Jonathan Smith needs to set firm standard with players entering transfer portal

Michigan State's head coach Jonathan Smith walks to the sideline during the Spring Showcase on
Michigan State's head coach Jonathan Smith walks to the sideline during the Spring Showcase on / Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA

The transfer portal has officially closed as of May 1, and what a wild few weeks it was for Michigan State football. The Spartans have earned commitments from four players in the transfer portal which is excellent if you ask me. But on the flip side, Michigan State saw 19 of their players enter the portal. That is one of the most in the country.

Now don’t get me wrong, it was expected that a lot of Michigan State players would enter the portal. Whenever a team sees a coaching change, especially after all the drama that unfolded last year, they’re bound to lose a lot of players. And some of these players are entering the portal for good reasons.

But I can’t say that for every player. Now I’m not going to call any players out by name, but Jonathan Smith needs to set a precedent with these players that are transferring for the wrong reasons, so their actions don’t become the norm in the program.

Players leaving in hopes for more NIL money

As I mentioned, there are a lot of good reasons to enter the transfer portal. A desire to be closer to home, looking for more playing time and following your old coach are a few that come to mind. I won’t even fault a player for jumping ship if they know they can get a significant amount of more NIL money elsewhere as well (hello tampering). But some of these players are entering the portal looking to take advantage of Smith and MSU.

This past winter, Derrick Harmon was a player who entered the portal. However, Smith was able to offer him an NIL deal to make him the highest paid defensive lineman in the Big Ten, so he decided to stay in East Lansing. Fast forward a few months and Harmon is once again on the move.

While this move feels a little slimy to me, I don’t fault Smith for doing anything he could to get Harmon back. But that strategy by Smith to offer a lot more money to bring a player back needs to be reevaluated.

For a player at Harmon’s level, it makes sense to do anything you can to bring him back, but when it comes to players who aren’t even going to be starters I don’t think this strategy makes sense. And it appears some of these players who entered the portal at the very last second are attempting to exploit what Smith has done in the past.

These players seem to be hoping that they can use this leverage as a way to get a better NIL offer from Smith. It’s hard to fault them based on what Smith has done in the past, but now Smith needs to put his foot down and set a new precedent. He needs to (respectfully) show these players the door and not even entertain bringing them back or offering them more money. This will set the standard going forward that Michigan State doesn’t want these types of players who are just looking for a payday, but rather want the players who are loyal and want to actually be Spartans.

While losing this many players at this point in the offseason is tough, Smith needs to make the difficult decision to let them walk in hopes that future players won’t try to take advantage of him in the future.