Extra Points: Transfer portal headaches, Georgia's next great QB competition and more ...
A little more than 2 years into what can only be described as free agency in college football, the worst collateral damage has surfaced.
Coaches are now re-recruiting their own rosters and must do so until May 1, when players can no longer transfer with immediate eligibility.
“That’s 5 months from the end of the (previous) season. You’re double recruiting for 5 months,” a Power 5 coach told me. “And you’ve got other schools circling like vultures over those 5 months.”
The worst part, coaches say, is there’s no workaround. There’s no counterbalance move.
When the transfer portal became reality, many coaches believed the rush to transfer would eventually wane because players would realize the safest place for most – not the elite transfers, but most transfers – is their current situation.
But even as the difference between players in the portal to players signed from the portal grows larger with each season, the surge of players looking for the next opportunity has only increased.
More disturbing, the entry points for access to players by others has increased, too.
“You name it. Wannabe agents, parents, siblings, uncles and aunts and mentors,” a Power 5 coach said. “They all think they know best, and have the perfect place for him to transfer and get away from the coach that doesn’t know what’s good for him. Once that gets in their head, all he has to do is log on to the portal, and away you go. Once that happens, every coach in America is calling.”
Nearly every program in the country has a full-time staffer monitoring the portal. Some have multiple. Still others have former coaches – in some cases, head coaches – as part of the portal staff, breaking down game tape and filing reports with the head coach.
The move for more player mobility is all part of an increased emphasis by the NCAA on a player-friendly experience for student-athletes. NIL opportunities, the transfer portal, and eligibility waivers that almost never are denied.
Once the Playoff is expanded to 12 teams and the media rights contract increases by as much as $600 million a year, cost of attendance stipends for student-athletes will increase. It won’t technically be termed “pay for play” – but that’s what it will be.
The NCAA – or what’s left of it after reorganization – is attempting to protect itself from a prolonged legal battle with players. These steps aimed at a more player-friendly system are part of the process.
“It’s not just a different world, it’s another planet for a lot of (coaches), and trust me, age has nothing to do with it,” a Power 5 athletic director said. “Young coaches, old coaches. It was always, ‘run through that wall’ – and there was never a question of why. Now ‘why’ is the first answer to almost every question.”
To QB, or not QB
There are two ways to look at Stetson Bennett’s commitment to return to Georgia for the 2022 season:
— Oklahoma QB Caleb Williams, the top player in the transfer portal, more than likely isn’t signing with Georgia (the likely spot is USC).
— UGA coach Kirby Smart will again be dealing with a quarterback quandary – with two former 5-star recruits (Brock Vandagriff, Gunner Stockton) and a former 4-star recruit (Carson Beck) battling Bennett for playing time.
A competition that will, more than likely, end with Bennett as the starter. Again.
It’s doubtful Bennett would have returned to Georgia for a 6th season if he knew Williams was signing with the Bulldogs. Bennett has been (and done) many things at Georgia – including beating out a 5-star QB for the starting job – but he’s not going to win a quarterback competition with Williams.
What Bennett had over JT Daniels was his ability to use his legs to extend plays and pick up free rush yards. Williams was the most dynamic running quarterback in the nation in 2021 and is a better thrower than Bennett.
If Williams is out of the picture, that leaves Bennett in the same situation he faced in 2021, with the addition of Stockton, a freshman signee. It’s hard to imagine Smart not choosing Bennett again, unless any of the same group (and Stockton) that couldn’t win the job last year drastically improves to win it this time around.
Keeping it together
The greatest collection of high school talent in one recruiting class. A rare haul.
The recruiting class that Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said he’d be an idiot to walk away from when he was being pursued by LSU might be leaking a few key players.
And would still be the No. 1 class in the nation.
Two 5-star players who have been considered locks for the Aggies and were expected to sign with them on National Signing Day – LB Harold Perkins and DL Shemar Stewart – could be flipped in the final weeks: Perkins to Florida, and Stewart to Miami.
In addition to those potential losses, 4-star safety Jacoby Mathews will likely choose between LSU and Texas A&M.
Perkins, who has committed to Texas A&M, is close friends with Florida 5-star signee S Kamari Wilson. Stewart, who hasn’t committed to the Aggies, is new Miami coach Mario Cristobal’s No. 1 priority for this class.
If Cristobal can keep Stewart, the No.12 overall prospect in the 2022 class according to the 247Sports composite, home in South Florida – Stewart is from Miami-Dade County – it can set a tone with future elite players in South Florida.
Turning it around
Bo Nix transferred to Oregon, in part, to reunite with offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, who coached Nix during his freshman season at Auburn.
Not coincidentally, that was Nix’s best season in an uneven 3-year uphill haul that included more lows than highs in big games. Nix has the physical talent to not only succeed at the college level but to play in the NFL.
One NFL scout I spoke with said part of the problem was 3 coordinators in 3 seasons at Auburn – the last 2 with ill-fitted offenses.
“It’s easy to take shots at (Nix), but that kid was put in a tough situation,” the scout told me. “He had some nice moments as a freshman, but there’s a lot of scar tissue there, you know? Can he be broken down and built back up in one offseason? He does things, mechanically, that impact the way he throws and his accuracy. That has to be fixed. He still makes poor decisions that you learn not to make in Year 1. He’s a tough kid, and I love his moxie. But he has a long road ahead.”