Junior helps anchor secondary

Penn State safety Lamont Wade warms top prior to s game against Indiana in State College. Wade entered the transfer portal last year before returning to Penn State and starting at safety.

There’s a certain level of hypocrisy in college football that usually rears its head this time of year.

It involves the NCAA transfer portal, and it has a couple of coaches feeling some type of way.

Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente this week went as far as to say his program will block all of its transfer portal entrants from returning to the team, while Connecticut coach Randy Edsall offered a more pointed rebuke.

“I’d rather go with high school kids or junior college guys,” Edsall told reporters in Connecticut on Wednesday. “Guys going into the portal to me, they’ve got issues. That’s why they’re going into the portal. I think if you get people that come in (from junior college) … those guys have a little more edge to them because they want to play right now. Sometimes, these guys from the transfer portal think that they’re enabled and entitled to something. You know, maybe it didn’t work out because you didn’t stay there and finish.”

Ouch.

Let’s go back to late 2011 when Edsall first left Connecticut to become the head coach at Maryland. According to an Associated Press article from 2012, Edsall “expressed regret” over his departure.

Following Connecticut’s loss to Oklahoma in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, the article states Edsall traveled to Maryland to interview for the then-vacant position rather than back to Storrs with his players.

“Many of the players learned of his departure from the program from the media or through text messages from family and friends,” the article reads.

Edsall felt it in his best interest to take advantage of a better opportunity as a head coach by moving to a different university. Why then, should he personally feel affronted by players who come to the same conclusion?

The transfer portal isn’t perfect. I’m sure some players have prematurely used it and would have been better suited by sticking out their situations. But to paint every player who enters it with a broad brush is narrow-minded and frankly, wrong.

The NCAA introduced the transfer portal in October 2018 as an option for athletes who are unfulfilled at their institutions. Players interested in continuing their academic and athletic careers elsewhere can enter a database, and intrigued coaches can then contact them. Players can also withdraw at any time and remain at their schools.

Three of the four quarterbacks who played in the most recent College Football Playoff were transfers: Justin Fields (Ohio State). Joe Burrow (LSU) and Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma). Fields came to Ohio State from Georgia, Burrow transferred to LSU from Ohio State and Hurts arrived at Oklahoma from Alabama.

Each player found themselves on the outside looking in at their former school and opted for a change of scenery. It appears the decision worked well for all three, as each led their school to conference championships in 2019. Burrow and Hurts earned degrees at Ohio State and Alabama and left as graduate transfers. 

Burrow won the Heisman Trophy by a historic margin and shattered multiple records as he lifted LSU to the national championship. Hurts finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting and earned the Big 12 newcomer of the year award. Fields was named the Big Ten offensive player of the year and he finished third in Heisman voting.

To hear Edsall tell it, all three should have remained at their former schools and languished on the bench.

At Penn State, running back Ricky Slade entered his name into the transfer portal on Wednesday after a season that saw him begin as the Nittany Lions starting running back and end with him buried on the depth chart.

Slade became the fourth Penn State player this year to opt to transfer. Former wide receiver Justin Shorter officially committed to Florida this week, and defensive end Daniel Joseph’s and defensive back D.J. Brown’s names are currently in the portal.

No rational person can begrudge Slade for his decision. He, like Shorter, came to Penn State as a 5-star recruit with ambitions of playing professionally. 

Every situation, however, is different.

Penn State safety Lamont Wade entered the transfer portal last year and ultimately returned to the team. He started all 13 games in 2019 and posted 67 tackles and forced three fumbles.

Again, painting each player who enter the portal as “entitled” and “enabled” is short-sighted.

When college coaches leave programs for greener pastures, their moves are typically met with unanimous praise. When a player leaves, we question their dedication and motivation. It’s a two-way street. College players have the same lofty career expectations and aren’t just pawns to be used for the next step on their coach’s career ladder.

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