The Transfer Portal has changed college football; there is no denying this fact. Players are now more free than ever before to move between schools, often without restrictions or having to sit out given that the NCAA has also become much more lenient with exemptions allowing immediate eligibility. Managing a roster has become arguably the most difficult part of a head coach’s job, since the guys you have today and are planning to have tomorrow may decide to leave on no or little notice (certainly not enough to make a major difference in your ability to replace them quickly, unless you’re one of a handful of schools that other players are clamoring to get into, or you recruit well enough that this 4/5* can be replaced by that other 4/5*, in which case, go away).
But that’s the player’s right, and I’m not here to argue with anyone about whether it is good or bad. It is where we are, and we have to deal with it. (For the record, I think it’s a net positive, generally, even if it is not always a positive for the school that I love, and I support the players making choices that are best for them).
So what does that mean for Baylor currently? Well, there’s a lot of consternation about that since we’ve had several players go into the Portal in the last few days/weeks, more than we are used to (which we will get to in a minute). At the same time, we’ve also had several players come out of the Portal to us, which pretty well exemplifies why the feelings that you probably feel about the Portal depend on the success you’ve had keeping players, or pulling players, from it.
Where is Baylor currently? I’m glad you asked. But before we get to that part, let’s level-set on our overall roster situation. Recall that barring penalties lowering their limit, every school in the country (that we care about, anyway) gets 85 scholarships to use on players. Until recently, scholarships were the most valuable part of playing college football for everyone that wasn’t associated with a bag man of some kind, and even now you can generally assume that a scholarship is the most important finite resource that a program has. We’ve got 85 of them.
Baylor’s Roster Situation:
Figuring out how many scholarships a program is using at any given time is difficult and involves a lot of guesswork, primarily because programs do not typically give that information out for obvious reasons and do not publish it publicly. So you have to dig in a little bit, make a few assumptions (primarily based on recruiting class announcements and transfers), and recall which players, if any, were publicly awarded scholarships after starting their careers as walk-ons. That’s the most difficult part, actually, figuring out who among the walk-ons isn’t a walk-on anymore, and it’s also where the most guesswork comes in.
Thankfully for us, several of our recruiting sites track this stuff as religiously as I used to, including SicEm365, which has an excellent Class Breakdown page that I used as a check against my own methodology, which I will explain in a moment. Their page shows 69 players currently occupying scholarships (I assume that’s who it represents) and includes a couple of the transfers already announced as well as mid-term enrollees from the 2023 recruiting class (the one that just signed at the first NSD in December). They’re projecting another 14 to come in the summer, getting us to 83 total scholarship players as of today on our 2023 roster.
I went about this a little differently, starting at the 2022 roster and working backward. From my review, when the season ended and after the announced departures of Josh Fleeks and Seth Jones, neither of whom is currently listed, we had 83 scholarship players. That makes sense because Fleeks and Jones, who had been on the roster during the season, would make 85. We then had 20 seniors and other players that decided to graduate leave, plus an additional 6 transfers out (discussed below). That dropped us to 57 (from 83). Add 21 commits from the entire 2023 class (at least so far) plus 5 transfers (again, so far), and you get back to 83, the same number that SE365 shows.
Why is that important? Because of that finite resource we talked about above: scholarships. The reality is that to get players, you need spots, and Baylor has just 2 at this moment. That means that if we want to take more than 2 transfers (or add anyone else in the late signing period), someone else is going to have to leave. That’s just how it goes, and you should be ready for it to happen, because it almost certainly will. Right now, though, we have 2 spots to work with.
Baylor Players Transferring Out:
In case it has come as a shock to you that we have eight (8) total players that have decided to seek greener pastures, let’s recap who those players are and where they have gone (if a decision has been made). Also, we can talk about what impact their departures may have:
- WR Seth Jones—Announced during the season (mid-October) that he was going to transfer but has not announced where. Jones had not made the anticipated impact on the field yet but had a lot of talent, so this one hurt a bit. Fortunately, WR is relatively easy position to replace in the Portal with other players.
- RB/WR Josh Fleeks—Announced during the season (early October) that he was going to transfer and ended up at Nebraska with Matt Rhule. Considering what we have at RB, this was not a huge loss at this point, no disrespect intended to Josh.
- QB Kyron Drones—Entered the Portal after Baylor’s last regular-season game and before the bowl, ultimately committing to Virginia Tech. This is the one that really bothered a lot of Baylor fans, mostly because it left us with one scholarship QB on the roster. When Austin Novosad flipped to Oregon on/right before NSD, what I will call concern over that position became outright panic (which is not unwarranted). Drones was a big loss at the most important position on the field.
- S Devin Neal—Enter the Portal after the regular season ended, like Drones, and has committed to Louisville. He is originally from Kentucky, so that’s not unexpected.
- OL Micah Mazzccua—Did not play in Baylor’s bowl game and apparently entered the Portal right after that game took place. It’s not completely clear. Also unclear is why he sat out the game in the first place; I’m not aware of even a single rumor about it, although I’m sure others are. For my part this is the most damaging transfer out to date because he was slated to be the only returning starter on the OL. The impact is ameliorated somewhat by transfers in, but I’d rather have those transfers and Mazzccua. Mazzccua hasn’t announced a destination, so it’s possible that he stays around but seems unlikely.
- STAR Al Walcott—Announced his intention to transfer last week but has not named a destination. Walcott was probably playing out of place most of the year after his switch, but this was still not completely expected. Combined with other departures, this leaves an already thin secondary even thinner.
- CB Lorando Johnson—Entered the Portal just two days ago after previously stated support for the hire of Powledge at DC. Johnson was our best CB this season, which is not saying a lot in and of itself, but this is a definite hit considering how much we need in the secondary.
- CB/S Mike Harris—Entered the Portal at the same time as Walcott, and I missed him initially because he didn’t appear on a couple of the lists I follow. He has not announced his destination yet but reportedly visited Arkansas.
That’s all eight (8) players going out at this point.
New Baylor Players Transferring In:
I’ve already done a post about players coming in, but we can recap that again here. And before anyone gets confused by how there are four (4) on that list, and we’re going to talk about another two here, the sixth guy (Boykins) is a JUCO, which does not really count as someone coming in out of the Portal.
- OL Clark Barrington—Transferring from BYU and should be an immediate contributor at guard. Barrington was #7 (at the time of his announcement) on The Athletic’s list of available transfers.
- OL Campbell Barrington—Clark’s brother that is also transferring from BYU and should be an immediate contributor at tackle. Campbell announced first on December 13. Clark followed on December 22.
- RB Dominic Richardson—Transferring from Oklahoma State and should be an immediate contributor as a “big back” more akin to Abram Smith. We have a lot of RBs now, so spreading the workload around could be interesting.
- WR Ketron Jackson—Transferring from Arkansas (who has gotten hit hard in the Portal this offseason) and should contribute immediately at WR.
- K Jack Stone—Transferring from Michigan State. There is a separate post about him here. JACK STONE.
That’s the five (5) coming in right now.
Additional Baylor Needs:
Stop shouting “QUARTERBACK” repeatedly; everybody knows. When you have just one scholarship player at the most important position on the field, and that player has a history of injuries, a little angst is understandable. That is just one of several needs Baylor has right now, and as noted above, we have relatively few spot to throw around.
But we can start with QB, since it is so obvious. There are a ton of worthwhile names in the Portal, and more are entering every single day. Trying to project who Baylor might be interested in is thus something of a fool’s errand. I can tell you who I might be interested in having, but that’s not all that helpful since I am not in the heads of our coaches. Also, I don’t want to create a false impression about who we might get, since I don’t know. Suffice to say that we are apparently looking at bringing in 2 QBs to help repopulate Shawn Bell’s ranks of coach-ees. It makes sense to me for that number to actually be three (3): 1) an older, experienced player that may have started elsewhere but won’t demand a starting job here; 2) a younger guy with a high upside that may have been recruited over somewhere else but can push Shapen in practice and possibly start; and 3) a pure developmental guy from the HS ranks, maybe someone that has blown up his senior year and would not be expected to play right away under any circumstances. The last guy might be a preferred walk-on (PWO), and there I will give you a name of who I want: Jake Wilson from Trophy Club, Texas.
Otherwise, we definitely need help in the secondary having lost a starting corner and our starting STAR. We may be able to fill the STAR spot from current players, but a corner is an absolute must from my viewpoint. Also, we’re likely targeting a LB since we struggled at that position this year and probably want an experienced MLB to step in for Doyle. Personally, I’d take another OL because you can never have enough, as well as another DL for the same reason, but again, spots are limited. One spot that may be already earmarked (after a QB or two) is TE, where a couple of offers have been reported, and it seems like Baylor really wants to add a contributor to replace Ben Sims.
Keeping Things in Perspective:
Before we tie a bow on this, I’ve noticed quite a bit of consternation about Baylor’s recent entrants to the Portal coupled with speculation about what that might mean for our current situation. I’ve even gotten a few people on Twitter suggesting that this reflects a problem in our program that needs to be addressed.
That idea is misguided, and I’ll tell you why: even after our recent entrants into the Portal, Baylor is still among the schools with the lowest number of Portal-ers over the last two years (depending on where you look that number is about 10-11). Take Texas A&M for comparison—according to On3, they’ve lost 27 players this year alone, the most in the country. That is a little less than a third of their available scholarships the year after they had the (at that point) best recruiting class of all time. Some of those guys are in there. Another team that has been hit extremely hard is a little closer to home, conference-wise: Oklahoma State. They lost two more WRs today, meaning that their tally is up to:
With reports that WR Bryson Green is in the transfer portal, Oklahoma State has now lost:— TJ Eckert (@TJEckertKTUL) January 4, 2023
- Starting QB
- 2 leading rushers
- 3 of top 6 leading receivers
- 2nd leading tackler
- 2 starting DBs
- Trace Ford to OU
- Braylin Presley
Some could return, but still. Unreal #OKState
That’s just 11 listed, but depending on which place you follow, their number is more like 16 or 17 for this year. Again, we’re at 8.
I could keep going. According to On3, Arkansas has lost more than 20, as has Florida. Miami, who is throwing money around in NIL (reportedly) is nearly there. Ole Miss, Oregon, and Arizona State are all over two dozen. My point is that while we have needs (but limited spots), we haven’t lost that much by comparison, and the need to freak out about it just isn’t there. Baylor has done a remarkable job of retaining existing talent (arguably too good, in some ways), and our strong culture is a good reason for that.
The final takeaway is about timing: we have been in a dead (no-contact) period for recruiting post-NSD, including for transfers. Today, we entered a quiet period for transfers where on-campus visits can occur. This weekend will be the first time in a while that transfers can come to Baylor and meet with our coaches, and I would expect that Baylor will take full advantage of that. Watch closely for reported visits over the next 2-3 days for this coming weekend even though that information may be somewhat more limited than in traditional recruiting. Things can happen quickly this week.
EDIT: I missed Mike Harris in the list. That has been corrected, and the numbers, adjusted.
EDIT 2: Jack Stone added as a transfer in.