With Notre Dame's regular season in the books, now is the time for players like Tobias Merriweather to enter the transfer portal. While he could conceivably return to South Bend for another year or two, especially if the Fighting Irish land former Duke star Riley Leonard in the transfer portal as Sam Hartman's long-term replacement, Merriweather will be coveted by other elite college football teams.
Coming out of high school, Merriweather was a four-star recruit in the 2022 recruiting cycle out of Camas, Washington. While one would think a blue-chipper like he was in-state would be ripe for the picking for a place like U-Dub, keep in mind that Kalen DeBoer had just taken over an ineffective Jimmy Lake in Seattle. Merriweather committed to Notre Dame over places like Stanford and Oregon.
If Merriweather were to leave South Bend, one would think he would be going to a program closer to his native Washington out on the West Coast, or possibly to a place with some Notre Dame ties. Because of his immense talent, Merriweather will not have a hard time finding a new place to play ball at, should he want to leave Notre Dame altogether. He may want to stay, but he could be moving on.
If he does indeed transfer, here are five potential landing spots for the former four-star wide receiver.
The Arizona Wildcats were once a program where top-flight talent was harvested from in the transfer portal, but now entering year four under Jedd Fisch's watch, U of A could be the harvesters. Arizona massively overachieved this season to finish with a brilliant 9-3 record for its standards. With a big move to the Big 12 next season, Arizona could potentially be in play for a receiver like Merriweather.
Arizona has found its guy under center in quarterback Noah Fifita. For what he lacks in size, he makes up for in being a damn good football player. As long as Fisch stays at Arizona, we can expect for the Wildcats to be anything but a pushover in whatever league they play in. Should Billy Napier continue to circle the drain at Florida, Fisch might be the top candidate to replace him over at his alma mater.
Admittedly, Merriweather leaving Notre Dame for Arizona feels like a bit of a stretch. He would probably need a sweet NIL deal to help pull this transfer off, but the fact we are even considering Arizona, which is historically a basketball school, for one of the best wide receivers potentially on the market, signifies what type of ascending program Fisch is running. It is a good time to be at Arizona.
If this were a year from now, I would venture to guess Merriweather would seriously consider Arizona.
This is a critical season for Lincoln Riley at USC. It may only be Year 3 for him on the job in Los Angeles, but we have to wonder if he caught lightning in a bottle two seasons ago because this past year was anything but that. It was a lot of bad defense and not living up to the hype. USC failed miserably in its final opportunity to win the Pac-12, as the Trojans are going to the Big Ten next year.
The biggest thing Riley needs to do this offseason is get his defensive coordinator hire right. Whoever he picks to replace Alex Grinch will decide his fate at the helm of USC. That may be priority No. 1, but it would not be the least bit surprising for Riley to target a West Coast wide receiver in the transfer portal. Riley has netted a star wide receiver in the portal each of the last two offseasons.
Truth be told, until we get a better grip on what Malachi Nelson will be as a college quarterback, it is hard to forecast a player of Merriweather's caliber hitting the portal to go to USC, unless he is getting the bag, of course. Merriweather may be a top target for the Trojans because of him having already played in a midwestern climate, one that USC needs to figure out how to win in, and win in quickly.
In most years, Merriweather going from Notre Dame to USC would make sense, but maybe not 2024.
Oregon feels like a fairly strong dark horse to land Merriweather in the transfer portal. He was recruited by the Ducks out of high school, but keep in mind that Oregon was in the midst of a coaching change at the helm when Merriweather was coming out. Dan Lanning may be a defensive-minded head coach, but he knows offense, as illustrated by his two great coordinator hires of note.
Lanning did phenomenal things with Kenny Dillingham as his offensive coordinator last year before the Phoenix area native took over his alma mater's program at Arizona State. Without skipping a beat, Lanning then hired former UTSA offensive coordinator Will Stein, who has flourished with Bo Nix as the Heisman Trophy favorite heading into the final Pac-12 Championship Game ever on Friday night.
What makes Oregon not the favorite to land him has everything to do with the Ducks' quarterback room next year. Nix has been sensational for the Ducks the last two years, but he will be turning pro, as this is his last season of collegiate eligibility. Oregon may dip into the transfer portal again, but the uncertainty at the position group makes it challenging to see the Ducks landing him out of the portal.
Regardless, I still do consider Oregon a decent candidate to land Merriweather because of Lanning.
This is the one nobody is thinking about. Merriweather has spent the last two seasons at Notre Dame playing for a defensive-minded head coach in Marcus Freeman. Although Freeman does provide Notre Dame some level of a cool factor the Fighting Irish program has long been missing from a national perspective, he is not a quarterback whisperer. Maybe Merriweather follows Tommy Rees?
Although transferring from Notre Dame to Alabama did not work out for former Fighting Irish starter Tyler Buchner, Rees has flourished calling plays with Jalen Milroe as his starting quarterback. After the Texas loss at home and whatever that was vs. South Florida, the Alabama offense has been cooking because of the quarterback/offensive coordinator partnership between Milroe and Rees.
With Alabama's receiving corps not having been what it was during their most recent national championship season in 202 and their most recent trip to the College Football Playoff in 2021, you would think multiple years out of Merriweather could be exactly what the Crimson Tide offense needs. This might also be the last season will Jermaine Burton play for the Crimson Tide as well...
It could be a bit of a culture shock for Merriweather at Alabama, but the Crimson Tide win big there.
Who says you can't go home? The Washington Huskies are an easy favorite to land Merriweather in the transfer portal. This is not only his home state's flagship institution, but the Dawgs are firing on all cylinders under offensive-minded head coach Kalen DeBoer. Even if this is Michael Penix Jr.'s final season in school, you can trust DeBoer to have the Huskies offense humming next year and beyond.
As with Oregon, Washington was in a bit of transition when Merriweather was going through recruitment. Oregon was in far better shape under Dan Lanning's predecessor Mario Cristobal than Washington was under DeBoer's in Jimmy Lake. To see U-Dub turn it around this quickly under DeBoer is a testament to how good of a head coach he is, as well as how much talent Lake did have.
Given that Washington is heading to the Big Ten alongside Oregon, UCLA and USC, the Huskies are going to need a wide receiver who has made plays in a colder, midwest climate. DeBoer knows the region well from his days on Tom Allen's coaching staff at Indiana. Although Washington could be outbid by some other team for Merriweather's services, the chances of him coming home are strong.
All things equal, Merriweather's next team should be the one that calls the great city of Seattle home.2023-12-01T20:38:49Z dg43tfdfdgfd