The new redshirt rule is a boon to college football programs, who now have the opportunity to get players in up to four games a year without burning their redshirt year of eligibility. The challenge, now, becomes how to use that flexibility - something that TCU’s Gary Patterson, and others, are working to figure out during preseason camps.
For some, it comes as necessity - last year, TCU was down to just two defensive tackles at one point in the season, and was using scout team players in practice “without skipping a beat”, according to Coach Patterson. Had those nicks and dings not had a bye week to heal, (now) redshirt freshmen Dennis Collins and George Ellis would have been the next men up, burning their RS year for what amounted to a couple games. Having another option now, is huge for programs, and Patterson is glad for it. “Basically, this rule has a better chance to help you. Because at the end of the year, if you’re down numbers… your freshman are usually a lot more mature, stronger. Any young guys, we are lifting them more than we do our varsity. Our varsity maintains once you get to the season, younger guys are lifting more - so they’re getting better.”
One thing Coach P wasn’t willing to commit to, regarding the ability to play a player in four games, was how that might look for his quarterbacks. Sophomore Shawn Robinson and redshirt sophomore Michael Collins are battling it out for the starting job, while highly-touted true freshman Justin Rogers is waiting in the wings, hoping to be fully cleared from a devastating knee injury suffered his senior year of high school. Should Rogers get cleared, the Frogs will have some tough decisions to make. It’s something in the back of Patterson’s mind... kind of.
“With this new redshirt rule, you can play a quarterback four games now.”
Reporter: If a game was in hand, would you play three guys just to see how they do?
“Probably not three guys, no. If a game was in hand? Maybe yes. But, if you look at all of our ball games, I think we had one ball game that was in hand. The first one, outside of that, we were down SMU 19-0 or 19-6 or 7, so you just have to get ready to go.”
Gary Patterson is a member of several committees at the national level, a responsibility that he takes very seriously. As such, he has had the opportunity to vote on several proposed - and enacted - rule changes/adjustments, and has been a voice for college football on the big stage. “As I tell people when I go into those kind of meetings, you have to take your university hat off. If you’re going to be there, you have to do what’s best for college football. It’s really hard to do, for all of us. But if you don’t, if you make the decisions about money or about your place, no one is going to be happy about that. So what’s the best thing for college football.”
Patterson has become a voice not just for TCU, but college football as a whole. As one of the longer-tenured coaches in the game (18 season as the head coach of the Horned Frogs, trailing only Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz for years served at a single school), he has earned the respect of coaches and pundits nationwide. As such, his voice is heard at the highest levels, and it’s great to see how seriously he takes that responsibility.
The rule changes put more onus on the players, who have more control and freedom than ever before. It’s a balancing act for coaches, who want to do right by their players, but also want to ensure that the best interest of the young people is served. In his opinion - and the opinion of most adults - that’s not such an easy task. “At your own home, you don’t let your 17 year old decide - when you do bring me in and tell me how you did it, because I’d like to do it - but your 17 year old or 18 year old doesn’t decide how you’re going to pay your bills, how you buy your groceries, what kind of house you’re going to live in - but we are going to let them determine how we run, how we play college football, or any sport in college? I’ve been coaching 36 years, I’ve been coaching 18-22 year olds. And there’s such a difference between 18 year olds and 22 year olds. Let alone a 26 year old. So for me, for us, as a governing group, we have got to start doing things what we need, not what we want. What do they need? Not what do they want. What do they need? If we get into what they need then we are going to be a lot better off instead of what they want.
Patterson further drove his point home by referencing some of his former players, and what life at TCU looked like for them versus what the program experiences how. Anyone who graduated before 2010 can empathize - it’s practically a different campus than it was even a decade ago. “I’m going to tell you right now, you go ask my older players the difference between 20 years ago what they got here at TCU versus what these kids get now. And I’ll tell you this much right now - it would be very close race on what’s more positive. Because as I tell people all the time, people screw up success a lot more than they screw up failure. You know how to deal with failure, but they don’t know how to deal with success.”
Patterson closed by saying, “sorry, I will cut off the dad pulpit,” but no apology was needed. He spoke well on some hot-button issues with clarity and knowledge that comes from years of experience.