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Potential New Redshirt Rule Could Transform the way College Football Operates

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The NCAA is apparently considering a rule that would allow athletes to play four college football games a season and still retain their redshirt status. At the AFCA Annual Convention in North Carolina this week and, for the second year in a row, this was one of the primary topics.

“There was not a single dissension, two years in a row, against this,” AFCA executive director Todd Berry told reporters. “Very rarely will you find any coaching group, or probably any part of society, that is unanimous across every level … This needs to pass, and it needs to pass right now.”

And it could in April for the 2018 season, according to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN. That’s a big deal in college football world for all teams (albeit for different reasons). Schools like Oklahoma State can play players who they feel are just on the cusp to see if they have what it takes on the big stage or if they need to be kept on the shelf. Schools like Alabama can play freshmen at the end of the year when injuries start to pile up and retain their eligibility (you watched the title game, yes?).

This proposed new rule, if put forth a year ago, would have allowed us to see Chuba Hubbard on the field in 2017 instead of 2018. Hubbard, the speedster from Canada, took a redshirt in 2017 even though Mike Gundy seemed to go back and forth in the fall about whether No. 30 would see the field.

OSU feasibly could have used him on special teams and out of the backfield, although Brad Lundblade recently told us that it was probably good for him to build up his body for a year in the weight room.

Hubbard is probably the only player for OSU in 2017 this would have affected. Most of the others were going to redshirt regardless, and all of the freshmen who played did so in more than four games. Maybe you limit Malcolm Rodriguez to four games instead of nine if this rule is in effect. Or maybe you bring Brock Martin or Patrick Macon in at the end of the year to get some experience and retain their redshirts. But the big one is Hubbard.

Gundy is a proponent of putting players in games to see how they react. He trusts Saturday afternoons far more than Monday-Friday workouts. This would give him and Oklahoma State some breathing room when it comes to testing young guys out.

Think about 2014. How much easier would the decision at the end of 2014 to play Mason Rudolph have been if this rule had been in place? With a maximum of three games left in the season and an injured Daxx Garman on the bench, there would have been no question between Rudolph, Oil Baron and running Tyreek Hill out of the wildcat all game (remember that rumor?)

This is beneficial for the players, too. Rudolph’s dad told me in the fall that Mason playing against Baylor was not the greatest thing. Most of that was because they weren’t sure he was ready but at least some of it was likely due to burning a redshirt for what, at the time, looked like it would be a two-game season. There would still be angst about freshmen getting thrown into the fire, but at least there would also be the safety net of a fifth year if it goes poorly.

And what freshman wouldn’t want both another year and some playing time?

This rule seems like it has the momentum to pass with the NCAA later this spring, which means we might get the best of both worlds in 2018. Newcomers like JayVeon Cardwell and Jonathan Shepherd could play … and they could also retain eligibility for the four years after that.