In a recent thread in this forum, a Buckeye fan seemed to express concern that OSU might come to rely upon the Transfer Portal a bit too much. It’s a legit concern, one that will be an ongoing challenge for every program in the country to manage .
And while Buckeye fans love to win, nobody wants OSU to become a football flophouse that exploits hobo transfers for fun and for profit, or is routinely exploited by them, since becoming a “guns-for-hire” program, or worse, a "bums-for-hire" program, would adversely impact OSU’s reputation and thus compromise its long-term success.
To that end, below are seven (7) key factors that are worth monitoring closely so as to fairly gauge if (and when) Coach Day might go too far with the Transfer Protocol, or if he might not go far enough, or... if he plays it just right.
Let me know your thoughts, but here are the boxes I’d personally like to see checked (SPOILER ALERT: Each one of them has been checked off):
1) Is the percentage of transfer players on the roster relatively high or low?
For now, it's exceptionally low with only a couple players, which should immediately minimize any concerns about OSU already being a rogue program full of parasitic transfers that are slowly eroding the team concept and/or continuity of the roster.
Another test to see if things have gone too far is to ask a simple, related question: "Are there more players coming into the program than leaving the program?"
At least for now, there are consistently more players leaving OSU's program than vice versa, whereby the former's place is taken by incoming recruits vs. transfers. Plus, not only is OSU good about helping guys to find news homes, it's well worth noting that players aren't exiting the program because they're disgruntled, but rather, it's because there's so much talent on the roster developed in-house that some guys realize their playing time might be limited, so... they leave. In other words, we can check off Box #1.
Others leave because they're homesick, personal reasons, or otherwise not being a fit. It happens. The main thing is, they're not leaving because of the quality of program.
2) Does Coach Day restrict himself to transfers with maximum value and/or upside, which is to say, does he only bring in proven talent and/or highly rated players with exceptional ability—and who otherwise have the right profile and character—to step in and contribute, whether as immediate starters or down the line?
As a matter of record, the clear answer is 'yes', so we can safely check this box, too.
3) Does Coach Day restrict himself to using the transfer portal for clear, unequivocal areas of need, especially immediate need, whether because players have transferred out of OSU's program (i.e., see Burrow, Martell, Baldwin, etc. for reference), or because there's an unanticipated number of injuries, key players have graduated or left for the NFL, or relatively under-developed players aren't ready to take center stage, all of which means that the cupboard is relatively bare at a given position?
Again, the answer is an emphatic 'yes', and this absolutely applies to the RB situation and Trey Sermon at OSU in 2020, or else the QB situation n 2019.
4) Does Ohio State's program have a combination of top-notch facilities and coaches that consistently deliver a track record for developing players in house?
Well, gee, that's practically a rhetorical question, isn't it? Pages could be written about the success of the program in this area, but, heck, even one word will suffice:
5) Does the coaching staff carefully select transfers and demand the same work habits and behavior from them as in-house players, and just as importantly, does the existing roster of players accept the incoming players as good teammates who must abide by the rules and buy into a culture that they believe is fair and competitive?
Again, so far, so good. Unless OSU's players are all lying to us, the unanimous feeling seems to be that you have to earn your way onto the field at Ohio State, no matter what vaunted reputation might have preceded you.
Granted, Tate Martell might be a bit of an asterisk here, but you get the point.
6) Is the transfer protocol having a negative impact on recruiting, whereby highly rated players increasingly pass on OSU because a) they figure they can always transfer into the program later on; or worse b) they feel as if it's not worth it to come to OSU because they feel that even if a guy puts in tons of work to become a starter, they'll be replaced (unfairly) by the first "hot" transfer that's available?
To me, at least so far, there's simply no indication that this either has been the case, should be the case, or will be the case.
7) Is the program successfully balancing the books on its Transfer Protocol Balance Sheet, i.e., is it bringing in as much talent from the protocol as it’s losing to it?
As far as I can tell, OSU is "in the black" overall when it comes to this scorecard, so that the Buckeyes have lost some gifted players like Joe Burrow and Trevon Grimes (TBD), yet gained marquis talent like Justin Fields, Jonah Jackson, and Kendall Sheffield.
I’m sure there are plenty of other good measures and examples that could be discussed here, and again, I'd love to hear your thoughts, whether agreeing, disagreeing, or adding to this list, but generally speaking, IMHO, Ohio State has done a stellar job of checking off all of the big boxes listed above.
Besides, the transfer protocol isn't about to go away, so if you're going to lose some great players because of it, such as a certain OSU transfer named Joe Burrow, who was last seen hoisting both Heisman and National Championship trophies, then why not balance things out, such as bringing in a Heisman candidate like Justin Fields?
In any case, perhaps the clinching, overarching question when it comes to concerns about the proper use of the protocol should be this: Has the transfer portal become a relative crutch, so that your program couldn’t function, or win, without it?
To be sure, it’d be difficult to suggest that the Buckeyes could have won more games in 2019 without Justin Fields and Jonah Jackson. In that sense, it’s hard to deny that the transfer protocol provided an awfully convenient crutch for the program last year.
But then… so what?
Here’s the thing: Sooner or later, EVERY program is going to find itself needing some crutches precisely because sooner or later EVERY program is going to be seriously hobbled by injuries, graduations, NFL exits, and transfers out of their program.
That’s why the key word included above is “relative crutch,” that is, the main factor(s) to assess for any program will be how much you’re depending on the Transfer Protocol relative to all other considerations.
In other words, good programs will use a comprehensive balance sheet.
In short, like it or not, when its comes to the question of how much a program should depend on the Transfer Protocol, the unsatisfying yet real-world answer is… it all depends (on everything else).
Of course, ultimately, the most important standard of all will be the team's results on the field, and so far, it’s hard to argue with the positive outcomes.