An Alamo Bowl media session underscores transfer portal frustration from the Arizona staff to the one at Oklahoma.
SAN ANTONIO — Arizona defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen says he knows Oklahoma offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh from Nansen’s time as a USC assistant from 2014-19.
“We were recruiting the same kids when he used to come to California,” Nansen said during his Alamo Bowl media session Tuesday.
Why is that relevant?
Nansen was talking about the December transfer portal frenzy Tuesday when he said: “I was talking to (OU’s) O-line coach. I said, ‘How are you doing this, man? You’re losing, like, three or four kids.’
“He goes, ‘Man, I lost a freshman that I helped develop.’ He goes, ‘I’ve never started a freshman. But now he’s gone.’
“I’m like, ‘I’m with ya, man.’”
The freshman lineman OU lost is Cayden Green, who transferred to Missouri on Dec. 21.
News of his decision to enter the portal leaked while the Sooners practiced on Dec. 12, a wild development for a player who moved into the starting lineup midway through this season and was expected to be a pillar of OU’s 2024 line.
Teammates who were asked about Green following the Dec. 12 practice seemed as surprised as the reporters who asked.
Brent Venables opened his Dec. 15 media session by stating he would not answer questions related to players no longer with the Sooners. Which is how you address someone like Green without addressing him specifically. Message delivered.
Nansen didn’t address Green specifically in San Antonio but shared a telling exchange with Bedenbaugh just the same.
You can feel the frustration building across the industry.
“You don’t know who’s coming next year. Our job is to not only recruit players that come to us, but recruit our players the same,” Nansen said. “Think about that. We’re doing home visits with our own players to keep them.”
I’d love to get Bedenbaugh’s thoughts on Green, but I’d settle for his updated thoughts on general player movement. I wonder how they compare to Aug. 1, when he last sat with media for a variety of questions as OU opened camp.
When I asked him about one industry frustration, that the portal allows young talent developed in one program to flourish at another, Bedenbaugh replied: “We haven’t, at least up to this point, had that problem. It would be tough. I get it. I could see it with Group of Five schools. I know Tulsa went through it a couple of years ago with a bunch of dudes, I think it was off their defense. That’s gotta be tough no doubt.
“I don’t think that’s gonna be an issue here because if you’re playing here, where are you gonna go?”
Four months later we have an answer.
“If they’re not playing… That’s where I think the transfer portal is good,” Bedenbaugh continued. “They can leave whenever they want obviously, but you get into your third or fourth year and you’re not gonna play, I get it… But if you leave after your first or second year… We haven’t had that. Hopefully you’re recruiting the right guys.”
Asked if forces like the portal and NIL make it harder to get inside players’ heads, Bedenbaugh said: “I think you can get to know kids and develop the relationship the same way. But when it comes down to it, what is really important? Is NIL really important? Because dang near every kid is gonna say it’s not important. Well then why are you going there, y’’know what I mean, if it’s not important? So that’s hard. And then there are some where you know it’s important. Whether they really come out and say it or not, you know it’s important.
“But I think that truly developing the relationship and getting to know the kids and families, I don’t think that’s changed. It’s all new. So we’ll see. Hopefully it gets better.”
Hopefully it gets better rings differently in December, with Green off to Missouri and coaches everywhere coming to hard grips with rampant player movement.