NORMAN — The NCAA transfer portal is highly active this time of year, and with Oklahoma heading into its second season with a new defense, that has been especially true the past two months.
OU linebacker Levi Draper has entered the transfer portal, 247sports reported Thursday, becoming the sixth Sooner to do so since December. Four of those players were on defense.
Draper, a former four-star prospect from Collinsville, appeared in 14 games this season, but wasn't a factor in defensive coordinator Alex Grinch's new scheme. A recruit of former defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, Draper never found a consistent spot in OU's lineup.
The redshirt sophomore has appeared in all 28 games the past two seasons, primarily on special teams.
Draper was a touted recruit nationally in 2017 with offers from around the country before verbally committing to Oklahoma State initially. He eventually flipped to OU.
He joins five other players who’ve left OU since December: redshirt sophomore linebacker Ryan Jones, freshman linebacker Jonathan Perkins, redshirt junior receiver Mykel Jones, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Michael Thompson, freshman safety Ty DeArman and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Troy James.
The portal gains an influx of names in between fall and spring semesters. It does not indicate an official transfer — former OU receiver A.D. Miller actually made a full return after his transfer to Illinois was officially announced — but it serves as notice that a player is seeking other options so other schools may contact him.
OU recently took on graduate transfer receiver Theo Howard, who was previously at UCLA and will participate in spring practices in Norman.
The portal, which was introduced in June 2018, has made the transferring process easier in some ways. OU coach Lincoln Riley said in September that players might be more open to transferring now.
"I think it started with players being a little bit more willing to do it. I think the transfer portal has had an effect on it," he said. "I think it's just the world we live in. It's going to happen. It doesn't matter what program you are at. How much success you are having, it's going to happen and I think there is certainly, occasionally, guys it makes sense for."
Riley used former OU quarterback Trevor Knight as an example. He left Norman with one season of eligibility left to play at Texas A&M, after Baker Mayfield won OU's starting job.
Riley has long said that the coaching staff keeps an open line of communication with players who are contemplating a move elsewhere. Those conversations take place at all points of the season.
"I talked with Trevor before the Orange Bowl [in 2015] and then after it. Trevor wanted to stay here. I mean, Trevor would have stayed here if we would've said, 'Hey, stay,' but it wasn't the best thing for him. He had one year left. I told him, 'Man, you are crazy if you stay here,'" Riley said. "It would've been better for our team [had he stayed]. You got a little bit better insurance policy if Baker gets hurt the second here, but it wasn't going to be the best thing for him. He got to go and play a year and that went great for him, and there are a lot of guys in that situation."