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The Portal Paradox, Part Two

‘An Offensive Infusion’

While the idea of the transfer portal is still growing on many, I touched on why I think fans and supporters should buy in to the updated recruiting tool during Part one of this series, yesterday. While it may feel like you are abandoning some of the traditional aspects of college football and rejecting some of the core principles of collegiate athletics, the portal is simply expanding the opportunities for your favorite team to improve, and do so in a very short period of time. One of the ways to get more people to buy in to the benefits of the portal from both a player perspective and fan perspective is to have your head coach go and dominate the open market.

As a Louisville fan, and writer on a Louisville centric blog, it’s only fitting we focus on what the program has done in seasons past with the transfer window to go and find skill players who can help raise your program to the next level. In todays post I want to focus specifically on the offense as the previous regime and the current staff lean more towards that side of the ball in terms of focus and expertise. So how have the Cards done in the portal the last few seasons on the offensive side of the ball? Pretty damn good.

In the last three season the Cards have brought in significant contributors to what they are doing on offense, while balancing a nice mix of high school recruits who have grown into players who not just subsidize but lay the foundation on the offensive side of the ball. What's the Cards offense this year without Bryan Hudson or Jawhar Jordan from back in 2021? Where is the newly installed Brohm offense without the experience of Plummer or the protection of Purdue’s Eric Miller? The contributions last season alone from what “On3 Recruiting Services” called the number two transfer portal class in the country is tough to measure.

Jeff Brohm and staff came into a situation where they needed weapons at multiple levels and went out into the market and grabbed playmakers at positions that would not only help the 2023 Louisville team continue to compete at postseason eligible levels, but move them into a spot to play for an ACC Championship in year one. That's the power of the portal. How do you get fans excited about football and what the program is doing year round? You feed them with an influx of talent and constant news related to those new additions ALL. YEAR. LONG. Last year the Cards added thirteen plays in the months of April and May alone, on the tails of Spring football and heading into an offseason that had fans counting down the days until the season began. The “dead period” or offseason for college football has shrunk significantly, and that should be great news for fans of the game.

Around Louisville the staff knew wideout was a position of need so by the time spring rolled around they added guys like Thrash, Coleman, Calloway, and Thompson adding to the existing depth. On the offensive line bringing in multi-year starters like Tyler, Miller, Sylvester, and Flores added experience where the staff knew they needed it. What would 2023 have been without the support of Isaac Guerendo after Jordan was dinged up? The Wisconsin transfer not only stepped in, but launched himself into being the primary back when the Cards were in the heat of a conference championship battle. While not impossible, the odds of a freshman or Sophomore with limited reps replicating that performance is not high, but a player with over 80 attempts and 500yds at the Power 5 level can step in and feel comfortable with the responsibility day one. That's the power of the portal. While words can certainly do it some justice, the numbers can help paint an even better picture at times. (Click on image to enlarge)

The “typical” depth chart in 2023 contained anywhere from six to seven players starting each week that were direct additions to the program from the 2023 transfer portal. Not only were they contributing to the offense, they were often the stars of the show on a ride that placed them in a position to be conference champions. While starting reps may indicate preparedness a better measure is often snaps played, as in, who did they trust the most to perform consistently. If you look at the number in parenthesis (number of snaps) these 2023 portal additions were workhorses for an offense that put up over 400 yards and 30 points per game during the regular season. That's the power of the portal. While our eyes tell us a player like Thrash was important, the snap count and the offensive grades (as indicated by PFF) tell us Thrash was the best wideout in terms of overall offensive production on the team last year. Look across the board and the note the asterisk which will indicate that numerous other transfers were also the highest graded at their respective positions as well (i.e. Miller, Gatewood, Plummer, Guerendo).

While the transfer portal may still be growing on some of you, the immediate growth on the offensive side of the ball put the Cards in position to finish the regular season with a Top 5 Quarterback, Wide Receiver, and Running back in the ACC statistically, and all three of those players...transfers. While one may assume that the offensive mind of Jeff Brohm can attract top talent to come play in his system on that side of the ball, you may be surprised just how well the Cards have done on the defensive side of the ball as well. Lets talk about it in Part Three, tomorrow.

(Part Three of this series tomorrow looks at how Louisville has used the portal on the defensive side of the ball)

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