College football coaches are going to have a lot more roster flexibility this season.
Instead of deciding which players to redshirt before the end of August, they can now wait until mid-October. New rules will allow any player to appear in as many as four games and still qualify for a redshirt, meaning those appearances won’t count against his normal four years of eligibility.
Coaches will be able to get as creative as they want under the new system. They can try out a running back in nonconference games, insert a freshman quarterback at the end of a blowout or empty the bench during a bowl game.
In the past, those decisions were high stakes. Playing a true freshman, for even a single snap, meant the equivalent of an entire year of eligibility.
Now, things have changed.
“Everybody is trying to figure out when the best time is to use it,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “It’s probably going to be a case-by-case basis. You want to try to get them in the game at some point during the year, whether it be the beginning or the end or the bowl game. I think it’s a great rule. I think it will allow young players to build confidence, get in and figure out the game and not lose that year, which is good and it’s beneficial to them.”
Coaches in both the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference said Monday that they are eager to embrace the new system.
“It will be, in a way, like the way it was done before on an individual basis,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said at SEC Media Days in Atlanta. “Some guys may be ready to play right away and you’re going to use them for the full year. Some guys maybe aren’t ready. And by the end of the year, you have some injuries and you need to plug them in, so it will be on an individual basis, but I am excited about that opportunity. I think it’s a great rule for the players.”
LSU coach Ed Orgeron thinks there are many different ways to use the new rules to his advantage. If a player starts strong but then slumps, he can redshirt. If a player starts slow but then surges in practice, he can take the field.
“A lot of guys are not ready to play very early,” Orgeron said. “All of a sudden you get a couple injuries, and then towards the end of the season, they get bigger and stronger, they get in better shape, they learn the system, and then you can play them. It gives us more flexibility.”
One team that should embrace the new rule is Kansas State.
The Wildcats typically redshirt the bulk of each freshman class under Bill Snyder and use only the most promising incoming recruits as instant impact players. K-State redshirted 22 freshmen last year, including Chabastian Taylor, the star receiver of the spring game, and up-and-coming offensive lineman Josh Rivas.
How much might they have helped while playing in four games last season?
Coaches and fans will no longer need to wonder.
“It is certainly a rule that helps the team,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said, “especially like our program where you can develop these young guys and maybe you get to the months of November and late October when you need some of these capable bodies and guys that have proven that they’re ready to play. You can actually put them in the game and help your overall depth and your football team. That’s big for us.”
Big 12 media days on the move
Big 12 media days is getting a new, bigger home next year.
The conference will move its annual summer football kickoff event from the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility in Frisco to the place where they play on Sundays: AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby expects the move to give the event a bigger feel and link up media days with the site of the Big 12 championship game.
The Big 12 normally waits until SEC media days are finished to begin its summer media event, but this year they are going head to head. That resulted in a smaller-than-usual crowd in Frisco. Bowlsby said the conference issued 520 media credentials for Big 12 media days. The SEC reportedly had more than 1,000 media at its event in Atlanta.