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The Transfer Portal Giveth and Taketh Away: ECU Tastes Downside this Week

Well news has come that junior QB Reid Herring and senior RB Hussein Howe have opted to put their names in the NCAA Transfer Portal at mid-season. Coach Mike Houston confirmed as much on Tuesday and confirmed that both players are no longer with the ECU program.

herring leaving
HTC Broke the News: Herring has left the building.

ECU saw former QB Gardner Minshew head off via transfer to end up at Washington State, finish 5th in the Heisman voting, get drafted, and now is a successful impromptu starter in the NFL. Likewise, former starter Kurt Benkert – also in the NFL now – hit the transfer button to leave ECU for Virginia not too long ago.

The Transfer Portal can be a boon – see Justin Fields (Georgia to Ohio State) or Jalen Hurts (Bama to OU) – but it can also be a bust for a team and when a viable starter who is a back-up like Herring opts to transfer mid-season, it really can have an impact on the program. This is going to add more pain to an already painful situation for the Pirates offense, which has been anything but stellar so far this season. A competent back-up is something good teams have.

For ECU, this is a much different scenario than what occurred with Benkert and Minshew. In their cases, the transfer was directly tied to a bungling of decision making and communication by former head coach Scottie Montgomery.

herring and ahlers
Herring (9) is a good QB who will help another team. When he lost the job to Ahlers (12), his opportunity to start again for the Pirates was likely gone for good.

But in this case, there is little IMO that Coach Houston could have done to hold a decent QB in place to be a career back up. Herring can help a team out there and I don’t blame him for making this move. I wish it could have been before the start of the season, but regardless, it makes sense.

No one goes somewhere to be on the bench. Herring saw that the bench was the only place he would be and he probably knew this the minute Holton Ahlers committed to ECU. I would argue – and let’s for a minute take Ahlers’ talent out of the equation – that this staff entered Greenville in a pickle when it came to the QB position at ECU.

First, let’s assume that like most staffs, this staff DOES NOT want a QB by committee situation. It rarely works and most definitely not a place like ECU. You need a guy to be The Guy.

Second, Ahlers was the incumbent starter, a highly touted hometown boy who spurned bigger offers to stay home. He has that uncoachable leadership and intensity quality that big-time QBs need to lead a team. If ever there was a story to rebuild the program around, it would be his.

And, third, once named the starter, this staff cannot afford to pull him for play. He is young and learning on the job and yanking him each time he is not effective would make things more difficult down the road.

Herring could come in and torch another team and find himself on the bench the next day. And it has to be disheartening for a QB who completes 60+% of his passes to watch a guy play ahead of him who has languished in the low 50% completion rate (first ECU QB in a mighty long time to do so) keep getting the starts. The offense right now is not very good.


I know…I hear you. As fans, we view the game from a POV predicated on how we feel about our team. We are loyal to the end and we don’t transfer to another team during dark days. Most players are this way as well, but there is a big difference between us and the players…they are at ECU first to be football players because they love the game and want TO PLAY.

The Transfer Portal is a mechanism that may bring good news or bad news or even both to an individual program and I guess for some fans, it is seen as a tool that is ruining the experience. But, I hardly doubt that OU fans are going to put asterisks next to wins that Hurts produces as a merc for their program. Or that Ohio State fans are cursing the portal for connecting them with sophomore QB Fields.

To me the Transfer Portal represents one of only a handful of concessions the NCAA has made to address athletes, their quality of life, and control over their own future. Let’s face it, these guys are employees of the university and have little control over their lives for 4-5 years of college. Some will actually graduate with meaningful “free” educations but many will leave only with the memories of a game they love and friendships forged in fire on the field. For the loyal ones, they will be spoken of by alumni for years – if they were notable players.

And also, let’s understand that Herring’s situation is somewhat in the minority. He has film. He has started enough games to show his potential. Coach Houston indicated that the Transfer Portal so far is working for about 3% of the players who have put their names in it. Herring, I would contend is among that 3%.

Programs will adapt to the portal. If this portal is what is ruining college football for you…you have to have missed the last two decades. College football was ruined well before…the BCS/Power – ESPN cabal long since ruined the game most of us grew up on.

The Pirates will survive this…it will not set the rebuild back at all. This staff will now reset the QB succession plan which will now be without controversy. Ahlers can now confidently go forward as the starter as the two younger guys jostle for honors and the young guns coming in can get in the pipeline.

This may actually help Ahlers mature quicker as the only MAN in town now. Thankfully he is also pretty tough and so maybe he can stay healthy.

Lost in all of this is the fact that with a good performance this weekend, the Pirates have an opportunity to equal its win total for each of the past 3 years in just the fifth week of the season.

I wish the best to Reid and Hussein as they continue their football journeys. And, if one of them rockets to fame and success – like Minshew did – then remember that they started here…at ECU. Once a Pirate.

Love to hear other perspectives.

Go Pirates!

2 comments on “The Transfer Portal Giveth and Taketh Away: ECU Tastes Downside this Week

  1. I agree with practically everything you wrote with this one caveat: I wish Reid had stayed for the entire season and transferred after the semester ended. In other words, handle this the say way Jalen Hurt did. Support the team and play as well as you can when the opportunity presented itself. This way he loses the entire season. If he really thought he had no chance to start he should have left in the spring.

    • Hard to disagree with that…I wish he had waited. Might have found his way on the field.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment TTH!

      Go Pirates.

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