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On The Transfer Portal, or Talent Retention Is Part Of The Job

Every organization has a talent retention metric. Well, I should say every good organization. Replacing talent is costly and some reports indicate it takes about six months recoup the cost of finding, hiring, and training a new employee. Depending on the specific organization, it may take longer. Some talent loss is inevitable of course, as an individual situation may dictate a move, a values change, or something else. People move on. Generally speaking, you want to keep and retain talent and quickly move on from bad employees. It is healthy, and cost-effective.

That brings us to the Transfer Portal. It has been a subject of much discussion since its inception. The pandemic rule allowing blanket waivers to transfers was always going to open the door to mass migration across the landscape. Programs across the nation knew it. For Seth Littrell and the NT football program, it meant that there was an extra incentive to make NT a desirable place to be.

Recently, your favorite mean green blogger was called up by a recruiter asking if I was happy at my gig. They asked me if I wanted a challenge, more money, more this, that, the other. The carrot they dangle is money and perks and interesting work. My current gig is also doing the same thing. Every day that is pleasant and a good place to work is another tick in the ‘Stay’ column. I have left organizations that I felt did not value my contributions the way the market would (more money). I have left organizations that were simply awful places to work (bad managers).

There are any number of reasons to leave a program when you are a college athlete. Not least of which is the short window of opportunity to stay and grow. Programs across the nation have had to adjust their incentive structures. It used to be that the big sell was done in recruiting and then after that the coach could drop the smiles and texts and be mean and surly and yell in your face without a mask. The only reviews were past-tense, “I should not have went there” kind of deals.

Now? The internet makes knowing whether or not a place is bad easier. Or if there is a better opportunity out there.

North Texas did not have a good season. Seth Littrell fired the defensive coordinator, and there was not a clear starter at the QB position. While the offense had big overall numbers (the second year that has been the case), there were obvious areas needing improvement. Defensively, it was bad. There is reportedly movement on the hiring of a new coordinator but nothing is official. Prior to the rumors of Phil Bennet, I heard that a certain G5 guy was close to being the guy.

Before we continue let us go over the transfer list:

The List

As of this post, Jason Bean, Tre Siggers, Greg White, Brian Parish, Bryce English, Joseph Ozougwu, Chris Thornton, Justin Booker-Brown, Garnett Burke, Jaxon Gibbs, Cam Johnson, and Makyle Sanders are all in the portal.

There are seven three-star athletes on that list. That is a lot of talent. There could be more to come. Given the depth chart at running back, Tre Siggers leaving for some guaranteed playing time (at SMU, ugh) is unsurprising. He wanted more time than was likely available and that is understandable. NT has had little trouble finding quality backs. That is not to say they won’t miss him, but it will not hurt as much.

Austin Ogunmakin (likely tomorrow) and Greg White are on the list and are receivers in a spot that is losing NFLer Jaelon Darden. That position was strengthened with some talented freshman that we can expect to contribute soon. Both underperformed relative to expectations but have the kind of institutional experience that is valuable.

Parish sat out this season due to COVID precaution. Bryce English was not really a big part of the squad in the last two season. Ozougwu was announced at Arkansas State today. Chris Thornton made some nice plays here and there. Booker-Brown played in a couple of games after joining before the year. Burke has been out since October.

The real news is that Gibbs, Johnson, and Sanders are out. Each was a big part of the defense the last couple of seasons. Gibbs played the NICK spot and beat out Ashton Preston soon after arriving. Cam Johnson had the tools but hadn’t had the results in his appearances the last couple of seasons. Sanders has been a mainstay and has had some nice performances.

What It Means?

For Johnson, and Gibbs a fresh start elsewhere probably makes it easier to perform. Sanders was a senior anyway, and there was, prior to 2020, a succession plan in place. Johnson never quite lived up to the (small) hype before he became a starter. Gibbs was solid at times but if the rumors about the terrible motivational tactics by Clint Bowen are true, I do not blame him for wanting someplace that would not hire that kind of guy.

Jason Bean had a real case for being the clear number one. Here at MGN we are advocates of learning on the job, and being allowed to make mistakes. Both QBs struggled, but I prefer them to learn through that struggle, than by sitting down. My suspicion is that Seth Littrell either told Bean he would be down on the depth chart, or that he would have to compete for the top job again. While I appreciate the benefits of grinding for the success you eventually earn, these dudes have a limited time.

NT has Austin Aune, the new freshman, Kason Martin, and a possible transfer if they want to go that route.

We mentioned Greg White and Ogunmakin, two guys who have had a real shot to perform. We wrote in the season preview that they would get their shot to show that they have the materials this season. Ogunmakin performed in the bowl game, and that was nice to see. Greg White has not lived up to the hype. Both have talent, and should have a good second half to their career. For NT, it will not be the first time they have lost a receiver early. 1

Should We Be Concerned?

Yes, and no. There might be more coming. Losing a QB — a good one! — in this era of offense is concerning but that is the game. NT has a reputation as being a place where the QB can put up big numbers so we shouldn’t be as concerned as if say, McCarney, were still choosing the signal-callers.

We should note that NT has a couple of transfers coming in that have talent — like Logan Wilson and John Davis and Jacob Ferrell.

To me, the curious thing is the defensive coordinator being unannounced. Time is a-ticking and it would be nice to have a coach installed that could look over the roster, and the transfer portal, and do a little recruiting to fill the existing spots himself right now. NT held back a few scholarships with the thinking that they would fill the holes in the defense. It looks like there are going to be a few more in the secondary.

So, yes, we should be concerned that starters want to leave. There does not seem to be an overall exodus from the program, however, so it is part of the churn albeit a slightly bigger one that is comfortable. That it comes from either positions that are well-stocked (WR) , or spots that were in need of an influx of talent (secondary), means that everyone can step back from the ledge.

For some context, UAB, the reigning champs, lost six players including a couple of three-stars. Three three-star guys from UTSA are leaving. One four-star from Marshall is gone.

Regardless, Seth Littrell has not yet been the subject of any controversy, and he is seemingly well-liked by his peers and the players. His next hire is super-important, and the positive spin on all of this is that the new DC will have plenty of scholarships to recruit a difference-maker.

  1. They lost a couple of guys after year one, including Tee Goree, who had a nice career at SFA. Guyton left early, Rico Bussey Jr left for Hawai’i last year and so on.

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