CU Buffs’ Karl Dorrell, colleagues adjusting to transfer portal

As more players take advantage of transfer options, coaches discuss possible reform of portal rules

BOULDER, CO - October 2, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder's  head coach, Karl Dorrell, before the USC game in Boulder on October 2, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER, CO – October 2, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder’s head coach, Karl Dorrell, before the USC game in Boulder on October 2, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

In the 23 months since Karl Dorrell was hired as the head football coach at Colorado, he’s done a lot of readjusting to the college game after many years in the NFL.

One of the biggest adjustments, however, is one that he and his colleagues are going through together.

“I don’t think anyone felt that the portal would be as a big a factor (as it is now),” Dorrell said this week.

The NCAA transfer portal existed when Dorrell was hired in February of 2020, but not like now. In 2021, the NCAA made the decision to allow student-athletes in all sports to transfer one time without having to sit out a season. The NCAA also changed a long-standing rule by allowing athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL).

Those two landmark changes have made the transfer portal a more significant part of the game.

More than 1,500 FBS players, including walk-ons, have put their names in the portal since Aug. 1, with about two-thirds of those being scholarship players. The numbers grow every day and even star players are changing teams.

The portal is here to stay, but Dorrell said the transfer window – players can put their names into the portal at any time – came up as a concern during a head coaches’ conference call with the American Football Coaches Association on Thursday.

“(The window) is really all year long, and to me, that might be something we need to revisit,” Dorrell said. “A couple of coaches chimed in about there was instances where a position got depleted after spring because they all decided to go into the portal. Then you’re at a short window of time to try to replenish that by the time the fall hits. … It’s hard, as the head coach of a program, to really know who your 85 (scholarship players) are if there’s still some ability to move even in May. That makes it really, really challenging for forecasting what you have going into the fall.”

The transfer portal has been compared by many to NFL free agency. However, in the NFL there are certain free agency periods and Dorrell said it’s easier to forecast a future roster. Under the current college system, players can put their names into the portal at any point but must enter the portal by July 1 to be eligible for the next season.

“It’s a lot more challenging (than managing an NFL roster),” he said.

Shortening the window of time that players have to enter the portal could help. But, a change in the entire recruiting calendar could help, as well.

In addition to portal changes, coaches have discussed alternations to the recruiting calendar. Currently, there is an early signing period for high school players in mid-December and the regular signing period beginning in early February.

Because the early signing period is so soon after the season, coaches immediately hit the road to recruit when the regular season comes to a close. That doesn’t give coaches enough time to have evaluation meetings with current players after the season.

“That should be a period of time of having meetings with your players, doing your evaluation,” Dorrell said. “Having those discussions about where we see them in terms of an agenda of work that they need to do to get themselves to be better next year, and also to get a chance to talk about their happiness or concerns. In those meetings, they can voice those opinions with their coach.”

Within a month of CU’s finale at Utah, the Buffs had several players enter the transfer portal, including three starters: cornerback Christian Gonzalez, safety Mark Perry and receiver Brenden Rice.

“That’s where you saw three or four of those things happen of those decisions (by players), when we were all out on the road and we find out from our compliance people that so-and-so went to the portal,” Dorrell said. “You try to call (players) and ask what’s happening, but a lot of the time when it gets to that point, the decision has been made.”

Dorrell said there has been discussion about making the first week after the season a “dead period” in recruiting so coaches can “tie up loose ends with your football team before you go out recruiting.”

While there could be some reform to the portal and recruiting calendars on the horizon, Dorrell and CU will continue trying to adapt.

CU’s recruiting staff is on top of the portal movement, but Dorrell said it makes sense to consider hiring someone as, basically, a transfer portal manager.

“I think there’s got to be some dedication to that to really be effective in that marketplace, no question,” he said.

CU, like all schools, will also continue to adapt as players come and go through the portal.

“Anything and everything can happen and we have to be ready to make the necessary adjustments and additions in our program with the ones that leave, to try to replace those players with equal talent or better,” he said.