The transfer portal heated up over the weekend with both Ole Miss and Mississippi State landing some big-time players.
For the Rebels, Lane Kiffin and company convinced Chris “Pooh” Paul, Jr. from Arkansas and Tahveon “Taz” Nicholson from Illinois to make their way to Oxford for the upcoming season. With Kiffin prioritizing “ready to play on day one” talent, both Paul and Nicholson are expected to make an immediate impact on a defense that ranked middle of the pack in the SEC in 2023.
Paul, touted as the top linebacker in the portal, recorded 74 tackles (30 solo) and two sacks in 11 games for the Razorbacks in 2023. In 2022, he had 62 tackles (38 solo) and four sacks. Paul will join a linebacker corps that includes former five-star Suntarine Perkins and Clemson transfer T.J. Dudley.
Nicholson, a defensive back, will look to help a secondary that is losing several crucial pieces. In 2023 for the Fighting Illini, he posted 36 total tackles (26 solo), six passes defended, and two forced fumbles. He also saw playing time in 2021 and 2022, recording 30 tackles (27 solo) and one interception.
At Mississippi State, new head coach Jeff Lebby may have found his year-one quarterback with Baylor’s Blake Shapen. Shapen started 23 games for the Bears over the course of three seasons, completing around 65 percent of his passes for over 5,500 yards and 36 touchdowns. In a shortened 2023 campaign due to an MCL injury, he finished with 2,188 yards and 13 touchdowns with three interceptions.
With Lebby hoping to bring in one more quarterback through the transfer portal, it is unclear at this time if Shapen will end up as the number one guy to replace Will Rogers. Rogers, who is also looking for a new home through the portal, leaves Starkville as the school’s all-time leading passer. Per the latest report from 247Sports, he is crystal-balled to land at current College Football Playoff team Washington as the Huskies are expected to be without Michael Penix, Jr. this time next year.