For Penn State's James Franklin, transfer portal continues to be a thorn in his side

(Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)
Penn State head coach James Franklin is not a big fan of the NCAA transfer portal.

Penn State coach James Franklin has another issue with the NCAA’s transfer portal, one he says few people are discussing: college coaches who recruit college players.

Franklin on Tuesday reiterated his concern with the revamped transfer process, using Penn State’s opponent Saturday as a case study. Buffalo visits Beaver Stadium following its best season in school history. The Bulls went 10-4, played in the Mid-American Conference championship game and had the MAC offensive player of the year in quarterback Tyree Jackson.

But Jackson is gone, along with an offense that lost three important players to transfers: Tyler Mabry, a first-team all-conference tight end, left for Maryland, where he scored a touchdown last week. All-conference receiver KJ Osborn transferred to Miami and caught four passes in the team’s opener against Florida. And another receiver, Charlie Jones, left for Iowa as a walk-on.

Buffalo knew it would graduate plenty of talent. But the team took a further hit in the transfer market. Franklin, a friend of Buffalo coach Lance Leipold, doesn’t think that’s right.

“It should not be happening, but it is,” Franklin said. “People are recruiting from other colleges now. Whether they’re doing it directly or indirectly, it’s happening, and it’s not really what’s supposed to be happening. I don’t think it’s the right thing for college football.”

New transfer model has impacted PSU: Franklin has been a critic of the new transfer model, which the NCAA enacted last year. And it has impacted Penn State: Twelve scholarship players with eligibility have transferred, though most did so as graduates.

Penn State is better positioned than a team like Buffalo to absorb such losses, particularly since they operate on some difference circumstances. Most of the players who transferred from Penn State were reserves looking to play in their final seasons.

Buffalo, meanwhile, lost several all-conference players who would have been vital this season. Osborn and Mabry, for instance, combined for nine touchdowns in 2018.

“Those jobs have always been tough,” Franklin said, “but I think they have gotten tougher.”

New position on players seeking transfers: Earlier this summer, Franklin outlined his new position regarding players who seek to transfer. If they add their names to the transfer portal, Franklin said, they lose their scholarships at the end of the semester.

Players can return but, as Franklin said, “If you’re looking, we’re looking.”

“Us being very clear and up front about how we handle things, I think, has helped,” Franklin said. "There was too much ambiguity for us. We’re very clear now."

Penn State also has benefited from the new transfer rules. Jordan Stout, a kicker from Virginia Tech, joined the Lions as a scholarship player this spring. He debuted Saturday, making a 53-yard field goal and sending 12 kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks.

Changing dynamic: But on Tuesday, Franklin once again called the transfer portal “concerning" in that it changes the student-athlete dynamic.

“I think most of these decisions are being driven by football, where the college athletics that I grew up with was driven based on academics,” Franklin said. “And don’t get me wrong, the athletic experience was very, very important as well, but it was in that order. And what I’m seeing right now is a little bit of a shift. That’s, to me, somewhat concerning.”