Six months ago, Kirk Ferentz joked that the only thing he knew about the NCAA’s transfer portal was "how to spell portal."
Today, the Iowa football coach knows enough to know that when the list of potential transfers includes a player who might help your program, it’s worth a look.
During a Hawkeye Fan Event in the Quad-Cities last month, Ferentz labeled the portal as a step toward "free agency in college football," but conceded Iowa staff members do monitor the list of players contemplating a move.
"You have to," Ferentz said. "It’s become part of the game, like it or not."
Ferentz never sees the Hawkeyes shaping a roster around transfers, and said he would support limitations on the number of transfers a team could take.
"There has been some discussion about possibly counting a transfer as two scholarships, and in some instances that might be worth it," Ferentz said. "When Jake Rudock went to Michigan, I can’t speak for them, but I think the value may have been there for them in that instance."
He also said in certain situations, Iowa is open to investigating a potential transfer if the fit is right for both the individual and the football program.
That situation may be here and now.
Michigan wide receiver Oliver Martin, who attracted a who’s who list of recruiters while playing for Iowa City West, submitted his name to the transfer portal last week.
By rule, that allowed Iowa coaches to contact Martin to see if he had an interest in returning home.
He is interested.
So is Iowa.
Now packing 200 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame — 15 pounds more than when he signed with Jim Harbaugh’s program — Martin visited the Iowa campus on Thursday.
He toured facilities and talked with coaches.
Martin has not yet indicated if he will explore other opportunities but after spending the past two years in Ann Arbor — redshirting as a freshman in 2017 and catching 13 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown while playing every games for the Wolverines last fall — Martin may be on the verge of becoming a Hawkeye.
Current transfer rules still would require Martin to sit out the 2019 season and retain two years of eligibility.
A change in the offensive coordinator’s position on the Michigan staff could allow Martin to seek a waiver from the NCAA to become eligible immediately and have three years of eligibility, but that is far from a certainty.
In either case, Martin would be joining a group of receivers at Iowa that offer experience and promise.
Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette are working toward the start of their junior seasons, while redshirt freshmen Nico Ragaini and Tyrone Tracy Jr. are positioned for expanded roles after getting a taste of competition last season.