Going into his third season as Ohio State’s head coach, Ryan Day had lost only 13 total scholarship players to the transfer portal.
Since the start of the 2021 season, Ohio State has had 15 scholarship players enter the portal in just eight months.
That attrition isn’t necessarily a surprise, nor does it need to be seen as anything more than the changing nature of college football. Before last year, players who transferred from one school to another had to receive a waiver from the NCAA (or be a graduate transfer) in order to play immediately. Even last year, athletes didn’t know until mid-April that the NCAA would expand the one-time transfer exception to all sports, giving them less time to decide whether or not they should transfer before the 2021 season.
This year was the first time college football players entered an offseason knowing they could transfer and still play for another school this fall, provided they submitted their intention to enter the portal before May 1. And Ohio State clearly expected to have more outgoing transfers than ever before, as the Buckeyes entered spring practice with 91 scholarship players on their roster but are now below the 85-man limit after six more transfers as well as the medical retirements of Harry Miller and Marcus Crowley.
Even so, Day and his staff have remained selective about bringing in transfers themselves.
None of Day’s Ohio State teams have brought in more than three scholarship players through the transfer portal in one year, and that hasn’t changed this year. The Buckeyes have added three transfers this offseason – former Oklahoma State safety Tanner McCalister, former Arizona State running back Chip Trayanum (who’s playing linebacker at Ohio State) and former USC kicker Parker Lewis – and although they could theoretically still add another player who’s already in the portal, Day indicated last week they aren’t currently looking to add any more scholarship players this year.
The three players who actually transferred to Ohio State weren’t the only players in the portal that the Buckeyes were interested in; they hosted former Oklahoma tight end Austin Stogner on a visit before he committed to South Carolina, and offered former Florida International offensive tackle Miles Frazier before he transferred to LSU. But there were other players in the portal that could have potentially helped the Buckeyes this year that they decided not to pursue, most notably including former LSU cornerback Eli Ricks, who ended up at Alabama after Ohio State backed off of recruiting him.
While there has certainly been more talent to choose from in the transfer portal this year than ever before, Day says Ohio State’s philosophy on pursuing transfers hasn’t changed. If the Buckeyes feel they have a roster need and there’s a player in the portal they think fits that need, they’ll recruit that player. But recruiting players out of high school and developing the players who are already on their roster will remain their priorities.
“We really haven't spent a lot of time focusing on the transfer portal,” Day said last week. “Because I think if you want to sustain the program for a long period of time, I think recruits and their families, when you recruit them and talk to them about the plan for them to develop in your program, they want to see that happen and they really don't want to see a transfer come in and jump somebody in line.
“I think you're being a little bit disingenuous if on the front end, you're talking to your families and your recruits about the opportunity to play at Ohio State, and then just to go try to get the best player out in front of him. That could create some hard feelings.”
Still, Ohio State is constantly evaluating who’s in the transfer portal. Ryan Cavanaugh, a former NFL area scout, was hired by Ohio State last spring as a college scouting coordinator, a role in which his primary responsibility is scouting potential transfers. Day says Cavanuagh “does an unbelievable job” in that role.
Altogether, Ohio State has added nine scholarship players through the transfer portal (including this year’s three) since Day became head coach, and those players have often made a big impact for the Buckeyes. Two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year Justin Fields was Day’s first transfer addition as Ohio State’s head coach. Jonah Jackson was a first-team All-Big Ten guard in 2019. Trey Sermon played a key role in Ohio State’s Big Ten Championship Game and College Football Playoff semifinal wins in 2020. Noah Ruggles was a Lou Groza Award finalist last season after transferring in from North Carolina.
Day expects Ohio State to continue emphasizing quality over quantity with transfer additions.
“When there is a hole, we’ve done it before. We’ve had Trey Sermon, we’ve had Justin, we’ve had Jonah Jackson, we’ve had Noah Ruggles. So we've had our fair share of transfers. But it's not something we want to rely on,” Day said. “If the fit’s right, then we'll do it. But we are making sure that we're taking care of the guys on our team first.”
“I think you're being a little bit disingenuous if on the front end, you're talking to your families and your recruits about the opportunity to play at Ohio State, and then just to go try to get the best player out in front of him.”– Ryan Day on pursuing transfers
|QB QUINN EWERS||TEXAS|
|QB JACK MILLER III||FLORIDA|
|DE JACOLBE COWAN||NORTH CAROLINA|
|DE CORMONTAE HAMILTON||MEMPHIS|
|DE DARRION HENRY-YOUNG||KENTUCKY|
|DE NOAH POTTER||TBD|
|LB DALLAS GANT||TOLEDO|
|LB K'VAUGHAN POPE||TENNESSEE STATE|
|CB SEVYN BANKS||LSU|
|CB LEJOND CAVAZOS||NORTH CAROLINA|
|CB RYAN WATTS||TEXAS|
|S MARCUS HOOKER||TBD|
|S BRYSON SHAW||USC|
|S ANDRE TURRENTINE||TENNESSEE|
|S CRAIG YOUNG||KANSAS|
Day doesn’t necessarily expect Ohio State to have as many players enter the transfer portal in future years as it did this year. The Buckeyes needed some players to transfer just to get down to 85 this year – a side effect of all players receiving an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and it’s no coincidence that 13 of the Buckeyes’ 15 transfer exits since the start of last season have been on the defensive side of the ball, where they have an entirely new coaching staff this year except for defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
Losing at least some players to the portal every year has become an unavoidable reality, however, and Day recognizes that entering the portal will sometimes be in his players’ best interests.
“Our goal is always to recruit high school players and develop them while they're here. And if it works, then they get on the field. If it doesn't, then not that I like it, but there's an opportunity for some people to find other places to play,” Day said.
Day is glad, though, that the NCAA implemented a May 1 deadline for players to enter the portal and still be eligible to play that year, as Ohio State is now able to prepare for the season ahead with a clear picture of who will be on its roster this fall – and those players are able to focus fully on preparing to play for the Buckeyes this year rather than whether they should take their talents elsewhere.
“I think it was a good thing that happened, with the cut-off, because it really cuts down on the noise,” Day said. “I think that for a lot of these players right now, whether it's family or agents or just people in general, there's a lot of noise out there. And so this kind of quiets down that noise and allows them to focus on what's important.”