The college football landscape is undergoing its most extensive change in history with the introduction of NIL, the transfer portal, and CFP expansion. There’s never been a more dynamic college football world than right now, and programs have handled it in varying fashions.
The transfer portal has added a wrinkle that might be the most challenging aspect of being a head coach in today’s NCAA. Brian Kelly showed the world you can build a competitive roster through the portal, but there’s an equal chance a roster is decimated by players transferring out. Let’s check out how the portal has affected the SEC this year.
Alabama and Georgia have been stacking top five classes for some time, so those programs are going to be more selective with their additions through the portal. And rightfully so, the best way to build a sustainable winner is to acquire high school talent and develop it. The Tide and Dawgs only use the portal for minor tweaks and elite transfers that could push the roster over the top.
More recently, Brian Kelly has begun to string together elite recruiting classes. After building a starting lineup in 2022 made up of a majority of transfers, LSU will have back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes and will soon rely on the portal less. This year, it’s Auburn and Hugh Freeze who are using the portal the most in the conference. The Tigers have the seventh-most transfers among FBS programs, with 12 commits coming to Auburn.
The SEC schools dealing with the most attrition from the transfer portal are Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Florida. The Aggies lead the nation in transfers with 25, followed by the Rebels (24), Razorbacks (23), and Florida (22). That’s right, those schools not only lead the conference but the entire country in transfers leaving.
25 scholarship players have left College Station in just one offseason — eight were top-100 recruits, two five-stars, and seven freshmen from the record-breaking 2022 recruiting class. Jimbo Fisher doesn’t have to worry quite as much as Lane Kiffin and Sam Pittman, though. A&M has endless funds for future NIL deals to lure top recruits to College Station. They’ve already landed top transfers in Tony Grimes and Sam McCall. However, their players going to other SEC programs has to hurt the Aggies. Smoke Bouie is headed to Athens and Denver Harris is headed to Baton Rouge.
Florida is a mess, even if they have the resources to compete with the Georgia’s and Alabama’s of college football. Ole Miss and Arkansas don’t have that luxury. Still, what’s interesting about these three programs is they’re all disappointing in some fashion.
The Aggies are by far the biggest failure, though. They brought in the highest-rated recruiting class in history with preseason championship expectations and failed to make a bowl game. The Gators are reeling as well. They’re a dysfunctional organization, top to bottom. I don’t think Billy Napier is the guy to pull them out of the fire, either.
It’s all very intriguing to see how different programs use the portal to build their rosters; it’s an ever-changing formula, but it should be used as a luxury and not a necessity — i.e., Georgia and Alabama.
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