The one-sentence recap of Texas State's 2021 recruiting class is jarring. While some time remains in the cycle, the Sun Belt program has signed zero high school players.
Instead, the Bobcats have added 11 transfers.
Nine arrived from other FBS teams, one departed an FCS school and one is a junior college product. Technically, only the JUCO signee—defensive end DeOnte Washington—counts as a prospect. As a result, Jake Spavital's team has the 187th-ranked recruiting class in the nation, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
That begs the obvious follow-up question: Why?
Although context is valuable, every raised eyebrow is reasonable. Adding zero freshmen to a program with a 15-57 record over the last six seasons may seem antithetical to a sound plan—even foolish.
But the logic is fascinating.
In 2020, Texas State's underclassmen-heavy roster included only 13 seniors. And because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA didn't count the 2020 season as a year of eligibility. Although 12 players elected to transfer, everyone else could return in the same classification.
However, the much-needed rule to protect eligibility would actually be an obstacle for Texas State's long-term future.
After the 2021 season, the limit of 85 scholarships per team may be a hard restriction again. Adjustments are possible, yet uncertain. Had the Bobcats signed 20 high schoolers, they would have risked limiting their options in future years.
Not everyone on the roster has a scholarship, but Texas State could have had 65-75 designated for freshmen and sophomores next season. And without changes to how scholarships are counted post-pandemic, some players could've been invited to "explore other opportunities." While that isn't a new development in college football, it also isn't ideal.
So, the Bobcats turned to a plan B: focus on older talent.
Seven of the 11 additions are listed as "graduate" players, so they aren't long for San Marcos. In theory, that both protects future flexibility and bolsters the roster in 2021.
"You're not gonna get a developmental kid with the transfer portal; you're gonna get a guy that comes in and adds to the size and the depth and should be ready to play immediately," Spavital said in a video released by the school.
Most notably, the Bobcats added offensive lineman Liam Dobson—an FCS All-American at Maine—along with Cal receiver Jeremiah Hawkins and Utah State safety Troy Lefeged Jr. Among the additions, they should be key players for Texas State in 2021.
While waiting to see whether this pays off, it's reasonable to say the strategy is rational and worth a shot.
The pandemic led to many recruiting changes: no official visits, no on-campus contact during unofficial trips, no spring or winter evaluation periods or summer camps. Every program had to react and adjust, yet only Texas State took this route.
Given the uniqueness of an eligibility freeze, to suggest Spavital and Texas State can reshape the perceived value of the transfer portal is a stretch.
On a smaller scale, however, the Bobcats may become an example for Group of Five rosters that need a jolt. Developing an under-recruited prospect into a star is great, but pairing them with experienced transfers could provide a quicker path to competitiveness.
Sustaining success via the portal would be challenging. For a program that hasn't topped three wins in six seasons, though, a little bit of creativity might be the spark Texas State needs.
Sure, your glass might be half-empty on this effort. But even if it fails and Spavital is gone within a few years, at least he won't leave the Bobcats in a scholarship mess as well.