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Penn State Football Leads The Nation In Transfer Portal Entrants And Unanswered Questions

The NCAA’s new transfer portal has quickly established itself as college football’s story of the offseason, and Penn State is no stranger to the news surrounding it.

Currently, 11 Nittany Lions — including starting wide receiver Juwan Johnson and former five-star defensive back recruit Lamont Wade — have entered the transfer portal. Seven of those players have done so in the past week alone.

It goes without saying that the portal has impacted James Franklin’s program quite a bit, but how has it affected some of Penn State’s opponents?

Penn State’s 11 players in the portal are the most in college football. Arkansas is well behind with seven players in the portal, while Michigan checks in at the No. 3 spot with five players.

The only Big Ten teams without a player in the portal right now are Indiana and Wisconsin. Here’s a list of the rest of the Big Ten and how many players each team has entered into the portal:

  • Penn State: 11
  • Michigan: 5
  • Iowa: 4
  • Illinois: 2
  • Nebraska: 2
  • Maryland: 1
  • Michigan State: 1
  • Minnesota: 1
  • Northwestern: 1
  • Ohio State: 1
  • Purdue: 1
  • Rutgers: 1

Interestingly, more than half of the conference’s players in the portal spent last season with either Penn State or Michigan. The 12 teams not coached by James Franklin or Jim Harbaugh account for 15 Big Ten players exploring their options, while the duo claims 16 of them combined.

As far as other notable teams around the country are concerned, defending national champion Clemson has one player — former starting quarterback Kelly Bryant — in the portal. He’s already announced plans to play for Missouri next year. Kentucky, the Nittany Lions’ opponent in the 2019 Citrus Bowl, and Pitt have just one player each in the portal so far.

Alabama and Georgia have entered only two players each in the transfer portal. Former Penn State commit Justin Fields was, of course, one of the biggest names to enter the portal, and he’s already announced his intent to continue his college football career at Ohio State. The one transfer perhaps more covered than Fields’ move to Columbus was former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts’ decision to transfer to Oklahoma.

In both scenarios, as well as with Bryant at Clemson and Tate Martell at Ohio State as a result of Fields’ transfer, playing time and a crowded quarterback room seemed to be the strongest and clearest driving force — as opposed to the questions remaining at Penn State.

So what’s the biggest takeaway from Penn State’s involvement in the new transfer portal? It’s pretty simple: No, you’re not losing your mind. Penn State really does have more guys exploring their options than most.

More than a third of the Big Ten’s 31 players in the portal played for Penn State last season. Even more impressive (alarming?), 10.2 percent of all the players in the portal are Nittany Lions.

If you needed confirmation that this problem might be unique to Penn State, the numbers don’t lie. Just compare Penn State’s transfers to those of its two closest competitors: Michigan and Ohio State. Michigan has only five names in the portal, while Ohio State has only one in Martell.

Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, Penn State is losing more starting-quality talent than other teams and without an equally- or higher-skilled replacement coming in yet. Sure, Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, and Ohio State all lost top-flight quarterbacks this year, but that was only because they all already had an even better option under center.

Penn State has starting-caliber talent in the transfer portal, too, but nowhere near the security afforded to Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, and Ohio State, whose expendable depth underscores what it means to be an “elite” program.

While younger players like Justin Shorter and Jahan Dotson ease the blow of losing Juwan Johnson a bit, they still have much to prove. Lamont Wade is the only other likely starter for next season who’s entered the portal. His departure would leave more questions in Penn State’s secondary, a position group already hit hard by the graduations of Amani Oruwariye and Nick Scott. Now, the Nittany Lions will likely need to shop the transfer market themselves or rely on an equally unproven Jonathan Sutherland or incoming recruits like Tyler Rudolph and Jaquan Brisker.

Note: The NCAA transfer portal isn’t available to the public, so for data included in this post we relied on our friend e8odie over at Reddit, who compiled a list of players reported to be in the portal as of Wednesday morning.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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