Top 10 Division I transfers in SEC football this fall

Dave Matter
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Ohio State freshman receiver Mookie Cooper is embraced by defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs during a spring practice last year. Cooper has transferred to Missouri and looks to be one of the top transfers in the SEC this fall.

As if Southeastern Conference teams needed any more help hogging all the talent in college football. 

Thanks to a stream of rules changes, SEC teams have replenished their rosters with even more firepower this offseason. In April, the NCAA granted immediate eligibility to all first-time transfers, followed by the SEC's decision last month to scrap its long-held rule that transfers within the conference had to sit out a year in-residence. 

The transfer portal scattered high-profile players across the country this offseason, with some of the biggest names landing in the SEC — some from one SEC roster to another. Here's a countdown of the league's top Division I transfers who are eligible this fall. 

1. Henry To'o To'o, linebacker, Alabama 

A mass exodus stripped Tennessee's roster clean with multiple starters skipping town for Oklahoma, plus Miami, North Carolina, Michigan State and Texas A&M. To'o To'o might have been the most talented departure, leaving Knoxville for rival Alabama, a plug-and-play first-team All-SEC candidate for what's already a loaded Alabama defense. Rated the nation's No. 3 inside linebacker recruit just two years ago, he fulfilled the hype, leading the Vols in tackles the last two years (148) and tackles for loss (15). His arrival bolsters what was already the SEC's best group of linebackers. 

2. Wan'Dale Robinson, receiver, Kentucky 

Kentucky's offense needs a jolt. His name is Wan'Dale. The Frankfort, Kentucky, native returns to his home state after two dazzling years at Nebraska, where he caught 91 passes for 914 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another 540 yards and four scores. The Wildcats have revamped their offense with the hiring of offensive coordinator Liam Coen, fresh off Sean McVay's Los Angeles Rams staff, and Robinson could be the sparkplug. 

3. Arik Gilbert, receiver, Georgia 

Nobody in the SEC plucked more value out of the transfer portal than Georgia, starting with Gilbert, the former five-star LSU tight end who first committed to Florida then switched to Georgia this spring. Rated as high as the nation's No. 5 overall recruit out of high school, Gilbert snagged 35 passes for 368 yards and a couple touchdowns last year for LSU, with his best game coming at Mizzou: six catches for 97 yards. Now, back in his home state, he'll work with Georgia quarterback J.T. Daniels for the SEC East favorites. 

4. Derion Kendrick, cornerback, Georgia 

It's Georgia again. Kendrick was a productive receiver at Clemson as a freshman then became a two-year starter at cornerback, earning All-ACC honors both seasons. In 23 starts, he broke up 12 passes with three interceptions for the ACC powerhouse. There were off-field issues at Clemson — he left the team in February — and was arrested in March when police found him asleep in a car with a semi-automatic pistol on his lap. If he stays out of trouble, Kendrick should be one of the SEC's best defensive backs for a Georgia team that replaces both starting corners. Oh, and who does Georgia play the first week of the season? Clemson. 

5. Tykee Smith, safety, Georgia 

The rich get richer, right? Smith was one of the nation's most versatile defenders at West Virginia, where he played the nickel position and made 112 tackles the last two seasons, plus four interceptions, nine deflections and 10.5 tackles for loss. Credit Georgia coach Kirby Smart for making a savvy hire after the season: Smith followed WVU defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae to Georgia, who took on the same role at UGA in January. 

6. Jameson Williams, receiver, Alabama 

Two Ohio State receivers from St. Louis left the Buckeyes this offseason. Williams, a former  four-star recruit from Cardinal Ritter who caught 22 touchdowns as a senior, was Ohio State's No. 3 receiver last year but caught just nine passes in eight games. He joins an Alabama offense that replaces two first-round NFL receivers but should be brimming with talent again this fall. 

"I let other schools recruit me. I wanted to give them a chance, but Alabama was the best place for me at the end of the day," he told Rivals.com in May. 

7. Mookie Cooper, receiver, Missouri 

Now for the other ex-Buckeye from St. Louis. A dazzling playmaker at Trinity Catholic High School, Cooper didn't crack the Ohio State rotation last year, then chose his home-state program over some SEC heavyweights. In the spring, he earned snaps with the first-team offense at slot receiver and should be an immediate impact playmaker for Eli Drinkwitz's offense. Cooper hasn't appeared in a game since 2018, his junior season at Trinity, but should supply Mizzou the vertical threat that was missing last year. 

8. Mike Jones Jr., linebacker, LSU 

Another SEC import from Clemson, Jones is just the kind of experienced defender LSU needs after last year's rare struggles. As a second-team All-ACC choice last year, Jones broke up four passes, made 30 tackles and picked off two passes as Clemson's nickel linebacker. LSU projects the former four-star prospect as an every-down inside linebacker. 

9. Antonio Shelton, defensive tackle, Florida 

The Gators dipped into the portal and landed two Power Five starters at D-tackle, starting with Shelton, who had six sacks across 40 career games at Penn State. 

10. Akayleb Evans, cornerback, Missouri 

The Tigers needed help in the secondary and nabbed a pair of cornerbacks from Tulsa, Evans and teammate Allie Green IV. Evans could start immediately after choosing Mizzou over Texas and Notre Dame.