Michigan State Football’s spring transfer portal is down from last year

After Michigan State’s last spring training session last month, coach Mel Tucker was asked about the possibility of more roster changes ahead of fall camp.

“It’s possible we have some movement in the roster,” Tucker said on April 16. “We have to see.”

That was almost the same answer he gave when raising the issue of attrition during spring training in 2021. However, there is a notable difference in the result as it has been less so far this year.

Michigan State lost 10 players after spring training last year, nine of whom entered the portal within a week of the last training session and one left in May. After spring training ended this year, three Spartans entered the portal by running back Donovan Eaglin, linebacker Quavaris Crouch and cornerback Antoine Booth. Eaglin and Crouch are yet to announce their next travel destinations, while Booth signed James Madison last week.

No player needs to switch to enter the portal, and two Michigan State linebackers changed their minds this year. Ma’a Gaoteote entered the portal in January but withdrew his name less than two weeks later, while Ben VanSumeren entered the portal the day before spring training began but stayed with the team and retired his name after spring training ended.

NCAA rules require fall and winter athletes to notify their school of an intention to transfer by May 1 to be immediately eligible and use their one-time transfer. Michigan State could let more players into the portal before the fall, but they would need a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately.

“I’m really excited about the buy-in that we’re getting from our players and all of our employees and our support staff,” Tucker said last month. “We’re all moving in the same direction and that’s critical because if you can do that and you have a process that you can trust and you have a good culture and good people, then you will succeed.”

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The less attrition for the Spartans compared to last spring comes as Tucker solidified the roster he wanted in a process that was marked by remarkable timing. After Mark Dantonio retired after 13 seasons as the program’s head, Tucker was hired in February 2020, but COVID-19 wiped out that spring. Turnover is common with any program, especially a new coach, but that was delayed at East Lansing because the new staff didn’t have a chance to fully evaluate players.

After Tucker took over, Michigan State didn’t have a single player on the roster to enter the portal before the start of the 2020 season. Then, between November 16, 2020 and May 18, 2021, there were 27 departures — six of which were added to the program as walk-ons. Tucker countered by adding 19 transfers ahead of the 2021 season – including four walk-ons. He has spoken frequently about building the team through high school recruiting and adding to the roster through the portal.

The next wave of attrition began when Alex Okelo, a true freshman defensive end, entered the portal on September 25, 2021. He became the first of 19 players, including a walk-on, to leave the program before spring training began on March 16. They did so before the Peach Bowl win over Pittsburgh to start the 2021 season with an 11-2 record to complete.

Michigan State has landed eight transfers through the fall, including five who arrived in January and completed spring practice at linebackers Aaron Brule (Mississippi State) and Jacoby Windmon (UNLV), running back Jalen Berger (Wisconsin), defensive end Khris Bogle (Florida). ) and cornerback Ameer Speed ​​(Georgia). The other three — running back Jarek Broussard (Colorado), tight end Daniel Barker (Illinois) and offensive lineman Brian Greene (Washington State) — are scheduled to join the team before fall camp.

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The trio of Spartans who entered the portal after spring training ended were all part of a season crisis, as is the case with many transfers. Eaglin, who only had carries in one game last season, emerged deep on the depth chart between the returning running backs and the two added. Booth didn’t play as a true freshman last year while Michigan State is returning four cornerbacks that started at least one game and added speed in 2021. Crouch, who spent two seasons in Tennessee before moving to Michigan State last year, was a starter for the Spartans but missed three of the last four games with an apparent knee injury and did not attend spring training. The Spartans are also bringing back freshman All-American linebacker Cal Haladay, along with depth, and added a pair of veterans from the Portal in Brule and Windmon.

Although Tucker’s roster overhaul work has been delayed by the pandemic, it has also been helped by the one-time transfer rule approved last year. There are also additional moving parts in the midst of a new era in collegiate athletics, including players capitalizing on their name, image and likeness.

The NCAA approved a year-long waiver in October that allowed teams to exceed the annual signing limit of 25 initial counters (new grantees, either high school recruits or transfers) by replacing up to seven transfers. Last month, the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee recommended a proposal to scrap the 25-player cap for the next two years and allow schools to sign as many players as they want, as long as they stay at 85 scholarship holders, which is what it is current limitation. They also want to introduce two five-week transfer windows – one starting on the last Sunday in November and a second starting on April 15 – so players remain eligible to play for their first transfer immediately.

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The latest potential changes would alter the process and impact of the portal, but require approval from the NCAA Division I Council. Right now, Michigan State is going ahead with a roster that’s more intact from the spring than it was a year ago.

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