The Transfer Portal: LSU Football Must Make Calculated Roster Decisions to Improve Its Roster

A look into the ultra competitive transfer portal era and the amount of work that goes into recruiting those players
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As LSU continues to build its 2022 recruiting class, the transfer portal needs to be considered a primary source of talent acquisition. The LSU coaching staff has multiple decisions to make each time it considers taking a player from the portal.

Now that the transfer portal era is in full swing, the LSU football program must continuously evaluate the opportunities much like it does the high school and junior college players that it recruits. There will be important factors to consider such as impact transfers, whether to use a scholarship on a transfer or a traditional high school player, how and what LSU will be promoting to transfers, and the importance of specific positions the LSU recruits from the transfer portal.

Impact Transfers

The Tigers recently signed Mike Jones, Jr. from Clemson. The outside linebacker was a key cog in the Clemson defense and was a major pickup for LSU the moment he signed his paperwork to come to Baton Rouge. He’s the type of transfer that can and likely will be a major contributor. He’s the blueprint.

Moving forward, LSU needs to find a player of Jones’s caliber each year. If not, the Tigers are more likely to face that same player once the following season and SEC play begins. Much like recruiting a high school or junior college prospect, the competition will be fierce and making proper roster management decisions will be vital. As a reminder, the NCAA allows 85 scholarships per FBS program. Therefore, each time the Tigers land a transfer, it also takes away from a potential high school or junior college player signing with LSU.

But due to its self imposed scholarship ban for recruiting violations, LSU will only have 81 scholarships available for the next two seasons.

High School Or Junior College Player or A Transfer?

Each time that LSU coach Ed Orgeron and his coaching staff consider taking a transfer from the portal, it’s a game of chess, or, an algebraic equation. Each step within the equation needs to fit properly, i.e. adding a player that meets the immediate needs of the LSU program.

As an example, LSU needed linebacker help and Jones was brought in for the 2021 season. That’s a fantastic addition to the LSU roster, as Jones is really good in pass coverage as evidenced by his two interceptions during 10 games last fall. LSU needed linebackers that could cover, and Jones can be an immediate impact for the base defense or the nickel and dime packages. Jones is a good barometer for future transfers.

While LSU needs to monitor the transfer portal, keep in mind that a transfer will often only be able to play one or perhaps two seasons. As compared to a high school player with four years of eligibility, that’s a considerable difference. There will certainly be a freshman that enters the portal, but many of the transfers will be older players looking for a new opportunity after they earned a degree or feel a new school is best after playing two or three years at their original school.

That’s where the algebra comes into play. It’s not easy to make definitive decisions about taking a transfer as compared to a high school player or even a junior college player. Each young man’s situation is different and LSU really needs to investigate each prospect’s background carefully to maximize its opportunities. LSU does still hold advantages.

LSU Still Has Much To Promote To Potential Transfers

An interesting aspect of utilizing the transfer portal would be considering how much a transfer can change the roster, and why LSU holds advantages to land those players. Whether it's a player like Jones to help the Tigers at linebacker or former Harvard player Liam Shanahan that came to the Tigers in 2020 to help along the offensive line, there are many possibilities. LSU is still a prominent program along the recruiting trail.

It’s the SEC and LSU will be promoting a unique brand and place to live for any transfer candidate. LSU can place a young man in the bright lights and in front of NFL scouts. That’s what many of these players want. Not to mention LSU is a fine academic institution recognized around the country. Finally, key positions that LSU needs to sign top-notch transfers .

Specific Positions Could Decide SEC West

Quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive end, defensive tackle and cornerback are generally considered the marquee positions for recruiting and often dictate which SEC West program heads to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game. When LSU can land players at those positions, via the transfer portal, the opportunity to improve the Tigers’ roster goes up exponentially as well as improves its chances to win the SEC West.

There are very few sure bets within the transfer portal, but the competition for players at those aforementioned positions will almost always be the stiffest. Jones being excellent in coverage is a major reason why LSU wanted his signature, so a player with a special skill set also being an excellent coverage linebacker can be considered a major reason to sign that player.

While LSU will still garner most of its talent from the high school and junior college ranks moving forward, look for the Tigers to be battling for those two or three obvious transfer portal talents that will make major impacts during the next football season. There are simply too many great high school talents with four years of eligibility left to take just solid transfers. Therefore, when LSU goes after elite transfers, the traditional recruiting battles will continue.

It will be the same type of battles LSU goes through when it competes with Florida, Georgia, Florida State, Texas A&M, Ohio State and the like for top-notch high school players. Bottom line, LSU will be picky about which transfers it takes, but those transfer portal additions could be the difference between winning the SEC West or coming in third place in the ultra-competitive division that it plays in each year.