As per the (made-up) rules of the college football writers’ guild, any mention of the transfer portal requires a section on the Colorado Buffaloes. But was Colorado a portal winner? Or simply its most enthusiastic participant? It could be argued in a literal sense that no team in college football made more of the portal than Deion Sanders did over the last 2 windows.

But there’s a difference between what Colorado did and what just about every other team in the country did. If we awarded the “Portal King” moniker to whoever was the most active, Lane Kiffin would dutifully hand the title over to Sanders. But Kiffin has been praised (rightfully so) this offseason for filling holes and bolstering a roster that hopes to compete for a College Football Playoff berth. Sanders has done something different.

Since Colorado’s 2023 season with an eighth loss in 12 games, 35 scholarship players have left the program and entered the transfer portal. Just since April 15, Colorado has seen 24 scholarship players enter the portal. During that same timeframe, CU has added 13 new players. And Sanders is still well under the 85-man scholarship limit, giving him room to continue adding pieces to the roster in the coming weeks.

CU has lost key pieces of Sanders’ first transfer class — players like offensive tackle Savion Washington, safety Myles Slusher, and linebacker Demouy Kennedy. But the head coach has chided against criticism of yet another overhaul because the players who left weren’t going to be featured parts of the two-deep and those who see CU on the daily knew that already.

But therein lies the issue with Colorado’s approach. The Buffs lost their top 4 running backs from last year’s team — talented players among them. In replacing them, Sanders scored a commitment from an Ohio State reserve running back Dallan Hayden.

Excluding cases where a coach leaves, players enter the transfer portal seeking 1 of 2 things: a bigger school/payday or a bigger role. The big-name players — the Caleb Downs and Cameron Wards of the portal — aren’t considering Colorado. They’re jumping to big schools with big aspirations. Right now, CU isn’t playing in that first pool. That leaves only the second player pool for CU, which has gone after reserves in service of replacing starters.

Rather than build around a player like Dylan Edwards — who flashed as a true freshman behind a terrible offensive line and could very well turn into a star in the Kansas State backfield — Colorado went out and replaced him. That’s not making the most of the window.

CU hasn’t supplemented a team, it has manufactured another collection of parts. Major success in 2024 seems unlikely no matter how excellent Shedeur Sanders is playing quarterback for the Buffs. CU could win more games than it did in 2023, but it could also endure a similarly painful season. And it certainly won’t be competing for the same things as, say, Ole Miss. Or any of the teams you’ll find below.

To that end, I suppose the headline deserves a slight tweak. Here are 3 teams who made the best of the spring window in the transfer portal.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Additions: tackle Kadyn Proctor (Iowa), cornerback DaShawn Jones (Wake Forest), safety Kameron Howard (Charleston), kicker Graham Nicholson (Miami, OH)

The Crimson Tide got demonstrably better in the spring window, and coach Kalen DeBoer accomplished that goal at little cost to his two-deep. They added a Freshman All-American tackle, a veteran with experience at the biggest position of need, and a Lou Groza Award-winning kicker to replace an NFL Draft pick.

Proctor is a known commodity at tackle. Not much more need be said about his return to Tuscaloosa. Jones committed to Alabama on Thursday, providing Tide defensive coordinator Kane Wommack exactly what he was searching for. A 2-year starter at Wake Forest, Jones will become the most experienced corner on the roster, having played nearly 900 snaps early in his career. He wasn’t the highest-rated corner to hit the market, but Alabama didn’t need star power; it has that in the youngsters. Alabama needed reliability. Jones can provide that, and he can play either side of the field. Howard was a starter at his previous school as well, and he’ll add some depth to the safety rotation.

As for Nicholson, kicker is one of those positions that won’t sizzle but can absolutely burn. Alabama enjoyed the luxury of reliable kicking for 4 years as Will Reichard became the NCAA’s all-time career FBS scoring leader. DeBoer went out and secured his replacement in the form of the first player in MAC history to win the Lou Groza Award. Nicholson has 3 years experience and left Miami (OH) as the program’s most efficient place kicker in school history. He has 60 career makes on 71 attempts (84.5%) and a career 55% touchback rate on kickoffs.

Alabama insiders suggest the work isn’t done, either. A report from 247Sports’ Matt Zenitz this week intimated that Alabama is in a position of strength in the recruitment of Penn State transfer defensive back King Mack.

Miami Hurricanes

Additions: running back Damien Martinez (Oregon State), wide receiver Samuel Brown (Houston), defensive lineman Simeon Barrow Jr. (Michigan State), linebacker Jaylin Alderman (Louisville), cornerback Dyoni Hill (Marshall)

Miami coach Mario Cristobal got his quarterback in the winter window. In the spring, he landed playmakers at running back and wide receiver to help Cam Ward.

Martinez replaces Henry Parrish, who transferred to Ole Miss. He’s a powerful back, capable of shouldering a bell-cow-like workload. At Oregon State, he was a first-team all-conference selection who ran for 2,167 yards (6.1 per carry) and 16 touchdowns over his first 2 seasons with the team. He arrived on campus as a readymade contributor, though Oregon State took its time turning the backfield over to him as a freshman. When it finally did, he responded with at least 100 yards in 6 consecutive games.

Brown is a 6-2 receiver who was an honorable mention all-conference pick in the Big 12 last year when he had 815 yards and 3 scores. He’s an outside receiver with some YAC potential. With Xavier Restrepo in the slot, Miami has a nice inside-out pairing.

Ward didn’t have balance within the Washington State offense. That should change at Miami. He transferred to The U to boost his draft stock, and he looks like he’s in a perfect setting to do so even more so now than when he first made the move.

Auburn Tigers

Additions: wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith (Penn State), defensive lineman Philip Blidi (Indiana), edge rusher Keyron Crawford (Arkansas State), defensive lineman Isaiah Raikes (USC), tackle Ronan Chambers (Akron)

The receiver room that has been assembled this offseason at Auburn is enviable. Cameron Coleman is going to be a stud, but getting Lambert-Smith right now makes things so much cleaner in the immediate future. He had 673 yards on 53 receptions for Penn State last fall — both marks that led the team. Over the course of his career, he has 126 receptions in 48 appearances with an average of nearly 14 yards a catch. In a Penn State offense, that’s promising.

Pair him with Coleman and Georgia State transfer Robert Lewis and there’s no excuse for the pass game not to improve. Payton Thorne had some talented receivers on the 2021 Michigan State roster, too. That year, he threw for 3,232 yards and 27 touchdowns with a pretty effective deep ball. That pass was nowhere to be found within Auburn’s offense last year; Thorne completed just 13 passes beyond 20 yards and he threw 4 picks.

If this overhauled receiver room can flip that one area into a positive, Auburn will be better.

Crawford, Raikes, and Blidi were part of a 2024 haul (freshmen and transfers) that included 9 new scholarship players along the defensive line. Both inside and out were priorities for the defensive staff this offseason, and that extended into the spring window. Raikes is a huge body in the middle (6-2, 320) with 42 career appearances and experience playing under DJ Durkin at Texas A&M. Blidi has 47 career appearances between Texas Tech and Indiana. Experience along the defensive front was the big need, and Auburn checked that box nicely.