Losing six players to the transfer portal could be addition by subtraction for UCLA

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PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 12: Head coach Chip Kelly of the UCLA Bruins looks on.
UCLA will lose six players to the transfer portal, but that creates six openings on the roster. (Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

Like many college football teams across the country, UCLA is hemorrhaging players to the transfer portal as part of a process that may prove more beneficial to the schools than the players.

Reserve freshman defensive lineman Tyler Kiehne on Wednesday became the sixth Bruin to enter the transfer portal, joining quarterback Parker McQuarrie, safety DJ Warnell, punter Luke Akers and linebackers Myles Jackson and AJ Campbell. All six players are from out of state and all but Akers was a reserve, meaning finding a larger role while playing closer to home were likely significant considerations in their decisions to leave.

As part of NCAA rules, teams can add one player to their incoming recruiting class for every departure to the transfer portal, up to a maximum of 32 players via incoming freshmen and transfers so long as it doesn't push them over the maximum scholarship allotment of 85. In many cases, the players teams add via the transfer portal will be more ready to contribute immediately than those who departed.

The six players who left UCLA have joined hundreds of others in the transfer portal, with no guarantees there will be landing spots given that supply has outweighed demand since the creation of the portal in October 2018.

The only departure that will immediately affect the Bruins is that of Akers, the sophomore punter from Nashville, Tenn., who the team must replace for its bowl game later this month. Kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira is listed as the team’s backup punter.

Akers averaged 43.06 yards per punt this season, with eight punts inside the 20-yard line and six going for 50 or more yards. UCLA’s net average of 37.9 yards per punt ranked third to last in the Pac-12.

Warnell, a sophomore from La Marque, Texas, showed promise in the secondary in his 10 games this season, making nine tackles, breaking up two passes and forcing one fumble.

Jackson, a redshirt freshman from Jonesboro, Ga., appeared in seven games this season and made six tackles, with one sack and one fumble recovery. Jackson had vacillated about choosing UCLA before his arrival, once backing out of his verbal commitment before reestablishing his allegiance and signing with the team.

McQuarrie, a former four-star prospect from Weare, N.H., did not appear in a game during his two seasons with the program and was so buried on the depth chart that he was a scout-team quarterback in practice.

Campbell, a freshman from Copley, Ohio, appeared in the regular-season finale against California but did not log any statistics. Kiehne, a freshman from Los Lunas, N.M., did not appear in any games.

“I have made lifelong friends and memories here, and I wish you all the very best,” Kiehne wrote on Twitter in a message that parroted the refrain of other transfers. “ … I am excited to see what God has in store for my future!”

If all goes well, it will include a school that wants to add him to its roster.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.