FBS to FCS Transfers Worth Watching in 2012


The NCAA’s moratorium on sitting out a season makes the prospect of transfer from a Bowl Subdivision program to the Championship Subdivision tempting. Dozens of players make this transition annually, with varying results. The success stories are impressive, though.

Take 2011. The winner of the Walter Payton Award, given to the nation’s offensive MVP, went to Eastern Washington-via-SMU quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. Mitchell’s acceptance of the Payton Award came one year after he led the Eagles to the NCAA Championship, and just two after losing his starting job at SMU to Kyle Padron.

In an ironic twist covered last month here at SaturdayBlitz.com, Padron is headed to EWU to potentially fill Mitchell’s shoes. SMU’s single season passing record holder should fit nicely into head coach Beau Baldwin’s scheme, and headlines the list of notable FBS-to-FCS transfers in 2012.

Mitchell and Padron are two examples of players who transferred seeking an opportunity lost at the FBS level. Marcus Coker flourished in the Big Ten, but left Iowa because of off-field problems. Coker has Payton Award potential in the offensive scheme implemented at Stony Brook, though he will share carries with Miguel Maysonet, one of the top yard producers in the country. Combined with the return of quarterback Kyle Essington, the Seawolves have an offense worthy of the championship trophy.

Another Hawkeye running back transfer landed closer to Iowa City. Mika’il McCall is in a heated competition for top tailback duties at Southern Illinois. Saluki head coach Dale Lennon has had some top notch rushers in recent seasons, including 2009 Payton finalist and current Jacksonville Jaguar Deji Karim. McCall is vying to replace Jewel Hampton, who last year rushed for 1121 yards and 17 touchdowns. Hampton came to SIU by way of — you guessed it —

Frank Stallone


The top competitor to McCall is Antonio Banks, another Big Ten refugee. Banks departed Indiana after two seasons.

D.J. Adams, RB
Maryland to Portland State

One of the litany of Terrapins to transfer after Randy Edsall’s first campaign, the power rushing D.J. Adams did not fit Gary Crowton’s spread offense. Fortunately for Nigel Burton, Portland State’s offense is all about power rushing. Adams scored 11 touchdowns at UM in 2010, and should factor heavily into the Vikings’ system.

Jeremiah Wilson, RB
Maryland to James Madison

Another back to leave Maryland, Jeremiah Wilson was used sparingly in his debut campaign. That shouldn’t be the case at JMU, where the offense is largely predicated on the rush. The Dukes averaged nearly 223 yards per game on the ground.

Lynden Trail, LB
Florida to Norfolk State

Lynden Trail has had battles both on the field and off of it. Before he came to Gainesville, a MySpace photo gallery of him (because high schoolers apparently still used MySpace in 2009) caused a stir. He left UF because his opportunities looked slim.

At reigning MEAC champion Norfolk State, he has converted from defensive end to outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme, and showed promise. He was arrested for an assault charge last month though, and will face trial in May.

Braden Hanson, QB
North Carolina to North Dakota

UND makes its transfer to full Division I as a member of the stacked Big Sky Conference. North Dakota was one of the least effective passing teams in the nation, accumulating under 1800 yards on the season. A former three star recruit according to Scout.com and one-time understudy to the Houston Texans’ T.J. Yates, Braden Hanson could inject some life into the Sioux offense.

Leilon Willingham, LB
UCF to Northern Colorado

A four star prep recruit, Leilon Willingham went across the country to ply his trade. He was effective, too, garnering three starts for UCF and registering 19 tackles with an interception. However, he missed his home state and made the decision to come to UNC in January. The Bears were…well, bad would be putting it nicely. His presence gives instant improvement to a defense that surrendered nearly five touchdowns per game.

Eddie Sullivan, QB
Marshall to Western Carolina

Western Carolina needs a lot more help than one player can provide. The Catamounts gave up a staggering 45.6 points per game last season, while mustering just 22 of their own. Highly touted as a prep recruit out of Boca Raton, Eddie Sullivan could help in the latter at least.

WCU likely won’t factor into the top heavy Southern Conference, but Sullivan’s presence is noteworthy because the Catamounts face Marshall in Week 2.