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Jackson State Tigers head coach Deion Sanders directs his players during the Orange Blossom Classic game against the Florida A&M Rattlers. (Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire)
December 16th, 2021
There's still plenty of activity taking place off the field during the brief lull between the regular season and college football bowl season. Let’s take a look at some of the top stories of the week from around the sport in this edition of our NCAA Football Notebook.
In today’s environment, players have the liberty to transfer out of a program that isn’t exactly fitting their needs or expectations and enter their names into the Transfer Portal, where a new destination will almost assuredly present itself. And they can now do so without the penalty of a mandatory year-long waiting period.
Considering the flightiness of the coaches that recruit them, this is a good thing for the kids playing the game. But one side-effect of this environment is a constant state of turmoil and flux that leaves teams feeling less like player-building programs and more like professional free agent recruitment centers.
Some big names have gone through the Transfer Portal in the last week including Spencer Rattler, Emory Jones, and Quinn Ewers.
Excited for the next chapter!#SpursUp🤙🏽 pic.twitter.com/AevyElKhAa— Spencer Rattler (@SpencerRattler) December 14, 2021
Excited for the next chapter!#SpursUp🤙🏽 pic.twitter.com/AevyElKhAa
There are hundreds more, and where these players land will significantly shape the composition of each team heading into 2022. The newly flexible Transfer Portal isn't going away anytime soon, and the coaches and fans who embrace it will benefit most.
Another major change to the system are the NIL benefits that so many players are now capitalizing on. It's making millionaires out of high school seniors, and it's easy to argue that isn’t intrinsically a bad thing.
This week we saw a massive decision take place as a result of this new world, when Travis Hunter opted to spurn Florida State and sign with Jackson State.
A SIGNING DAY STUNNER!Top-ranked CB Travis Hunter, ESPN's No. 2 overall player in the class of 2022, has announced on Instagram he will decommit from Florida State and sign with Jackson State and head coach Deion Sanders. pic.twitter.com/rZPVeKcvIr— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 15, 2021
A SIGNING DAY STUNNER!Top-ranked CB Travis Hunter, ESPN's No. 2 overall player in the class of 2022, has announced on Instagram he will decommit from Florida State and sign with Jackson State and head coach Deion Sanders. pic.twitter.com/rZPVeKcvIr
The No. 2 overall recruit in the country, Hunter is a freakishly athletic and talented cornerback who seems destined for professional football. He had been a longtime commit to FSU, but on Wednesday he shocked the world by joining Deion Sanders and the FCS-level Jackson State Tigers.
Sanders is one of the most renowned cornerbacks to ever play football, and as a former FSU alum, likely was a big reason for Hunter's stunning change of course. But make no mistake, the reason for the decision was money. Sanders is partnered with Barstool Sports and a big bag got dropped.
It is a good move for Hunter. Plenty of elite professional cornerbacks have come from lesser-known schools, and he will make major money while learning from one of the best. His relative lack of competition will also keep him from getting exposed, which will only build on his marketing appeal.
It came as a shock to longtime followers of college football and the college football recruiting world. Longtime writer Bruce Feldman wrote today, Hunter’s flip "would unquestionably become the biggest signing day stunner in my 20-plus years of covering this stuff."
Speaking of recruiting, early signing day brought a new wave of talent out of high school and officially onto college rosters.
Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M won the day with Alabama and Georgia nipping at his heels. Ohio State wasn’t far behind, so nothing too unexpected from the nation’s elite. Arguably the biggest surprises were Notre Dame and North Carolina, who both reeled in plenty of big-time talents and appear to have top-10 caliber classes ready to step foot on campus.
One interesting note, the Big Ten East had the top seven ranked classes in the conference, while the Big Ten West schools had the bottom seven ranked classes. Division disparity is real in the nation’s second-best conference.
It is officially bowl season, with games beginning this Friday! Clear the schedule and settle in for two days’ worth of mid-tier teams battling it out in some of the most comically named bowls on the schedule.
Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State in the early time slot will be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend as Hilltoppers’ quarterback Bailey Zappe attempts to set NCAA passing records for yards and touchdowns in a season. The Mountaineers are short 3-point favorites in what should be a high-scoring affair.
In the primetime window, Utah State vs. Oregon State will be a good one for the true fans of the sport. The Aggies have an excellent quarterback and wide receiver combination in Logan Bonner and Deven Thompkins, and are coming off a blowout win against San Diego State in the Mountain West Championship. Oregon State will rely on a power running game and sound defense to try and win the day as 7.5-point favorites.
One final note on the week. Congratulations to Bryce Young, who became the latest Alabama player to win the Heisman Trophy. Young received 2,311 points to second place-finisher Aidan Hutchinson’s 954 in a landslide victory.
From one Heisman to another…@_bryce_young @DeVontaSmith_6 Welcome to the Fraternity pic.twitter.com/2k3Oq4N49p— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) December 12, 2021
From one Heisman to another…@_bryce_young @DeVontaSmith_6 Welcome to the Fraternity pic.twitter.com/2k3Oq4N49p
It was surprising to see Hutchinson place second and Kenny Pickett third despite the odds favoring Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud during the final month by a significant margin over the eventual second and third place finishers.
Young is already installed as the favorite to win it again in 2022.
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