As I start to dig into some of the fine-points of the transfer portal–I realize I’ve been looking at it primarily from the angle of the player, and not the program. Portal transfers can change a team remarkably, and the more I study and ponder it–the more my inclinations veer to sticking with high school recruits as often as possible, and not portal transfers.
I am aware that Oregon would have been in bad shape during the 2022 season without the transfers of Bo Nix, Bucky Irvington, Noah Whittington, Chase Cota and Christian Gonzalez. I give a ton of credit to the coaches for not only knowing them in advance, but seeing the upside outside of the stats of these players. I am not declaring that Oregon should not pursue any portal transfers, but the risk is much higher with these transfers than most of us fans realize.
“Once you sign a portal transfer–you must honor his scholarship for his entire duration at your university, whether he contributes or not.”
Holy Crap! That is a massive element in transfers; don’t mess up your player analysis because you are stuck with him for his entire college career. Oh I know he can transfer again, but has to sit out a year at his new team before playing. If a portal transfer has not helped your team much, then he knows he probably won’t anywhere else and won’t have the time remaining in his career to set things on fire. Hence he probably sticks with you until he graduates.
Whoa. The risk with a high schooler not working out is also big, in that you put tons of time and work into him, yet you know up-front that half are not going to work out. Those that don’t will often voluntarily leave (as we have seen this week already) and you have scholarships open. You can load up on high school recruits with 30 in a class, so long as you do not pass the 85 total scholarship limit.
Additional Risk Factors…
Let’s face it; often these portal players did not work out at other schools and you only have a short time to figure out the truth. Is this a “glass” player who is always injured? A bad attitude individual who thinks he is better than he actually is? Does he have the upside to truly help you? Is there enough data out there on a player to make a three or four year commitment for a scholarship?
Meanwhile you have built a relationship with a high schooler for years, with tons of conversations. You know by now if a player has the work ethic or not, or good judgment through all the face-time you have with the recruit.
So you have a longer scholarship commitment, and a shorter evaluation time? (by a mile!) Seems to me like portal transfers are a lot bigger risk than recruiting high schoolers! You need half the high school recruits to work out over time, as you can continuously “recycle” that scholarship with those who are not a fit. But you need 100% of the portal transfers to work out considering that scholarship is locked up?
That makes me pucker in my seat as I write it, let alone what the coaches must think. As they would say in the investment world, “it is not a favorable risk-reward ratio.”
You CAN Offset the Risk?
We have a couple of examples at Oregon and in the conference with how the coaches diminish the risk as much as possible. The first is track record, as in the case of Bucky Irving; he had already performed well as a freshman at Minnesota, so as long as the character and injury issues aren’t there–you have a much higher probability of success. The second is recruiting transfers you know by either coaching them already, or having recruited them for years when in high school. The Kenny Dillingham/Bo Nix example is obvious for that scenario, as well as the Carlos Locklyn/Noah Whittington connection from Western Kentucky.
You can go after the obvious high quality transfer from a blue-blood school, such as Dallas Warmack from Alabama was under Mario Cristobal. There is such a player, an offensive lineman available today, but the rumor is that his required NIL is above Oregon’s price range, and I imagine that will often be the case from those schools.
Or you can go the opposite size of school and pull a great player like Cameron Ward from Incarnate Word as Washington State did. Players get missed in the recruiting process, had injuries when camps occurred or simply mature later and thus emerge at smaller schools. Again though, there is track record with this player already.
I like the article by DazeNconfused recently, where he listed a ton of Texas A&M players available, and a key component is how Oregon Chief of Staff Marshall Malchow was with the Aggies when he worked with those coaches in targeting and recruiting those highly ranked players. It helps to have someone like him on your side!
My conclusion? Primarily stick with high school players, but do plug a few holes with highly rated JC players (Like TJ Bass) and the more apparently talented portal players with a track record. The more you depend on the portal, the more risk you are taking with your roster management. Give me your assessment over at the forum-with-decorum because…
“Oh, how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (Mr. FishDuck)
Top Photo by Eugene Johnson
Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks, a season ticket holder at Autzen Stadium for 35 years and has written reports on football boards for over 23 years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, have a daughter Christine, reside in Eugene Oregon, where he was a Financial Advisor for 36 years and now focuses full-time on Charitable Planned Giving Workshops for churches and non-profit organizations.
He does not profess to be a coach or analyst, but simply a “hack” that enjoys sharing what he has learned and invites others to correct or add to this body of Oregon Football! See More…
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