Rarely does the NCAA pass legislation that is both wholeheartedly endorsed by coaches and beneficial to players, but the new redshirt rule appears to be that kind of smash hit. Players will now be allowed to play in up to four games and still qualify for a redshirt season, maintaining four years of eligibility. In the past, playing just one game could cost a player an entire season of eligibility. Coaches say the change will provide needed roster depth, improve player development and avoid many of those damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situations where the choice becomes: Short-term need or long-term goals?
--USA Today, Aug. 1, 2018
A season after it was first implemented, the Illinois FCS head coaches are still raving about the redshirt rule revamping.
“I love that rule. I love it for the players and I love for the coaches. It’s an excellent rule," Illinois State's Brock Spack said last month during a Missouri Valley conference call.
"I was very much in favor," Jared Elliott of Western Illinois told Prairie State Pigskin.
Like his instate rivals, Southern Illinois' Nick Hill views the rule as a positive.
“You’re just constantly talking about your roster, and you’re preparing to win each week and whoever gives you that best opportunity," Hill said. "I think each year you’ll see different kids develop quicker than others and some guys will be ready to go in the middle of the season and each year injuries are different . . . It’s just got to be a thing that you’re always adjusting to. But it’s definitely nice as a coach to know those things are available.”
Last season, Hill utilized the rule in a variety of ways. Running back Javon Williams, Jr. played in the first four games, including going against SEC foe Ole Miss.
“Those were meaningful reps for him," Hill said.
Meanwhile, quarterback Nic Baker played in the final two games against conference powerhouses South Dakota State and North Dakota State. Griffin Cerra took over the place-kicking duties for the final four games of the season. He converted all 18 points-after-touchdowns and nailed three field goals, including a 50-yarder against South Dakota State.
As a result, the trio entered this season as redshirt freshmen--but with solid game experience.
Illinois State and WIU also used the rule change in similar fashions.
Running back Kevin Brown rushed for 41 yards on 13 carries and scored twice for ISU against Youngstown State in the final game last fall. Linebacker Herschel Blankenship played four game for Western and recorded his first career tackle against the University of Illinois.
"Sometimes a kid will develop over the season, but you don’t want to play him one game (under the old rules), but in this scenario you can play him anytime in the schedule as long as you don’t go over four games and trigger a whole season," Spack said. "I haven’t talked to many coaches who don’t like it. It helps us in FCS when it comes to depth, and when you get in the playoff scenario, we’ve been in the championship game, that’s quite a grind; that will help with depth."