Ryan Day Says More Transfer Movement This Year Was “Inevitable,” Ohio State Will “Adapt Accordingly”

By Dan Hope on December 4, 2023 at 9:56 am
Kyle McCord
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY Network

Ohio State already has as many players in the transfer portal this year as it did all of last offseason.

By the time Kyle McCord entered the portal on Monday morning, just hours after the portal officially opened, nine Ohio State players had announced they would enter the portal since the end of the regular season. By comparison, Ohio State had only four scholarship players enter the transfer portal during the first transfer window last December and only nine scholarship players enter the portal all of last offseason.

Ohio State’s outgoing transfer attrition has consistently been among the lowest in the country since Ryan Day became the Buckeyes’ head coach in 2019. That’s something Day has taken pride in, as he’s sought to create a culture that players want to remain a part of.

Keeping players out of the portal, however, only gets harder by the year as transfer movement in college football becomes more commonplace. One could argue that a modest increase in transfer attrition for Ohio State is actually a good thing, as it can clear up scholarships being used by players buried on the depth chart for the Buckeyes to add more talent, whether that be through their own transfer additions or high school recruiting.

Those realities seemed to have sunk in with Day as he fielded questions about how Ohio State will approach the upcoming transfer window on Sunday just hours before the portal officially opened on Monday.

“Three or four years ago, someone enters the portal, you’re like what's going on? Now, I think maybe somebody said there was 400-some-odd (players) in the portal, I guess, on day one (last year). And this year, it'll be even more,” Day said. “So these guys have an opportunity to go out and see what their options are on a yearly basis. So that's what it is, and so we'll adapt with it. But yeah, it's much different, even than it was a year or two ago, I would say.”

The increase in transfer attrition Ohio State is already experiencing this year comes after the Buckeyes became far more aggressive in adding transfers last offseason. Having added no more than three scholarship transfers in any of Day’s first four years as head coach, Ohio State added nine scholarship transfers ahead of the 2023 season.

In the past, Day consistently said Ohio State would take a need-based approach to the portal, only looking to add transfers at positions where the Buckeyes had a clear need for an upgrade or depth. Now that more and more players are entering the portal each year, though, Day recognizes that adding talent through the portal must be an annual component of Ohio State’s roster-building strategy and not something Ohio State simply uses to plug an occasional hole.

“It's inevitable,” Day said. “I think early on, it was you use it when you need to. But the way things are now, I just think year in and year out, the majority of teams, you’re going to see turnover. We'll have guys enter the portal, there'll be a lot of guys in the portal starting (Monday). So you have to construct your roster on a yearly basis, and that's what we're going to do. 

“It's no longer one of those things, are you going to use the portal or not? That's part of college football. But we are going to make sure that we're doing a great job of identifying the right people that fit the program, because there's a lot of pride in that locker room.”

Asked specifically whether Ohio State would pursue a transfer quarterback (before it became known that McCord would enter the portal), Day said he did not want to discuss which specific positions the Buckeyes would target in the portal but indicated that Ohio State would evaluate the available talent at all positions to identify potential roster fits.

“I mean, right now we're not actively out there searching for anything other than we'll see kind of what the next month brings in all positions,” Day said. “So I'm not gonna sit here and get into specifics on each of those positions. We like the guys that we have at a bunch of positions, but we're going to make sure that whether it's numbers or depth, that we have the right guys in the right spots. Sort of like we did last year, but I just think there'll be more movement this year probably than there has been in the past. Just it seems like every year that's happening more and more, so we'll adapt accordingly.”

As for trying to minimize Ohio State’s attrition, Day said he expected to have conversations with many players as they consider their options for their future but indicated that those conversations will vary from player to player. While there are players the Buckeyes certainly don’t want to lose to the portal, there are other players Ohio State won’t discourage from transferring if they aren’t on track to become major contributors at OSU.

“Certainly there's going to be conversations with a bunch of the guys. That's just kind of the way it is right now in college football. But we're gonna try to do everything we can to have the best roster year in and year out,” Day said. “Knowing that, for some guys, there may be better options out there for them. And so part of it is that that's the case for some players. Other situations, you're trying to, I guess, ‘recruit your own roster,’ and that's part of it to make sure they understand what their vision is and what our vision is for them in the next calendar year.”

Losing the quarterback who started all 12 of its regular-season games before even playing its bowl game is far from an ideal scenario, even if Ohio State ends up bringing in a transfer quarterback to replace McCord next season. None of the other Buckeyes who have entered the portal so far, though, have come as major surprises. Each of them – running back Evan Pryor, center Victor Cutler Jr., defensive end Omari Abor, cornerbacks Jyaire Brown and Ryan Turner, safeties Cameron Martinez and Kye Stokes and kicker Parker Lewis – played only sparingly this season and appeared likely to remain backups next season.

While younger players like Abor, Brown, Stokes and Turner had the long-term upside to develop into eventual impact players for Ohio State, they ultimately decided to seek an opportunity to play now rather than wait for a bigger role at Ohio State that may or may not come.

“There are certain guys who they get to a certain point in their career where maybe they don't see an opportunity to get on the field because of what's in front of them or whatever reason those are, and so their best option may be to see what's out there for them to go get on the field,” Day said. “And I totally get it. Our guys are competitive, so some of them will have that opportunity. 

“So you just have to be as clear as you can on the front end of it to make sure you're identifying, ‘When you come to Ohio State, here's what you can expect,’ so that when they get here there's no miscommunication or confusion. I think we've done a great job of that, but there's going to be guys who decide that maybe there's a better option for them out there, and so maybe a fresh start is good. But at the same time, we'll look out there to see what's in the portal and who may fit what we need.”

“We're gonna try to do everything we can to have the best roster year in and year out.”– Ryan Day on Ohio State’s transfer portal approach

Ohio State has a lot to manage throughout December, as the Buckeyes still have another game to play this season against Missouri in the Cotton Bowl – one Day says the Buckeyes are motivated to win even though it’s not a CFP game – while simultaneously navigating the transfer portal and wrapping up their high school recruiting class of 2024. But Day and his staff know they must devote the necessary time to building their roster for next season now if they want to achieve the goals – beating Michigan and winning conference and national championships – that they weren’t able to accomplish this season.

“Rosters move a lot, year in and year out, much more than they ever have before. And so we're certainly busy working on that,” Day said.

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