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Coaches want the NCAA to let redshirting freshmen play in 4 games each

Seems like a pretty good idea.

Mississippi State v Mississippi Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

College football head coaches want to see rule changes when it comes to redshirtting freshmen. On Wednesday during the American Football Coaches Association meetings in Charlotte, AFCA chairman said there is unanimous support for allowing freshmen to play four games and still redshirt.

Back in May, Fox Sports’ Stewart Mandel first reported the new rule proposal that, if passed, would allow players to play in up to four games during a season without burning their redshirt years. So coaches could save their four-star signees and break them out just in time for bowl games or FCS games, all while preserving four years of eligibility for those players.

“I think that would be pretty intriguing to some of the fan bases,” said AFCA executive director Todd Berry, via Fox Sports. “Which might legitimize some of those bowl games and make them more interesting.”

Following the AFCA’s board meetings last week in Phoenix, Berry said that while McCaffrey and Fournette made headlines, players shutting it down before a lower-tier bowl game is “not a new thing.” While those particular stars dealt with legitimate health issues last season, others in the past might develop a “magic injury” right before the bowl.

If this new proposal gets passed, this could greatly help teams that have to burn a redshirt after a starter goes down with injury.

We saw this play out with Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson, with the former five-star recruit having to burn his redshirt last season after Chad Kelly went down with a torn ACL. Patterson ended up throwing for 880 yards and six touchdowns, along with a win over Texas A&M as the Rebels’ starter in the final three games of the year, but Kelly’s injury cost Patterson a season of eligibility. A season in which Ole Miss finished 5-7, mind you.

As it stands, a player burns his redshirt the second he enters a game. He can only get it back if he suffers a season-ending injury before he plays in four games.

You can see why coaches like the idea.

West Virginia also had to use former three-star signee Martell Pettaway last season after Mountaineers running back Justin Crawford suffered an ankle injury in the second-to-last game of the season.

“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.”

During the SEC’s 2016 spring meeting teleconference, several head coaches were in favor, as transcribed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Nick Saban, Alabama: “I absolutely would be in favor of that. One of the most difficult things for players is they can’t play at all when they’re freshmen to be able to gain a redshirt year. They all want to play. This would give them an opportunity to play some and would actually enhance their development to some degree. With the numbers we have right now and the number of games we’re playing, you might be able to play a few more players in some of those games. That would help other players on your team as well.”

Hugh Freeze, formerly at Ole Miss: “I love the new proposal out there. I think it’s needed with everything that’s going on in college athletics. The season’s getting longer. The more physical play, the year-round the toll that’s on [players’] bodies. It’s a great option if you can play freshmen or a kid that’s going through a redshirt year in four games or less. I think it’s a very positive and needed change we need to make.”

Mark Stoops, Kentucky: “I think that rule change would make a lot of sense. We were in that situation last year when we had a quarterback hurt early in the year, Drew Barker. We played most of the year with our backup quarterback being a redshirt guy. We decided to keep that redshirt on Gunnar Hoak in Game 11. Played our third-team quarterback, who did some good things. But it was a situation that could’ve benefited us a year ago. It can protect the player in a redshirt year, it can help gain experience for the following year.”

This rule would also do away with the need for applying for medical redshirts, which the NCAA now approves for players who apply after they lose a season(s) due to injury.

Currently, a player can receive a medical redshirt if he's competed in fewer than 30 percent of the games in a season or three games, whichever is greater. These medical redshirts in the past have given players up to seven years of eligibility.

Coaches supporting this is good, but the next step is getting this to actually pass.

If everyone is in agreement, which it appears we’re close to getting there, then the proposal gets forwarded to Division I’s Football Oversight Committee, chaired by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. That committee could then formally sponsor legislation so it can be considered by the Division I Council. If that happens, there’s a chance it could go up for vote.