Hurricanes have added big-time transfers but also some busts. What to know as portal opens

When the doors swing open to the second transfer portal window on Tuesday, the Hurricanes will be aggressively shopping for at least a half dozen players who can help immediately. Among those reportedly high on their list: Oregon State running back Damien Martinez, who ran for 1,185 yards on 6.1 per carry last season.

UM quarterback Cam Ward indicated he’s available and eager to help the Canes augment their roster.

Besides a running back, UM’s portal search likely will include the pursuit of a wide receiver, two defensive linemen and at least least two defensive backs.

This much is clear: The Canes will need a slightly higher batting average in the portal than they’ve had the past few years.

Now let’s be clear: UM has snagged some very good players in the portal during Mario Cristobal’s first 2 1/2 offseasons, headlined by offensive linemen Matt Lee and Javion Cohen, Ward and linebacker Francisco Mauigoa.

They have landed several serviceable players, too.

But they have also added a few too many players that lead to buyer’s remorse.

It’s too soon to fully judge the 2024 early imports, though the expectation is that Ward will be very good and defensive linemen C.J. Clark (North Carolina State), Elijah Alston (Marshall) and Marley Cook (Middle Tennessee) will be helpful.

Here’s the bottom line on the first two batch of portal pickups in Cristobal’s first two seasons here:


Lee: Didn’t allow a sack and permitted only four pressures in one exemplary year at center. Indiana’s Zach Carpenter now replaces him at center and received positive reviews during spring practice.

Mauigoa: Was second-team All-ACC last season after producing 82 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. An excellent addition, and UM’s best middle linebacker since Shaquille Quarterman.

Cohen: Gave the Canes’ excellent play at left guard before forgoing his college eligibility to turn pro, just as Lee did.

Colbie Young: Oddly buried on the depth chart for the first half of the 2022 season, he ended up with 79 carches for 930 yards, with 10 TDs, in what was essentially a season and a half before transferring to Georgia this offseason.

Akheem Mesidor: He’s back after playing in only three games last season due to injuries to both feet. He was very good as a 2022 starter, with 38 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and four pass breakups. Mesidor came to UM after he was a second-team All-Big 12 player at West Virginia.

Daryl Porter Jr.: He took the step from decent to very good last season, emerging as UM’s best cornerback. Porter had the best passer rating against, a sterling 64.2 (11 for 22 targets completed against him for 108 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions).


Mitchell Agude. Had 49 tackles and four sacks in one season here (2022).

Henry Parrish Jr.: Averaged 5.4 yards on 230 carries over two seasons before abruptly leaving in the middle of spring practice last month. He’s expected to return to Mississippi, where he began his college career, in the weeks ahead.

Darrell Jackson: Gave UM a pretty good run-stuffer in 2022 before transferring to FSU after that season to be closer to his ailing mother.

Branson Deen: The Purdue import gave the Canes solid snaps at defensive tackle last season in his one remaining year of eligibility.


Ajay Allen: He could rise to a higher tier if he becomes a capable No. 2 or No. 3 behind Mark Fletcher Jr. and a stud running back who could be added in the portal (perhaps Martinez). Allen, who missed the spring game with an injury, averaged 5.2 yards on 70 carries last season.

Jaden Davis: The Oklahoma transfer did some good work at cornerback and nickel last season, particularly in the Texas A&M game, and allowed a 96.8 passer rating in his coverage area.

Davonte Brown: The UCF transfer played just one year at Miami (2023) before moving on to FSU this offseason. He permitted just a 64.3 passer rating, with 7 of 13 targets caught for 54 yards, with no TDs or interceptions. But he played just 180 snaps on defense.

Cam McCormick: Putting McCormick in this grouping might be generous. He played 530 snaps largely out of necessity last season, with Elijah Arroyo injured and (new Louisville tight end) Jaleel Skinner not earning the trust of UM coaches.

McCormick was very limited as a receiver and didn’t block nearly as well as perceived, according to PFF, which rated him Miami’s worst player on offense overall last season. He’s back for a ninth season of eligibility but it’s questionable how much he will play, amid the return of Arroyo and the emergence of Riley Williams and freshman Elija Lofton.

KJ Cloyd: Gave UM 361 serviceable snaps on defense, but the impact was modest. He hopes to join an NFL team in the draft process.

Caleb Johnson: Gave UM one decent year as a backup middle linebacker in 2022, finishing with 48 tackles and four for loss.


Jonathan Denis: Cristobal and offensive line coach Alex Mirabal knew him from Oregon, but he has appeared in five games over two seasons and never challenged for a starting job. He didn’t play a single offensive snap last season.

Logan Sagapolu: Another Oregon transfer who couldn’t crack the rotation in two years here, with a half dozen appearances and one start. He played 29 snaps last season. Like Denis, there’s a question whether he will stick around.

Shermar Kirk: On a team that could have used another impact receiver, Kirk never seriously challenged and didn’t play a snap last season. But he was impressive in the final three quarters of the spring game.

A case could be made to put him in the “jury’s out” category below because there is talent to be extracted. In two seasons at Reedley Kirk Community College in Nashville, the 6-1 Kirk had 76 catches for 1,446 yards (19.0 yards per reception) and 15 touchdowns.

Anthony Campbell: UM was intrigued by the length (6-7) and power of the Louisiana-Monroe transfer, but it should have been a red flag that his snaps were limited at Monroe. Campbell logged only eight defensive snaps in his first year at UM last season and it will be a surprise if he cracks the top six at end or tackle. He made at least one good play in the spring game.

Jacob Lichtenstein: With UM needing defensive linemen early in Cristobal’s tenure, Lichtenstein seemed like a helpful pickup at the time, after a solid year at Southern Cal. But he managed just nine tackles and two sacks in two years. He’s out of eligibility.

Frank Ladson: Caught only 27 passes for 298 yards in two seasons here and didn’t have a catch last season. The Clemson transfer never lived up to the hype and transferred to Massachusetts this spring.

Antonio Moultrie: Had 14 tackles in 10 games in 2022, his only season at UM. Perhaps Ladson and Moultrie belong in the above (decent) category. Ultimately, Moultrie probably wasn’t worth sacrificing a scholarship.

Luis Cristobal: Mario Cristobal’s nephew started at left guard in the Pinstripe Bowl but didn’t play well, according to Pro Football Focus. He took first-team snaps early in spring ball, but appears no more than depth at this point. He played 29 regular-season snaps on offense last year and remains on the fringes of the ongoing left guard competition.

Tyler Harrell: Portrayed as a player who would add a vertical threat to UM’s offense last fall, Harrell couldn’t crack the rotation and finished his only season at UM with four catches for 45 passes.

Demetrius Freeney: The junior college transfer played just one defensive snap last season. He was an effective press corner in one year at San Mateo JC and drew plenty of interest last year, from Oklahoma and others. Whether the skills translate to FBS remains to be seen. He intercepted a Judd Anderson pass and returned it for a touchdown in the spring game.

Terry Roberts: UM’s oddest transfer experience. Transferred from Iowa to UM after the 2022 season but made no impact in spring ball and then transferred to Michigan State without playing a game here.

Jamil Burroughs: The former Alabama defensive tackle enrolled at UM last fall, then left the program in January.

Of the above, it will be interesting to see if Denis, Sagapolu, Kirk, Campbell and Freeney remain with the program in the months ahead.


Jadais Richard: The Vanderbilt transfer will get every opportunity to win a job in the cornerback rotation. His first season at UM was uneven: in 178 snaps, he permitted a bloated 107.6 passer rating in his coverage area. Richard allowed 11 of the 15 targets against him to be caught, for 160 yards. He had one good play but one egregious missed tackle 9on Xavier Restrepo) in the spring game.

Thomas Gore: He’s better than Campbell; UM used him 151 snaps last season. But even with Gore on the roster, UM brought in two veterans who likely will play ahead of him. The Georgia State transfer appears a depth piece more than a starter.

Bottom line: While UM has had some very good portal hits, there have been a few too many swings and misses. Thirteen of the 29 portal additions in 2022/2023 have barely helped at all, with the jury out on several. Another two or three were average.

Nobody is going to bat 80 percent on portal pickups, and credit UM for finding a handful of exceptional players, with Ward poised to join that group, based on his play at Washington State.

But with UM five over the 85-player scholarship limit, there’s no reason to allocate scholarships to mediocre “depth guys.” If you can’t find a proven, quality starter or part-time starter, then just develop what you have on the roster.