Photo courtesy of Texas State athletics
Recruiting rankings are the easiest way to keep the college football conversation online alive in the offseason. Despite never quite getting over the hill, plenty of schools use recruiting rankings to keep hope alive season after season.
However, 4- and 5-stars are not guaranteed to be amazing for their schools. Sure, there is a correlation between star rating and success, but these are kids and young adults, after all.
Athletic, gifted, and talented? Yes, absolutely. But young and fallible? Also, yes.
Many coaches see the transfer portal as an opportunity to add players that they’ve seen play against college talent. This ability to know what they look like in an FBS environment can help provide a needed shot in the arm to a position of need.
But what happens when a coach decides to prioritize the transfer portal instead of high school recruits? Texas State’s current 2021 class happens.
How many high schoolers did they offer?
Avid NCAA Football ’14 players know that there is a 25-scholarship limit each year, but offering more than 25 is the way to ensure a full class.
In the video game, offering more than 35 is a bad idea, generally. But in real life? Teams usually offer over 100 recruits; Coastal Carolina offered 382! Many even have the room to add some transfers to round out their class afterwards.
With the understanding that Texas State signed no high schoolers, surely it didn’t offer many, right? Depends on if 114 high school offers sounds like a lot.
How did they go 0-for-114?
For starters, they offered 17 4- and 5-star recruits. That’s a large number of blue chips for a school that has never signed one out of high school, per 247Sports.
Also, 70 of the 114 offers they made to high schoolers went to recruits who have signed with Power 5 programs. That means only 38.6% of their offers chose to play at the Group of 5 level or lower. That’s a low percentage for a team that hasn’t won more than three games in any season since 2014.
So who did they add?
Texas State will be adding 11 new faces before the 2021 season. The lone member of the class of 2021 (in the traditional sense) is DeOnte Washington, a community college transfer and a 2-star defensive end.
As the only member of their 2021 class, Washington’s 247Sports rating is the only rating factoring into the team’s ranking. Understandably, the Bobcats are 247Sports’ lowest-rated FBS team for 2021, and it’s not even close.
But let’s not act like Texas State is not adding talent ahead of 2021. On top of Washington, they’re adding 10 transfers — six of whom are arriving from Power 5 schools.
These 10 transfers are being added after having added nine transfers in 2020’s class — seven of whom were from Power 5 schools.
It is still possible for a high school recruit to be added, because the NCAA extended various recruiting deadlines past National Signing Day.
Who’s the man behind this class?
It’s Coach Jake Spavital. Coach Spavital was an offensive coordinator at Texas A&M before turning 30. From 2013-18, he spent six years as an offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, California, and West Virginia. Texas State named Spavital head coach a mere four days after the 2018 season ended.
Also worth noting, Spavital was Sonny Dykes’ offensive coordinator for a season while at California.
SMU is often associated with working the hardest on recruiting from the transfer portal, but Texas State should be included in this conversation, too.
This is a school with a combined 15 wins in the last six seasons. Developing high school recruits is usually how a school builds the program, with transfers being little boosts to a position room.
Maybe he’s on to something…
It’s easy for people who have watched college football for years to say that this is a crazy idea. In football, fourth down used to mean some kind of kick was guaranteed, except for at the very end of games. The increasingly commonplace decision to go for two after being down 14 used to be the decision of a madman. The point is, the transfer portal is so young and the game is always changing.
A few years ago, there were a couple hundred players in the transfer portal. Compare that to the last two years combined, where over 3,000 players have entered the transfer portal. It looks like the transfer portal is here to stay, so coaches would be wise to maximize its usefulness.
… but he’s bucking the traditional thought, for now.
Typically transfers are added the same way NFL teams add free agents – to plug in positions of need with those who can play immediately.
Pick any metaphor. High school recruits are the cake, and transfers are the icing. Recruits are the base of the meal, transfers are the seasoning. The metaphors could go on and on.
It’s unsurprising that someone from Coach Dykes’ tree is trying to build a model that relies so heavily on the transfer portal. So far, the transfer portal has paid dividends for SMU and Dykes. Who knows if it will work for Texas State and Spavital? Only time will tell.
For now, though, it looks like Spavital and the Bobcats are eating icing and seasoning for the 2021 class. Come fall, they’ll have a better idea of how it tastes.