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Midweek Musing: The Redshirts are Coming

Imagine a world where Shawn Robinson can play, and also redshirt. It might not be a pipe dream for much longer.

What if Sonny Cumbie had ALL these guys available in 2017?
Melissa Triebwasser

Maybe you’ve heard of this guy, Shawn Robinson? And maybe you’ve contributed to the ‘should he play or should he redshirt?’ discussion. Well, with a new rule change on the table, the answer could soon be: both.

The American Football Coaches Association has proposed a rule to the NCAA that would allow “redshirt” players to participate in up to four games, including a bowl, without costing them a year of eligibility. It makes almost too much sense to happen. If - and let’s be honest, it’s more of a question of when - this rule passes, teams will be afforded injury protection, a bowl game boost, and/or a chance to insert their future stars in small doses to help them adjust to the speed and physicality of the college game.

There are a ton of benefits to allowing redshirt players to get on the field, in limited amounts, going forward. The opportunity to ease a kid in - that maybe isn’t quite ready for prime time - but could use a taste of the bright lights. A chance to rest a veteran player by giving a handful of snaps to some fresh legs late in the season. A carrot to dangle for a kid that needs to turn the corner in practice or the classroom. It could also be helpful for teams that get surprised by players skipping bowl games or deal with injury issues.

Or... well, let’s have Holgo say it:

“We really haven’t addressed the redshirt rule in quite some time,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said during last week’s Big 12 meetings, via Fox Sports. “We’re playing way more games than we used to — there used to be a 10-game season. They’re looking at it, and I would support it.”

Holgorsen further elaborated, rather eloquently, about the risk of playing a true freshman who thinks he’s ready, but isn’t when he steps on the field.

“If you think the kid is ready to play, and he goes out there in September but he’s scared to death, goes out there and plays two series and s**** down his leg, now you’re stuck with him, and the kid’s screwed. He may not play the rest of the year and he’s burned that year.”

The Horned Frogs would certainly have benefited from the rule change, especially over the past two seasons. After the surprising success of 2014, TCU had high expectations heading into 2015. But an insane rash of injuries hit Gary Patterson’s squad, and they were forced to play guys that weren’t on the three deep heading into camp and a plethora of true freshmen. Would Jeff Gladney have helped for the Oklahoma game? Could Semaj Thomas have helped the decimated defensive line? And last year? Sewo Olonilua dressed out for all 13 games, but only took 15 snaps. Giving him an extra year would certainly be valuable to the Frogs. Brandon Bowen will need to apply for a medical redshirt if he wants credit for last year’s injury-shortened season - had he had the flexible redshirt rule, his two game stint wouldn’t count against him. Plus, don’t tell me you wouldn’t have loved to deploy Ross Blacklock or Isaiah Chambers during the comeback attempts against Arkansas and OU.

While we are still at least a season away from seeing this come to fruition, it’s good to know that the discussion is on the table and the debate is open. The issue hasn’t been addressed in quite some time, and the game - and season - has changed a ton since it last was. With more and more student-athletes choosing to enroll early (something sure to grow even more with the addition of the early signing period), looking at how and when they play makes a ton of sense. Eliminating the need for a medical redshirt year, or instances like what Ole Miss experienced with Shea Patterson last year, is a positive for the programs and the players.

Ultimately, its’ something I hope we see happen, and I feel strongly that it will. Just think of the excitement (ie dollars) playing some of those top recruits that have mostly been on the shelf will bring to bowl season. And if the bottom line can change, so will the rule.