Transfer portal provides more hits, fewer misses for coaches

Lane Kiffin, from Mississippi, was looking for experienced players who could fill immediate needs.

Southern California’s Lincoln Riley and LSU’s Brian Kelly hit the transfer portal looking for a star as they try to quickly rebuild their new schools.

Scott Frost of Nebraska, meanwhile, is counting on the Portal to help him save his job.

“I just watched it like you would in the NFL,” Kiffin said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Sometimes there are years where you have to sign more free agents than other years depending on what you have and what you need. That part excites me, that you can work things out quickly.”

Kiffin is trying to build a 10-win season that ended in the Sugar Bowl. His group of 17 transfers is ranked as the No. 2 portal class in the country, according to 247Sports, and is led by quarterback Jaxson Dart – starting last season at USC.

Dart left the Trojans a week after Riley’s Oklahoma starter Caleb Williams announced he would be joining his trainer in Los Angeles. Williams and Biletnikoff award-winning receiver Jordan Addison of Pittsburgh are the biggest names Riley has landed in his No. 1 ranked Portal class of 20.

USC won just four games last season, the fewest since 1991, but adding so much talent earned the Trojans a No. 14 preseason ranking and made them a contender to win the Pac -12.

“The people we brought here, the staff we brought here, we didn’t come here to play second place. We’re not wired that way,” Riley said. “We came here competing to win championships, win them now and win them for a long time. That will always be our expectation.”

Kelly’s charge at LSU is to revive a program that has dwindled significantly since winning the national championship in 2019 under Ed Orgeron.

Kelly’s group of 15 portal additions are ranked No. 3 and particularly strong on the defensive end. The transfers of three-year-old Arkansas starting defensive backs Joe Foucha and Greg Brooks to LSU illustrate just how ruthless the game can be. Kelly acknowledges that bringing in players from an SEC West rival isn’t ideal. On the other hand, two players from LSU were traded to the Razorbacks.

“I know a lot of people don’t like it happening within the league. I’m not mad about it either,” Kelly said. “But they were two kids from Louisiana who wanted to play at LSU, and they were great additions. I would say when we were looking at the transfer portal, we wanted young guys who had SEC experience and had ties to the SEC. state of Louisiana. . Brooks and Foucha adapt this to the T.”

Nebraska’s Frost, 15-29 in four years, is in desperate need of a turnaround after taking a $1 million pay cut and laying off four offensive assistants late in a 3-9 season.

His 15 Portal additions are ranked No. 7, and seven or eight will likely start in Game 1. The biggest names are defensive end Ochaun Mathis (TCU) and quarterback Casey Thompson (Texas).

Frost said the number of transfers he will pursue will vary from year to year and that 15 is likely in the high range.

No matter how many players are added, Frost said, there’s always a concern about how transfers mix with returning players. He’s been happy with the chemistry so far, and a trip to Ireland to play Northwestern on Saturday provides another chance to bond.

“I couldn’t be happier with this piece and the mesh of these pieces,” Frost said. “We haven’t encountered adversity yet, and I think the first test will be when we encounter adversity.”

Kiffin said he sees the portal evolving from a way to add complementary elements to a team to becoming the primary recruiting tool for some schools.

Kiffin likes to compare portal and high school recruiting with NFL free agency and the draft. Professional teams often misjudge draft prospects because those players have never faced NFL talent, Kiffin said, while a free agent with five years of experience is a known quantity.

“You’re going to miss a number of high school kids because you’re just watching a high school movie,” Kiffin said. “What talent level are they at? And they’re 16, 17?

“These (transferred) guys, you’re not going to miss that much because you’re watching them play Division I football, talking to people who coached them. And so the margin for error is less.”

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AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed from Oxford, Mississippi.

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