In case you missed it this morning, Times Shamrock Newspapers has learned that 18 players who appeared on the roster for the Nittany Lions in 2017 and/or 2018 have put their names in the transfer portal.
Not all of them are scholarship players like linebacker Jarvis Miller, the only on-field contributor to the 2018 team that has not previously been reported.
Not all of them were guys who saw game action, like defensive end Torrence Brown, who hasn’t played since suffering a knee injury early in the 2017 season.
Not all of them are surprises.
But there are some similarities between a good portion of the group to provide a glimpse into the type of player most likely to look at other opportunities.
Most are graduates or graduating, or on track to graduate
Especially the scholarship players who played in 2018.
Miller, receiver Juwan Johnson, offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins, and defensive backs Ayron Monroe and Zech McPhearson, have all either earned their degrees or said publicly they are on track to do so.
Brown and receiver Brandon Polk haven’t said whether they plan to graduate, but they both enrolled years ago — Brown in 2014 and Polk in 2015 — and it makes sense they’d at least be approaching graduation this spring.
Also consider that head coach James Franklin has made a central part of his pitch to recruits a plan to get them out the door with a Penn State degree in three- to three-and-a-half years, depending on when they enroll at the university. Tight end Danny Dalton and offensive tackle Alex Gellerstedt, who have junior playing eligibility in the fall, have not announced whether they are going to have their degrees before next season. But, both enrolled early as freshmen, in the spring semester of 2016. So, if they worked hard in the classroom and got ahead on credits, it’s conceivable they will also be on-track for a 3 1/2-year graduation.
Of the scholarship players who have entered the portal since the end of the regular season, just three — safety Lamont Wade, linebacker Dae’lun Darien and safety Isaiah Humphries — have been enrolled at Penn State for fewer than three years. Linebacker Brelin Faison-Walden announced before the season concluded and entered the portal in October. Humphries is heading to California, Faison-Walden to Charlotte to be closer to home and family members experiencing health issues, and Darien announced plans to transfer for similar reasons.
Some had no choice
Two players on the list were off the team a while ago. Linebacker Manny Bowen hasn’t been part of the program since training camp last August, and receiver Irvin Charles was kicked off the team following the 2017 season.
Likely goes without saying, but they have to enter the portal if they wish to move on with their careers. In fact, Bowen already has announced plans to enroll at Utah for the fall.
Some have nothing to lose
A smaller group of players on the list are on the roster as walk-ons.
Cornerback Jabari Butler is a transfer who spent two semesters at Abeliene Christian, starting in 2015. It’s conceivable he can be on track to graduate too, although there’s no confirmation one way or another.
Long snapper Matt Aloni and receiver Brandon Clark are the other two. Both are freshmen, and both joined the program as preferred walk-ons. One of the drawbacks to entering the portal is that it allows the program to pull your scholarship if it chooses to do so. But since Butler, Aloni and Clark aren’t on scholarship (to anyone outside the program’s knowledge, anyway), it’s not as if they risk losing one. They can conceivably come back without a hiccup if they don’t find an opportunity to their liking. None have publicly expressed an intent to leave the university.
Players have been transferring for decades. It has just never been easier to do so than it is now.
It is going to be fun to watch how the develops and how players use this newfound freedom, but that’s going to take years to fully understand.
Right now, it looks like the portal — at least from a Penn State perspective — is filled with players who have graduated or are potentially near graduating, and perhaps this is just public verification that players who can have graduate transfer status do think hard about leaving programs and have for a while. Sometimes players and the program decide it’s best to part ways — again, that has been happening for generations — and that explains Bowen and Charles. And again, players have been leaving schools to move closer to home for generations, which explains Faison-Walden and Darien. There are players who commit to a school, get there and realize that it isn’t for them; which is maybe what happened with Humphries. And hey, maybe Aloni, Clark and the like think there could be a better opportunity out there for a scholarship; Aloni was a highly thought-of long-snapper coming out of high school, for example, and those kinds of specialists can be a premium for programs who need one.
Again, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out for these athletes and the ones who will enter the portal in the future. Just remember, this is all very much an unknown at this point, because the portal is so new.