The last week or so has been a revelation for most of college football, as a transfer portal has been used and widely disseminated for the first time.
In the olden days, a player seeking transfer would first discuss with their coaching staff. If the coaching staff agreed to it, the player could then contact other schools to gauge any interest. If interest was mutual, the player could then transfer. Us fans would have no idea any of this was going on until an official announcement was made.
As they say, ignorance is bliss.
Now, players no longer need to get a release from their coaching staff. They can simply enter their name into the portal. Additionally, they no longer need to contact schools directly to see whether or not there was mutual interest. Now, all schools can see all players in the portal and contact them directly.
Penn State has had more players enter the portal than perhaps any other school.
Fans are losing their damn minds.
I get it, I really do. One of the biggest things that makes a team good is not just having 4- and 5-star players as the starters, but also having them as the backups. On special teams. On the scout team. Losing a bunch of good - if not starting - players hurts the depth of the team.
Give all credit to the amazing job recruiting that Franklin has done.
Under Franklin, recruiting has improved exponentially. From 2014 (when he had just a month to complete a class) to 2019, his classes have ranked #24, #14, #20, #15, #6, and currently #11 (still with room for additions). Those classes have included, respectively: 5, 13, 8, 11, 15, and 17 blue-chip players (still with room for additions).
This massive uptick in blue-chip recruiting has meant that the earlier classes - the juniors and seniors in the program - are now being challenged heavily by younger, more talented classes. Kids that have been waiting their turn on the depth chart are looking at the fact that they may never start, and are at least taking a look to see if there are greener pastures.
The high number of players in the portal will almost assuredly be looked back on as an anomaly. As the blue-chip ratio of the successive recruiting classes starts to even out in the coming years, the lower-rated more-senior players will have been phased out, and a more even talent distribution will present itself up and down the roster.
Will depth in 2019 be iffy? Perhaps. For all of the players looking to transfer, you can bet that Penn State is also looking at the portal to see if there are players to bring in. There are valuable walk ons like Jan Johnson that will be rewarded with scholarships.
And lastly, there’s no guarantee that every single player in the portal will transfer. For instance, if the portal were in existence last year, Tommy Stevens would 100% have been in it. Instead, he came back, and is now poised to be the starting quarterback for a top 10 team in his final season.
All this to say that fans will react how they want to - some will be level-headed about it, many will cry that the sky is falling. Some may even suspect nefarious activity by James Franklin and his staff.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - you be a fan however you want to.
Me? I see Penn State on the up and up, and will happily hope aboard the SS Franklin as it rides a rising tide.