College football players can now get in-game experience without losing a year of eligibility. Today the NCAA approved a rule that will allow coaches to play redshirted players in up to four games without losing a year of eligibility.
The rule will give young players more experience and will provide coaches some freedom when they are in a pinch because of injuries, something the Kentucky football is quite familiar with. Mark Stoops has been a proponent of the rule since the end of the 2016 season.
“I think that rule change would make a lot of sense,” Stoops said during the 2016 SEC spring teleconference. “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.”
Leading into the game Stoops mentioned, Stephen Johnson suffered a knee injury against Tennessee. The Cats needed one more win to become bowl eligible. Facing Austin Peay, UK did not want to risk further injury by playing Johnson or burn Hoak’s redshirt. Luke Wright was forced into action and it ended with a Pick Six that put UK behind 14-0. Johnson was forced to re-enter the game to seal a Kentucky bowl berth.
The Cats could have used this rule last year on the offensive line. When Cole Mosier tore his ACL in the preseason, Landon Young was UK’s only left tackle on the depth chart that was not a freshman. Coaches believed Naasir Watkins was good enough to play, but did not want him to lose a year of football. Instead of playing Watkins, Kyle Meadows moved from right to left tackle to give Young periodic breaks.
The new rule will be nothing but a positive for the Kentucky football team. However, the other NCAA rule change from today could hurt the Cats if SEC football transforms into glorified free agency.