Rivals National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with his thoughts on parity and the transfer portal, 10 more players from the last 20 years who just don’t get the attention they deserve and the strengths and weaknesses of coaches 11 through 15 on his top 20 coaches list.
CLASS OF 2023 RANKINGS: Rivals100
RIVALS CAMP SERIES: Info/coverage on 2021 camp series
1. PARITY AND THE TRANSFER PORTAL
The transfer portal was originally thought to be a place for unhappy players to get a reboot, or perhaps smaller school players getting a chance to step up in competition. What it has become instead is free agency and an opportunity for the strong to get even stronger in college football.
Parity? Nah. Super teams? They’re coming. Move over LeBron.
Look at some of the top teams in contention for the national title each season and you’ll see additions that will help continue that push. Ohio State last year with Justin Fields and Trey Sermon leading the way to the title game; Oklahoma this year with running back Eric Gray, offensive lineman Wanya Morris, defensive back Key Lawrence and others; Alabama with wide receiver Jameson Williams and linebacker Henry To’oto’o; and now Georgia with defensive backs Tykee Smith, Derion Kendrick, Brandon Turnage and now tight end Arik Gilbert. Heck, even Dabo Swinney at Clemson, who has been against using the portal, has reportedly changed his tune after being beaten by Fields and Sermon last season.
So what does it all mean? It means the rich will continue to get richer and the rest will fall behind, because these aren’t players who simply couldn’t cut it at another school. Sure, some have issues, like Kendrick and Gilbert, but most are just talented players looking for a better spot to try to win a national title and pursue their NFL dreams.
Many changes need to occur when it comes to the transfer portal, and here’s a suggestion: Any team that has made the college football playoff in the last three years gets hit two scholarships for each transfer.
That wouldn’t stop Georgia from loading up this year but it would slow down Alabama and Oklahoma a bit and if UGA makes the playoff next season as expected, it gets dinged with two per transfer after that. It’s probably not overly well thought out, but something has to happen as a lack of parity in college football is making things a bit boring.
2. TEN MORE UNDERAPPRECIATED PLAYERS SINCE 2000
I had too much fun with my list of 10 unappreciated players since 2000 to stop there, so here are 10 more. I might do this until I reach 100.
RB Darren McFadden, Arkansas — McFadden was an amazing player and finished second twice for the Heisman while amassing 4,590 yards rushing and 46 touchdowns in three seasons. He’s one of the best running backs in college football history, but he isn’t talked about enough.
QB Collin Klein, Kansas State — Klein finished third in the Heisman balloting in 2012 and carried Kansas State for a couple of seasons. His 2011 and 2012 seasons were amazing, with 79 total touchdowns over those two years.
WR Charles Rogers, Michigan State — Talk about two dominant and consistent seasons, Rogers put those together in 2001 and 2002. In 2001 he had 67 catches for 1,470 yards and 14 scores, and in 2002 he had 68 catches for 1,351 yards and 13 scores. He was an NFL bust, but in college he was as dominant as any wide receiver over a two-year span.
WR Stedman Bailey, West Virginia — Everyone talks about Tavon Austin, while Bailey doesn’t get the praise he deserves. His 2012 season itself was simply remarkable with 114 catches and 1,622 yards and 25 scores, but that followed a year in which he had 72 catches for 1,279 yards and double-digit scores as well.
RB Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois — An All-American at Northern Illinois before it became the dominant force in the MAC, Wolfe put up three straight seasons of 1,500-plus yards and 15 touchdowns. Wolfe led the country in rushing as a senior in 2006 with nearly 2,000 yards, and he was simply unstoppable. He’s one of only seven players ever to have three 1,500-yard seasons.
DE Terrell Suggs, Arizona State — People do not appreciate how dominant T Sizzle was as a Sun Devil. In three seasons he had 44 sacks, including the official single-season record of 24 during his junior campaign in 2002, which still stands today. Offensive linemen just couldn’t block him.
QB Keenan Reynolds, Navy — How good was Reynolds? All he did was rush for more touchdowns than anyone else in the history of college football in Navy’s option offense. His 88 scores are 11 more than second place on the list, and his 4,559 yards on the ground are still a record for a quarterback.
RB Darren Sproles, Kansas State — Arguably the shiftiest player of the 21st century, Sproles did it all for the Wildcats, amassing nearly 5,600 total yards and 47 TDs in his career. At 5-foot-6 and 180 pounds soaking wet, he led the country in rushing as a junior in 2003 with 1,986 yards. The epitome of a guy you couldn’t tackle in a phone booth.
LB Tyler Matakevich, Temple — An absolute thumper of a middle linebacker, Matakevich was the unquestioned leader of coach Matt Rhule‘s defense beginning with his sophomore year in 2013. He led the country in tackles as a sophomore, and as a senior won both the Nagurski and Bednarik awards out of the American Conference – that’s damn hard to do.
CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest — Smith was an absolute lockdown corner who has been forgotten by too many people. His 21 career interceptions rank fifth all time, and he led the country with three pick sixes as a junior in 2007.
3. STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF TOP COACHES
And finally I’ll dive a little deeper into the strengths and weaknesses of my top 20 college coaches. Here are Nos. 11-15 …
15. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin — I have Chryst in the same boat as my No. 17 coach, Kirk Ferentz. He’s a guy who is solid at everything but doesn’t excel at one thing. I love how hard his players play, but I’d like to see some more offensive creativity.
14. James Franklin, Penn State — Recruiting is a strength and that’s a big deal in college coaching analysis, and he’s solid in many other aspects, although fans might question some of his in-game decisions.
13. Kirby Smart, Georgia — This seems very low, right? But when you recruit as well as Smart has, then you can get knocked for a lack of player development, and some of his in-game decisions have been iffy.
12. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern — In-game coaching, game planning and use of talent are all very solid here. He could make a case to be in the top 10, although recruiting is average.
11. Matt Campbell, Iowa State — Many feel he should be top 10, and I love his game plans, but there are some question marks about in-game decisions. Recruiting is also lacking, but player development is very solid.