Since the transfer portal officially opened up this week, it has been an avalanche of departures with big name after big name filing into the exit row to leave the OSU football program. In total there are more than a dozen outgoing players and likely more in the coming days and weeks, some bigger than others but all leaving holes for the coaching staff to fill.
So who are the biggest names to go? Who will be the hardest to replace? That’s a subjective question — you can see our portal tracker and decide for yourself, I reckon — but I’ve created my own list based on what we know so far and ranked them from 1-5. No. 1 is the most difficult to replace and No. 5 is the least difficult (though, to be fair, No. 5 is still going to be hard to replace, it’s just someone has to be last on the list).
All right, enough caveats. Let’s get to the list.
5. Kanion Williams, S
Williams never quite developed into a starting caliber safety, the position he was recruited to play, but he was a key depth piece at the position and one of the most important special teams contributor the last few seasons. He was voted a team captain by the end of the 2021 season after playing in all 14 games. He made 36 tackles through the years so his production wasn’t elite, but guys like him who are team captain and special teams contributors are the glue that helps hold the program together. Bigger loss than people realize.
4. Trace Ford, DE
Multiple knee injuries the last few years derailed what looked to be an NFL-level trajectory for Ford at OSU. (And, for the record, I maintain he can still absolutely get there if healthy.) He’s a wrecking ball on defense who can get after the QB and affect games as well as any defender at OSU the last few years. OSU couldn’t hang on to him — ultimately, my guess is that some other school ponies up some big cash, which would be money well-spent given his game-changing ability — dealing a crushing blow to the pass rush for OSU.
3. Braylin Presley, ATH
Five total receptions and two rushing attempts on the year as a freshman on its face seems like easy production to replace in Braylin Presley. And look: if you want to argue that a 5-foot-8, 165-pound athlete didn’t deserve much more opportunity in his first year, that’s fine. But Presley is an electric machine with the ball in his hands who could have been a difference-maker in special teams and as a do-it-all offensive weapon if used correctly. Maybe not in 2022, but in 2023 and beyond I think he has the talent to break out and be a true star. Really tough to see players of his playmaking ability go, especially a former four-star from within state walls like Braylin was.
2. Mason Cobb, LB
Cobb was thrust into the starting lineup for the first time this season at OSU and he showed bundles of potential, recording 96 tackles and a team-high 13 tackles for loss to go with 11 quarterback hurries. Linebacker production outside of him, Devin Harper and Malcolm Rodriguez the last few years has been somewhat spotty, so losing a true stud in the middle of the defense is devastating.
1. Spencer Sanders, QB
Say what you will about the interceptions he threw in big games — including Bedlam 2022 and the Big 12 title game last season — but not many players when healthy were as impactful to winning as Sanders was to OSU the last four seasons. Garret Rangel has a promising future at QB for Oklahoma State, but that doesn’t take away from the huge loss of Sanders entering the portal.