The NCAA’s change in name, image and likeness (NIL) has dominated college football as a hot topic this past week. Perhaps quietly, a deadline for players to enter the transfer portal and retain immediate eligibility passed Thursday, with three notable SEC names going in. The Late Kick with Josh Pate took a closer look at Tennessee defensive lineman Darel Middleton, Alabama linebacker King Mwikuta and LSU offensive tackle Dare Rosenthal.

“Every name I’m about to mention can be a Power Five contributor at another location,” Pate said Thursday on Episode 152. “But this did not shock folks at Tennessee. In fact, I went and read — it was Patrick Brown, over on GoVols247 — and he echoed what someone else had told me, who was familiar with this. It was something that could best be described as a mutual parting of ways. It’s just one of those, ‘New staff’s in town. Here’s the way we’re going to do things.’

“‘Well, I don’t really like the way you’re doing things.’ ‘OK, well, it’s probably best if we just shake hands and we go our separate ways.’ That happens all the time, when a new staff is in town. I think it’s happened with Tennessee here. But the difference is this is not some guy who was buried on the depth chart or anything like that. This is not a guy you’ll never hear from again. Well, it’s the caliber of guy that can go somewhere and be a force.”

In 20 games from 2019-20, Middleton totaled 43 tackles (3 1/2 for loss), two sacks and as many pass deflections. A three-star JUCO recruit out of Scooba (Miss.) East Mississippi Community College, Middleton was the industry-generated 247Sports Composite’s No. 39 overall prospect, No. 4 defensive tackle and No. 6 player from Tennessee for 2019.

Meanwhile, Mwikuta logged 21 games as a member of the Crimson Tide from 2019-20 and made five tackles. A four-star recruit out of LaGrange (Ga.) Troup County, Mwikuta was the 247Sports Composite’s No. 158 overall prospect, No. 9 weak-side defensive end and No. 21 player in Georgia for 2019.

“This is a big name that you don’t know because he hasn’t started for Alabama, hadn’t really been playing for ’em,” Pate said. “It’s just ’cause they’re too loaded. There was a name that transferred a few weeks back from Alabama to Texas, and his name was Keilan Robinson. And I told you at the time, ‘That kid would start at running back for like 90% of the programs in America.’ He is excellent. There’s no character concern. There’s no ulterior reason, other than loaded depth chart, why he transferred. King Mwikuta is this way, too. King Mwikuta is not a guy they’ve had problem with. He’s not constantly been in the dog house. He’s good. He’s good on a roster full of great. And he’s probably got a ceiling of greatness himself. He was a former high-four-star guy. Wherever he goes, he’s going to be one of the best linebackers that lands on that team. And I don’t particularly care where it is he lands. He’s going to fit that description.

“It’s just that Alabama’s linebacker room is so insanely loaded, it is what it is. And so, this is another one of those situations that I would bet you my bottom dollar the Alabama coaching staff is helping facilitate as much as they can — because they know how good he is, he came in there, he worked, he did what he was supposed to, he did what he was asked to do, and just he’s not good enough to start for ’em. There’s no shame in that. There’s shame in shying away from competition and being scared of it. There’s no shame in competing and finding out, ‘I don’t quite measure up.’ Now, for all we know, King Mwikuta could land somewhere, flourish with proper development and end up being an All-American caliber player. I think Keilan Robinson has that kind of upside, too, at Texas. So keep an eye on that.”

Last but not least, Rosenthal was LSU’s starting left tackle as a third-year sophomore with the Tigers in 2020. Rosenthal was a four-star recruit out of Ferriday (La.) High, ranking as the 247Sports Composite’s No. 305 overall prospect, No. 24 defensive tackle and No. 11 player in Louisiana for 2018.

“There is a little bit of backstory here,” Pate said. “It’s not my place to tell it. I’m just telling you it’s not a huge deal. So it’s not anything that, if he lands somewhere else, they’re going to strike him of his eligibility. It’s just we’ve got to wait and see what happens.

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“But this is a starting left tackle in the SEC. So I want you to, obviously, think about the impact that he could have somewhere. I mean, if he’s good enough to start at left tackle for LSU, I don’t think I need to sit here and sell you on our Late Kick scouting report of Dare Rosenthal.”

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