Louisville Football and the Transfer Portal: Problem or Progress?

The Cardinals have lost nearly an entire starting lineup worth of players to the transfer portal this offseason. Are the problems within the program, or is this simply natural roster attrition?
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(Photo of Scott Satterfield: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Since its inception during the 2018-19 season, the transfer portal has completely changed the landscape of college athletics. All of Division I went to a "notification-of-transfer" model, where student-athletes names' are compiled on a website for coaches and NCAA administrators all to see.

Combined with the recently passed one-time transfer rule, where student-athletes across all D1 sports can transfer once without having to sit out a year, and the transfer portal has almost started to resemble pseudo free agency.

"We're in unprecedented times. The way this portal is working, with the one time transfer rule, it is crazy out there right now," head coach Scott Satterfield said Wednesday morning on 93.9 The Ville. "We'll see how things work out. But I think once it's all said and done, and you get into July, the moving around is going to be over."

Some teams have not been subject to many departures via the portal, whereas others seemingly have a new name enter every week. During the course of the current offseason, the Louisville football program finds themselves in the latter category.

Since Oct. 1, the Cardinals have seen 18 scholarship players head to another program, tied with North Carolina for the seventh-most among Power 5 programs. Only Tennessee (25), Kansas & Michigan State (22), Mississippi State & Missouri (20) and Auburn & Vanderbilt (19) have had more transfers leave.

2020-21 Louisville Offseason Transfers

PlayerPositionYearNew School

P.J. Blue

OLB

RS Junior

---

Christian Fitzpatrick

WR

Sophomore

Michigan State

Thurman Geathers

DE

RS Sophomore

Arkansas State

Jackson Gregory

OL

RS Freshman

Stony Brook

Robert Hicks

ILB

Junior

UT Martin

Lovie Jenkins

S

Freshman

---

Anthony Johnson

CB

RS Junior

Virginia

Tobias Little

RB/TE

RS Junior

Missouri State

Marqui Lowery

CB

Freshman

Michigan State

Nick Malito

WR

Freshman

---

Luke McCaffrey

QB

RS Freshman

---

Jawon Pass

QB

RS Senior

---

Telly Plummer

DB

Junior

Chattanooga

Corey Reed

WR

Senior

Jackson State

Jamel Starks

CB

Freshman

---

Trenell Troutman

S

Junior

Alabama A&M

Russ Yeast

S

Senior

Kansas State

Tee Webb

QB

Freshman

Southern Miss

With how easy it currently is for a student-athlete to take their talents to another team, inflated transfer numbers are bound to occur. But with Louisville having lost nearly an entire starting lineup up to this point, is that indicative of a problem with the Cardinals? Or is it simply an extreme case of natural roster attrition?

It would be one thing if all of the transfers came immediately after the season ended after seeing which players are graduating or leaving for the NFL, or if they came after spring ball ended and they have a slight grasp of what their role will be next year.

But just in the last two weeks, the Cardinals have seen four players enter the portal, including three in the last seven days: wide receiver Nick Malito, safety Lovie Jenkins, cornerback Jamel Starks and quarterback Luke McCaffrey.

Out of the 18 who have transferred, a few would have had a sound impact in 2021 for Louisville. Russ Yeast and Jenkins would have likely been the starting safeties, Anthony Johnson was probably going to be the third cornerback, and players like Thurman Geathers and Christian Fitzpatrick could have played themselves into increased roles.

But you also have to look on the other side of that coin and take a deeper look. Of the 11 transfers who have found a new home, just four of them went to another Power Five program. Christian Fitzpatrick and Marqui Lowery went to Michigan State, Johnson transferred to Virginia, and Yeast landed at Kansas State.

Outside of those guys, most of Louisville's transfers have landed at Group of Five schools, or even at the FCS level. A bulk of the players who have transferred, up to this point in their collegiate careers, were either role players or developmental projects.

Some even require further explanation. P.J. Blue actually medically retired from football during the 2020 campaign, Jenkins' offseason arrest could have played a role in his transfer, and McCaffrey simply assumed he was walking into a situation where he would be the starter right away.

Did Louisville lose guys that could be starters or had serious potential down the road? Yes. However, while losing 18 transfers could seem indicative of problems within the program, you can largely chalk it up to natural roster attrition that happens every season in college football.

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