Don’t Panic About Penn State’s Transfer Portal Situation… Yet
The transfer portal is a brand new feature of collegiate athletics, so perhaps it’s not surprising that it’s causing so much commotion.
For the first time ever, players are free to consider a move away from their current team without asking for their coach’s permission to contact other schools. The transfer portal also allows coaches from programs across the country to contact these players while they’re still on scholarship.
Entering the transfer portal on its own doesn’t mean the player is obligated to transfer, but, for the sake of this exercise, let’s just assume that every Penn State player in the portal right now will leave Happy Valley.
Even assuming every single one of these players leaves, I don’t think there’s any reason to freak out — at least in terms of the depth chart.
Let’s start with the big names. Juwan Johnson announced his intent to transfer away from Happy Valley, so we can safely assume he won’t be here next season.
Fans who watched the Citrus Bowl probably didn’t notice Johnson too much — he reeled in just two catches — as true freshman Justin Shorter took a fair number of snaps in his spot. Johnson struggled all season, especially with drops. It became clear that the coaching staff was willing to play anyone who’d simply come up with the ball, and Johnson’s past success didn’t matter quite so much.
McSorley sang the praises of Shorter after the Citrus Bowl, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that Shorter — a former five-star recruit — would’ve taken lots of snaps away from Johnson had he decided to stick around at Penn State. I’ll touch on this again later, but the wide receiver position seems to have undergone a youth movement that became more and more apparent throughout the course of the 2018 season.
Lamont Wade’s decision to enter the transfer portal is slightly more perplexing. It seemed Wade would be an obvious candidate for a starting safety job with the departure of Nick Scott.
On Instagram, Wade posted a picture of his empty locker with the caption, “This wasn’t my decision, but hey.” Wade’s caption leads me to believe that perhaps the decision is related to something off the field, but there’s always a shot that he returns to the team.
In any case, relying on Jonathan Sutherland at safety isn’t the worst thing in the world. Sutherland was responsible for 39 total tackles in 2018, compared to Wade’s 17. Sutherland is a former four-star recruit and was only a redshirt freshman when he put up those numbers. The young defender has a whole lot of good football ahead of him. Still, Penn State really lacks depth at safety now.
The loss of Zech McPhearson, Ayron Monroe, and Brandon Polk will not be great for the team’s depth. McPhearson played an important role as a backup corner throughout the season, as did Monroe in the safety position. Monroe probably would’ve been in the battle to start next season, too, but it’s hard to imagine the DC native beating out both Sutherland and Wade.
On the other side of the ball, Polk struggled in 2018, like many of his older fellow receivers, hauling in just nine receptions all season. With the emergence of KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson, and Shorter (late in the season), Polk was going to struggle for playing time.
Outside of those players, offensive tackles Sterling Jenkins and Alex Gellerstedt, linebackers Dae’lun Darien and Brelin Faison, safety Isaiah Humphries, and tight end Danny Dalton didn’t really fit into the equation in terms of starters for 2019.
Hopefully that assuaged some fears about the state of the team on the field, but losing so many players via transfer is still slightly unsettling. It’s difficult to know what exactly is driving 10 players to, at least, look into transferring and fans just have to hope it’s not a reflection of a bad atmosphere within the program.
It’s impossible to always know what’s going on behind the scenes, and oftentimes it’s not even worth guessing. But the departure of 10+ players shouldn’t hurt the product on the field too much.
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About the Author
Clifford will take the job left vacant by Trace McSorley, who went 31-9 as the Nittany Lions’ QB1 in three seasons at the helm of the team’s offense.
2019 seems to break a trend for Penn State football, which usually named just three captains per season (one on offense, defense, and special teams).
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