When the NCAA transfer portal changed its rules to allow players to transfer without sitting out for a year, many people around college football said it would ruin the sport.
The main argument was that players who had good seasons at smaller programs, particularly Group of 5 schools, would simply leave their programs to go to bigger ones, leaving small programs devoid of talent.
Putting aside the fact that every time people have said something will be the death of college football, from NIL all the way back to the forward pass, the sport has miraculously survived, this was a particularly disingenuous version of that particular phenomenon.
Although it is true that players have and will continue to leave small programs to pursue a better chance at a conference or national championship, by no means does that have to signal a decline for smaller programs.
For proof, you need to look no further than Ohio’s 2022 team. Over the past few years, Ohio has fallen victim to the transfer portal, as multiple talented players have left the program.
Most of this has been focused on the receiving corps, as Isiah Cox and Shane Hooks have both transferred in recent years, Cox to Alabama A&M and Hooks to Jackson State.
Hooks and Cox were two of Ohio’s most productive receivers over the past few years, and it looked like Ohio’s passing game could be in trouble.
But the Bobcats, as any team operating in the modern world of college football should, turned to the transfer portal. Prior to the 2021 season, James Bostic transferred in from Vanderbilt, where he recorded 12 receptions across four seasons.
Heading into 2022, Ohio needed even more reinforcements in the passing game, and it turned to the portal once again. This time it was for Sam Wiglusz, who caught three passes over three seasons at Ohio State.
This year, Wiglusz and Bostic have combined for 96 receptions, 1389 yards and 12 touchdowns and were two of the favorite targets of Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year Kurtis Rourke.
But Wiglusz and Bostic represent only one kind of transfer that can benefit programs of Ohio’s station. They are both players who were stuck at the bottom of Power 5 rosters and came to Ohio to get more playing time.
Wiglusz and Bostic both transferred down, but Ohio has also made use of players looking to transfer up. One of these was Ohio’s second-leading receiver, Jacoby Jones, who is a junior college transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College.
Jones has been a late bloomer this season, but he has turned into one of Ohio’s most important receivers, catching 39 passes on the year for 694 yards and five touchdowns.
The other player who transferred up is Zack Sanders, who came from the Football Championship Subdivision’s Missouri State and is tied for the team lead in interceptions. He has also played a huge role in Ohio’s defensive turnaround, as two of his three interceptions came in the win over Western Michigan that started the turnaround.
Ohio’s 2022 team is by no means built by the transfer portal, as the development of players like Rourke and Sieh Bangura has been vital, but it cannot be argued that Ohio has made excellent use of the portal this season.
Ohio’s activity in the portal is a perfect example of how smaller programs can not only survive, but thrive, in the new era of the transfer portal in college football.