Penn State Survives Transfer Portal Opening Day Bloodbath

According to 247Sports, nearly 600 FBS players entered the transfer portal on Monday. Luckily for Penn State football, none of them were starters or even backups for the Nittany Lions.

A new NCAA rule means that college football players can now only officially transfer between schools during two windows this season: December 5 through January 18 and May 1 through May 15. That made Monday effectively the beginning of a free agency period.

Some of the biggest names to enter the portal included Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, Oregon wideout Dont’e Thornton, and Pitt quarterback Kedon Slovis. Programs like Oklahoma State, Alabama, and Virginia all had starters announce they’re testing the portal waters.

Luckily for James Franklin, it was a quiet day in the Lasch Building. Just four scholarship players entered the transfer portal when its gates opened Monday, according to 247Sports.

Third-string quarterback Christian Veilleux, reserve cornerback Jeffrey Davis Jr., reserve offensive lineman Maleek McNeil, and reserve defensive tackle Rodney McGraw officially entered the portal. Veilleux and McGraw were the only players to record a stat and both appeared in just three games this season.

Penn State’s portal entries, while not necessarily departures quite yet, all make sense. Veilleux lost the backup job to Drew Allar and would continue to battle Beau Pribula for playing time. McNeil left the program in November. Davis didn’t record a stat in two years and is in a crowded secondary. McGraw, an Indiana native, might’ve just not been a good fit.

This isn’t to say these losses are meaningless for Penn State. Losing depth at any position, while not immediately impactful, can prove costly in both the near and far future. This is especially true along the offensive line, which is thinning by the minute and is relatively old.

But, if history repeats itself, Franklin will find key pieces in the portal to fill holes and round the team out.

Players like Hunter Nourzad, Mitchell Tinsley, Chop Robinson, and Johnny Dixon all made immediate impacts upon transferring to Penn State. The program is already in pursuit of USF wideout Jimmy Horn Jr. and Texas A&M defensive lineman Elijah Jeudy, a Philadelphia native.

You can expect similar splash commitments to come in over the next 45 days. Penn State coaches are already hot on the high school recruiting trail while trying to balance portal aggression and retention.

“[We] have an awareness of what’s going on in the transfer portal, which is about to hit hot and heavy here pretty soon,” Franklin said Sunday. “Making sure that we met with all of our current players before we left.”

Penn State’s Rose Bowl bid may have also played a factor in keeping things quiet on opening day for the portal. The prospect of playing in the Granddaddy of Them All and a trip to Pasadena would be enough to keep someone thinking about testing the portal waters around for a few days.

Franklin’s approach to retaining players is to be “honest and transparent.” This applies to both players thinking about pursuing the NFL Draft or leaving in the transfer portal. Cultivating relationships with players over their careers at Penn State, the head coach said, is key to having comfortable conversations about roster positions.

But, it doesn’t always work that way.

“I’ve been in situations in the past where one of my [coaching] buddies has called me and said, ‘hey, you know we’ve heard from a player, and I wanted you to be aware of it,’ and so on and so forth,” Franklin said. “So making sure that everybody understands it and there’s a way to handle these situations and be respectful of everybody.”

What will happen in this portal window following the Rose Bowl and the ensuing one in May is unclear, even with the help of a Crystal Ball. But, Penn State should be happy it walked away from a whirlwind of a Monday relatively unscathed and hot on the trail of some enticing targets.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected].

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