Butch Jones was one of several SEC coaches that came out in favor of a new proposal that would allow players who appear in four games or less to retain their redshirt status in the future.
“I would definitely be in favor of that,” Jones said on the SEC spring coaches’ teleconference on Monday. “Everything with these young players is about growth and development, but also gaining experience and, as we know, they are like raising your own children. “They grow up and develop at different rates of speed. For us, we’ve had the challenge in building this program of creating depth. I’d say out of our 22 starters when we started preseason camp this year, we only had five that started every game, so I think being able to put a young man in those early games to see how they to react to it – I think that they can develop confidence.”
Current NCAA rules state that a player loses his redshirt if he appears in even one play during a given season. A player can apply for a medical hardship, and an extra year of eligibility, if he meets certain qualifications. But a fully healthy player burns a full year by appearing for as little as one play.
Giving players up to four game appearances would help coaches decipher who is ready to contribute more as freshmen.
It would also help programs such as Ole Miss, who lost quarterback Chad Kelly late in the season last year due to injury, and had to burn the redshirt of freshman Shea Patterson, who appeared in just three games down the stretch.
“I love the new proposal out there,” Freeze said on Monday. “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 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. (Pulling Shea Patterson’s redshirt) would’ve been an easy decision to make at that point.”
Tennessee offensive tackle Marcus Tatum is one player who could’ve benefitted from this proposed rule, had it been in place last season. He appeared in two games, but lost a year of eligibility for his pair of appearances. Receiver Marquez Callaway saw action in five games, but certainly would’ve been the type of player that UT could’ve limited to four games of action had a rule such as this been in place.
Now redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano enters Tennessee’s QB competition this year having never stepped on the field in a game situation because the Vols wanted to preserve his redshirt during the 2016 season.