Signing transfer players can be like purchasing collectibles at a yard sale: Estimating value is tricky. For every bust (see: former Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli to Ole Miss in 2010), there's also the prospect of a windfall (ex--Florida QB Cam Newton to Blinn College to Auburn). Here's a quartet of transfers who should pay off for their new programs this fall.
Bryce Brown, TB, Kansas State
Brown, who transferred from Tennessee in '10 after a solid freshman campaign (460 yards on 101 carries), is known less for his explosive talents than his recruiting saga. Hailed as the top prospect in the country in '09, he was first headed to Miami to join his older brother, LB Arthur Brown (sidebar). Then Brian Butler, the Brown family's adviser, opened the door to everyone from the Volunteers to the CFL, sparking an NCAA probe. (Brown was later cleared.) The exodus in early 2010 of both Arthur (to K-State) and Vols coach Lane Kiffin (to USC) brought Bryce to Manhattan, where he impressed coaches during his mandatory redshirt year. K-State has said the NCAA has no concerns about the Brown brothers' eligibility in the wake of last week's allegations that they received benefits from a Hurricanes booster.
Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
Thanks to the communications degree that Wilson earned in three years at N.C. State, he will play for the Badgers immediately, despite transferring in June. The senior's relocation had more to do with his inability to attend the Wolfpack's spring practice (the QB, also a second base prospect for the Colorado Rockies, played A ball in Asheville, N.C.) than with his performance (an ACC-best 3,998 yards in total offense and 28 TD passes last fall). With elite talent at tailback and on the offensive line, Wilson's efficiency should surge in Madison.
Zach Maynard, QB, Cal
After Buffalo coach Turner Gill took the head job at Kansas last year, Maynard, the Bulls' starter, headed west. This spring—after a semester at Contra Costa College—he emerged as the Bears' starting QB, edging out incumbent Brock Mansion. Maynard, a junior, must cut down on interceptions (15 in '09, against 18 passing TDs), but in Cal's new spread offense, the dual threat—who ran for 300 yards on 87 carries two years ago—provides, in Bears coach Jeff Tedford's words, "another dimension."
Dan Buckner, WR, Arizona
Less than a day after the former Texas wideout was arrested in College Station on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass and resisting arrest in January 2010, he left the Longhorns' program. (Buckner had been in town to visit a friend and was released the next day after posting an $8,000 bond.) Texas's headache quickly became the Wildcats' gain. The 6'4", 220-pound junior caught 44 passes for 445 yards with the Longhorns' team that reached the BCS title game two years ago. Last season he was Arizona's offensive scout team MVP.
This year's transfers will be making a dent on defense, too—especially at linebacker. Three to watch: Kansas State's Arthur Brown, BYU's Uona Kaveinga and Georgia's Jarvis Jones. Like his teammate and younger brother, Bryce, the 6'1", 223-pound Arthur, a junior, was a consensus top 10 recruit but struggled for playing time at Miami. Kaveinga, meanwhile, had originally committed to BYU in 2008 before switching to USC. After two lackluster seasons (during which he made just five tackles), the 5'11", 236-pound junior, who is a ferocious hitter, will now anchor the middle of the Cougars' defense. As for Jones, another USC transfer (he had 13 tackles in eight games as a freshman in '09), his eligibility was in doubt because of an NCAA probe into benefits that he allegedly received from a family friend. But on Aug. 9 the 6'3", 241-pound sophomore was cleared to play.
PETER G. AIKEN/GETTY IMAGES (BROWN)
FRESH FACES Brown (top) left Tennessee to follow his older brother to K-State, where both will play big roles. Wilson (above) was so sharp at N.C. State, he has the Badgers smelling roses.
BOB DONNAN/US PRESSWIRE (WILSON)
[See caption above]
JAREN WILKEY/BYU (KAVEINGA)