The NCAA implemented a few new rule changes ahead of the 2018-19 college football season. One of particular interest is a new redshirt rule.
The rule change allows players to participate in a maximum of four games without losing a year of eligibility. Previously, if a coach wanted to redshirt a student-athlete, that player couldn’t suit up for any games.
I recently talked with former Sheridan High School football head coach Don Julian — who also coached at the University of Wyoming — about the change. I went in with a predetermined mindset that the new rule was a home run for programs like UW, and Julian confirmed that notion.
For teams such as Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma, the rule won’t have as big an impact. Those schools are recruiting high schoolers ready to play at the collegiate level, many of which won’t stick around for all four years, eventually chasing NFL dreams.
A coach is less likely to sit a kid that will only stay on the team a maximum of three years before throwing his name in the draftee pool.
For teams in the Mountain West Conference, the Mid-American Conference and Conference USA, among others, the rule will have a greater impact — a positive impact.
UW head coach Craig Bohl has a redshirt philosophy already established. Many of his recruits aren’t ready to play at the collegiate level right away and need a year to build up their bodies and adjust to the speed of the game.
Bohl would prefer not to play freshman and believes the sign of a good program is one in which a majority of the starters are three-, four- and five-year players. That often means redshirts.
But redshirting is challenging.
Many athletes say traversing through a redshirt year is the hardest part of their tenure at a university. In your first year at college, you go through all the workouts and many of the film sessions, do basically everything everybody else does without the satisfaction of getting to suit up on game day.
Now, these players could get the satisfaction of playing spot duty in blowouts over teams like Gardner Webb or New Mexico. They may even play a snap or two late in the fourth quarter in a game at Iowa, in front of 80,000 fans, when the issue is no longer in doubt.
“Even like a bowl game,” Julian said. “You get to the end of the year, how nice would it be, as reward for some of those young kids, to get them into a bowl game and give them a sniff of that and not cost them a year eligibility? I think that’s really a nice thing for the kids.”
Depth is also an issue at any program, but particularly one at places like UW. The season stretches 12 games long, at the very least, and with football’s violent nature, injuries pile up. Allowing a kid to play up to four games will let a coach dip into his redshirt pool in November and play, for instance, a running back — who started the year buried on the depth chart — when the starter and backup are dinged up with ankle and knee injuries.
This past year for UW could have seen quarterback Tyler Vander Waal play in the second half of a blowout over New Mexico or start games against Fresno State or San Jose State. UW fans wouldn’t have had to endure the struggles of Nick Smith, and Vander Waal could have gotten his feet wet and gotten those starting jitters out of his system prior to the opener this season.
The NCAA doesn’t always have the greatest ideas when it comes to improving the game, but the redshirt rule appears to be one they got right, at least for the team down in Laramie.