Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has one way of tracking the players who might be impacted by the NCAA’s new redshirt rule going forward. He and his staff are keeping a spreadsheet.
While the spreadsheet idea may not be exactly novel, it’s a good way of navigating the new rule that governs how many games a player can appear in while still preserving a redshirt season. It used to be that even one game could cost a player an entire season of eligibility. Now players can appear in up to four games and still qualify for a redshirt year.
Utah is among four Pac-12 teams about to play a fifth game this week, which means some decisions loom.
Whittingham said there are just a handful of Utes players who might be impacted Saturday night when Utah plays at Stanford and going forward. Decisions have already been made on many players with redshirt eligibility.
“It’s all new territory, I mean it’s much different than it was before,” Whittingham said. “But the overriding factor is if we think a guy can help us win, we’re going to use him. It doesn’t make sense to redshirt guys and try to preserve a year if you think they can help you win now, because coaching is a win-now profession.”
Whittingham added: “The short-answer is yes, we’re tracking it closely and we’re getting to that point now that we’ve accumulated enough games that we have to be conscious of it every week.”
Colorado heads into its fifth game this weekend having popped into the rankings at No. 21. The Buffaloes, coming off a victory over UCLA, are one of just 14 undefeated teams left in the nation.
Buffs coach Mike MacIntyre said decisions are made on a case-by-case and position-by-position basis, while also factoring in injuries.
“We have some freshmen that we’re not going to redshirt, we’re going to keep playing. We have some guys that have played one or two games that we’re actually holding for later in the season to use in those games if we need them, then some guys we’ve decided to go ahead and redshirt,” MacIntyre said.
For some programs, decisions about individual players - especially when it comes to true freshmen - have been obvious. USC freshman quarterback JT Daniels has had growing pains but the Trojans (3-2, 2-1) are still very much at play in the Pac-12 South.
At Oregon State, the Beavers have a gem in freshman running back Jermar Jefferson, who leads the Pac-12 and is third at the FBS level with an average of 145.4 rushing yards per game. He tops the Pac-12 with eight rushing touchdowns.
Oregon saw one consequence of the new rule last week when the team confirmed that senior running back Taj Griffin had left the program after appearing in three games this season. He’s among nearly a dozen players nationwide who announced transfers last week.
Following their fifth game, the No. 18 Ducks had seven players who were no longer eligible to redshirt this season, including running back Travis Dye, tackle Penei Sewell and safety Jevon Holland.
Like other league teams, Oregon is also closely monitoring its quarterback situation. Freshman quarterback Tyler Slough has appeared in two games this season. Additionally, QB Justin Herbert’s backup, sophomore Braxton Burmeister, has not utilized a redshirt year.
Head coach Mario Cristobal is going to see how it plays out.
“The use of that year can come in so many different ways, you hate to try to set something in stone when it’s way too early and then just have to reconfigure the plan,” Cristobal said on the Pac-12 coaches teleconference Tuesday. “It’s on our radar, and we’re certainly very conscientious about it because we want to do the right thing by our players.”
Arizona tried to use the new rule in the case of left tackle Layth Friekh, who was granted an extra year of eligibility after playing in just one game as a freshman - the catch was that he was suspended the first two games of this season. The Wildcats asked that the suspension be reduced, in light of the new rule, but the NCAA turned down the request.
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