See Former Penn State players lead current players through the Homecoming gauntlet before the game against Michigan State, October 13, 2018.
Cameron Clark, York Daily Record
Penn State may be searching for qualified bodies to play safety this coming season.
It already was planning to replace senior starter Nick Scott.
Then redshirt freshman Isaiah Humphries announced he was transferring.
Now, they suddenly expect to also lose key backup safeties Ayron Monroe and Lamont Wade, who recently entered their names into the NCAA’s new transfer database.
So far, a somewhat stunning 11 Penn State players have decided to look around for a new home as they take advantage of college football’s relaxed transfer rules.
Eight of those transfer possibilities have either earned their undergraduate degrees or expect to before they leave in the spring. That should ensure they will be immediately eligible to play at their new FBS school. The others may have to sit out a season first.
Though most of the Lions leaving are not projected starters, the sheer number of defectors has alarmed fans on message boards and via social media.
Combine that number with the five juniors leaving early for the NFL Draft.
So what is wrong with James Franklin’s program?
Actually, not necessarily anything. There are a combination of factors that help to explain the wave of player departures, at least for the time being.
“I just think it’s a trend growing elsewhere that’s now catching up to Penn State. It’s pretty simple as that,” said Ryan Snyder of Blue-White Illustrated in State College. “And I think it will continue.
“When you put together elite (recruiting) classes where freshmen beat out upperclassmen, you’re going to see that.”
“Players want to go where they can play,” said Adam Friedman, a Mid-Atlantic analyst with Rivals.com. “They can kind of see the writing on the wall.”
Franklin and staff are on the verge of compiling their third straight Top 15 recruiting class, the last two pushing toward the Top Five in the nation.
The Lions hope to add five to seven more top-shelf prospects by National Signing Day on Feb. 6. Plus, they appear to be in the market for gaining a couple of transfers of their own.
Still, this is a relatively new phenomenon that will take time to fully judge. For now, the Lions could see roster spots depleted of experienced depth, such as at safety.
Monroe and Wade, a former five-star recruit, were expected to battle for that vacant starting spot next to Garrett Taylor.
Now, that figures to be between sophomore Jonathan Sutherland and junior college transfer Jaquan Brisker. The only other scholarship safeties in 2019 may be incoming freshman Tyler Rudolph and little-used senior John Petrishen.
Penn State could quite possibly play the 2019 season below the 85 scholarship limit, unless it would hand out grants to walk-on. Freshmen could be relied on to produce more than ever.
Those Lions who have announced their transfers or who have entered their intentions into the NCAA’s transfer database include:
Tight end Danny Dalton, linebacker Dae’lun Darien, linebacker Brelin Faison-Walden (to UNC Charlotte), offensive tackle Alex Gellerstedt, offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins (to Duquesne), receivers Juwan Johnson and Brandon Polk, cornerback Zech McPhearson and safeties Ayron Monroe, Lamont Wade and Isaiah Humphries (to California).
How the NCAA transfer rush came to be
NCAA legislation that went into effect in October reduces the restrictions on student-athlete transfers.
Previously, athletes required the permission of their current school officials to transfer, which meant their destinations could be restricted or their departures blocked altogether.
But now, athletes must only notify their school of their intention to potentially leave, and officials must promptly enter their name into an non-public database or portal. This alerts other schools of their ability to be recruited all over again.
To be noted: Entering the database does not force an athlete to transfer. They may retract their name and stay at their original school — if their coaches will take them back. Entering the portal does allow schools to rescind scholarships.
It’s difficult to track how Penn State’s transfer numbers compare to others in the Big Ten and beyond because that information is not public. Entries are only discovered through media leaks and when players reveal their intentions to transfer.
And yet one site that covers Penn State football, Onward State, surmises that the Lions’ 11 transfer possibilities lead the nation.
The flip side is this: How hard will they attempt to bring in transfers from other schools?
They currently have former Notre Dame running back C.J. Holmes on their roster, though he was forced to sit out last season. Even with the new database and rules, underclassmen who transfer still must wait a year to compete at their new school, unless they obtain an exemption from the NCAA.