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BYU Football Looking To Find ‘Difference Makers’ In Transfer Portal

Nov 29, 2022, 3:53 PM
Kalani Sitake, BYU Football...
The transfer portal could play a big role in Kalani Sitake's BYU football program. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – Transfer portal season is upon us. Let’s say this might be the most fascinating portal season to date. And BYU football appears to be in a spot where they will be involved with all the comings and goings in the portal.

For the first time since the portal was established in 2018, we have transfer portal windows. Undergrad athletes in fall sports can officially enter the portal on December 5, one day after championship teams are selected. The portal then closes for entries on January 18.

Transfer Portal season is off to a hot start

Activity in this year’s round of portal moves could be at an all-time high due to various factors. Upperclassmen who didn’t get the chance to go through their initial recruiting process with Name, Image, and Likeness as an option. Older players might want to gauge their NIL value in a market with NIL Collectives popping up everywhere. Something that BYU doesn’t currently have. And will likely need to have to compete with its league mates in their future conference home, the Big 12 Conference.

BYU AD Tom Holmoe told KSL Sports at the Big 12 spring meetings in June that BYU is “interested in collectives,” and if one is established, they will “do it the right way.”

Then there are the younger players who might not be happy with their original spot or just want to level up to a bigger platform or stage. As a result, transfer portal season is becoming a big piece of how teams assemble the roster.

BYU has had its share of success stories in the transfer portal since it was created. They’ve also been fortunate by not losing many players to the portal. This year could produce more activity than BYU is used to.

“I haven’t heard that from any of the guys,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake, if any players are opting out or entering the Transfer Portal before the bowl game. “We spent quite a bit of time, especially in the bye week, talking to them, and so I don’t anticipate that. But that’s kind of the thing. We’ll communicate and talk and then obviously decide what’s best for the players and what’s best for the team. That may happen. I don’t know. But I’m not anticipating it right now.”

Will BYU be in the portal market at QB?

A position in the portal believed to be of interest to BYU is at quarterback. However, BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick says it is “premature” to suggest that. In large part because Jaren Hall hasn’t announced his intentions on what he will do after this season.

The star signal-caller has one year of eligibility if he opts to use it. If not, he moves on to the NFL draft, leaving BYU with a huge opening at the most critical position heading into its first year in the Big 12.

Ten quarterbacks have entered the portal since Sunday, with one of the QBs having experience as a starter in the College Football Playoff. That number is only going to grow.

Whether it’s quarterback, running back, defensive line, specialists, or anywhere else on the roster, the message is simple for what BYU is trying to find out of the portal.

“My standard answer to the portal is difference makers are what you’re looking for, you know. Someone that has an immediate impact at any position,” said Roderick.

Identifying Transfer Portal needs from within

Identifying those difference makers from the transfer portal will start within Kalani Sitake’s program.

“Most of the time, when guys enter the portal, it’s because they want more playing time. That’s a factor when we’re making decisions,” Sitake said. “I like to recruit from within first and see what we have in our program, then add to that. Any additions to the program have to be a good fit. We’ve had success with guys who came through the transfer portal because we were able to look at them and evaluate whether or not they’re a good fit, whether or not they’re committed to doing not only what the football program’s about, but also if they’re aligned with the mission of The Church and the University. The transfer portal is part of recruiting now. You have to see where you have deficiencies and where you lack depth. That’s the goal.”

During the 2022 portal cycle, BYU added former five-star offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia. Suamataia left Oregon to be closer to family. From day one of spring ball, Suamataia was lining up with the first team offensive line at right tackle. An instant contributor out of the portal.

Suamataia was one of the nation’s top portal additions last season. It might be lofty to expect that in every cycle, but BYU wants those difference makers that instantly contribute.

“We didn’t necessarily need an offensive lineman, and we took Kingsley. But he’s a difference maker, so we did,” said Roderick. “You always consider any difference maker, and then any positions that maybe are a little thin, you consider the portal.”

BYU has found impact players from the portal

In 2021, BYU added brothers Samson and Puka Nacua. Samson went on to earn an undrafted free-agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts. Puka is viewed as one of the top receivers in BYU history.

BYU signed running back Ty’Son Williams from South Carolina two years before that. Williams only appeared in four games at BYU before suffering a season-ending injury. But his four games were impactful and enough to earn him a free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens. Williams is still in the NFL today as an Arizona Cardinals practice squad member.

Going into the Big 12 Conference, the depth of BYU’s program needs to improve. If schedules that feature a handful of Power Five programs take a physical toll on BYU, what will it look like when 10 P5s dot the schedule as a Big 12 program? The portal can help BYU fill those gaps and provide the necessary depth they need to be competitive in the early years of their Big 12 era.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s BYU football coverage on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Football Looking To Find ‘Difference Makers’ In Transfer Portal