CFB Spring Portal already busy

Nov 18, 2023; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Oregon State Beavers running back Damien Martinez (6)
Nov 18, 2023; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Oregon State Beavers running back Damien Martinez (6)

While most of the football world is focusing on the 2024 NFL Draft, which begins April 25, a lot of future draft prospects are manuevering to make sure they can show their increase their ratings for future player lotteries 

Yes, CFB's Spring Portal window is open and players are already squeezing through, including prolific running back Damien Martiniz who ranked among the top 25 rushers in the nation while playing for Oregon State in 2023. Martinez will be rated as the No. 2 running back, behind only Quinshon Judkins (from Ole Miss to Ohio State). 

Martinez, a two-year starter from Lewisville, Texas, rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns in two seasons with the Beavers. He earned All-Pac-12 First Team honors as a sophomore while pacing an underrated Oregon State offense. With Martinez gone, Oregon State is down to three scholarship running backs for the spring. 

Martinez was one of the few star players to stick around after coach Jonathan Smith was poached by Michigan State over the offseason. Fifteen different Oregon State players earned a spot on the All-Pac-12 team after the 2023 season. With Martinez set to leave, only one -- offensive lineman Joshua Gray -- will return.

Outside of Gray, almost every major contributor for Oregon State's offense in 2024 was set to be new. The Beavers boasted one of the elite offensive lines in the nation last season but must find four new starters up front. The lack of experience may have proven concerning for Martinez as he enters an all-important third season. 

Where might Martinez go

Martinez immediately establishes himself as one of the best rushers in the transfer portal and potentially the best player available. Listed at 6-feet and 232 pounds, he boasts a physical running style that should translate to almost any school or conference. 

Following Smith to Michigan State could be an attractive choice for Martinez. It would allow him to stay in a similar system while transitioning to the Big Ten. If Martinez wants to return home, he was recruited by assistants at both new SEC programs -- Texas and Oklahoma -- at previous stops.

Alternatively, Martinez could look to the "Portal King" Lane Kiffin. The Rebels lost star Quinshon Judkinsat the running back position. They've been mentioned with MIami transfer Henry Parrish, but Martinez would be an even bigger get. 

Several impact starters already made themselves available when the Portal opened Tuesday. 

The spring window is open for two weeks, through April 30. The NCAA  originally set the spring transfer window to open May 1, but the NCAA  moved the date and we expect a frenzy of activity. Teams are allowed to host recruits on visits throughout the spring window since it's a contact period. The winter window rules were far stricter, when 15 of the 30 were not open to make in-person recruiting contact.

Here is a look at the best available players, as rated by 24/7.


Transfer grade: 99

Kadyn Proctor, a five-star freshman last season for Alabama who entered the portal and landed at his native Iowa earlier this offseason, is back on the market. Proctor started every game at left tackle for Alabama last season. The former five-star signee, a Des Moines native, earned True Freshman All-American honors and helped the Crimson Tide reach the College Football Playoff. He's expected to transfer from Iowa back to Alabama, per 247Sports.


Transfer grade: 93

Oregon State's Damien Martinez, one of college football's top returning running backs will have a bevy of potential options. The All-American ball carrier was reportedly expected to be the Beavers' highest-paid player in NIL next season and now takes 2,000-plus career rushing yards with him to a new destination. Several power conference programs in need of a high-end ballcarrier are expected to reach out given Martinez's proven productivity. He'll be rated right up there with Ohio State signee and former Ole Miss standout Quinshon Judkins along with ex-Florida ballcarrier Trevor Etienne, who signed with Georgia, as the top transfer at the position. 


Transfer grade: 92

Per Lions247, the Norfolk, Va., native finished the 2023 season as the Nittany Lions' leading receiver with 53 catches for 673 yards and four touchdowns to earn All-Big Ten honorable mention, but had a quiet end to the campaign. Keandre Lambert-Smith officially entered on Monday as a graduate transfer. Lambert-Smith had just two catches for 28 yards in the final four games of the season. In the loss to Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl, Lambert-Smith played a season-low 21 offensive snaps and didn't record a catch. James Franklin declined comment on Lambert-Smith's expected departure following Penn State's spring game.


Transfer grade: 92

Jacoby Matthews, a former four-star signee expected to start at Texas A&M this season, entered the portal Tuesday. Via GigEm247, Mathews appeared in 21 games with 12 starts over two years in College Station while recording a combined 67 tackles, 0.5 tackles for a loss, 0.5 sacks, one interception and eight passes defended. He took over in the third game of the 2023 season for Jardin Gilbert who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. Overall, Mathews tallied 42 tackles, 0.5 tackles for a loss, 0.5 sacks, one interception and five passes defended. Pro Football Focus graded him at 80.8 in coverage.


Transfer grade: 92

Arizona cornerback Tacario Davis entered the transfer portal in late January as the wave of departures out of Tucson began following Jedd Fisch's departure to Washington. However, initial reports indicated he was still with the Wildcats ahead of the start of spring practice. As of Tuesday, he remains a free agent. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound soon-to-be junior made 11 starts for the Wildcats last season and led the Pac-12 with 15 pass breakups. Davis earned second-team All-Pac-12 while finishing with a career-high 25 total tackles and an interception. 


Transfer grade: 91

Miami edge Nyjalik Kelly is the top-rated edge rusher available in the portal for the spring cycle and should command much attention given his position of need. Per Inside The U, Kelly played in four games in 2023, totaling eight tackles and one tackle for loss. According to Pro Football Focus, Kelly generated six quarterback pressures in 131 defensive snaps last year. His season was cut short due to injury. Kelly signed with Miami in the 2022 recruiting class and was one of the gems of Mario Cristobal's transition class, ranking as the No. 87 overall player in the country, according to 247Sports.


Transfer grade: 89

SMU starting center Branson Hickman is one of the most seasoned players available and has drawn interest from Arkansas, Washington and others. He played in nine games in 2021 and once he started the final seven games of that season, Hickman never gave the position up outside of missing one contest due to injury. He started the final 33 games he played, including 12 in 2022 and all 14 during the 2023 campaign. For schools in need of a plug-and-play starter up front, he's the guy.


Transfer grade: 89

A former quarterback at Texas A&M, Eli Stowers transferred to New Mexico State where he planned to play under center, but found more playing time at the tight end spot. Stowers did not make a 2022 impact at Texas A&M despite some turmoil at the quarterback position. Haynes King entered the year as Texas A&M's starter but was eventually replaced by LSU transfer Max Johnson. Both of those guys are no longer with the Aggies. Johnson suffered a season-ending injury against Mississippi State and King re-entered the game. King went out with an injury against South Carolina, causing the Aggies to turn to true freshman Conner Weigman over Stowers. 


Transfer grade: 89

Tennessee's leading tackler last season over the final 10 games, Elijah Herring is in the portal with two seasons of eligibility remaining. Herring was thrust into action in September after a season-ending injury to Keenan Pili, whose return in 2024 creates a traffic jam of sorts at the linebacker spot for the Vols — and Herring wants first-team reps exclusively, per Vols247.


Transfer grade: 86

After Arkansas took Boise State's Taylen Green at quarterback during the fall portal cycle, Jacolby Criswell has decided to enter the portal after taking second-team reps during the spring at the position. Per HawgSports, Criswell originally transferred to Arkansas from North Carolina ahead of the 2023 season and has two years of eligibility remaining due to a bonus year in 2020. Criswell played behind three-year starter KJ Jefferson last season and completed 17 of 27 passes (63.0%) for 143 yards with three touchdowns. He also ran 23 times for 44 yards and had a 60-yard run in mop-up time against Auburn.


Transfer grade: 85

Colorado is going back to the drawing board for its offensive line in 2024 following the loss of expected starter Savion Washington to the portal this week. Washington started nine games during Deion Sanders' first season with the Buffaloes and played 660 snaps at right tackle. Colorado's offensive front gave up more sacks than any Power Five program nationally last season, so an overhaul was expected. Five-star 2024 signee Jordan Seaton is expected to be a true freshman starter at one of the tackle spots.


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