Within two hours of each other late Monday morning and into the early afternoon, a pair of University of Utah running backs, junior Devin Brumfield and sophomore Jordan Wilmore, announced they had entered the NCAA Transfer Portal.
The emergence of freshman running back Ty Jordan this fall made their respective decisions mostly unsurprising, but what did come across as a little unusual was the timing of the whole thing. The Utes still have at least one game to play as they get ready to host Washington State on Saturday morning (11:30 a.m., Fox Sports 1). Beyond that, with a win, there could be a bowl game to prepare for.
“Once they explained their situations and the thought process that they had, I somewhat understood,” Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham said Tuesday morning on a Zoom call with reporters. “I still wish they would’ve finished out the season with us, but they’re done with their academics, everything is in order there. They had some things that needed to be done that they wanted to get done this week, so that’s what they decided to do.”
Brumfield and Wilmore opting to transfer on Monday was a small part of what was a very active day in the transfer portal, which saw at least 20 Power Five players added. That many new names entering the portal in one day speaks not only to the chaotic nature of maintaining and managing college football rosters, but the chaotic nature of what’s coming for the transfer market.
In mid-October, the NCAA Division I Council approved a proposal that would allow a one-time transfer from any sport to be able to play immediately without having to sit out one year. The proposal is expected to be voted on and passed next month, which, as was the case Monday, is likely to lead to a flood of players entering the transfer portal.
Whittingham has addressed the impending NCAA legislation twice inside the last week, but it doesn’t sound like his approach to the transfer portal will radically change. Even after signing a new batch of high school recruits, which Utah will do Wednesday on the first day of the early signing period, Whittingham keeps a few open scholarships in his back pocket in case something unexpected happens, such as a transfer.
On Monday morning, something unexpected happened. His running back depth was cut in half with Brumfield and Wilmore opting to leave.
“With the likelihood of the one-time transfer becoming approved next month, you have to be ready to replace guys if a certain position group gets depleted,” Whittingham said. “You have to have the opportunity and ability to respond to get that position taken care of.”
Utah’s running back situation now consists of Jordan, who has 443 yards, three touchdowns and is averaging 7.3 yards per carry, and redshirt freshman Micah Bernard. Whittingham said Monday night on his weekly ESPN 700 radio show and again Tuesday morning that redshirt freshman Faysal Aden will be elevated to the travel squad to provide some depth.
As the early signing period begins Wednesday, Utah is expecting a national letter of intent from three-star Tampa commit Ricky Parks.
Beyond Jordan, Bernard and Parks, Utah’s running back situation is in flux. Whittingham said Tuesday that they are “budgeted” for five or six scholarship running backs, which means more recruiting is coming at the position. Whether Whittingham and his staff look for a late high school commitment or hit the transfer portal for running backs remains to be seen, but Utah has been unafraid to hit the portal in the recent past if there is a position of need.
“We feel we’ll be able to get there, and that’s why you recruit,” Whittingham said. “Roster turnover is going to start to be more dramatic going forward with the change in the transfer structure, so you have to be prepared for that, you have to adapt, and keeping scholarships available after signing day really comes into play in situations like that.”
UTAH VS. WASHINGTON STATE
At Rice-Eccles Stadium
When • Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
TV • FS1