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NCAA gets it right with new redshirt rule

SEC Media Days 2018 has come and gone, with few hints on the Alabama quarterback situation, or any quarterback situation for that matter, and no huge storylines.

There was, however, much talk about the new NCAA redshirt rule. The new rule, which will take affect this year, allows for a team to redshirt a player that plays in four or less games, no matter the circumstance.

Previously, teams could apply for what was known as a medical hardship if they played in a small enough percentage of the teams’ games. However, teams could not redshirt someone who played, even if for one game, unless they were out for the season with injury. Glowing reviews of this change were met by many of the leagues’ coaches.

“I love the redshirt. I really do. I think it shows the development of these young men to where that maybe they’re not ready early on, but you continue to keep them in the mix. You keep their interest” said new Arkansas Head Coach Chad Morris.

“I truly believe it gives us an opportunity to get a young man acclimated to school, acclimated to the game of football, acclimated to the speed of the game. And then when he’s ready to play, you can get him ready to play towards the end of the season, get him valuable experience to take him into year two. I think it’s been a long time in the making. It’s a great rule. We got it right. The NCAA got it right” said Vanderbilt Head Coach Derek Mason.

There were also several coaches who had gave briefer, but still positive thoughts on the rule such as Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, “I think it’s a positive rule. I think all coaches would say that. I think it’s better for players and we can help with depth."

It’s clear that the new rule is being seen as a positive for many of the coaches. The ability to play young players at the end of the season when they are more mature is something Derek Mason talked about as a strategic advantage, and will certainly help teams as they attempt to build depth and develop for the future.

But is there another strategic advantage that can be derived from the new redshirt rule? Nick Saban was asked about it at his SEC Media Days press conference,

“I think this is a rule that really benefits players and player development. It was very difficult for us coaches to make decisions as to whether we should play a player, you had to make sure he was going to play enough that that would enhance his development so that you wouldn’t really waste a year of his eligibility. So now you’re going to be able to play the player and enhance his development and he won’t lose that year," Saban said.

"I don’t think this is something we’re going to try to strategically implement to players to try to get players to stay longer, because, in our case, I don’t know how much it would benefit us. We have very few fifth-year players in this day in age of football,” Saban continued.

Saban brings up a great point, big programs like the Alabama’s and Ohio State’s of the world see the players that truly make an impact for them typically go pro, and never reach senior status. While a program like Vanderbilt or teams that aren’t accustomed to producing pro talent can benefit more from redshirting players because those players are likely to stay with the program all four or five years.

The rule will definitely affect teams around the country in different ways, which will make the strategy very intriguing to follow.

No matter how teams use it, it can be universally agreed upon that the new redshirt rule is a good one, a very rare win for the NCAA.

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