The give and take of increased player movement throughout college athletics

photo by: Associated Press

Drake's Joseph Yesufu celebrates late in the second half of a First Four game against Wichita State in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Thursday, March 18, 2021, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. Drake won 53-52. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

Despite one player standing 6-foot-4, 320 pounds and the other at 6-foot, 180 pounds, Da’Jon Terry and Joseph Yesufu are basically the same person.

To accept this, you have to embrace the idea that Kansas football and Drake basketball are also on the same level, which, at this point, is probably more of an insult to Drake than the other way around.

But thanks to the recent rise of the transfer portal across college athletics, both Drake hoops and KU football essentially provide the same service for players and programs. They’re training grounds for bigger programs, which, because of the way the rules are written, can take talented players from smaller programs and offer them an opportunity to play in the limelight.

Not all players are wired to make the move. Loyalty, fit, opportunity and geography, among other things, all factor into each player’s decision.

But it’s no secret that players are moving about the country at a faster rate than ever before. And when you throw in the fact that the NCAA recently passed the one-time transfer exemption that makes players on the move immediately eligible, it’s likely not going to change any time soon either.

photo by: Kevin Berg/Photo courtesy of KU Athletics

Defensive tackle Da’Jon Terry looks into the backfield during a Kansas football spring practice, in April of 2021.

For Yesufu, who starred for the Bulldogs last season and signed with Kansas last month, this meant making the jump from a quality mid-major program that has to fight for recognition and notoriety to a blue blood program like Kansas that is constantly on major networks and in national headlines.

Hard to blame the kid for that. He did well at Drake, made a name for himself and caught the eye of coaches at the highest level of his sport.

It’s the exact same thing for Terry, who is headed to Tennessee after playing in eight games for the Jayhawks last season after redshirting in 2019. Despite his humble, 2-star beginnings, Terry had emerged as a real player in the Big 12 and his promising future made him attractive outside of Lawrence.

He became even more attractive for the Volunteers when they lost one of their top defensive linemen to rival Alabama last week.

It’s a vicious cycle and one that lacks consistency or predictability. So if you’re a fan of any program it’s best to just close your eyes and hang on for the ride.

Since we’re talking about fans here, and it’s clear that rational thinking isn’t always at the top of their list of priorities, it’s important to point out one thing: If you’re good with one move, you essentially have to be good with the other because they’re the same thing.

If anything, KU still has the upper hand here because of the potential of its football program to improve under new head coach Lance Leipold. Doing so would go a long way toward making Kansas a destination for players like Terry rather than a necessary step in their bigger journey.

KU has a ton of resources. KU’s in a Power 5 conference. And the Big 12’s television deal and annual schedule help make sure that players who come to Kansas will be seen.

Drake basketball, which competes in the Missouri Valley Conference, may not be able to climb much higher. So the goal for that program is to find these Yesufu-type players and make a heck of a run with them while you’ve got them.

Is that fair? Yes and no. Sort of.

For one, it all fits within the rules and everyone knows that those rules exist.

For two, for every program like Drake that loses a player like Yesufu there’s a program like Kansas that has to deal with losing one of its more talented and promising pieces, too.

Even though we’re talking about different sports, I guess it all evens out in the end. Kansas basketball got its upgrade and Tennessee football got one, as well.

Back to the drawing board for Drake’s hoops program, Leipold and KU football and dozens of other programs like them.


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