For better or worse, college football now exists in the Age of the Transfer Portal.
Ohio State has experienced both the better and the worse over the last 10 months, gaining a starting quarterback in Justin Fields and losing quarterbacks Tate Martell and Matthew Baldwin.
The Buckeyes were also able to bring in Kentucky graduate quarterback Gunnar Hoak in the summer, so the portal doth provide.
Recruiting is a year-round process of relationship building, evaluation, and research, so it’s no surprise that when coaches have to go scrambling to the transfer portal in the summer with only a couple of weeks to build that relationship or evaluate the player and person, there are going to be some unknowns.
It is not an ideal way to operate, but ideal has never really been an option. Coaches never get everything they want, after all, and neither do players.
Coaches are constantly working to avoid those scrambles, but transferring has been a way of life for players long before there was a nice, shiny portal to step into.
The transfer portal was instituted to make it easier for players to find new homes, but schools like Ohio State are monitoring it during the season to possibly avoid some of that scrambling in the spring and summer.
“We always monitor it now,” Buckeye head coach Ryan Day said on Monday. “And again, it’s something that’s kind of new to all of us, but we certainly are, and [recruiting director] Mark [Pantoni] has guys that are watching it all the time, and the minute somebody goes in, we do our research, looking at film or finding out more about the individual.”
Some might wonder why the nation’s top schools are even bothering to look for other programs’ “cast offs,” but three of the top five teams in the nation right now are currently starting quarterbacks who transferred in.
With the impact that transfers are having this season, it is not difficult to envision a future where schools are monitoring players before they even hit the portal.
For instance, say Ohio State is recruiting a 5-star running back who ends up choosing Texas over the Buckeyes. It was very close and this player was very nearly a Buckeye. Now what happens if he isn’t seeing the field next year and things aren’t going well for him? Will Ohio State choose to monitor players they nearly landed, but missed on?
Maybe, but Day certainly wouldn’t be happy with a shift in that direction.
“Right now we’re not,” he said. “We do not have somebody assigned to just looking at players out of their teams. I don’t know if that’s going to be the next — we’re going to talk about that in the offseason and figure out if that’s the right thing to do. It’s kind of a scary road to go down. But right now we’re not doing that, and if somebody pops into the portal, we’ll do our research and find out, but right now we’re not doing research on guys who are on anybody’s team.”
But if somebody like Alabama decides to do it, it won’t be long before everyone is “forced” to do it.
While the NCAA may try to revert back to a more stringent waiver process, the transferring is unlikely to be curtailed. It’s part of the sport now.
Even though the names at the top of college football remain the same, there are several aspects of the game that are fluid right now, including how teams handle the transfer portal.
Schools are still learning how to proceed in a way that impacts them most positively.
Given the influx of transfers and the availability to contact them, it even begs the question of whether or not some schools will leave a scholarship spot open for a summer transfer.
One school who won’t be holding back a spot, however, is Ohio State.
“No, no,” Day said. “If it works out that way, great, but we try to recruit high school guys to fill those spots.”