Around the Pac-12: Oregon Ducks chasing big names in transfer portal; Jonathan Smith dumps Oregon State gear at Goodwill; what Deion Sanders needs to fix at Colorado

Bo Nix, Dan Lanning

Oregon head coach Dan Lanning hugs Oregon quarterback Bo Nix during senior night festivities before playing Oregon State in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 24, 2023, in Eugene, Ore. Oregon won 31-7. (AP Photo/Mark Ylen)AP


Dan Lanning has been among the most prolific — and successful — patrons of the college football transfer portal during his two years with the Oregon Ducks, deftly adding ready-to-play talent as the program transitioned from the Mario Cristobal era.

Could Lanning’s third round in the portal be his best yet?

It sure seems to be off to a promising start.

The Ducks are reportedly hosting the nation’s top two transfers — Texas A&M defensive lineman Walter Nolen and Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel — this weekend and are in line to host the No. 1 safety, Clemson’s Andrew Mukuba.

Multiple reports suggest the Ducks are the favorites to land Gabriel, whose addition not only would soften the blow of losing Heisman Trophy finalist Bo Nix, but also help Oregon’s transition to the Big Ten. Nix, of course, was the biggest addition to Lanning’s first transfer class.

While Colorado coach Deion Sanders has generated the most headlines for his absurd use of the transfer portal — he signed a whopping 51 transfers last year — and Florida State’s Mike Norvell has been dubbed “King of the Portal” by some, Lanning has shrewdly used the transfer market to fuel two successful seasons in Eugene.

Lanning signed 10 transfers before his first season at Oregon, then added 15 more in 2022, accentuating the Ducks’ roster with enough talent to compete for a Pac-12 championship and College Football Playoff berth. Last year’s haul included multiple impact players, including wide receiver Tez Johnson, offensive lineman Ajani Cornelius, defensive back Khyree Jackson and safety Evan Williams.

The foursome was named to On3′s 2023 “All Transfer Team,” a group that featured more Oregon players than any other program.

Historically, the Ducks have not been able to recruit on par with college football’s blue bloods. But Lanning landed the ninth-ranked high school class in 2023 and boasts the seventh-ranked class in 2024, according to the 247 composite rankings, proof that old reality is finally changing.

But in the new world order of college football, successfully navigating the transfer portal is crucial, and Lanning and the Ducks already have a solid track record. (Having the support of Phil Knight and the Division Street Collective surely doesn’t hurt)

Gabriel completed 69.3% of his passes for 3,660 yards and 30 touchdowns last season for the Sooners and has started 50 games in his college career (at UCF and Oklahoma). He’s the top-ranked quarterback and No. 2 player available in the portal, according to ESPN. Nolen, who recorded 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks last season for the Aggies, is the No. 1 player in the portal.

In addition to Nolen, Gabriel and Mukuba, the Ducks also have offered Mississippi State wide receiver transfer Zavion Thomas and Oregon State transfer Jermod McCoy, according to the player’s social media accounts.

Now, let’s take a spin Around the Pac-12:

• While Oregon appears to be thriving in the portal, its rival to the north is reeling. The Beavers are among the schools “hit the hardest” this portal season, according to ESPN, as numerous impact players have opted to leave for other schools. (Our own Nick Daschel is keeping a running tab of the Beavers’ departures)

• Before he bolted Corvallis for Michigan State, coach Jonathan Smith apparently dumped a trove of his Beavers gear at a local Goodwill. Sports Illustrated has the details, which were unveiled by fans via social media. Here’s one video:

• A look at the top 50 players in the portal, courtesy of ESPN. A look at the most impactful transfer portal entrants so far, according to Sports Illustrated.

• Colorado and Sanders have landed the No. 1 offensive line recruit in the 2024 class, earning a verbal commitment from Jordan Seaton. USA Today and ESPN and The Denver Post have the details.

• What does Sanders need to fix at Colorado after his first season. ESPN takes a look.

• The Athletic has released its 2023 “All-Portal Team.”

• A few Pac-12 recruiting thoughts from The Athletic, including Washington’s bump, Colorado’s concerns, Oregon’s impressive defensive line haul and more.

• In its look at the biggest surprises and disappointments in every conference this season, USA Today rails on a school from Southern California and praises the worst team in the Pac-12. “Picking USC as the biggest disappointment in the Pac-12 is easy; the Trojans were the biggest disappointment in the FBS. Naming Colorado as the biggest surprise requires looking beyond the three-win improvement to appreciate how Deion Sanders made the Buffaloes one of the biggest stories in all of sports.”

• The new “Coach Prime” documentary series will feature pins, needles and blunt comments, according to USA Today.

• The Heisman finalists are testaments to consistency at quarterback, writes Sports Illustrated.

• UCLA’s Laiatu Latu became the first Lombardi Award winner in school history, writes the Los Angeles Times.

• From The Salt Lake Tribune: One of Kyle Whittingham’s favorite weapons has entered the transfer portal and the Utes are losing one of their best defensive players to the NFL Draft.

• It’s easy to forget, but Jayden Daniels’ Heisman chase began in Tempe, Arizona, with the Sun Devils, writes the Arizona Republic.

• Arizona is raising ticket prices and laying off athletics staff, reports the Arizona Daily Star.

Joe Freeman | | 503-294-5183 | @BlazerFreeman | Subscribe to The Oregonian/OregonLive newsletters and podcasts for the latest news and top stories.

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