There are few things more angst-ridden for a college sports fan right now than trying to keep up with football’s transfer portal rollercoaster.
It’s likely that there will be in the neighborhood of 3,000 Division I football players entering the portal in the 2021-22 athletic year (July 1 to June 30). There were 2,600 transfers in the 2020-21 academic year, and there will probably be an average of 15 portal entrants for each D-I program in the current campaign. Walk-ons and some others enrolled, but who never played, are included in that number, but still, it appears that scholarship athletes make up about two-thirds of all of those transfers.
Most everyone looks at their particular team and thinks the sky is falling. Some schools are already dealing with more than 20 transfers, and those numbers are only going to go up as winter turns to spring, spring turns to summer and summer brings football season very near.
Already the Guaranteed Rate Bowl offensive MVP, Minnesota running back Ky Thomas, has jumped in the portal, and Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams is exploring the portal as well, even though the Sooner QB he beat out for the starting job, Spencer Rattler, had previously taken the transfer train to South Carolina.
West Virginia has not had the most scholarship portal entrants since Aug. 1 (15 and counting), but it has also not had the least. The latest Mountaineers who are seeking new homes include three starters in quarterback Jarret Doege, slot receiver Winston Wright, wide receiver Sean Ryan and defensive back Jackie Matthews.
Having started 26 straight games for WVU since late in the 2019 season, Doege completed 590 of 911 passes (64.8%) during his time at West Virginia for 6,453 yards with 40 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He is third in WVU history in career completions, fourth in attempts and fifth in yards. The Lubbock, Texas, native ultimately had to look for a new home for his final college season, though, because, as is often the case with quarterbacks, he was saddled with way too much of the blame from those outside the program when things didn’t go well. A return to WVU would have been untenable. For a student-athlete who was as friendly and classy as any with whom I’ve dealt, he endured social media criticism from an ignorant minority that in some instances bordered on criminal. There is a special section of Hell reserved for those who treat other good, reasonable human beings in such a manner.
His departure leaves the Mountaineers with an extremely young quarterback corps with sophomore-to-be Garrett Greene, redshirt freshman Goose Crowder and incoming true freshman Nicco Marchiol being the only scholarship QBs who are expected to be on the roster when the spring semester at WVU begins on Jan. 10.
Doege isn’t the only loss for West Virginia via the transfer portal. Wright led the Mountaineers in receptions in each of the past two seasons (60 for 686 yards in 2021 and 47 for 553 yards in 2020) and departs WVU with 129 career catches (the 14th most in school history) for 1,336 yards. Ryan played in 30 games, starting 21 of them, for the Mountaineers over the past three seasons since transferring to West Virginia from Temple. He caught a total of 69 passes for 882 yards while at WVU. Meanwhile, Matthews, a former juco transfer, played in all 23 games for West Virginia over the past two seasons, starting nine of those, as he split time between safety and cornerback.
Just like Doege, neither Wright, Ryan nor Matthews will be easy replacements, though all the roster management news for the Mountaineers hasn’t been bad.
The best news came when linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo and defensive tackle Dante Stills each reversed course on their earlier indications that they were going to give the NFL a try after the 2021 campaign. Instead, each announced recently that they would return for a fifth season at WVU. Chandler-Semedo has started 30 games and played in a total of 45 since arriving at West Virginia as a true freshman in 2019. Stills has played in all 47 games in that same span, starting 25 of them.
Their return is extremely good news for the Mountaineers, who also are making additions of their own through the transfer portal, gaining running back Lyn-J Dixon from Clemson, defensive lineman Zeiqui Lawton from Cincinnati, tight end Brian Polendey from Colorado State and defensive back Marcis Floyd from Murray State. More transfers are sure to join WVU prior to the 2022 football season.
The portal teleports both ways, and while each departure brings consternation from the fans and media, in today’s world everyone had better get used to the rollercoaster because, like it or not, each year – heck, each day – is going to be a crazy ride.