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Staff Photo by Patrick MacCoon / Former McMinn County star lineman Bryce Goodner is one of several key transfers UTC has picked up during the offseason.

Bryce Goodner didn't start his career at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

But like so many others looking for an opportunity to play and contribute in college, the former McMinn County standout and two-time Class 6A all-state selection will have an opportunity to finish it there.

The 6-foot-3, 303-pound Goodner, who started his career at Virginia Tech and redshirted last season, is one of 10 players — eight from Football Championship Subdivision programs — to transfer to UTC for the 2022 season. Maybe trying to follow in the footsteps of recent New England Patriots' first-round draft pick Cole Strange, he's one of four offensive linemen to make the move to Chattanooga as head coach Rusty Wright and staff attempt to strengthen a unit that lost four seniors, along with promising underclassmen Ja'Ny Alston and Brock Bethea.

The transfer portal does get a lot of backlash, for any number of reasons. But it also gives kids opportunities to play that may not have ever existed at their previous stop. The Mocs have lost a number of kids to the transfer portal this offseason, which is why, when Wright was asked in December when recruiting would stop for this upcoming season, he essentially said "May."

"That's the one thing that's changed, is roster management," Wright said. "We have to make sure we get the right guys, so I don't have to truly manage a turnover roster every year. We'll have some guys that show up here in January and then we'll get through spring ball and it'll start all over again. Then you'll have May to get them here before June, but this is what it's become.

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Former McMinn County standout Goodner adds to UTC's recent portal success

"Eventually it'll get to a point where once Power Five and that group decides to go to those 16-team leagues or conferences or whatever, I think you'll see it stop because they're not going to trade people back and forth like what's happening now: They're going to say, 'Transfer portal's done. If you want to transfer you have to go down (to Football Championship Subdivision or lower).'"

But in the meantime, the Mocs have strengthened their roster. They signed a quarterback, Preston Hutchinson, who is competing with senior Cole Copeland for the starting job. Along with Goodner, Lucas Lavin (Northern Colorado), Nick Cerimel (Elon) and Luke Lane (Indiana) have joined new offensive line coach Kevin Revis's room. They got two defensive backs in Hunter Green (Virginia Tech) and Cardavion Myers (Western Kentucky), an athlete in Chris Houston (Charlotte), defensive end Shamar Jones, also from Indiana, and linebacker Jaylen Rivers (Northwestern).

What the portal has done negatively is put a stigma on the term transfer, whereas not all reasons to leave the initial school are malicious towards that school. Maybe the head coach that brought the player in and who had a great relationship with that player left.

Look no further than the basketball program, where two of Dan Earl's players — Jake Stephens and Honor Huff, the latter whom has to sit out a year due to Southern Conference transfer rules, followed him from Virginia Military Institute. Some kids are sent packing by coaches who believed the player would not be a good fit for their system, and even helped facilitate that process in some cases. In many cases the move can be beneficial to both the kid and his new school.

UTC alone had its third-leading rusher (Gino Appleberry), leading receiver (Reginald Henderson), kicker (Aaron Sears) and third-leading tackler (Jay Person — who was also tied for second in sacks) start their careers elsewhere.

It's now just a necessary evil that, if used the right way, can immediately make — or keep — a team competitive. Wright has been able to have success because he's used it the right way.

"I talked to a kid recently that was told by other schools that he was going to start for that school and that he was going to be playing in the NFL," Wright said. "I told him, 'Dude, I ain't promising anything, except an opportunity to come play and get a degree,' and he told me I was the first one who told him the truth.

"Coaching is a great profession right now, but it's a crappy business we're going through, just to put it simply, but that's the thing. We have an opportunity at some guys because we are upfront and honest about them. If we don't like them, we encourage them to go somewhere else. But that's kind of how we do it."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.

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