03 May

Penn State, Arizona among teams facing nightmare scenarios in spring window

The 2024 spring transfer window promises to be one of the most chaotic periods since its inception. Due to recent litigation between the NCAA and various parties, courts have issued injunctions that have severely limited the NCAA’s ability to regulate the transfer portal.

In December, a court ordered a temporary injunction that halts an NCAA rule limiting eligibility for multi-time transfer through the end of the 2024 spring sports calendar. While the effects of that were felt during the winter transfer window, which closed in January, another court in February issued an injunction against the NCAA that stops it from enforcing any rules relating to third-party negotiation on NIL compensation until a final decision is reached in a case stemming from an NCAA violations investigation into the University of Tennessee.

No matter what players may have said or done in the past, anything is possible. All of this creates some potential chaos scenarios for teams, which may have held onto stars during the first window but could have trouble doing so now.

This isn’t meant as a prediction, nor is it a guarantee that anything outlined will actually happen. These are just feasible transfer events that could occur once the spring transfer period opens on Tuesday — some of which would have major implications on the national landscape.

Arizona stars look elsewhere
Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita and wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan bucked the new college football trend when they decided to stick around after former Wildcats coach Jedd Fisch left for Washington. Despite some significant transfer losses elsewhere, those are two elite building blocks for new coach Brent Brennan. They combined for more than 1,000 yards last season as McMillan earned Second Team All-Pac-12 honors and Fifita was named the Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year.

Since the first transfer window closed, both have maintained that they’re happy with their current situation and have no intentions of entering the portal. So did Oregon State running back Damien Martinez, who’s currently searching for a new home after electing to take his talents elsewhere. In particular, Fisch could try and drum up his connection with McMillan — Kevin Cummings, who recruited McMillan to Arizona, is now at Washington as well — and get some wide receiver help for the Huskies, who are losing an overwhelming amount of talent off of last season’s College Football Playoff National Championship runner-up team.

Alabama’s QB room thins out
The transfer portal has made it almost impossible to build quality depth at the quarterback position. After all, only one player can really step into the position, and that’s not conducive to retention when there are multiple mouths to feed. Given that context, new Crimson Tide coach Kalen DeBoer is stepping into a privileged position at Alabama. He inherited a quarterback room with three scholarship options, including incumbent starter Jalen Milroe, and that was before he brought Austin Mack with him from Washington.

That’s not to say Alabama is going to leave the spring with its quarterback room in tact. Former five-star Ty Simpson is entering his third year in the program with only 10 appearances and zero starts. Dylan Lonergan, a four-star signee from the Class of 2023, redshirted in his first year with the program. Especially with Mack in the fold, Simpson seems a long way off from seeing the field in Tuscaloosa. Milroe’s return means Simpson will go at least another year without any meaningful work, though his blue-chip status (he chose Alabama over Clemson in a blue-blood battle) might give him an immediate opportunity at another program. Milroe’s return gives Alabama a top-tier starter, but one or two defections to the transfer portal could be disastrous for the depth of a College Football Playoff competitor.

Penn State loses top returning WR
This is one that’s already come to fruition. KeAndre Lambert-Smith, the Nittany Lions’ top returning receiver, has entered the transfer portal as a graduate, according to 247Sports. Penn State has its eyes set on a College Football Playoff run, and the pieces are certainly there across the roster, but the Nittany Lions were dangerously thin at wide receiver — and that was before Lambert-Smith decided to move on. He was the only player on the roster, regardless of position, to log more than 500 yards receiving last year.

Penn State did turn to the portal to add ex-Ohio State wideout Julian Fleming as a solid option for young quarterback Drew Allar. Given his experience and reliability, Fleming already looks like the go-to in Penn State’s offense. Though he has an injury history that gives rise to some concern down the line, Fleming is quite literally the only wideout on Penn State’s roster that has made a meaningful impact at the collegiate level.

“No one in this position room beyond Fleming owns even 600 career yards, and the Nittany Lions must maximize quarterback Drew Allar’s junior campaign under new offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnick,” says Tyler Donohue of Lions247.

Redshirt junior Harrison Wallace and former blue-chip prospect Kaden Saunders are going to have to step up, and Penn State will almost assuredly comb the portal for further help.

UNLV wide receiver becomes major target
Group Five rosters typically get gutted by the transfer portal, but every once in a while a prolific star will decide to stick around and play it out despite immense interest from programs nationwide. That was the case with UNLV wide receiver Ricky White, who did not enter the portal during the first window and said in December that he would be back with the Rebels in 2024. His teammate and former quarterback, Jayden Maiava, also said that he was excited to “run it back” with UNLV next season. Maiava is now at USC, battling Miller Moss for the Trojans’ starting job.

White would instantly become one of the top wide receivers available if he hit the market. He’s done nothing but produce since transferring to UNLV in 2022 and last season he broke out with 88 catches for 1,483 yards and eight touchdowns while helping power UNLV to the Mountain West Conference Championship Game in coach Barry Odom’s first year with the program. It goes without saying that White’s departure would be devastating for a team that already lost its starting quarterback.

UNC RB adds to deep group already in portal
North Carolina had to fend off transfer portal poachers a season ago; coach Mack Brown said star quarterback Drake Maye “turned down a whole lot of money,” to stay in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels avoided any such anxiety during the winter window and did not lose any coveted players, but it so happens UNC’s best offensive player happens to play a position that two of the most aggressive portal spenders happen to need …

Running back Omarion Hampton, who had 1,504 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns last season, could see the potential of a nice NIL payday and decide to test the waters. There are some teams that aren’t shy about spending big, like Ole Miss and Miami, that are on the market for running back help (the aforementioned Martinez, from Oregon State, could end up at either place). Hampton would be an immediate workhorse that increases an offense’s ceiling.

He’s in for a feature role at North Carolina, especially since the offense is undergoing massive transition after the loss Drake Maye, so it might not be easy to draw him away from the Tar Heels. But Ole Miss has upside as a College Football Playoff competitor, while Miami made a splash in the portal by convincing ex-Washington State quarterback Cam Ward to spurn the NFL Draft and suit up for the Hurricanes. That’s a big selling point for Miami. North Carolina, meanwhile, is coming off an 8-5 season in which it failed to compete for the ACC, lost to conference bottom-feeder Virginia and sputtered to a 30-10 loss to West Virginia in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

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