Transfer portal’s chaotic QB shuffle is the new normal


On Christmas Eve, Wyoming coach Craig Bohl posted a Twitter post that many found downright bizarre.

In the tweet, Bohl revealed that his program needed a quarterback – an unusual approach to begin with – and that he plans to acquire that quarterback through the transfer portal or a junior college. It was a loud, public cry from tens of quarters into the portal.


In its fourth year of existence, the transfer portal is having an impact on sport more than ever. This translates into curious public statements such as Bohl’s tweet, an outcry from frustrated coaches, new positions on coaching teams and a player movement like college football has never witnessed.

The past two months have seen more than 3,000 NCAA DI, D2 and D3 football players enter the portal, the largest number in the history of the operation.

The portal has become such a driving force that college officials this fall increased school signing limits as a way for coaches to replace their players who left for the portal. The portal gained enough traction among college football fans that Dr. Pepper incorporated it into his “Fansville” advertising campaign. The “transfer portal” appears in an advertisement not as a magnified database with the names of transferred players but as a real portal, a mythical gateway that transmits players through space and time.

The transfer portal has an impact on staff. In fact, on Monday new Florida coach Billy Napier announced the hiring of Bird Sherrill, a former NFL scout who will have the title of “Director of College Personnel” with a job description that focuses on “the Evaluation of the transfer portal and JUCO players. “In other words, Florida now has a recruiting coordinator for the transfer portal.

Later today Monday brought some of the most important portal news in its short history.

Caleb Williams looks set to leave Oklahoma after less than a full season as the Sooners starting quarterback.

Last year, the nation’s No.1-ranked high school quarterback and one of college football’s top passers this year, Oklahoma’s Caleb Williams, announced his intention to enter the portal. His decision sent the expected shockwaves through a sport that’s used this time of year to the coaching carousel, not the quarterback.

Well, buckle up, because it’s not over anytime soon.

“I don’t expect it to always be like this, but I don’t expect it to go back to how it was before,” said Brian Spilbeler, co-founder of Tracking Football, a Advanced screening that provides its clients— over 50 FBS schools, with aggregated and organized data on portal actors. “It’s a new reality that has been emerging for some time and has reached critical mass. Colleges are starting to welcome him now. More and more programs got over the shock and fear and said, “OK, how are we going to deal with this? “”

Since August 1, the start of the 2021-2022 portal cycle, more than 1,400 FBS players have entered the portal. That makes 11 players for each of the 130 FBS schools. Most estimate that a quarter to a third of those players are extras, although that’s hard to calculate, says Spilbeler.

The majority of names appeared in the database in November and December, two record months. In November, 1,471 NCAA players entered the portal, and by December that number had risen to 1,618, says Spilbeler. These monthly figures include all NCAA athletes: Division 1 (both FBS and FCS), Division II and Division III. About 35% of all portal participants are from FBS.

Williams became the last former Power 5 starting quarterback to enter the database, joining Zach Calzada (Texas A&M to TBA), Kedon Slovis (USC to Pitt), Bo Nix (Auburn to Oregon) and Max Johnson. (LSU to Texas A&M).

Williams’ transfer came with a different twist. In an unusual move, the Oklahoma athletic director and head coach released a 200-word joint statement immediately after the quarterback’s announcement that appears to encourage him to return to Norman while selling the program’s resources to the future recruits.

Maybe it worked.

Williams’ decision to enter the Portal sparked yet another ripple (his rise as a true freshman last fall pushed Spencer Rattler into the Portal, where he ultimately chose to join South Carolina) . Former UCF QB Dillon Gabriel, already in the portal having pledged to transfer to UCLA, has changed his pledge. Gabriel tweeted Monday night that he was now heading to Oklahoma.

It’s a “QB Portal Flip! An assistant coach described.

For some, the amount of movement the players have is shocking.

“This shit is crazy,” said a Big 12 assistant coach.

“It’s completely crazy! Said an SEC staff member.

Several factors are behind the transfer surge, but only one is on its own. This spring, the NCAA lifted a decades-old policy that made transfers ineligible in their first season at their new school. The change gave athletes the ability to transfer freely and play immediately once in their careers.

“It opened the floodgates,” says Spilbeler.

This is far from the only reason, however.

The FBS has seen more head coach moves than normal this season, with several top coaches leaving blueblood programs. A total of 28 coaches left their schools or were made redundant. The head coach movement is considered by many to be the number one reason players move from one school to another.

There’s another reason for the transfer spike, says Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association.

Last July, the NCAA, under pressure from state governments, lifted amateurish policies that prohibited athletes from being paid on the basis of their name, image and likeness (NIL). Some players are leaving schools for better NIL deals, Berry says.

“Your whole football team is over there [in the portal]for whoever wants to pay the most money, ”Berry told SI last month. “We knew this was going to be a problem. It’s a complete mess.

Portal activity even has an impact on the timing of head coach hiring and firing decisions. The movement among players makes it more difficult to continue searching for coaches until December. The new coach needs to be hired quickly to start recruiting players into his own squad as well as those from future squads, while tapping into the portal to find additional talent.

This year’s coaching carousel has been sped up significantly, with more than a dozen layoffs underway before the regular season ends and at least two hires made before Thanksgiving arrives.

November 29, 2021;  Los Angeles, California, United States;  Lincoln Riley poses with Fight on sign at a press conference to introduce Riley as head coach of the Southern California Trojans.

New USC coach Lincoln Riley resigned from Oklahoma and joined the Trojans before the schedule changed to December.

The transfer portal is a controversial issue among coaches. Several coaches have publicly described him as college football’s version of “free agency”. West Virginia coach Neal Brown, a member of the AFCA board, believes the portal should include closed and open times, similar to professional leagues.

Berry suggested that the portal be open for a few weeks after the regular season, close again, then reopen for a few more weeks after the end of spring practice.

“It’s free agency. Admit it and identify what it is, ”says Brown. “Just like in a professional model, there is a period of time for free will. There are windows for free will.

During the creation of the portal, officials already discussed the implementation of portal activity periods, but ultimately decided not to do so due to legal reasons regarding the restriction of athletes.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, also a member of the AFCA board of directors, believes players who enlist at a school outside the portal should sign a binding letter of intent. Currently, the commitments of the portal actors are not binding.

“There is a lot of room for improvement,” says Fitzgerald. “The easy thing was to create the portal. No one wanted to create the details.

Meanwhile, colleges are starting to develop resources for college recruiting in addition to the high school recruiting department, says Spilbeler. The shift in recruiting – from high school products to transfers – is alarming to some. The age-old tradition of training incoming freshmen for the coming seasons is evolving and will begin to shift more towards coaches who take the NFL and NBA path, some say, assembling a team year by year with new players obtained through the varsity waiver thread.

It’s been like that in basketball for years. In fact, last year’s national champion Baylor started two and sometimes three transfers, getting more than half of his points from those players last season.

Like it or not, the soccer players movement is here to stay.

There are now two carousels at this time of year: one for coaches and one for players.

“There are so many people entering the portal right now that as a college it’s hard to know who’s there to start,” says Spilbeler. “Colleges not only accepted that this was part of the reality, but they also started to create real processes and jobs to help define strategies to best integrate this into their workflow. “

More college football coverage:

• Corral’s injury shows why the skippers don’t deserve our contempt
Georgia reaffirms SEC dominance in semi-final shellacking
• Bennett and UGA make statements in Michigan Drubbing
• Nick Saban’s Juggernaut strikes again in CFP


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