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McFeely: Nearly 60 Missouri Valley Football Conference players in transfer portal

Bison had one player enter portal recently. Players have been entering the portal in large numbers across all NCAA football divisions in the last couple of weeks because they want to commit to a new program and enroll in school in time for spring semester, so they can participate in spring practice in 2022.

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North Dakota State's Eli Mostaert pressures Illinois State quarterback Bryce Jefferson at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Forum Communications Co.

FARGO — Nearly 60 Missouri Valley Football Conference players have entered the NCAA transfer portal in the last two months with some programs being affected much more than others.

Using various sources, InForum has determined that as of early this week 56 players from the 11 Valley programs have put their name in the portal since Oct. 1. Missouri State had 12 players enter the portal since that date, the most among conference schools. North Dakota State and South Dakota State have each had one player enter, the fewest in the league.

The Bison and Jackrabbits are still playing in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, so their transfer figures might grow once their seasons end.

NDSU head coach Matt Entz wasn't sure what to expect.

"You're asking me to project what 18- to 22- years old think? No way. I hope not. I hope we've created a good enough relationship with all the kids on our football team that they'd think twice," Entz said Monday at his weekly press conference, offering his thoughts on whether more Bison players would enter the portal.

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Offensive lineman Seth Anderson is NDSU's lone portal entry in recent weeks. Quarterback Caden Rice is SDSU's entrant.

Players have been entering the portal in large numbers across all NCAA football divisions in the last couple of weeks because they want to commit to a new program and enroll in school in time for spring semester, so they can participate in spring practice in 2022. Entz said more than 500 players have entered the portal recently.

Teams usually have a few players quit during fall camp before games begin and some enter the portal shortly after.

The transfer portal is administered by the NCAA and allows current college athletes to submit their names so other schools can recruit them. A recent NCAA rule allows student-athletes to transfer one time without penalty. Former rules forced athletes in most cases to sit out one year when transferring.

While nationally recognizable athletes transferring from powerful program to powerful program captures most of the headlines, the portal is filled with thousands of athletes who are little-known.

That dynamic trickles down to the MVFC. While players like former Northern Iowa starting quarterback Will McElvain, former Illinois State starting quarterback Bryce Jefferson and former North Dakota All-America running back Otis Weah gained the most attention when they entered the portal, most of the Valley players are much lesser known.

It's unknown, unless a player or school announces it, how many players are enrolling in other universities and joining other programs.

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"Personally, I'll advise them to make sure exactly what they are doing," Entz said. "I think there are some guys out there that make too quick of decisions and it doesn't end up working out for them and then what do you do after that?"

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North Dakota State's James Kaczor tackles Northern Iowa’s Will McElvain during their football game Saturday, April 10, 2021, in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

Players from the Valley who have entered the portal since Oct. 1, according to multiple sources including social media:

Illinois State (10)

Carter DeGraff, Jarel Miller, Britton Morris, Kacper Rutkiewicz, Brandon Simon, Darnell Hanson, Eric Rogers, Bryce Jefferson, Aidan Breshnahan, Joe Lombardi.

Indiana State (5)

Jordan Lawrence, Michael Griffin, Tyrone Griffin, Dwayne Thompson, Carlton Rutherford.

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Missouri State (12)

Micah Fann, Jaylen Dobson, Jontae Dobson, Damoriea Vick, Thurlow Wilkins, Amarion Whitfield, Brandon Benjamin, Zarek Fewell, Dimitri Moore, Isaiah Allred, Durand Henderson, Joseph Webb.

North Dakota (8)

Caleb Nelson, Quinton Urwiler, Billy Riviere, Otis Weah, Quinton Seguin, Sam Robertson, Jacob Odom, Damien Owens.

North Dakota State (1)

Seth Anderson.

Northern Iowa (3)

Tyler Hoosman, Justin Fomby, Will McElvain.

South Dakota (2)

Lucas Becker, Dakota Smith.

South Dakota State (1)

Caden Rice.

Southern Illinois (3)

Marcus Armstrong, JaJuan Blankenship, Mani Jackson.

Western Illinois (4)

D'Angelo BBiggs, Ian Ector, Donovan Lacey, Brandon Frazier.

Youngstown State (7)

Matt Carlisle, Dashua Turner, John Harper, Jordan White, Mark Waid, Gianni Rizzo, Brayden Taylor.

The one-time transfer rule has added a wrinkle to constructing college football teams. Most programs still rely on recruiting mostly high school athletes — NDSU has more than 30 known commitments from prep players who are expected to sign letters of intent Wednesday, Dec. 15 — but coaches can overhaul a roster or fill holes with transfers.

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North Dakota State quarterback Quincy Patterson carries against Illinois State at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Forum Communications Co.

The Bison have about a half-dozen transfers on their team, including a few who've played key roles like quarterback Quincy Patterson (Virginia Tech), running back TaMerik Williams (SMU) and defensive end Brayden Thomas (Minnesota State Mankato).

"Roster management is a daily thought process, a huge equation right now trying to figure it all out," Entz said.

Entz said the Bison might add a few transfers before spring practice to add depth at specific positions.

NDSU has lost a few key transfers in recent years.

All-American linebacker Jabril Cox transferred to major FBS power LSU after the 2019 season, in part to enhance his NFL Draft stock. He started and played for the Tigers in the COVID-affected 2020 fall season and was taken by the Dallas Cowboys in the late rounds of the 2021 draft.

Starting running back Adam Cofield transferred to FBS Western Kentucky of the Sun Belt Conference in late 2020, eschewing the spring FCS season for the desire of playing at a higher level. Cofield has 373 yards on 80 carries for the 8-5 Mountaineers, who will play in the Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 18 against Appalachian State.

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North Dakota State running back Adam Cofield breaks away from South Dakota State linebacker Logan Backhaus on a 71-yard touchdown run to seal the game at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, in Brookings, S.D. David Samson / The Forum

Starting cornerback Josh Hayes left the Bison late in the spring season, saying he wanted to play closer to his home state of Florida. He transferred to FBS Virginia, where he was hampered by injuries and saw little playing time. He re-entered the transfer portal in the middle of this season.

Asked if he uses examples of former Bison who've transferred as a cautionary tale for current players, Entz said talk among players takes care of that for him.

"I don't have to reference that. Those players have friends on the team. I think it's kind of passed along per conversation among the players," Entz said. "I've seldom brought up players who've left through the portal. I don't think I ever have. I'm going to worry about the ones we have here."

Entz said he wants the NCAA to add more information to the portal, which he said currently lists only barebones information.

"At some point the portal has to start providing more information for us," he said. "I would advocate we start treating it like we do with high school kids, where if I go to the clearinghouse I know what their grades are, I know where they live, I know where they're from. I know all that information. I'm sure there are some guys who would second-guess wanting to have their transcripts in the portal."

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