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Wisconsin football: how has the transfer portal affected UW?

Have the Badgers benefited or suffered with the transfer portal over the last year?

Syndication: Journal Sentinel
Wisconsin running back, and transfer from Clemson, Chez Mellusi at spring practice last month.
Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

While there is generally, in the world of college sports, a ton of hand wringing over the transfer portal, here at Bucky’s Fifth Quarter dot com I don’t think that we ever get too “in the weeds” when discussing it. Part of that is because we (staff and commenters) are all incredibly good looking geniuses that would never be unkind to another soul and the other part is, well, the Badgers don’t really seem to lose a whole lot in the portal.

Sure, Wisconsin has lost valuable players to the transfer portal. QB Jack Coan had a nice season with Notre Dame just this past year and OL Kayden Lyles transferred to Florida State, who I am told was a very good program in the 90s? I’ll have to do some more research on that fact though. It’s also important to remember that UW has gained valuable players from the transfer portal like RB Chez Mellusi and a number of players that will be receiving snaps in the secondary this season. If you go back to before the “transfer portal” was a thing, you’ll find that Wisconsin brought in Russell Wilson, J.J. Watt and Ryan Ramczyk as transfers and they all seemed to work out pretty well.

Back to the current time period though, Coan and Lyles were both passed on the depth chart, and no matter your thoughts on whether those decisions were correct or not, it’s hard to be upset at a player who just wanted to get on the field.

For the most part, the Badgers have lost players in the transfer portal that just weren’t working out in Madison or wanted to go somewhere else to get more playing time. With the coaching staff, at least at the top, staying relatively stable over the past few years, and most players receiving a straight-forward plan to getting snaps, Wisconsin has been able to keep most of their players happy.

I have been meaning to take a look at this as a Wisconsin specific thing, but Anthony Treash of PFF did something similar while looking at all Power Five teams for the 2022 offseason, so let’s take a look at his data.

Now, there are a few limitations to these graphs, which Treash notes, and they don’t include every single transfer player (since some haven’t found new schools yet and he doesn’t include players who transferred “down” from P5 to G5) but they still give us a general idea as to which schools are losing production in the portal and which are gaining.

In the above graph, being in the top left portion is ideal as it means your school gained the most career snaps, while losing the least, from players in the portal. The Badgers are certainly in the correct quadrant as it looks like they’ve lost just under 1,000 snaps while gaining around 5,000 career snaps.

It’s tough to tell what the exact numbers are for each school, but the Badgers are one of the top schools in the Big Ten for “snaps lost.” Ok, that was confusing. I mean “top” in the sense that they have not lost many snaps to the portal, not that they’ve lost the most players.

This second graph tells a similar story. The Badgers gained a modest amount of win shares in the transfer portal and did not lose any (again, it’s hard to tell exactly where the Motion W is on the axis, but if it is not zero then it is a minuscule amount). Now you may be hollering at your computer “what about new Michigan State RB, and transfer out of Wisconsin, Jalen Berger?!? Did he not produce an positive win shares while in Madison?”

And to answer that question, allow me to point you towards the third graph which charts career win shares” and, well, it appears he didn’t really produce much positive for the Badgers.

Now, it’s possible that Berger did have positive career win shares, if ever so slight, but the other players transferring out had negative ones that brought the total score down, however Berger didn’t play THAT much for Wisconsin so he might’ve just been closer to zero.

Anyways, the point trying to be made is that the Badgers, for the most part, have benefited from the transfer portal. They brought in multiple players who will be on the two-deep this fall while only losing fringe contributors or players that were jumped on the depth chart. While Wisconsin might not be perfect in the way they are going about things with the portal, they appear to be doing better than many of their Big Ten counterparts and their measured approach to it has produced positive results, so you can’t really be upset about that.