Transfer Trolling; GOAT Retires; Flores Sues NFL
Yesterday was "national signing day" for high school football recruits. It used to be a big deal.
Not any more. Two huge changes have rendered signing day less significant. First, most top recruits now commit to colleges on "early signing day" in December. Those who wait til February are few and far between.
And second, much of the recruiting action is now on the transfer front.
In the old days, most college football rosters were comprised almost exclusively of players recruited out of high school, with a few transfers from junior colleges or other four-year universities sprinkled in.
That was before free agency arrived, when the NCAA gave athletes a one-time opportunity to transfer without having to sit out a year.
So now players who have fallen out of love with their college or their coach—most often because they've lost their starting job or because their program has declined—can move to another school and play immediately.
Those seeking greener pastures need only to enter their name in the "transfer portal" to pursue or be pursued by other schools.
And what that means for coaches is that in addition to evaluating and recruiting high school players, they now must re-recruit their own players every year—to keep them from transferring—and also recruit players from other schools who have entered the transfer portal and could help them immediately.
Many of the schools that engineered dramatic turnarounds last fall—think Michigan State, Utah State and Oregon State—did so by filling their lineups with transfers.
In many cases, a coach will prefer a proven college player to fill a need on his team, rather than recruiting a high school player who will need more seasoning. So the number of high school players being signed on both the December and February signing days has decreased as colleges save roster places for potential transfers.
It's gotten to the point where most schools have directors of transfer recruiting, and the major sports media outlets not only rank high school recruiting classes but also transfer classes. This year USC and LSU, with new coaches Lincoln Riley (from Oklahoma) and Brian Kelly (from Notre Dame), ranked at the top.
To date, over 2600 players have entered the portal this year, including 1800 from FBS schools. Many didn't get an offer because the supply exceeded the demand. Wannabe transfers who strike out can return to their original school, if there's still a spot for them.
Locally, the portal has served as fertile ground for Cal, which recently acquired quarterback Jack Plummer from Purdue, defensive end Xavier Carlton from Utah and linebacker Jackson Simon from Washington.
Stanford has a more difficult pathway for transfers, because of its stringent admissions requirements, and in the case of grad transfers (players who've graduated but have eligibility remaining) early deadlines for grad school admissions.
The Cardinal got a late Christmas gift this year when Oklahoma safety Patrick Fields, the defensive MVP of the Alamo Bowl, applied to graduate school at Stanford on his own and was admitted.
But Stanford suffered some painful exit wounds, too, when its top two running backs Austin Jones and Nathaniel Peat transferred to USC and Missouri, respectively. The departures perhaps reflected some concern about Stanford's conservative offensive philosophy and the program's 11-19 record the past three seasons.
Jones, no doubt, was attracted by the prospects for USC's revival under Riley, one of the most innovative offensive minds in college football.
Riley attracted a dozen top transfers, including Jones, Oregon running back Travis Dye (who gained 1200 yards, averaged 6.0 yards a carry and scored 16 touchdowns last year), and the No. 1 prize in the portal, quarterback Caleb Williams (above), who played for him last year at Oklahoma.
Williams is an excellent passer and runner. Last year, as a freshman, he supplanted pre-season Heisman candidate Spencer Rattler early in the season and passed for 1912 yards and 21 TDs, with only four interceptions. He also rushed for 442 yards and another six TDs. He will be an NFL No. 1 pick in 2024.
How good is Riley? We believe he will have the Trojans in the College Football Playoff within three years, at the latest.
GOAT Retires: For a long time, I was partial to Joe Montana in the “greatest quarterback of all time” debate. But after Tom Brady won his record sixth Super Bowl for New England, then last year took Tampa Bay to his seventh title, I became a Brady proponent.
Tom Brady was a Bay Area product, a San Mateo native who attended Serra H.S., and grew up as a 49er fan. But much as they did with another local product—Cal star Aaron Rodgers—the 49ers snubbed Brady and instead picked Giovanni Carmazzi from Hofstra (seriously?) in the third round.
One of the worst blunders in draft history.
At Michigan, Brady had played behind Brian Griese as a sophomore and split time with baseball star Drew Henson after becoming the starter, so he lasted until the sixth round, when the Patriots chose him to back up Drew Bledsoe.
That sixth round pick became a five-time Super Bowl MVP and three time league MVP. He’s the NFL career leader in passing yards (84,520) and TD passes (624). This season, at the age of 44, Brady threw for over 5,000 yards and took the Bucs to the NFC championship game, where a comeback from a 27-3 deficit against the Rams fell just short.
Belichick's Blunder: How ironic that an errant email from Patriots' coach Bill Belichick may have been the straw that broke the camel's back for former Miami coach Brian Flores, who on Tuesday filed an earth-shaking discrimination lawsuit against the NFL.
As we wrote in our post the day before Flores filed suit, the league-wide racism in NFL hiring practices is overt and inexcusable. With only one black coach out of 32, qualified black candidates are routinely bypassed for less-qualified, no name white coaches and subjected to sham interviews conducted to satisfy the toothless Rooney Rule, which requires teams hiring a head coach to interview a minority applicant.
Belichick mistakenly congratulated Flores on becoming the Giants coach despite him not yet having interviewed for the job. It seems Belichick had mixed up his Brians. The message was intended for Brian Daboll, who apparently had been hired before Brian Flores even got his shot.
Here's what appeared on a screen shot of a Belichick message : "Sorry – I fucked this up. I double checked and misread the text. I think they are naming Brian Daboll. I’m sorry about that. BB.”
This type of humiliation is an annual exercise for black coaches. Flores also noted his interview with the Denver Broncos a few years ago, when GM John Elway and other Bronco execs showed up an hour late, disheveled and obviously hung over, apparently having already made the decision to hire Vic Fangio.
Flores' other bombshell accused Miami owner Stephen Ross, a noted whack job, of offering him a $100K bonus for each game he tanked, so the Dolphins could grab the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Such is life in the NFL, which of course denied Flores' accusations and released a statement that said, "Diversity is core to everything we do."
Sure it is. Tell it to Brian Flores, Jim Caldwell, Eric Bienemy, Byron Leftwich, and David Culley.
For that matter, tell it to Colin Kaepernick.