Hot Reads: What Coaches Are Saying About the Redshirt Rule
Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire - USA TODAY Sports

Hot Reads: What Coaches Are Saying About the Redshirt Rule

July 18, 2018

Ed Orgeron didn't waste any time utilizing his 2017 recruiting class during his first full season as the head coach at LSU.

"We signed 22 freshman last year," he said this week at SEC media days. "We played 20. But some of them started the first game and kind of hit that freshman wall and then played towards the end of the season. That would be a guy we'd obviously redshirt."

This year, he's obviously talking about. LSU wouldn't have to burn a year of eligibility for almost an entire class of freshmen in 2018 thanks to the new redshirt rule allowing players to appear in up to four games and not lose a season of eligibility. As the Big 12 and SEC coaches have taken to the podiums this week we've started to get our first en masse impressions of the new rule.

While the approval from coaches has so far been universal, it's clear preparation levels have differed for what Baylor head coach Matt Rhule called a "seismic change" for the college football world.

"It completely changes it," Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said "I don't know if people on the outside or even maybe us on the inside understand how different that rule is. How much the game is going to be different, the strategy behind it. I think it's going to be fun."

Strategy. That's the word I'm interested in here (though "fun" is interesting one to use, too, and probably an indication of how Riley will approach this). I'm fascinated to see how coaches handle this. Are they going to employ a strategy, treat the possibilities created by this new rule as opportunities to gain an edge? I think that opportunity certainly exists, but it's going to take a bit of work. With the same tools available to everyone, it's the utilization that will have to set programs apart.

If Mike Gundy's going to get to that point for 2018, he's off to a late start.

"We don't have a clue what we're going to do with the new redshirt rule," the Oklahoma State coach said. "We will have to get together in August and see how it plays out."

Not the words I'd want to hear if I were a Cowboys fan, but Gundy might be a bit of an outlier among the coaches who have spoken about the redshirt rule at media days so far. Most, including Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury, indicated that they have started thinking about how best to deploy a redshirt strategy and almost all of them mentioned the benefit late in the season, a potential indication that a gradual rollout might be the most prevalent strategy in Year 1.

"I think everybody is trying to figure out when the best time is to use it," Kingsbury said. "It's probably going to be a case-by-case basis."

Scott Frost and all of the other Big Ten coaches will get this question next week. I'm particularly interested in Frost's answer. We know he's not one to easily dismiss the potential for engineered advantages (nutrition, sleep monitoring, morning practices, et al.), and that's what this is.

Potentially. You can just figure it out in August, and I suspect many will, but I'm also guessing the programs that use it best will have devoted more resources to these deployment decisions earlier than that.

"To me it's not about getting each kid four games but making sure you find the right four games and use guys in a very systematic way," Rhule said. "Like anything else, it's new. I'm sure we will make mistakes."

Mistakes are inevitable, but put him in the strategist category. Who's coming with him?

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