The transfer portal window officially closes on Jan. 18, marking an end to the six week movement in college football that’s become relatively unrivaled in the sport.
Every year, the expectation is for teams like LSU and others throughout the Power 5 conferences to lose players via the portal. That has to be the thought process with so much affecting the way players think, including NIL and an overall need for athletes to see the field.
Particularly at a program like LSU that is undergoing so much change in these first few years under Brian Kelly, there is definitely going to be some attrition in the first few offseasons. Players make a name for themselves with the staff in practice and on the field in 2022, which typically weeds out some of the ones who just will never see the field.
That’s mostly what LSU fans saw this go around as 16 players entered the portal, which saw depth along the o-line, linebacker and secondary groups get hit the hardest.
There were only a few true surprises during this second year of portal entrants for Kelly and company following the 2022 season. Linebacker DeMario Tolan and quarterback Walker Howard were the two that stung most from the Tigers perspective as both fit into the future of the program seemingly very well.
Wide receiver Jack Bech could also be tossed into that group but that’s a receiver room that is so loaded that the Tigers can adjust. However, Tolan figured to be a starting caliber player as soon as next year so to lose him to an SEC West rival like Auburn is one that hurts some.
At the time this is being written, Howard hasn’t made a decision but all signs point to TCU and Ole Miss as the leaders in the clubhouse. Losing Howard to an SEC West division rival would also be a bitter pill to swallow but when the Tigers are bringing in so many high talent level prospects at a position, it’s impossible to keep them all.
The reason the loss of 16 players to the portal doesn’t hurt nearly as much is the work the program did in building it back up. LSU signed 10 transfers out of the portal, highlighting the need to grow on the defensive line and at cornerback in particular.
Denver Harris, Zy Alexander, Duce Chestnut and JK Johnson will be all fighting for playing time this spring and give the Tigers exciting potential with varying levels of experience. The same can be said for the Bradyn Swanson, Paris Shand, Ovie Oghoufo, Jordan Jefferson and Jalen Lee defensive line portal haul as well.
Alabama transfer and Louisiana native Aaron Anderson also can’t be forgotten as he provides immediate special teams help and a potential slot option with both Bech and Kayshon Boutte now gone.
All 10 of those transfers are part of the 23 total early enrollees so they’ll be ingratiating themselves to the culture that was established in year one right off the bat.
What’s even better is that most will have multiple years of eligibility with the program, allowing the Tigers flexibility to bring some of the young talent along a bit more slowly. That’s a line the staff will need to be careful to balance as Kelly has said himself the portal can’t be used at the cost of developing the younger players on the roster who are the foundation going forward.
We won’t know how all of this will start to mesh together until the spring but for a second straight year, the portal has appeared to be friendly to the Tigers.