Earlier this week Coach Prime and his staff brought in their 52nd transfer of the off-season in former JUCO QB Gavin Kuld. While Shedeur Sanders, Travis Hunter and Jimmy Horn Jr. among a handful of others are the headliners of this transfer class, it’s time we shine the spotlight on some other transfers who are primed to break out for Colorado in 2023.
Sav’ell Smalls, EDGE
The 2020 five-star and former top overall recruit out of the state of Washington decided to stay in the Pac-12 and commit to Colorado after entering the portal on April 17th. In his three years as a Husky, Smalls failed to chart a sack and only had one tackle for a loss. Now with a change of scenery, Smalls gets to learn from defensive ends coach Nick Williams and has a chance to regain his five-star form with the Buffs.
Smalls was a standout two-way athlete for Kennedy Catholic High School which resulted in his five-star rating. The athleticism, size and speed are undeniable; it’s just a matter of Smalls putting it all together. If Coach Williams is able to turn Smalls into more of a technician, expand his repertoire as a pass rusher and get Smalls into the backfield on a more consistent basis he could be one of the best commitments of the 2023 transfer portal cycle.
Taijh Alston, EDGE
Another EDGE rusher in Taijh Alston makes this list with the hopes of finally giving Colorado a fearsome pass rush. Alston is entering his seventh season in college football after stops at East Carolina, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, West Virginia and now Colorado as a graduate transfer. Alston has suffered multiple major injuries but has persevered and returned to playing after each one. In his four years in Morgantown, the 6-foot-4 and 255-pound EDGE rusher had 12 starts in 26 games and charted eight sacks, 15 tackles for a loss and four forced fumbles.
Jordan Domineck was another one of the Buffs’ prized commitments from the transfer portal this off-season, but both Smalls and Alston have similar measurables and should factor in alongside Derrick McLendon in what could be a heavy rotation of pass rushers at CU. Alston has already proved he can get into the backfield and wreak havoc, it’s just a matter of staying healthy for him.
Brendan Gant, LB/S
Before Gant announced his commitment to Colorado, this corps of safeties were already labeled as one of if not the strongest group for CU’s defense. Gant brings a dynamic and versatile skillset to Charles Kelly’s defense that could make him a defensive chess piece this season. Given the number of players Colorado has at safety, we could also see a heavy rotation at this position or multiple combinations of players getting onto the field in three-plus safety looks.
One of many players from the Lakeland, FL area, Gant brings plenty of experience to Colorado as he played in 43 career games and had 112 total tackles and 5.5 tackles for a loss. He was a 2019 four-star safety recruit and played there until 2022 when he made the switch to linebacker. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 208-pounds, Gant could be the perfect slot/hybrid defender in the back seven for Colorado.
Omarion Miller, WR
The only true freshman on this list, Miller has the potential to be a freshman standout with Sheduer Sanders at quarterback. Miller was the 270th overall player in the 2023 class according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings and already stands 6-foot-2 and 200-pounds.
Colorado is loaded at wide receiver but Coach Prime has made it clear. If you can play, you can play and you will play. Miller has already been making highlight-reel catches in player-led practices in Boulder and was an insanely productive player for North Caddo High School in Louisiana.
It was only last year that CU fans saw Jordyn Tyson emerge as a true freshman and ultimately, Colorado’s best offensive player. The circumstances are quite different for Omarion Miller but don’t be surprised if we see him making plays in black and gold sooner rather than later.
Jack Bailey, OL
Bailey is the second former Kent State offensive lineman to transfer to Colorado after Savion Washington committed to CU during the first transfer window of 2023. Bailey started at left guard in 18 games for the Golden Flashes but it feels like Tyler Brown has already locked down that position for the Buffs this spring. Coached by then-head coach Sean Lewis and offensive line coach Bill O’Boyle at Kent State, Bailey already understands what will be expected out of himself physically and mentally in Boulder.
Colorado may already have their starting left guard, but center and right guard could be an open competition leading up to and through the opening game against TCU. Bailey will have to beat out Van Wells, Landon Bebee, Isaiah Jatta and others for one of those two spots but he is an experienced, physical and powerful offensive lineman who will see the field this season.
Elijah Yelverton, TE
I listed Louis Passarello as the starting tight end in my projected depth chart article but this is the most open position on the team. Elijah Yelverton was a 2020 three-star recruit who committed to Iowa but did not see any game action in his two years as a Hawkeye. In the spring of 2022, Yelverton left the Iowa program for medical reasons but entered the portal in December and later joined Colorado as a walk-on.
Linebackers coach Andre Hart and Coach Prime coached Yelverton in high school at Trinity Christian School where he played with Sheduer Sanders. While there is familiarity, tight ends coach Tim Brewster has made it clear that he is in search of a complete tight end that can be a factor in the run and pass game. Yelverton is listed on Colorado’s roster at 6-foot-5 and 250-pounds but he will have to beat out Passarello, Caleb Fauria and Erik Olsen to start this fall.
Vito Tisdale, S
Tisdale missed all of the 2022 season after tearing his ACL in spring practices and committed to Colorado during the spring game and has flown under the radar as a result. While at Kentucky, Tisdale was a fan favorite who played in 22 games and started in two. Safety is one of the deepest positions on Colorado’s roster but Tisdale brings even more SEC experience to Boulder.
Tisdale joins Trevor Woods, Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig, Shilo Sanders, Myles Slusher, Travis Jay and Ben Finneseth at the position but his experience could be why we see Tisdale making plays under the Flatirons this fall.
Bishop Thomas, DL
While Thomas may not be a notable addition to some, DNVR and Buff Nation diehards know what Thomas brings to the table. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 301-pounds as a three-star 2022 recruit out of Florida, Thomas played defensive line and was a dynamic pass catcher for Bishop Moore Catholic. His junior year highlight tape is just as hilarious as it is impressive.
Thomas committed to Florida State and while he only saw the field in two games last season, he was the Seminoles defensive scout team player of the year. Many fans have been concerned about how Coach Prime was going to build legitimate size and depth along the defensive line and its players like Thomas who have the potential to make an impact right away. Thomas joins Arden Walker, JJ Hawkins and Amari McNeil as young defensive linemen who could break out in Boulder.
Earlier this week on the DNVR Buffs Podcast, we broke down 17 players who fit the bill and picked the five players who will be in a position to start or contribute from week one. Those players are featured in the graphic above. Check out our show from Wednesday to hear the case for each under-the-radar transfer.