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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)
A college football proposal that allows players the opportunity to compete in up to four games without burning a redshirt year?
Sign the Southeastern Conference up.
SEC coaches participated Monday in a post-spring teleconference and were in unanimous agreement concerning the proposal made recently by the American Football Coaches Association. There are multiple entities that must turn the proposal into law, beginning with the NCAA Division I Football Competition Committee, but those in the SEC already are salivating at the thought.
"I love it. That would be great," LSU's Ed Orgeron said. "You can figure those guys out more, and it adds to your roster, your rotation and the development of your team. This is basketball on grass nowadays, because you have some offenses out there trying to run 100 plays.
"The game has doubled since when we played, so the more guys we can play without burning a year would be great."
Alabama's Nick Saban said he "absolutely" favored the proposal, while Vanderbilt's Derek Mason used "antiquated" to described the NCAA's existing guidelines for redshirting.
"All freshmen want to play, and this would give them an opportunity to play some," Saban said. "It would enhance their development to some degree, and with the number of games we're playing now, you might be able to play a few more players to help some of the other players.
"The number one thing it would do is tremendously help the development of some young players, who can look forward to playing in some games but would not lose the year."
Playing four games in 2014 could have enhanced the career of former Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey. The son of former Crimson Tide running back Bobby Humphrey redshirted that season before starting the past two years.
Humphrey was a first-round pick in last month's NFL draft, going 16th overall to the Baltimore Ravens, but he played just two seasons in Tuscaloosa.
"We would have loved to play Marlon some, and he probably deserved to play some," Saban said. "It's kind of an all-or-nothing thing the way it is right now."
The new proposal also would aid teams that encounter unexpected injuries.
Under the current guidelines, a player can receive a medical redshirt if he has competed in fewer than 30 percent of his games that season or three games, whichever is greater. There also is a deadline during the season when a redshirting player can't compete without losing his redshirt year, which Ole Miss experienced last November when quarterback Chad Kelly was lost with a season-ending knee injury.
Shea Patterson was a touted freshman who was redshirting, but Rebels coach Hugh Freeze opted to play him for a 4-5 team that was seeking to make a sixth consecutive bowl. Patterson led Ole Miss to a 29-28 upset triumph at Texas A&M in his debut, but the Rebels lost badly to Vanderbilt (38-17) and Mississippi State (55-20) and finished 5-7.
"I knew Shea gave us the best chance to win, but we knew we were just about to play a kid for three games with the possibility of a fourth," Freeze said. "I love the new proposal out there, and I think it is needed with everything that is going on now in college athletics. The seasons are getting longer, and the physical toll that is on these kids all year long makes this a great option."
Had the proposal been in effect last year, Patterson would be entering this year as a redshirt freshman.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was faced with a similar but less dire predicament when quarterback Stephen Johnson got hurt in the 11th game against Austin Peay. Stoops put in Luke Wright to finish out the 49-13 rout so freshman Gunnar Hoak could maintain his redshirt year.
Mason brought up last season's postseason predicament, when running backs Leonard Fournette of LSU and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford skipped their bowl games to focus on the NFL draft process. Each wound up being picked in the top 10.
"What we're looking at is the ability to bolster your roster," Mason said. "If they're acclimated and can play, then you let them play. When that is will be on you, but when you look at Fournette and McCaffrey not playing in bowl games last year, that affects teams. Is that going to be a future trend? I don't know, but coaches will have to prepare for guys who are draft-worthy not playing.
"I think it's a good rule. Whether you're playing them early or late, it gives them a chance to adjust to the speed of the game."
Several SEC coaches hope the proposal could someday be replaced by a rule allowing players five years to play five seasons.
"That would be fine with me," Orgeron said.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
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