The NFL once existed without free agency, and the league changed for the better when it was implemented. It gave more power to the players. And now, we are undergoing the same experiment at the collegiate level. The transfer portal in college football has enabled coaches to build rosters primarily through the portal if need be — i.e., Brian Kelly, Lincoln Riley, etc.
However, it presents new obstacles for coaches who have to compete just to retain their players, which wouldn’t have been a thought 10 years ago. Nick Saban has been quite outspoken about it, but if a coach can just get up and leave one day, a player should be able to as well. And it’s only going to get crazier now that NIL factors into how a lot of big-time recruits make their decision. The window began yesterday, Dec. 5, and runs through Jan. 19; it could be one of the most prolific transfer portal classes yet.
It’s headlined by quarterbacks. Devin Leary of NC State and DJ Uiagalelei of Clemson are two of the most recognizable signal callers to leave their schools, but there are another half dozen looking for a new program this offseason. Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders, Texas’ Hudson Card, and Georgia Tech’s Jeff Sims, among others, will all be playing in a different uniform in 2023.
Uiagaelelei has undoubtedly lost his job to five-star phenom Cade Klubnik following two inconsistent seasons as the quarterback for the Tigers, throwing for 2,521 yards and 22 touchdown passes with seven interceptions for Dabo Swinney’s team this year. Leary started six games for the Wolfpack this season before a season-ending shoulder injury, and he will be quite the hot commodity. Leary tossed 62 touchdown passes during his time at NC State, including 35 as a sophomore in 2021 during a 3,400-yard season.
There are plenty of other players that will be highly sought after, not just quarterbacks. Fentrell Cypress, a cornerback from Virginia, was a second-team All-ACC selection this past fall, leading the conference with 14 pass breakups. South Carolina’s tight end, Austin Stogner, followed Spencer Rattler from Oklahoma and is more than capable of playing a role in a more pass-heavy offense.
Dont’e Thorton is an impressive pass catcher that only played sparingly for Oregon this past season but did post a four-catch, 151-yard performance against Utah. Kendon Slovis has seemingly played at every program in the country, and he’ll add one more to his resumé in 2023. Austin Reed is another talented passer who will transfer from Western Kentucky, ranking second in yards (4,247) and touchdowns (36) this past season.
LJ Johnson was one of the most talented running backs in the 2021 recruiting class and will be transferring from Texas A&M. Some team will be very happy to land him. Justin Flowe, a linebacker from Oregon, will also enter the transfer portal, and he will have a ton of suitors. He’s a former five-star recruit and is the second-highest-rated recruit in program history.
This is just the first day, too. There will be plenty more to enter their names into the transfer portal, but just because a player enters doesn’t mean they have to transfer. Buckle up, folks.