Swinney, Stoops lament effects of transfer portal

Dabo wants changes to the transfer portal: ‘The problem is tampering’ (1:23)

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney lays out the changes he’d like to see with the transfer portal in the sport. (1:23)

  • David Hale, ESPN Staff WriterDec 7, 2023, 04:56 PM ET

    Close

    • ACC reporter.
    • Joined ESPN in 2012.
    • Graduate of the University of Delaware.

In a media session previewing their matchup in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and Kentucky coach Mark Stoops lamented the challenge of roster management this time of year.

Stoops said his quarterback position is particularly thin after several recent transfer portal entries, while Swinney said he may need to suit up and play cornerback himself against Kentucky.

Still, Swinney stopped short of placing the blame for roster shortages on NIL or the portal, instead suggesting that tampering by a number of other programs is at the heart of the problem.

“The problem is tampering,” Swinney said, with Stoops nodding in agreement. “And we could fix it easily if they’d let football people fix it. But they usually don’t listen to us.”

Swinney implied stiffer sanctions and penalties for coaches and programs tampering outside designated transfer windows would dramatically reduce concerns, but echoing a frequent complaint from coaches, he said he doesn’t believe the NCAA is interested in following the lead of head coaches.

Both coaches said they spent the days immediately following the end of the regular season meeting with their own teams, “just getting a pulse of where everything is at,” Stoops said.

“Rosters are not the same because of the portal, because of the trend of guys not playing, and you can get in a bad spot pretty quick,” Swinney said.

Since the end of the regular season, Clemson has seen eight players enter the portal, including starting safety Andrew Mukuba and former five-star cornerback Toriano Pride Jr. Clemson will also be without linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., cornerback Nate Wiggins and defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro, who all plan to enter the NFL draft.

Swinney, who is on the road recruiting, said he has a team meeting scheduled for Sunday in which his bowl roster will likely be finalized.

Kentucky currently has 13 players in the portal, including the bulk of the quarterback room beyond starter Devin Leary.

Stoops said Thursday that leading rusher Ray Davis remains undecided on whether he will play in the Wildcats’ bowl game.

“He’s going back and forth,” Stoops said. “He’s going to go pro and trying to decide whether it’s best for him to play in this game or not.”

Meanwhile, Swinney suggested he will likely be more active in adding players through the transfer portal this offseason too. In recent years, Clemson’s portal additions have been minimal, with a couple of backup quarterbacks serving as the only notable additions.

Clemson figures to be in the market for offensive and defensive linemen, wide receivers and defensive backs.

“It’s a two-way street,” Swinney said. “You can like people all you want, but they have to like you too.

“We will fill our roster when it’s all said and done. We don’t have a lot of spots open. We really like the guys coming in in our recruiting class. Potentially a couple of spots we have to fill, so we’ll see how it goes.”

While Swinney lamented losses on his own roster ahead of Clemson’s bowl game, he also expressed his dissatisfaction with the College Football Playoff committee for snubbing undefeated ACC league mate Florida State because of the loss of quarterback Jordan Travis, whose season ended with a leg injury against North Alabama in Week 12.

“I feel so bad for those players and coaches,” Swinney said. “It’s a flawed system, but it’s what we got at this time. Just hate that they made it all about one player and minimized the impact and importance of all those other players. Football is a team sport.”