Where do college football transfers come from?

And where do they go?

5-minute read on transfer portal stats

College football transfer portal stats pose various challenges, ranging from researching to analyzing. However, AthLinkd has managed to summarize all the findings from the 2022 transfer season. This is by utilizing a transfer portal database that includes data on all 8,000+ players and their 150,000+ data points. Nevertheless, perhaps the most crucial question is the foundation of it all: where it begins and where it ends. Where do these transfers come from, and where do they go?

All results presented in this article are drawn from AthLinkd’s 2022 transfer portal database.

transfer portal stats

When do transfers enter?

College Football’s Transfer Portal Stats Analyzed: 2023

Starting in 2018, transfers could enter year-round. But in August 2022, the NCAA introduced transfer windows to ease compliance and coaching staffs’ burdens. Under these windows, transfers now had a total of 60 days to enter the portal, with 45 days starting in early December and 15 days starting in mid-April. It is important to note that these restrictions do not apply to graduate transfers, non-FBS transfers, and players with an approved transfer waiver.

Historically, the most active period for the transfer portal is mid-November to mid-December, which aligns with the current transfer window. Approximately 59% of all transferring takes place in this period in 2022, with roughly 4,700 entries. The second most active period is mid-March to mid-May, which also aligns with the current transfer windows, and here another 21% of transfers enter, roughly 1,700.

This leaves a remaining eight months in the calendar year where AthLinkd projects 20% of entries, around 1,600, will take place. These entries are more likely to occur in the middle of summer and throughout the regular season. While these periodic rates are projected to remain mostly unaffected by the transfer windows, the entry rate is likely to be compressed within the given days.

transfer portal stats

Who is transferring?

College Football’s Transfer Portal Stats Analyzed: 2023

With over 8,000 transfers, the college football transfer portal is a vast and diverse landscape. The players come from different backgrounds and situations. Their entry patterns can vary significantly based on division, position, and experience.

In terms of division, D1-FBS leads the way with around 3,000 entries. Group of 5 and Power 5 schools contribute almost equally. Among these entries, 32% are preferred walk-ons. D1-FCS follows with over 2,200 entries, while D2 and D3 have over 2,100 and 500 entries, respectively. It should be noted that D3 has a complicated relationship with transfer portal usage.

Excluding D3’s 240+ programs and their 500+ transfers, the average college football program sees about 19 players enter the portal annually. However, outliers can skew this number significantly, with some programs seeing 30, 40, or even 50 transfers leave due to coaching changes, program direction, or program discontinuation.

Positionally, wide receivers and defensive backs account for almost 40% of all entries (~3,000), followed by quarterbacks, runningbacks, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, and linebackers at around 10% each (~800). Tight ends, fullbacks, and specialists make up another 10% combined, with only 1% of those being longsnappers. Interestingly, there is no difference in positional rate based on division or time of year.

Determining eligibility remaining is challenging due to differences in divisional eligibility, injury redshirts, and waivers. However, it is estimated that no specific years-to-play count is confidently more or less represented than others. Graduate transfers do make up a significant portion of entries, but they can have multiple years remaining themselves.

Experience, on the other hand, is well-tracked. Only 1% of entries had earned All-American honors, 4% had received all-conference honors, 16% had started at least four games, 22% had played at least four games, and 56% had little or no playing experience.

Geographically, most transfers come from the East Coast. Nearly one-third of all transfers hail from California, Texas, Florida, or Georgia, with only two states west of Arkansas (outside of TX/CA) seeing over 125 entries go in.


transfer portal stats

Where do transfers for go?

College Football’s Transfer Portal Stats Analyzed: 2023

Tracking statistics for commitments is very difficult because one typically must rely on social media, roster postings, or word-of-mouth. Many players quietly withdraw their name from the portal, while others go to non-NCAA institutions such as JUCO, NAIA, or NCCAA. Some retire from the sport altogether, and some declare for professional drafts. Those that remain might go a year or more without playing before signing with another program eventually.

The total number of transfers expected to find a new program is around 40%, meaning that roughly 5,000 transfers will withdraw, retire, or leave school without playing again. However, the success rate of finding a new school varies significantly across several measures. Nearly three-fourths of Power 5 transfers succeed, followed by roughly half of Group of 5 transfers, bringing the FBS average to around 60%. FCS hovers around the overall average of 40%, whereas D2 is closer to one-quarter, and D3 sits around 10%.

For those that succeed, where they land can vary based on the division. Three-fourths of FBS transfers stay within FBS, but that final fourth mostly goes to FCS. FCS sees the most diversity in transfer destinations, with the majority going to G5, outpacing P5 and other FCS. Additionally, 12% choose to move down to D2. D2 sees roughly 10% end up in FBS, 30% in FCS, 30% in D2, and 10% in D3. D3 is split fairly evenly between other D3 schools and D2. It should be noted that successfully finding a new school does not mean the player was awarded a scholarship.

transfer portal stats

What does it all mean?

College Football’s Transfer Portal Stats Analyzed: 2023

While it is subjective, the NCAA Transfer Portal’s volume of input and output appears unsustainable. With 7,000 to 8,000 annual entries, the amount of movement and work is overwhelming. This is compounded by the fact that more than half of the entries do not end up finding a new school. Understanding the statistics is essential for coaches navigating the portal, policymakers planning the next steps, and players making the best decisions possible. AthLinkd hopes to continue being an actor that unveils the underlying trends while providing coaches the most effective tools for recruiting transfers.

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