PROVO — The transfer portal coupled with the new world of Name, image and likeness (NIL) has provided a whole new landscape with regards to college football, for better, but oftentimes for worse.
BYU receiver Kody Epps entered the transfer portal in the eleventh hour, as reported by multiple outlets, and thereby provided perhaps a perfect distillation of why the new college landscape is so tough on those who drive the product — the fans.
College football is a unique and wonderful product, driven by extraordinarily rabid fans who often identify with the players which, in turn, enhances the enjoyment for said fans. Sure, it’s primarily about winning and losing and the product put out on the field, but every sport has that, right?
Due to recent comments made in interviews and from his twitter account, many BYU fans have identified positively with Epps, and for good reason. Extremely articulate and engaging, the 5-foot-11, 178 Mater Dei High School product spoke glowingly about his BYU experience as a minority athlete who is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I think one of the reasons why I came here
I think that being here allows me to be a bridge for people to see the greatness of the church and the greatness that is going on in Utah… and for Utah to see to be able to see where I come from”
— Benjamin Criddle (@CriddleBenjamin) March 20, 2023
GENERAL CONFERENCE WAS LIT!!!
ELDER OAKS IS THE GOAT!!! AND ELDER UCHTSKIIII pic.twitter.com/nv4oZq7jon
— Kody Epps (@EppsKody) April 1, 2023
Comments that are very easy for BYU fans to wrap themselves around and celebrate, and again for very good reason given the institution’s polarizing perception to certain outsiders.
And then, poof, it’s gone, leaving those same fans to question why and what did all of Epps’ statements really mean? Well, none of us know for certain the exact reasons Epps left as he hasn’t yet commented on the decision, although insiders indicate Epps is unlikely to return to Provo.
BYU WR Kody Epps is in the portal.
During the post season, he was courted by a number “contacts” and 3rd parties representing NIL collectives, but seemingly turned them down.
Those conversation seem to have leaked over into spring ball/post spring ball.
He currently has NIL… https://t.co/LnsvzfC8ZS
— Benjamin Criddle (@CriddleBenjamin) May 1, 2023
Oh yeah, Epps’ likely departure also hurts the product BYU can present on the field for this coming season, potentially.
In limited action, the sophomore wideout caught 39 passes for 459 yards and six touchdowns before having his season end early due to injury. His top two performances came against both Notre Dame and Arkansas where he logged four receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns, and a career-high nine receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown, respectively.
He provided a unique skillset that was to benefit the Cougars receiving corps considerably this season.
“His skill set is unique in the sense that his start and stop ability is better than most receivers in college football. He can reach his top speed quicker than most, and then change direction on a dime,” said Criddle, who played cornerback for BYU from 2005-2007, going up against top players around the country, along with defending top BYU receivers such as Austin Collie and McKay Jacobson during practice sessions. “He also has a unique ability to make initial defenders miss and his spatial awareness in zone coverage is elite, which allows quarterbacks to deliver him the football in tight spaces.”
BYU was already in search for wide receiver help prior to Epps’ announcement due to lack of depth at the position, and now that search is likely to be expanded and necessarily intensified.
Again, none of us will likely know the exact reasons as to why Epps ultimately entered the portal, and it’s subsequently prudent to give him every benefit of the doubt, while wishing him nothing but the best wherever he ends up playing.
But it still hurts.
Identifying with athletes while celebrating their backgrounds and growth within the program you cheer for has been a big reason why college football has risen to the heights it has. Epps provided a strong and very likable identity while he was at BYU, which compounds the feelings surrounding his departure considerably while providing perhaps the perfect microcosm of why this new college football world may trend toward the worse, far more than the better. At least in BYU’s part of the world.