Michigan State Spartans, Penn State football teams getting biggest boosts in Big 10 from transfers


AP Sports Writer

From its first snap of the season, Michigan State showed that coach Mel Tucker’s rebuilding project wouldn’t take nearly as long as expected.

Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker took a handoff, made a move around a defender and raced down the left sideline for a 75-yard touchdown against Northwestern.

Walker and Co. have shown how the relaxed NCAA guidelines allowing players to transfer without sitting out a season can make it easier to revitalize slumping programs.

“I knew coach (Tucker) had a plan, and I believed in his plan,” said Walker, who added that he wrote down his goal of winning the Heisman Trophy back in March.

Walker has rushed for 680 yards to lead all Football Bowl Subdivision players and help the 11th-ranked Spartans win their first five games, a dramatic rise from their 2-5 finish last year in the pandemic-delayed debut season for Tucker.

He isn’t the only transfer making a difference for the Spartans. And Michigan State isn’t the sole unbeaten Big Ten team to bounce back from a losing season while getting big contributions from players who began their college careers elsewhere.

The impact of the new transfer policy just happens to be most apparent in East Lansing. Michigan State is off to its fastest start since 2015, when it won its first eight games and reached the College Football Playoff.

Tucker overhauled his team during the offseason by adding 20 transfers, with 14 of them coming from other Power Five schools. He said before the season that his roster was stronger and more competitive and it would lead to better football.

The Spartans’ defense features three starters who were playing for Southeastern Conference schools last season in linebacker Quavaris Crouch (Tennessee) and cornerbacks Chester Kimbrough (Florida) and Ronald Williams (Alabama).

No. 4 Penn State also has benefited from transfers while winning its first five games after going 4-5 a year ago.

Former Temple defensive end Arnold Ebiketie leads the Nittany Lions with three sacks. Other transfers playing major roles for Penn State include defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo (Duke), running back John Lovett (Baylor) and guard Eric Wilson (Harvard).

No. 9 Michigan has turned things around after going 2-4 last year thanks in part to former Jackson State receiver Daylen Baldwin, who has touchdown catches of 56 and 69 yards.