In new age of transfer portals, recruiting classes will be judged on who stays

UF football coach Dan Mullen answers questions from the media during the Gators' National Signing Day news conference Wednesday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

Remember when it used to be such a big deal. This DAY. Not Signing Days but DAY.

Instead, the second one with the new early-signing period had only a little more drama than a Globetrotters game result.

We now have a Signing Day and a Signing Sprinkles. You get your class in December and then finish it off with the toppings in February.

Dan Mullen did just that Wednesday, some whipped cream and crumbled Twix bars for the top of a strong recruiting class foundation laid before the Peach Bowl.

Not that I miss the chaos of Signing DAY.

(A sign that it’s really different was that I listened to 30 minutes of local sports talk on the way to the Mullen presser/infomercial and heard nothing about recruiting but plenty of calls complaining about basketball).

While we all know that things have changed in the world of recruiting in Year Two of the split signing days, we also have to understand how much they have changed in the world of the college football player.

And that’s why the adage needs to be updated.

Coaches used to say that they would know about their classes in three years.

Now, they should say they will know about their classes when they see who is still around in three years.

As the NCAA and conferences get more lenient with transfer rules and have even established a mystical portal to help the athletes find schools and vice versa, you look at a class these days and wonder as much about the patience of an incoming recruit as his drive.

Wednesday’s flipped recruit could be tomorrow’s early exit.

I’d tell you how many kids are in the transfer portal, but by the time I finish the sentence there will be a half dozen more. Mullen said Wednesday it’s over a thousand. USF coach Charlie Strong said the number is around 1,400.

“It’ll be interesting to see how that works out,” Mullen said. “I saw one kid who was in the portal one day and out the next.”

So we can evaluate all we want based on composite stars and highlight videos. But who knows what any team’s recruiting class will look like in three years?

“You gotta have good players,” Mullen said about competing for championships.

And you gotta keep them.

Mullen hopes that part of the evaluation in going after players is their desire to be Gators. And that the family atmosphere he’s worked to create in the UF program will matter to a young man not getting playing time.

This was a long-winded way of getting to my point.

On paper, Mullen may not have hit a grand slam with his second recruiting class, but he certainly brought some runs home. Florida’s class is the best the Gators have had since Will Muschamp’s final year of full recruiting.

Wednesday was another small step in the direction of greatness, a step that comes with no guarantees.

I know, I know. That’s the cliché that grumpy old writers use to dismiss the importance of young men putting hats on in front of school assemblies.

Nobody would be dumb enough to say recruiting isn’t important. It’s vital. But there is so much more to it. Not only in developing a player’s mind, but his attitude.

“It’s all about developing and parenting (as coaches),” Mullen said.

You do the best you can in evaluating. You hope a guy like Diwun Black, a young man who moved from Mississippi to Kissimmee to get more structure in his education so he could qualify at Florida, blossoms in the UF environment.

“He’s an amazing story,” Mullen said. “I can’t wait to get him on campus.”

Eventually, they will all be here, the 16 who will join the nine already enrolled.

And as Florida won two more heavyweight recruiting battles with Khris Bogle and Kaiir Elam, I couldn’t help but think about something Scott Stricklin said after Mullen’s introductory news conference.

Stricklin said a friend back in Mississippi told him, “I knew it was only a matter of time until some AD realized what Dan could do with elite talent.”

Already we’ve seen what he did with a collection of none-top 10 classes.

“In theory, we shouldn’t have finished sixth in the country,” he said.

We wait to see what’s in the future, both for this program and these players. If only we had a portal to gaze at.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at


  1. The good side of this is that is also works against the liars who would do things like promise players they would start right away, or would be able to choose a certain position and then move them the first day of practice. Now, if a coach brazenly lies like that, the player isn’t trapped the way they used to be– at least if they are an elite player. Obviously, most of those 1000 plus players in the portal are not good enough to draw offers from better or comparable schools, so they will mostly stay where they are, though if the coach is a lying ahole they can still move.

  2. The portal is just part of the change for transfers. The NCAA has been allowing a lot more waivers to play right away. Two that I’m interested in are Martell and Fields. If they are both allowed to play right away, they might as well do away with the current rule.

    • Excellent point Sparky! The Fields transfer situation really bears watching. He and his dad were definitely sold a bill of goods by Kirby Smart before signing with UGA.

      Now, the kid has wasted a year of his college eligibility sitting on the bench at UGA and practicing in a pro style offense that did little to enhance his talents. If the NCAA declines his request for a waiver, he’ll lose another year of eligibility sitting on the bench at Ohio State. THAT would be a disaster for the kid’s future.

      Let’s see how it all works out.

      • And Martell using the excuse that Meyer quit is interesting. His OC was also named the head coach, which takes away the excuse of the offense changing. If they allow him to play right away, why shouldn’t any kid that transfers after a coaching change be allowed?

      • Wait, if the NCAA denies Fields he would sit but he wouldn’t lose another year of eligibility. He’d lose a year of time and progress but he’d still have 3 years left to play, right? Or did I miss your meaning?

        • Dallas, I did a little more research and you are correct. It turns out that, unlike Jones at UF, Fields burned his red shirt last season at UGA. So, if he loses his appeal, he can use up his red shirt year as he sits out next season and not lose a 2nd year of play eligibility. He still loses a 2nd year of significant playing time, as he’ll only be allowed to practice with the team.

          The transfer penalty is not being allowed to play. Fields still use up one of his 5 years of scholarship eligibility as he will be on scholarship at Ohio State.

  3. Had no idea the transfer portal was 1,000. i wonder if that includes division 2, etc. or whatever the new terms for that level are. i never cared for the rule blocking transfers with a one year punishment anyway. new starts are part of life, bad endings too.
    i dont know why muschamp is mentioned in this article. cdms classes are getting closer to meyer, zook and spurrier, hall and pell, you know, coaches that you never had to worry about a losing team with. better than champ by definition. maybe will grier gave champ more stars one time, but we all know how that turned out in real life.

    • mveal, say what you want about the Chump’s lack of ability to run an offense, but he can recruit with the best of them. According to 247, his 4 recruiting classes at UF ranked 11, 3, 3 and 9. That 9th ranked 2014 class was the last in the top 10 for the Gators until this 2019 class signed by CDM.

      The YUUUGE problem with the Chump’s recruiting was that his classes were unbalanced. For some odd reason, he never recruited enough OLs and LBs, which bit him in 2013 and 2014 and created a real OL crisis for McElwhiner at the start of 2015.

      Taggart has a similar problem at FSU now. His recruiting classes are decently ranked, but he can’t recruit OLs and QBs to save his life. They just replaced 4 graduating players on a BAD OL with 2 signed recruits and have just ONE scholarship QB left on the team (Black) after signing 0 recruits and dismissing Francois from the team for being a reprobate. That’s a BIG problem for the Noles next season that causes me no end to schadenfreude! 😃

  4. Dang 1400 kids in the transfer portal. I imagine it must be something like the Stargate, so big that even starships can go through. At least the one in Athens that you can fit all these 5* kids.
    Dial up Seattle, Mr Eason step right through. Next up Columbus, go ahead Mr Fields.

  5. Personally, I yearn for the days when Florida could sign a Steve Spurrier or Jack Youngblood and nobody knew except the coaching staff, the player’s family and his high school. There’s too much drama and histrionics about the recruiting crap shoot these days. If helicopter visits are becoming the norm then what kind of pandering and adulation will the kid be expecting when he actually steps on campus?

  6. Justin Fields should not be granted a waiver to play this year. The kid decided to sign with a team that just had a 5 star rated freshman quarterback lead them to and almost win the national championship after winning the SEC championship. He should have to sit a year just for being arrogant enough to think he would actually take that spot from him. He had an option to come here and compete with Franks straight up and chose to be a guaranteed #2 QB instead and then got upset about it. His decision making is low.

  7. Under the circumstances, Dan Mullen and staff did an excellent recruitment job! The foundational impression on recruits was: (1) 10 win winning program; (2) The Peach Bowl Win and selling NFL level development with a staff that’s here to stay (unlike the semiholes). The raw talent level is there for development by a staff that knows how to turn these players into knowledgeable and motivated football players. I’m not worried about the transfer syndrome. The transfers always have a flawed situation. UT and FSU didn’t make any forward movement this year. Compare their systems to Dan’s…ha ha ha. Spring camp will be all QB situation. Can Franks improve from C+ to B+?