Let me start by directing your attention to the picture above, depicting the awesome TV show “The Wild Wild West” starring Robert Conrad. I used to watch it growing up with my dad, who loved westerns.
I purposely chose NOT to have the picture above be a reference to the awful Will Smith movie version of “Wild Wild West” from 1999. I love Will Smith and Kevin Kline, but that movie was terrible.
OK, now that we’ve got that part out of the way …
College football is about to enter the wild, wild West with new transfer rules, which will allow players to transfer one time during their careers and become immediately eligible. The NCAA is expected to pass the legislation next month, but already, football and basketball players who have transferred recently have been granted an immediate waiver to play.
I personally believe this is the biggest thing to happen to college athletics in my lifetime. Yes, we’ve had the transfer portal around for a while now, but it is about to BLOW UP.
“It’s essentially free agency,” Penn State assistant coach Terry Smith said Thursday about the new transfer rules.
Look, a lot of you don’t really care how the sausage is made. You just want to eat the sausage and not worry about all the ingredients and technical stuff.
When it comes to assembling a football roster, even people who love recruiting may not even care all that much about how the sausage is made. You just want your team to get the best players and to keep them throughout their careers.
But everything about how coaches view their roster is about to change.
How they build their roster is about to change.
How they treat players currently on the team is about to change.
How they recruit is about to change.
How they spend their time recruiting is about to change.
How much will things change?
“Dramatically,” James Franklin said.
Andy Frank, PSU’s director of player personnel, used that same word.
“The transfer portal has obviously changed things dramatically in college football,” he said.
Frank then added this important nugget about what PSU fans can expect:
“I think we all kind of realize that in the past, for us at Penn State, transfers were not a big part of our overall recruiting process. That will change.”
The transfer portal will change the game in so many ways, have had multiple college coaches tell me they no longer feel a need to 'reach' last minute on a HS player when they can get an already established college player from the portal https://t.co/hLtfVFLvMY
— Greg Biggins (@GregBiggins) December 16, 2020
For me to sit here and say that Penn State will have some players transfer every year and also will bring in some transfers every year is not big news. You already know that’s going to happen.
But that would be telling you only a very, very small part of the story.
For the coaches, they all are going to have to completely re-evaluate how much time they spend recruiting high school players. And then make sure they spend much more time than ever before researching kids already in the transfer portal or ones they estimate could be in the transfer portal.
What? They’re gonna have to read kids’ minds?
Well, yes, actually.
If the coaches see a kid playing well on a struggling team, there’s a good chance things will need to be happening behind the scenes to try and find out if that kid plans to transfer after a given season, and how to go about recruiting that player.
“In a weird way, transfers are a more known commodity than high school recruits,” said a recruiting director. “We haven’t seen many of these high school kids.”
Would a school rather have a transfer who could help it right now, but for a smaller number of years, or a high school recruit who it can develop to fit its program?
This is a choice which must be made because transfers count against the cap of 25 new scholarship players which may be added to a roster each year, just like new recruits do.
This happens all the time in college basketball, where the number of players in a program is smaller, yet the overall percentage of players who transfer has always been significantly higher than football. The basketball transfer numbers probably will blow up even more than football, because that’s just the nature of things in a sport with fewer players and where each individual is more impactful.
Kids nowadays are more impatient than ever. They want to play NOW.
Whether they’re on a good team, a mediocre team or a bad team may not mean all that much to them if they’re not playing.
And even if they are playing for their current team, knowing that they can up and leave if they think they can find a better situation will be a powerful component in all of this.
There are no guarantees that, for instance, a wide receiver who is a major part of an offense for one team won’t be looking around to see if he can get the ball even more somewhere else.
Running backs, too.
Then there’s the quarterback situation. You can count on TONS AND TONS of quarterbacks being in the transfer portal going forward. Only one QB can play at a time, yet each program has 3-4 quarterbacks on scholarship.
Coaches already have to do whatever they can or say whatever they can to keep backup QBs happy. Franklin, for instance, always speaks highly of his backup QB, whoever it is, and the Lions have packages to use that guy in games. Maybe that’s because he truly can help win games, but there’s also the part of making sure to keep the backup happy so he doesn’t go somewhere else.
Once quarterbacks and everyone else can transfer and play immediately, it is going to put even more pressure on coaches to make sure they try and keep everyone happy. The best way to do that is to give them playing time, so you can start to expect a lot more underclassmen getting on the field at various schools just to keep them engaged and happy with their situation.
Penn State is going to lose some transfers each year. And Penn State is going to bring some in. Bank on it. It will be fascinating to see just how many there are each year, and how the coaches choose to fill holes by bringing in experienced guys from other programs.
“We’re gonna be active in the transfer portal, and we’re gonna be looking for guys who can help us fill gaps,” said Andy Frank, while also noting that high school recruiting will continue to be the major emphasis for PSU.
I asked Terry Smith on Thursday if the new transfer rules will give players more power in the whole process.
“I don’t know if power is the right word,” Smith said. “I think it gives them options.”
Then Smith added this very important part, which most adults can understand and relate to. But the problem is, the young athletes who will be making decisions to transfer may not realize this.
“There’s the old adage, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” Smith said. “I’ve talked to a few players that have left us prior that played at other universities, and they wish they could come back. And these are kids that are having success at their other schools.
“It’s like a relationship. And in that relationship, you love that person, but they do have flaws. And can you withstand the flaws of that person? Every program has some flaws in it. So whether you come to Penn State or you go to Ohio State or any other university, there’s flaws everywhere. There’s pros and cons. The players just have to know that and understand that. And at the end of the day, they just have to do what they feel is best for themselves.”
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