The transfer portal shows the latest revolving door in college football

Light snowflakes were falling at the University of Colorado’s spring football game as the curtain went up on Saturday.

Instead of overshadowing the event, they only heightened the sense of theater around the intra-team showdown of a previously irrelevant Buffaloes program: an announced crowd of 47,277 in Boulder, a national television audience and a head coach serving as host of the ceremony in Deion. Sanders, wearing a white cowboy hat, a gold whistle around his neck, and a puffy vest with his “Prime” nickname embroidered on it.

The good mood in the afternoon lasted as long as the snow that had fallen.

On Sunday, one of the stars of the fight, receiver Montana Lemonius-Craig, announced that she would be looking for another school. Soon a teammate joined him. And then another. And another. By the end of Monday, 18 players had entered the transfer portal in a different kind of Buffalo stampede.

When Sanders arrived, he told his team at the meeting that “I’ll bring my own luggage – and that’s Louie,” referring to Vuitton: In other words, he would immediately level up the talent from a team that only won one game last time. season. As of Tuesday, only 17 of the 84 scholarship holders who were in last season’s starting lineup remain. Boulder Daily Camera.

None of the 10 receivers remained from last season.

“It’s time for me to move on,” Lemonius-Craig said in a phone interview. “I had three head coaches, four coaching shifts. It was pretty rough. I want to get some stability elsewhere.”

Consistency is a strange concept in college athletics these days.

With the NCAA’s loosening of transfer restrictions allowing players to cash in on endorsements and the weak provision of pay-per-play incentives, some players are enjoying what they have long sought: the same freedom of movement as coaches, who are rarely required to stay put. school for the duration of their contract, when the best offer comes along.

So when Bear Alexander, a respected rookie defenseman in Georgia, didn’t feel like he’d be as prominent next season as he wanted, he moved to Southern California, where competition for playing time shouldn’t be a problem. .

Also, it didn’t go unnoticed over the weekend that Alabama coach Nick Saban saw what everyone else in attendance saw during his team’s spring game: that the quarterback position could become a problem for the first time in a long time.

Jalen Milroe, a third-year sophomore, threw in two interceptions, and Ty Simpson, a redshirted freshman, completed less than half of his passes on Saturday. The rest of the candidates for this position are real freshmen.

Asked an innocuous question about the benefits of having quarterbacks in the system versus buying from a transfer portal, Saban said the most important metric is who can play winning football.

“I think this is the best answer to the question: Who can do it best?” Saban said, noting that while there were a few transfers in Alabama, there were a few important ones. He added: “If we see an opportunity to do this, we are always looking for a way to make our team better.”

Stores will start heating up soon. The 15-day spring window closes on Sunday (excluding alumni transfers, who can enter the transfer portal at any time), giving players and coaches a chance to assess their position once spring training is complete. But with over 1,200 players reportedly on the portal, it’s a buyer’s market.

In many schools, this means finding the right position or increasing the level of knowledge. Maybe there is a cornerback or a versatile forward on the market. Bulk shopping will be organized in Colorado with 21 scholarships.

Many of the outgoing Colorado players appeared to have been squeezed out, including Jordin Tyson, a promising sophomore who led Buffalo in receiving when he was injured in November. Lemonius-Craig, who had 23 catches for 359 yards and three touchdowns, including an overtime win against the California-Berkeleys, said it was his decision not to return.

He said he told his receivers coach Brett Bartolone on Sunday that he was leaving, but declined to elaborate on their conversation. He said he didn’t talk to Sanders.

Hours after entering the transfer portal, Lemonius-Craig tweeted that he had received scholarship offers from a growing list of schools including Penn State, Auburn, Brigham Young, Mississippi State, Oregon State, Arizona State, Washington State, and West Virginia.

“I consider myself a playmaker and I need to constantly prove that I can be a playmaker,” said Lemonius-Craig, who has two years of eligibility left. “I made a decision after the spring game. I wanted to finish the spring ball with my brothers. I wanted to make sure that if this was my last time at Folsom Field, then I would take care of my business.”

To some extent, it is a return.

Lemonius-Craig, who is due to graduate in communications next month, grew up near Los Angeles in Inglewood, California and attended the local public school, Inglewood High, instead of traveling to schools that could better fund tuition. or sports programs.

Inglewood High won one game in their second season and none in their junior season. After a new coach arrived before his senior season – along with a slew of transfers – Inglewood went undefeated until losing the section semi-finals. He also played basketball and ran track and field, earning the nickname Mr. Inglewood. (His Twitter banner is a photo of The Forum, once the home of the Lakers and Kings in Inglewood.)

“He comes from a city that is growing and changing, but Montana has never succumbed to anything around him,” said Milvon James, who coached the Inglewood football team for the past four seasons and grew up nearby. “When I took over, it would have been easy for a guy with his talent to leave. He was the leader of the team, the most devoted child we had.”

James talks to Lemonius-Craig regularly and said that the decision to leave Colorado was something he thought about a lot.

“Sometimes change is good for everyone,” James said.

Twenty years ago, James entered college at UCLA, among the freshmen of new coach Carl Dorrell, who had been Lemonius-Craig’s previous head coach at Colorado. But frustrated that he didn’t get the chance to play cornerback — James idolized Sanders — he moved to Nevada-Las Vegas, where he spent two seasons after having to miss one season under NCAA rules at the time.

“If I had to do it again, I might not have left UCLA,” James said. “My time at UNLV was great, but sometimes I wonder if I could stand it how it would change me.”

He added: “Now it’s a new world. There are many more options for players, but the portal is also a dangerous place. Many children come in, but not all come out.”

It’s still a business, but not necessarily, as usual.