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A New Normal: Louisville Football and the Transfer Portal

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NCAA Football: Central Florida at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s just get this out of the way. Louisville’s football program is going to lose players to transfer. They’ve lost a fair amount so far and they will lose more. Some players will leave because they are looking for more playing time. Some will leave because they want to be closer to home. Some will leave because they don’t like their position coach. Some will leave because their friends or family tell them they can do better. Some will leave because of a NIL opportunity at a different school. Some will leave because they don’t want to play football anymore. This is the case at every school in the country and the why is nearly irrelevant at this point. How you replace those players is key.

Louisville football has lost 13 total players since August 1st which is when the season officially starts. One of those players was not on scholarship and another, Bralyn Oliver, transferred before the season started. So, the staff has had to deal with 11 guys leaving the team since the end of the season. Two of those players were underclassmen who were contributors. Jordan Watkins and Greedy Vance have a lot of potential and it would have obviously been great to see them develop here. But this is the new era of college football. Players will move on.

To me, the most important part of navigating this new normal is having a plan to replace players that leave. UofL had a plan to target the transfer portal after the 2020 season ended because the roster is too young. While the plan was to bring in veteran players to break up that youth, they weren’t totally blindsided by the influx of transfers. The plan probably changed as they have lost some contributors but they had a leg up on some teams. However, they will have to have a plan to battle this each year.

The staff has done a fairly good job of replacing the guys they’ve lost. Watkins, Vance, and Kani Walker were the unexpected losses that were due to contribute next season. The staff added four transfers during the early signing period that addressed needs at multiple positions. Now they have to continue to add to the transfer class to replace guys they lost as well as add talent that can impact the 2022 season.

In my opinion, that’s how coaches should be judged in this new normal. Guys will leave. What are you going to do about it?

The Unknown is Hard to Deal With

Scott Satterfield has taken transfers in every class he has had at Louisville. However, Satterfield has made it known that he is looking for players with a certain profile. He wants guys that have playing experience and accolades. While they have taken transfers that don’t fit that criterion, it’s obvious that he prefers guys that do. That’s where my concern comes in. Will they continue to target Power Five players who have experience or potential or will they focus on players who played well at the FCS or group of five level?

Tyler Hudson is the only player that Lousiville has added from the FCS level but he was quite literally one of the best players in FCS over the last three years. While I think he will be a contributor and potentially a key player for the offense, there’s always a risk when you don’t know if the talent will translate to this level. UofL needs to find some players who have performed at the Power Five level to add to this roster.

How Many Players Can Louisville Add?

Scholarship math is like algebra on steroids and I failed Algebra. But, I do have a solid idea of how many spots the staff has to work with. The NCAA gave each team seven extra scholarship spots in this recruiting class. So, teams can sign up to 32 players but they still can’t exceed 85 players on the roster. Early enrollees make it even harder to navigate as they don’t always count towards the class they sign in. It’s a nightmare for me to figure out so you can imagine how hard it is for recruiting staffs to keep up with it and make sure their coaches know so that they know who they can extend offers to.

As of now, Louisville has the seven extra spots the NCAA added left in this class. The issue is that they don’t have that many scholarships available right now. At this moment, they have the space on their roster to bring in four players which means they have to be selective with who they take.

What this also means for Louisville is that not all transfers are bad transfers. While that’s the case in general, UofL needs a few more spots to maximize the portal. It’s likely that three more players will transfer during or after spring practice but that’s a couple of months away. So it will take some time until we truly see what this class will look like.

I will hedge a bit here and point out that these numbers could be off a bit and the staff has some other options that they can utilize to essentially add players that will count in the 2023 class.

What Players Could Louisville Land?

There’s nearly no way to know this. That’s the honest truth. There are over 600 available players in the portal and that number is just the scholarship players from FBS schools. It’s probably easier to try to nail down what positions they are focusing on.

Cornerback - UofL lost two players to the portal who were definitely going to be on the field a lot next year. They need to replace at least one of them. There haven’t been a lot of public announcements of offers but from what I’ve been told it appears that the staff is looking to add a veteran corner as well as a younger player. They’ve even offered another 2022 prospect.

Safety - Louisville has planned to move Ben Perry to Card this year which means they need another safety on top of bringing in M.J. Griffin from Temple. Even if Perry stays at Safety, adding a veteran player to the group wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Nose Tackle - UofL has depth here with four or five guys at the position but they need an impact veteran here. The staff took a run a Miami transfer Nesta Jade Silvera but he went with Arizona State. Personally, I think the need for an impact guy here is greater than cornerback.

Wide Receiver - I’m not sure if UofL will add another receiver but they weren’t very deep this past season and it came back to bite them. They may shuffle some things around to get Tyler Harrell more involved next year and move him to the “Z” position Jordan Watkins played but adding another guy with a quick/fast profile could be possible.

Miscellaneous - There aren’t many other true “need” positions but the staff won’t likely waste those open spots. They could look to add a veteran quarterback to shore up the depth chart. Running back could be a need if Trevion Cooley decides to transfer back home like he’s been hinting at for months. Outside linebacker is lacking experienced depth at both spots. Tight end was a disappointment last year so the staff could look to add a guy who can help them on third downs and in the red zone.