‘Keeps me up at night’: How will the transfer portal impact Utah football this spring?
Coaches try to mitigate transfer portal losses while recruiting players around the country.
Now that spring practices have concluded at Utah, there’s some level of uncertainty when it comes to next fall’s roster.
Just like there is at every other program around the country.
“We’ll do our absolute best to hold on to the guys we really want to hold on to. Some players are going to realize that, hey, this isn’t the best opportunity for me right now. You wish them nothing but the best as they move on.” — Utah OC Andy Ludwig
What impact will the transfer portal have on the Utes? The spring portal window closes April 30.
Will some Utah players decide to move on?
“I’m sure they could,” defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley said last week, the day before defensive back Jadon Pearson entered the portal. “At the same time, are those other programs going to provide the culture and the experience and how much fun they have here, the development that they get here?
“You’ve got to have depth anywhere you go to win a championship. Guys understand that no job is safe. Everyone is competing. If some guys choose to go elsewhere, that’s going to be part of the deal and we wish them well. But we’re fired up with the guys that we’ve got.”
Scalley added that by Sunday night, he’d be on a flight as part of a recruiting trip.
Offensive line coach Jim Harding said keeping his group intact is something “that keeps me up at night.”
Added Harding: “I really like the room and I like the chemistry in the room. I like the kids that we’ve recruited. I don’t want to lose any of them. The transfer portal certainly has its pluses but I feel like in our position, with the depth we have, it may lend itself to kids wanting to look elsewhere. I hope I’m wrong but those are things that we’ll see transpire … when the portal window closes.”
How can coaches mitigate the number of players entering the portal?
“You hope that you’ve built a culture that kids are drawn to, that kids feel like they’re being treated fairly, treated well and being developed,” Harding said.
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said anticipating transfer portal losses is “part of the game at every university. We’ll do our absolute best to hold on to the guys we really want to hold on to. Some players are going to realize that, hey, this isn’t the best opportunity for me right now. You wish them nothing but the best as they move on.”
Ludwig said after spring practices, the program conducts player evaluations so that players know where they stand.
“Here are your strengths, here are your weaknesses. Your chance to play and contribute at Utah are X percentage,” he said. “If you don’t like the percentage, it should be an opportunity to say, ‘I want to play.’ More power to you. Or, ‘Hey, I think I can raise that percentage and another year of preparation and another year in the program, I want to stick it out.’ More power to you.”
When it comes to adding players, Ludwig said, “We’ll explore every option to get better.”
With the NFL draft on tap this week, the Utes will be in the spotlight because tight end Dalton Kincaid is expected to be a first-round draft pick.
Utah coaches can leverage that as a recruiting tool.
“It’s a huge plus. You talk about the four seasons I’ve been back, if you look at the tight end numbers in terms of receiving yards, hey, tight ends, they’ve got to block. We know that,” Ludwig said. “But they don’t want to talk much about that. They want to watch video clips of pass catching and we have plenty of material like that to draw from.
“The selling point is, if you come to Utah as a tight end, we’re not going to have to make new stuff up to highlight your skills and abilities. Here’s the library. Let’s go. I think it’s a huge plus.”
“I wish I could take the credit for coaching him up to a first-round pick. That guy has an awful lot of natural ability and things that we saw in him that we felt like he eventually would be a draft pick,” said tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham about Kincaid. “I’m not sure we predicted him as a potential first-rounder, but I think it helps tremendously.
“I can’t tell you how many recruits I’ve talked to in this cycle that have pointed to him catching 70 balls and he’s gotten a lot of great publicity. Whatever position he goes in, whether it’s first round or second round, it’s great recruiting content for us, for sure.”
Utah coaches know the importance of increasing depth through the transfer portal during the offseason.
“More important than ever,” Scalley said. “Particularly with transfer portal guys, guys taking off. That’s our job.”