I'm going to try and write about this for tomorrow, but I tend to lean towards the recruiting cause. Over five years, Franklin has improved the talent level in the program practically every season. The guys that were recruited 3 years ago are not as talented, on the whole at least as the guys from the last two classes. That's not true in every case, but in the big picture, the most talented players on the roster are the youngest.
In almost every case, the players leaving are graduate transfers who have been here for at least three seasons, and are either buried on the depth chart, or losing playing time to younger guys. In most cases, that is not going to get better with the 2019 kids already on campus, and arriving this summer.
To be clear, there are almost certainly players that are unhappy about the program, coaching, culture, or something else, but I believe those are the exceptions, not the rule.
Generally speaking, elite guys are seldom transferring because they either A, like where they are, or B, don't want to potentially sacrifice the one year of eligibility/delay their NFL shot. You of course have more and more guys applying for waivers as well.
Grad transfers add a whole new element to this too. With the exception of Lamont Wade, I believe everyone who has entered their name into the portal will have immediate eligibility.
Transfers move on from a program for any number of reasons. A fresh start, homesick, lack of playing time, etc.
I'm not saying PSU is going to be bringing in numerous starters via the transfer market, but they will almost certainly look to add some experienced depth that way, in addition to brining in a few more freshmen than originally anticipated.
It's really hard to say at this point. The high profile guys (Fields, Martell, etc.) are certainly getting the attention, but as of now, I have not seen or heard anything to indicate specific players they'll be pursuing. But, there are several hundred players currently in the transfer portal, so it's safe to assume PSU has been in touch with at least a few.
It is a lot of guys (potentially) leaving, which in and of itself is odd and probably raises a red flag or two. However, with a couple of exceptions, these are guys that were likely going to contribute limited snaps given the influx of talent.
You can check out the scholarship count here: RLR Scholarship Grid
Penn State will be signing probably 5-7 more players in February, and almost certainly pursuing grad transfers.
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I think that part of it is that things are much more transparent for the first time, so anyone that is thinking about it becomes public. But probably more importantly, the players have all of the power here. If they want to move on, there is nothing a school or coach can do to stop that once they let the compliance folks know, and that's a good thing.
Furthermore, Penn State has five scholarship QBs on the roster, and two guys (Stevens and Clifford) they are comfortable starting games in September. Adding a grad transfer at QB seems unlikely at best. If they pursue one, or more, it'll almost certainly be along the offensive or defense line.
Time will certainly tell. He still has never run an offense, let alone called plays in his coaching career.
Mandel does a generally very good job, but his entire list is just "teams that did well in bowl games and return a lot of players" and "teams that didn't do well in bowl games and maybe don't return as much". No actual analysis of who those guys actually are.
Unless he opts to transfer, which would be a shock, no reason to expect he's not the guy going into camp next year.
Holmes moved to guard primarily to make sure they were covered depth wise when Thorpe flipped to DT. Miranda getting the start when Menet was out vs. Maryland (and McGovern moved to center) was pretty telling.
And as Matt said, Gellerstedt saw limited time this year, and given how they have recruited at tackle, it's fair to wonder whether just where he stands.
You never really know with high schoolers, but my instinct on this one is he's all-in.
He'll stay outside after playing there this year. The experiment with him in the middle eded pretty quickly in the spring.