clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Wisconsin football: transfers out since 2000 explored

A look back at how those who have left Wisconsin via transfer have fared since 2000, and some of the interesting tidbits from the data.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio - Wisconsin v Oregon

With the fairly recent addition of the one-time transfer rule across college athletics, there has been rising player movement in the sport. Every day there are new names entering the transfer portal in college football, with players coming and going on every college campus.

The University of Wisconsin is no different. This past year the Badgers have seen five different players leave via the portal in search of new opportunities, with two others dismissed from the program during the season and landing elsewhere through the portal as well.

Conversely, Wisconsin has also actively added to its roster by poaching players from their former locations. Just this past week the Badgers added three transfers, and dating back to the end of the season have added five players in total.

Given the news of the week, I decided to explore transfer numbers and how players fared after leaving Wisconsin football for the past 22 years. In the next week or so, I will also dive into the opposite, how the Badgers have done with incoming transfers.

By the numbers

Transfers out since 2000

Total Scholarship Players (out of HS only) Number of Transfers (out) % of Players Top Positions
Total Scholarship Players (out of HS only) Number of Transfers (out) % of Players Top Positions
561 83 14.80% RB (12), WR (12), CB (10)

In looking back on the past 20+ years Wisconsin has done a pretty good job of retaining scholarship players, with only about 15% opting to leave through transfer. The 83 overall transfers out that I counted, excludes individuals who were dismissed or had to medically retire. However, looking deeper into the data, the position breakdown was interesting.

As listed in the table the skill positions of running back, wide receiver and cornerback are the main spots where players leaving have come from, representing a little over 40% of the data. Offensive line (nine), quarterback (eight), and safety (eight) were also well represented in the data, though the defensive line jumps into the top group if all d-linemen are grouped together with 12 (seven DEs and five DT/NT).

In addition to breaking out the data by position, a look by recruiting class also brought about some intriguing results. In fact, recently the Badgers have actually done a decent job of retaining their players under Paul Chryst. Since the 2017 recruiting class, the Badgers have only had 12 players leave the program via transfer (remember this does not include all medical or legal issues). While that number is bound to increase over the coming years, Wisconsin hasn’t truly seen a big uptick in transfers leaving so far under the new transfer policy.

For comparison, Wisconsin had a total of 21 players transfer out from the three classes prior (2014-2016) which was one more than the other period with heavy transfer attrition (20 players from the 2008-2010 classes). The 2008 class lead the way with nine players opting to transfer.

One other aspect that I found interesting was when the data was aggregated by state. The two outliers were Florida and Wisconsin. Florida led the way with 15 transfers, while in-state prospects were right behind with 14. Wisconsin having a higher number makes sense considering that there were 132 players on scholarship out of high school from the state which was more than double the next highest (Florida and Illinois with 44 each).

Some quick math points out that one out of every three Florida prospects wound up transferring out of the program during the past 20 years. This jives with the high number of cornerbacks and safeties that left as well considering Wisconsin’s tendency for recruiting South Florida for defensive backs.

Top players

One trend became very clear in looking through the data. Very few players that decided to transfer out went on to have major careers after their time in Madison. In fact, the majority of players bounced down to the G5, FCS, or DIII level for playing time. Additionally, only Shelby Harris left the program for a different school and ended up being selected in the NFL Draft, though he had legal trouble throughout college that pushed him elsewhere.

With all the context laid out, let’s look back at some of the top players to leave Wisconsin in search of new homes since 2000, with a specific eye to how their careers ended following their time with UW.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl - Oregon v Wisconsin
Aron Cruickshank returning a kickoff in the Rose Bowl for Wisconsin.
Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Aron Cruickshank

Cruickshank was a player that made an immediate impact at Rutgers following his transfer. Primarily a return man with the Badgers, he carried on to be one of the better kickoff returners in the Big Ten with his new team but has also gotten involved in the passing game more with the Scarlett Knights.

Pittsbrugh v Syracuse
Manasseh Garner wound up making it to the NFL following his time with Wisconsin and Pitt.
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Manasseh Garner

Manasseh Garner wound up following Paul Chryst to Pittsburgh after his sophomore year. While his offensive numbers were not eye-popping with Pitt, he did manage nearly 600 yards and five touchdowns as a TE/WR during his final two seasons. Garner eventually did spend multiple years bouncing around the NFL as a tight end, and ironically is now a graduate assistant for the Badgers.

Outback Bowl - Wisconsin v Tennessee
Kim Royston was a rare transfer between Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

Kim Royston

After playing sparingly his first two seasons with the Badgers, Kim Royston decided to transfer back home to play for the Gophers where he put together a solid career. The defensive back was a multi-year starter for Minnesota making him one of the highest-profiled players that went on to find high-level success after transferring.

Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos
Shelby Harris is still in the NFL following multiple run ins with the law in college at UW and Illinois State.
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Shelby Harris

The inclusion of Shelby Harris on this list is primarily due to his success in the pros. A good athlete from inside the state, Harris was suspended by Wisconsin for his involvement with Kraig Appleton and Nick Hill as a freshman before he transferred to Illinois State. After a huge junior season, Harris was subsequently kicked off the team from ISU before he was selected in the NFL Draft. He has been in the NFL since 2014.

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Oklahoma State v Notre Dame
Coan went on to have a strong final season with Notre Dame after transferring from UW.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Jack Coan

A multi-year starter for the Badgers, Jack Coan wound up spending his final year with Notre Dame. The signal-caller not only got revenge on Wisconsin with a head-to-head win, but he also set career highs in passing yards and touchdowns with the Irish. It will be interesting to see if Coan sticks around the NFL given his talent level.

Oklahoma State v Texas Tech
Pearson was not medically cleared by UW, and wound up moving to Texas Tech to play.
Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

Reggie Pearson

Another recent transfer, the actual impact for Reggie Pearson, Jr. is still to be determined, but early returns are pretty good. Pearson earned playing time right away with the Red Raiders this past season and he was seventh on the team in tackles. His transfer was medically related, but he is a talented player that deserved mention considering he has eligibility remaining.

Honorable mention:

Miami v Florida State
Things never materialized for Alex Hornibrook after transferring to Florida State.
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images
  • David Gilbert — to Miami (medically related), but he did sniff the NFL despite his injury issues.
  • Alex Hornibrook — to Florida State for one season, where he played in five games with mixed results.
  • Zach Brown — after playing a reserve role for Wisconsin, running back Zach Brown added 520 yards and five touchdowns in his lone season with Pittsburgh.
  • Dontye Carrier-Williams — he just wrapped up this past year with Texas State, which represents his fourth team in college. He started 11 games for the Bobcats.

*There are a number of players who transferred recently that could make this list in the future such as ILB Malik Reed (Arizona), WR Devin Chandler (Virginia), OL Kayden Lyles (Florida State), etc.