Outside of guys utilizing the graduate transfer rule that has grown in popularity in recent years, the most high-profile transfer this season was likely Justin Fields. After one season at Georgia, the former No. 2 overall recruit moved to Ohio State, and was able to win immediate eligibility via appeal.
He made the move because of Georgia incumbent quarterback Jake Fromm’s stranglehold on the position. Fields got some spot work during the year, but could never eat into Fromm’s meaningful playing time.
Head coach Kirby Smart says that he doesn’t regret recruiting Fields. He is, however, unhappy with how rampant the transfer trend has grown, especially in the last few months with the new “transfer portal.”
In a lengthy feature by CBS Sports‘ Dennis Dodd, Kirby Smart rails against the impact of the transfer portal.
Smart goes as far as to call programs that rely on transfers to fill out their rosters as “bottom feeders.”
“My biggest problem with the portal is that it gives kids an easy way out,” Smart said. “I know the devil’s advocate of players’ rights and they should be able to go wherever they want to go. But I’m telling you, no normal parent would say, ‘At the first sign of trouble, I want my son to run.'”
“A lot of small colleges are saying, ‘I’ll just go recruit the portal and stop signing kids.’ … We would never do that because we’re not bottom feeders. I’ve talked to some guys at that level — I’m not going to repeat their names. They’ll say, ‘We’re just going to save all our scholarships. Instead of signing a 25-man class, we’ll sign five of the best high school players we can and then go sign 20 out of the portal.'”
Smart went on to discuss a lack of player development as well. Other coaches of top programs, like Fields’ new head coach Ryan Day and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, who landed Alabama QB transfer Jalen Hurts, were softer in their evaluation. Both have been beneficiaries this year, of course, but say that the portal helps fill in spots after unexpected NFL Draft departures.
Day: “When Dwayne Haskins leaves as a sophomore, we think he has three years left, and he comes for one and throws 50 TD passes. He’s a first-round draft pick. He left things uneasy, almost a mess. We kind of had to figure all that out in short order. When Justin became available, it made sense. We didn’t know if he’d get the waiver or not.”
Riley: “It’s added a waiver wire for us. Then you gotta be really smart about your spots. Right now, we don’t have a good system to fill those spots. Especially when you get a team like us, you’ve got the portal to deal with, which is a great thing, but we’ve got a bunch of guys leave early to go to the draft.”
Coaches are all over the board on this issue, largely based on circumstance. Overall, things have been slowly moving in the direction of player’s rights, so don’t expect it to go away soon.