As reported by Fox Sports, an idea proposed by the American Football Coaches’ Association would allow a player to retain his redshirt after playing in a maximum of four games.
Current rules say a player has used up a year of eligibility the second he hits the field (the NCAA gives each player five years to play four seasons). Occasionally, players get their redshirt year back because of a season-ending injury. This would let all players get a taste of the action without docking them a full season of competition.
If the AFCA’s idea takes hold during various conference meetings this spring – the ACC meets next week in Amelia Island – and the NCAA’s various committees, it could be put to a vote at the NCAA’s convention in Jan. 2018.
It’s hard to not see the positives. Among them:
It could help develop players. Giving a young player a taste of college action could show both the player and coaches where his game is at, without burning his redshirt. Perhaps that would have helped Miami’s quarterback situation; throwing Jack Allison out there in a few lopsided wins last year could have given Mark Richt a better idea of what he could do. If the rule was in place this fall — again, it would not be in place until 2018 at the earliest — Miami could keep N’Kosi Perry’s redshirt if he turned out not to be the answer. Going back to 2016, a player like receiver Dionte Mullins, who struggled with conditioning after missing his senior year of high school, could have played the final four games after getting his body right. Instead, he played sparingly in three games, mostly on special teams.
It could help teams overcome injuries. Miami had to play freshmen defensive ends Joe Jackson and Pat Bethel and cornerback Malek Young because starters got hurt, but a more illustrative 2016 example would be Mississippi. In a year they went 5-7, the Rebels burned the redshirt of their five-star quarterback signee, Shea Patterson, after starter Chad Kelly tore his ACL in November. Patterson’s first season consisted of three games. As noted in Fox Sports’ article, the college season is longer than ever – the two teams in the national title game are on their 15th game – and high-octane offenses leave players more tired. Letting redshirts into the ballgame could assuage that a bit.
It could increase interest in bowl games. If your team’s star running back wants to skip the game to avoid injury and keep his NFL draft stock high, maybe your team takes the wraps off a few highly touted freshmen to give you a glimpse of the future. Fresh faces could give the game more meaning.
It can be an end-of-career reward, too. Take the case of Stan Dobard, who wound up a distant third on Miami’s tight end depth chart as a senior. Dobard played 38 snaps on offense before a rash of injuries at defensive end led to a midseason position switch. Dobard played a handful of snaps the rest of the way. Since he had not reshirted in his career and could have had one more year of eligibility, maybe Miami could have found a way to keep him at the four-game limit and stash him for 2017. Maybe not. But many people — especially Dobard — would have liked to see him get another year.
Meanwhile, John Infante wonders why the NCAA shouldn’t just give players five full seasons.