The 2021 college football offseason is the first of the transfer portal era. The concept is not brand new, but this is the first complete offseason where players have seemingly been able to move to and from schools without penalty. Once barred between SEC schools, in June the conference lifted the one-year penalty that put players on the sideline if they wished to transfer within the league.
Quarterback Joey Gatewood was sidelined for a game until he received an exemption from the league office. Offensive tackle Dare Rosenthal recently joined the movement. Unlike his former LSU teammate, Rosenthal will be eligible to play right away. Ole Miss linebacker Jacquez Jones was the first SEC player to officially join the Wildcats without any eligibility restrictions.
“Well, he brings an experienced player,” Mark Stoops said Tuesday at SEC Media Days. “It’s definitely an area where we got caught a little bit short, as I mentioned in the opening statement about having the opportunity to fill some holes. With Chris Oats having the injury and being unable to play again this year and with the early departure of Jamin Davis, it left us a little bit thin.
“Then we had an injury in the spring, season-ending injury in the spring of another inside linebacker (D’Eryk Jackson). So with that, he brings a player with a lot of experience and leadership, and we needed that at that position. So we’re excited to have him.”
Ole Miss could have used that experience this fall. The Rebels lost their leading tackler on a defense that gave up more points than any other SEC team in 2020. Despite the loss, Lane Kiffin shared no hard feelings. He believes players should be able to move from one school to another, just like the coaches.
“It’s just the world we live in that free agency just happens. At least now there’s somewhat of a calendar being put around it, but it’s still — it happens. We wish him the best of luck,” Kiffin said shortly after Stoops left the podium.
“Everybody has their reasons, and fans, and I don’t know if media does too, they all want to get mad at the kids. Or assistant coaches, ‘How can this kid leave?’ And I look at the assistant coach and say, ‘You’re the same guy who’s going to leave when you get a deal somewhere else.’ So I wish him the best of luck.”
Jones has already arrived on Kentucky’s campus. This summer he quickly made a positive impression on his teammates.
“I actually like Jacquez Jones. He’s a great worker and I feel like that’s what will help him,” defensive end Josh Paschal said at SEC Media Days. “No matter how camp goes, I know that he will fall back on his work ethic and that’s what he’s been doing this whole summer is just working. I’m proud to see that.”
The transfer portal has changed the dynamics of roster building. Stoops adjusted swimmingly in his first offseason. His players followed the coach’s lead. Even though it might seem awkward to bring in so many new players, if it makes the team better, they are all for it.
“I think we did a great job in the transfer portal this year, just getting so much talent,” said Paschal. “Each and every day you see somebody that you played last year, which is Jacquez, and you say, ‘Dang, he had some experience at Ole Miss, leading them in tackles against us.’ Seeing that experience come to our defense, that gives us some confidence.”