Rashada backed off his commitment due to NIL issues. After starting the past three seasons for Wisconsin, Graham Mertz will now fill the Gators’ void behind center.
Mertz, the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the 2019 class, didn’t quite live up to his lofty projections, throwing for 5,332 yards and 38 touchdowns with 26 interceptions over 32 starts for the Badgers. However, a fresh start a Florida could see him improve his production this season.
7. LB Monty Montgomery — Ole Miss
Monty Montgomery should immediately answer Ole Miss’ needs in the middle of its defense. Last season, the Louisville transfer recorded 11 tackles for a loss and six sacks while also tallying five quarterback hurries and forcing four fumbles. First-year Ole Miss defensive coordinator Pete Golding had instant success with Henry To’oTo’o after the linebacker transferred from Tennessee to Alabama two seasons ago. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Montgomery catch on just as quickly for the Rebels.
8. DL Justin Rogers — Auburn
Hugh Freeze has hit the transfer portal hard since taking over Auburn this offseason. While Justin Rogers might not seem like the flashiest addition, the five-star nose guard should play a huge role in revitalizing the Tigers’ defense. The 6-foot-3, 332-pound defensive tackle won’t stuff the stat sheet, but he’ll do a great job of clogging running lanes.
9. WR Aaron Anderson — LSU
While LSU brings back four of its top five receivers this year, it's too hard to leave Aaron Anderson off this list. The five-star receiver ranks No. 2 overall in the Rivals Transfer Tracker and should be a big part of the Tigers’ offense moving forward. Anderson suffered a knee injury this past offseason and appeared in just one game for Alabama last season. Now fully healthy, the New Orleans native offers elite speed and shiftiness both as a receiver and in the return game.
10. TE C.J. Dippre — Alabama
Alabama hasn’t been very active in the transfer portal this offseaosn but did add an important piece to its offense in tight end C.J. Dippre. The Maryland transfer recorded 30 receptions for 314 yards and three touchdowns last season. He could see even more production at Alabama considering the Crimson Tide might lean on the tight end position more as it looks to break in a new quarterback this season.