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Penn State football ranks at bottom of B1G in spring transfer portal grades

One major outlet put Penn State football near the bottom of the Big Ten for its transfer portal approach this spring. But is this grade of James Franklin and the Nittany Lions justified?



Penn State football, Jeff Exinor, 2025 recruiting
Apr 13, 2024; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin walks on the field during a warmup practice prior to the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

James Franklin and Penn State football left much to be desired in the spring transfer portal window, says one of the sport’s major talent evaluation outlets. Grading each of the Big Ten programs on their portal activity this spring, Rivals recently placed the Nittany Lions at the bottom of the pack in the revamped conference. But is this ranking an accurate reflection of Penn State’s approach to the portal this offseason?

Penn State football ranks near bottom of the Big Ten in spring transfer portal grades

The exit door swung open repeatedly for Penn State football in the closing hours of the spring transfer portal window, with five departures announced before the end of the 48-hour grace period on May 2.

The Nittany Lions lost eight players in total this spring. No new faces have entered the halls of Lasch, either, after James Franklin and his staff brought in six transfers this winter.

But that imbalance was still enough for Rivals to place Penn State near the bottom of the conference in its Big Ten spring transfer portal rankings released last month. The Nittany Lions join Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio State as the four programs to earn a C- grade from the outlet, the lowest among the conference’s 18 teams.

Is the Nittany Lions’ poor portal ranking justified?

Does a below-average grade rightly evaluate how Penn State football handled the transfer portal this spring? By the numbers, yes. But does it tell the whole story of the Nittany Lions’ portal situation? Well, it’s complicated. 

Penn State did lose a good number of bodies, but the program was also in a position with scholarships where it could afford to. And only three of those eight former Nittany Lions have committed to Power Four programs.

James Franklin and his staff hit the portal hard this winter, bringing in two ex-five-stars and two former four-stars. But it’s also not fair to say the Nittany Lions addressed all their needs this winter, with wide receiver remaining a significant concern.

The receiver issue looms even larger coming out of the spring after losing three bodies from the room. Franklin praised his receiver room coming out of spring ball, but there also wasn’t much to choose from elsewhere if he wasn’t pleased. Only five of the top 50 pass catchers in the 2024 transfer portal class entered this spring, including the Nittany Lions’ own KeAndre Lambert-Smith. 

Bottom line, for a program that prioritizes fit out of the portal, the spring window was definitely not the “nightmare scenario” that some claimed it might be.  But at the same time, the pressure is on for Franklin and Penn State football to win with what they do have in 2024.

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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