With transferring in college football at unprecedented levels amid new rules that allow first-time transfers immediate eligibility, programs have an opportunity to immediately upgrade their rosters with proven players. Several teams in the Pac-12 appear to have done exactly that ahead of a 2021 season that will be critical for the league.
The Pac-12 has some prestige to reclaim after a 2020 season that saw the conference fail to send a team to the College Football Playoff for the fourth straight year. A late start to the season and several disruptions once it got underway left the conference lacking national relevance.
If the league is going to take a step forward this season, an influx of transfer talent will be at least partly responsible. Several of the league's programs appear likely to start transfers, and at least one is poised to start a transfer at quarterback. All five players featured here are offensive players because college football is an offensive game now, and if the Pac-12 is going to catch up with the rest of the country, an offensive uptick is imperative.
So without further ado, here are the Pac-12's top five impact transfers as the 2021 college football season approaches.
Utah QB Charlie Brewer
Utah tried the veteran transfer route at quarterback last season and got mixed results with ex-South Carolina QB Jake Bentley. The Utes are doubling down on the strategy in 2021 with bringing in former Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer. A four-year starter for the Bears, Brewer brings a career 63.5% completion mark and 65 passing touchdowns to the gig. He's also run for 22 touchdowns in his career, and that mobility clearly sets him apart from Bentley.
Utah RBs T.J. Pledger, Chris Curry
The Utes are coping with the accidental shooting death of last year's leading rusher Ty Jordan, who was named the Pac-12's Offensive Newcomer of the Year as a freshman. No matter who ends up starting in the backfield, there will be no filling the void of a fallen teammate. However, Utah was fortunate to land two veteran transfers at the position. Former Oklahoma back T.J. Pledger and former LSU back Chris Curry both have College Football Playoff experience, and should the Utes get back in the mix for the Pac-12 South title while bringing veteran leadership that includes Brewer under center.
Washington WR Ja'Lynn Polk
The Huskies recorded just four passing touchdowns in their four games last season, and three of them went to star tight end Cade Otton. This team needs someone to step up at receiver, and Polk looks like one of the top options. After snagging 28 passes and two touchdowns in 10 games at Texas Tech as a freshman last season, the 6-foot-2 former three-star prospect should be one of the Huskies' top options on the perimeter. If he can build on the flashes he showed with the Red Raiders, Polk can be a difference-maker right away and a multi-year staple in Washington's offense.
USC RB Keontay Ingram
After rushing for 1,811 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per carry in three seasons at Texas, Ingram is headed west to pair up with super seniors Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr in the USC backfield. Together, the trio should comprise one of the strongest backfields in the Pac-12. Ingram also caught 67 passes and hauled in six touchdown grabs during his time at Texas, and will be another top-notch weapon for star quarterback Kedon Slovis.
UCLA RB Zach Charbonnet
Charbonnet is a former top-50 prospect who ran for over 700 yards as a freshman at Michigan in 2019 before seeing fewer carries last season. With the Bruins replacing leading rusher Demetric Felton from a rushing attack that ranked 12th nationally at 230.6 yards per game, he'll be a critical addition and form a solid one-two punch with Brittain Brown. It feels like now or never for Bruins coach Chip Kelly as he enters Year 4 with a 10-19 record following a 2020 season that featured a few close losses. If the Bruins are finally going to make a breakthrough, Charbonnet will likely play a major role.