In only a few short years, the transfer portal has dramatically changed the college football landscape.

With transfers, rebuilds can happen quicker. Look no further than Utah State’s dramatic turnaround from a dismal 2020 season to the 2021 season that ended in a Mountain West Conference championship. The dismantling of programs can happen just as quickly, though, with the recent exodus of players out of Arizona State a prime example.

Whatever the reason for leaving, the act of transferring has never been easier, and because of that maintaining a program, i.e. building depth and keeping it, has never been harder.

Related
What’s happened when players have entered the transfer portal?
How often do Group of 5 transfers end up at Power 5 schools?

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham alluded to that in a recent Q&A with The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach.

“First of all, the portal has changed the dynamic considerably when recruiting and building your roster,” Whittingham said. “In the 25, 30 years I coached previous to the portal, you’d use pretty much all your scholarships on signing day. You may have one left over, two at the most. Now you save four to six in your back pocket because you don’t know what’s going to happen.

“You could go through spring ball and you may be hit at a certain position group with two or three transfers and all of a sudden you better be able to replenish and replace. It’s changed the timing, the strategy, the keeping of extra scholarships on hand — all that has changed because of the portal, and it’s still a work in progress. It’s still a little bit different each year.

“I would say overall, from the advent of the portal till now, we have come out on the plus side of that ledger. We’ve benefited more than we’ve lost, but it’s still a balancing act. I don’t want to say it’s a guessing game, but you’ve got to project and kind of target guys. You know, ‘If he doesn’t play or doesn’t make the two-deep, he may exit.’

“You’ve got to anticipate problems, and that’s probably the best way to describe the portal. You’ve got to be able to anticipate what is most likely going to happen and then be able to cover yourself if and when it does.”

As it turns out, Whittingham and his staff have proven adept at understanding the portal and keeping players in Salt Lake City, and the same holds true for BYU head coach Kalani Sitake and company in Provo.

Per Rivals, both the Cougars and Utes have been among the best in all of the FBS at retaining talent (scholarship players specifically), at least recently.

Since Aug. 1, BYU is one of just 18 Group of Five programs to have lost eight or fewer scholarship athletes to the transfer portal (Rivals considers the Cougars a G5 program currently).

The Cougars join future Big 12 foe Cincinnati and rival Boise State on the list.

Utah, meanwhile, is one of just 15 Power Five programs to have lost 10 or fewer scholarship athletes to the transfer portal over the same time period.

The Utes are one of four Pac-12 teams to pull off that feat, alongside Cal, Oregon State and Washington (somehow).

There have been some notable departures from Utah and BYU to be fair.

Utah lost former starting quarterback Charlie Brewer to the portal midseason — he eventually transferred to Liberty — while BYU backup quarterback Baylor Romney and defensive lineman Victory Vaka entered the portal in December and January, respectively. Romney has since retired from football.

But by and large, both the Cougars and Utes have proven adept at maintaining the rosters they’ve built and then supplementing said rosters with incoming transfers.

For now at least, both programs appear to be coming out ahead in the wild world that is the transfer portal era.