The research team at the Pac-12 Conference keeps a transfer-portal spreadsheet that tracks all the activity on the conference football rosters.
I’m bracing for some wild developments on that front.
The NCAA football teams operate with two transfer-portal windows. The first is a 45-day period that begins on the Monday after bowl game selections. The second is a 15-day window that runs from April 15-30.
Washington State coach Jake Dickert is not a fan of the second window.
“I think it’s ridiculous to be honest with you,” he told me. “I’m not against the portal. I just think, you go through spring ball, you start to set your teams, your depth, your roster, your special teams and then heck every one of us around the country can lose a whole position group.
“I think that’s a hard thing to know. Then, you do it late, it’s hard to recover. It’s hard to find pieces to replace that.”
It was a busy offseason for Dickert. He hired four new assistants, including his offensive and defensive coordinators. Additionally, 28 WSU football players entered the transfer portal.
Nearly one half of those who put their names in the portal (13) still haven’t landed with another program. It’s possible WSU could retain a few of those players. Also, Dickert’s program added six transfers from other schools, including much-needed linebackers Devin Richardson (Texas) and Ahmad McCullough (Maryland).
“I’m a big fan of one window in December,” Dickert said. “You get a week after the season to make a decision: Are you in on the team or not in on the team?”
Arizona State has been the most active Pac-12 football program when it comes to the transfer portal since last season. It makes sense. New coach Kenny Dillingham is shuttling players in and out, trying to shape his roster. He’s added 32 in-bound transfers, including quarterback Drew Pyne (Notre Dame).
Colorado and Oregon both lost a league-high 29 players in the transfer portal. Neither program seems particularly concerned about it, though. The Ducks added 10 transfers, including South Carolina edge rusher Jordan Burch.
The Buffaloes added 29 in-bound transfers, including new-coach Deion Sanders’ son Shedeur Sanders, a star quarterback. Coach Prime and his staff are telling reporters in Boulder that Colorado may add as many as 25 new transfers to the roster between now and April 30.
The spreadsheet is an interesting study, but here’s an overview of Pac-12 portal activity since last season:
Oregon State and Utah have been far less active in the portal this offseason than some other Pac-12 programs. The Beavers lost six players and added six, including quarterback DJ Uiagalelei (Clemson). The Utes lost 11 players in the portal and added eight. Interestingly, Utah running back Micah Bernard put his name in the portal, then reversed course and decided to return to Salt Lake City.
Oregon linebacker Justin Flowe entered the portal at the end of the season. He is now at Arizona. Jedd Fisch, the Wildcats coach, told me after the start of UA’s spring practices: “It was fortunate. It worked out that he wanted to try something different and go somewhere new. We had a need for the linebacker spot.”
Flowe is one of eight players Arizona got through the portal.
“We did benefit from some transfers, I hope,” Fisch said. “We have a transfer from Georgia, we have a transfer from UCLA, we have a transfer from Cal…”
Stanford, meanwhile, is playing by a different set of academic rules. It makes life tricky. The Cardinal added three new players via the transfer portal, one from Penn, one from Harvard and one from Florida International.
I’m with Dickert on the second window. I don’t like it. The aim of the transfer portal is to give college football players some offseason flexibility. Coaches can leave for a better situation after the season, why shouldn’t players be afforded that same autonomy? But the April 15-30 window doesn’t make sense.
It comes too close to the regular season and threatens to destabilize programs. The portal has now fostered two windows of unrestricted free agency. The December/January opening essentially creates a one-year contract for every player. That’s fine. But the spring portal window tears that contract up.
Keep an eye on the Pac-12 activity in the transfer portal between now and April 30. I’ve noticed in the last few weeks that coaches are being careful and strategic with how they operate. They’re sharing spring reps with back-ups and talking ambiguously about competitions for starting positions.
They’re not dumb, folks.
There is also strategy in play when it comes to the scheduling of the spring games. Oregon is holding its spring game one day before the end of the spring-transfer window. The Ducks will scrimmage on April 29 at Autzen Stadium. The portal closes the following day.
Is that an advantage? Disadvantage?
On one hand, Oregon players who participate in the spring game have only one night to think about jumping in the portal. It’s a major life decision. The compressed timeline may serve as a deterrent. On the other hand, if an Oregon player does unexpectedly enter the portal in that final day of the window, the UO staff won’t have a lot of time to find and recruit a replacement.
Big deal? Or not?
The Pac-12 coaches, assistants and football staffers I spoke with are split on whether the date of the spring game matters. Whether the game is played April 15, 22 or 29 may end up a non-factor. But I can tell you, they’re all thinking about it.
“I’m not really sure if your spring end date is really gonna give you an advantage or disadvantage,” said one source. “But we’ll see I guess.”
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6 In and 6 Out for Coach Smith and the Beavers. That says it all. The least churn in all the Pac-12, by far. Stability in college football programs is the key to success.
I would like to see one window in January. Move one out a little, close the other.