Depending on whom you ask, the transfer portal has been both a gift and a curse.
For athletes, it’s released the restraints of the loss of one year of eligibility that used to accompany most transfers. Now, players have the freedom to enter the portal at their wish and play the following season without having to watch from afar.
Meanwhile, for the coaches, it’s resulted in increased workloads that essentially include what amounts to re-recruiting players each season, and assuring them — or dissuading them — about their role in the grand scheme.
“You’re always going to have a portion of the team that wants more, and you get that, that’s a part of the recruiting process,” Penn State coach James Franklin said this week. “We just try to be transparent and treat people the way we want to be treated. We also don’t overpromise on the front end. Some of these schools promise they’re going to play these true freshmen and those types of things. We try to be realistic.”
The past week has seen Penn State lose two players to the portal with junior running back Caziah Holmes and freshman defensive end Ken Talley both departing the program. All things considered, while any defection comes with a bit of a sting, Penn State’s roster has largely remained intact since the new transfer rules took effect last April.
On the flip side, the Nittany Lions this past offseason weren’t that active in bringing in transfer talent. The program only signed three players in wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley, defensive end Demeioun “Chop” Robinson and offensive lineman Hunter Nourzad.
All things considered, Penn State has played it safe thus far with the transfer portal. It hasn’t lost much, but it also hasn’t been as active as other programs.
Look no further than Oxford, Mississippi, at Ole Miss. Third-year coach Lane Kiffin jokingly dubbed himself the ‘Portal King’ in January. Kiffin’s squad will enter the 2022 season with 17 new players on the roster.
Not to be outdone, new Southern California coach Lincoln Riley – formerly the head coach at Oklahoma – will go into his inaugural season in Los Angeles with 20 new players via the portal. That number includes Caleb Williams, Riley’s starting quarterback at Oklahoma.
Brian Kelly at LSU used the transfer portal to his advantage in the offseason in an attempt to stabilize his new program. Kelly left Notre Dame in November after a 12-year stay. He’s added 16 transfers since his arrival at Baton Rouge.
As with anything new, there’s an accompanying period of adjustment. The transfer portal is far from perfect. There have been charges of tampering, and name, image, and likeness has opened it up to even more scrutiny. It isn’t going anywhere, though.
The reality is, players on rosters who are unsatisfied with their roles are going to want more. And when those needs aren’t being met or can’t be met, the portal gives them an outlet to find a better fit.
Elton Hayes covers Penn State sports for CNHI Sports.