QB Graham Mertz (Transfer from Wisconsin)
It’s hard to leave a newcomer starting QB off this list. While I don’t necessarily think Mertz is Florida’s most talented newcomer (they brought in a very talented group of transfers such as Michigan safety transfer RJ Moten, Ohio State LB transfer Teradja Mitchell, and Memphis D-Line transfer CamRon Jackson), you have to think about how important the QB position is. While I didn’t go Thorne for Auburn, I had to go Mertz here for Florida.
It was an up-and-down career at Wisconsin for Mertz, but he is arguably coming off of his best season in 2022. Mertz completed 57.3% of his passes, had 2,136 passing yards, and a 19:10 TD:INT ratio this past season. Overall for his career, Mertz has a 59.5% completion percentage, 5,405 passing yards, and 38 TD’s (to 26 INT’s). Mertz also has 8 career rushing TD’s, although he is not a running QB.
Mertz is also very experienced with 773 passing attempts and 34 career games played under his belt. A key factor in whether Florida can return to contention in the SEC East will be the play of Mertz. He’ll have a talented group of tailbacks behind him, but you need good QB play in 2023 to be successful.
WR Dominic Lovett (Transfer from Missouri)
While Georgia has a very deep receiver room, one could argue that the group needed a splash at the top of the group. With the Dawgs losing AD Mitchell in the transfer portal to the Longhorns back in his home-state of Texas, and Darnell Washington to the draft, there was a need at receiver (and yes, Darnell Washington is a tight end, not a receiver. However, he was still a key part of the passing game and a key target that has to be replaced).
Georgia addressed that need in the portal, adding two intra-SEC transfers (Dominic Lovett from Mizzou and Rara Thomas from Mississippi State). While both of those players will make an impact in 2023, my edge goes to Lovett who profiles more as a go-to #1 receiver. Last season, Lovett starred for Missouri. He had 846 receiving yards on 56 catches, and scored 3 TD’s. Lovett was the Tigers top receiving option by far a year ago, having almost double the yardage total as his next closest teammate.
The East St. Louis native was ranked as the 9th best overall player in the transfer portal (and the #3 ranked receiver) by 247. He should pair with Brock Bowers, Ladd McConkey, and the fellow newly added Thomas to give Georgia a strong receiving group in 2023 for new starting QB Carson Beck to throw to.
QB Devin Leary (Transfer from NC State)
Exit Will Levis, enter Devin Leary. With Levis (a fellow former transfer himself) off to the NFL, Kentucky dipped back into the portal to grab one of the top QB’s available in NC State transfer Devin Leary. Leary was one of the top QB’s and players overall in the transfer portal (ranked as the #8 overall player and the #2 QB transfer in the class according to 247), and heads to a Wildcat team hoping to contend in the East.
Leary was limited to just six games in 2022, but starred in 2021 for a 9-3 NC State team. Leary completed 65.7% of his passes that season, threw for 3,433 yards, and had a stellar 35:5 TD:INT ratio (good for a 157 QB Rating).
For his career, Leary has a 60.2% completion percentage, 6,807 passing yards, and 62 TD’s (to 16 INT’s) across 30 career games (has attempted 944 career passes). Kentucky also added Vanderbilt transfer RB Re’mahn “Ray” Davis who should play a big role in 2023, but no newcomer will play a bigger role in Kentucky’s success this year than Leary who could make a run at First Team All-SEC this year.