The redshirt rules that went into effect a year ago have already had a profound effect on how college football coaches manage their roster.
Under the old rules, if a player played in a game, their redshirt season was done and it cost them a year of eligibility. Now a player can play in up to four games and still redshirt.
It’s a good rule for the players, and the coaches like it too.
Nebraska coach Scott Frost has a number of freshmen who are still eligible to redshirt — players like running back Rahmir Johnson, who saw action in his second game Saturday against Northwestern.
Frost said Johnson is ready to help the team right now,
“He’s practicing really well,” Frost said. “He’s fast. He’s going to give us a weapon somewhere down the road. He’s played in two games. We got him in for a series on Saturday but probably didn’t get him in enough.”
Frost wants to keep Johnson’s redshirt season, but it may not work out that way in the long run.
“You never know what’s going to happen with injuries and other things with the team,” Frost said. “We might end up having to play him. He’s an example of a guy kind of on the cusp, but if we can help it, (we’ll) make sure he doesn’t use this season without getting too many reps.”
There are several other freshmen who have been rotated in on special teams as needed. By rotating them in, Frost is hoping to limit them to four games and redshirt them all this season.
“You never know where you are going to have injuries and one of those guys is going to have to play for you on offense or defense,” Frost said. “So we are just trying to make decisions each week as they come along and do our best to salvage a year for every guy we possibly can.”
Frost may also face a decision on sophomore kicker Barret Pickering, who has yet to play this season because of a leg injury. It’s getting close to the point where Pickering, even if he is healthy, would be a prime candidate to redshirt.
“We hadn’t talked about that yet,” Frost said. “We have just been having our fingers crossed that he’d be back sooner rather than later. I guess if we get a few more games into the season, we might start having that discussion. Right now, we just want him to be healthy.”
McCaffrey could redshirt
Freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey is another redshirt candidate. The coaches love his potential and want to preserve his eligibility this season, but the injury to Adrian Martinez could potentially affect McCaffrey’s use this season.
The freshman from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, saw his first action Saturday. He entered the game when Noah Vedral lost his helmet in the fourth quarter and had to leave the game for one play.
McCaffrey wasted no time. He literally sprinted onto the field.
“That’s just how Luke works. He’s a quick kid,” Vedral said. “He’s on top of things. He was out there pretty quick. I was happy for him to get his first snap as a Husker.”
McCaffrey’s one play ended up being a quarterback run for three yards.
“I mean he’s pretty fast, might as well try him, right?” Vedral said. “But, no, that was fine. I was excited for him.”
Frost said he wasn’t sure if he would rather have had another quarterback — either Andrew Bunch or possibly Matt Masker — take that one snap and save a game for McCaffrey.
“It is hard to say,” Frost said. “Luke could have just as easily popped a run and won the game for us. He is the next guy up on the depth chart right now, so he is the next guy in. We still have three more games to use him so we will figure it out really soon.”
Washington sits out half
Sophomore running back Maurice Washington sat out the first half against Northwestern. Frost said it was his decision.
Frost didn’t elaborate on the reasons for that decision.
“We hold our players to a certain standard, and we want to help them to live up to that standard,” Frost said.
Frost is hoping Washington responds well this week.
“We want him to come back and play well and come back and prepare well and get ready to play them, and, if he does, this will all be water underneath the bridge,” Frost said. “We need him to respond just like the rest of the team.”
Bob Hamar is sports editor for The Independent.