The NCAA’s new redshirt rule gives football players a lot more power. They can play in four games, redshirt and maintain the year of eligibility. That freedom further opens the door for players who are about to graduate, since the NCAA allows graduate transfers to play immediately at their next school.
“It’s a little bit of a slippery slope when players start to decide whether they’re going to play or not,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
News broke Wednesday morning that Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant is transferring. He started the last 18 games for the Tigers, but coach Dabo Swinney told him last Sunday freshman Trevor Lawrence will be Clemson’s new starting quarterback. As a result, Bryant told Swinney on Tuesday he’ll be leaving.
Even though Bryant is in his final year of eligibility as a senior, he played only in the first four games this season and therefore has not burned his redshirt. He can transfer after graduation, have one year of eligibility remaining and play next season.
“I’m not saying that there’s not some circumstances out there where it’s not beneficial for the player to save a year so that they can play in another circumstance, but those things probably should be mutually agreed upon,” Saban said. “But it is what it is. I think the intent of the rule was to help in the development of young players. This is sort of an unintended consequence of the rule, which in some cases might help a player.”
Alabama junior quarterback Jalen Hurts’ current situation is similar to that of Bryant. Despite being 26-2 as a starter, Hurts lost his starting job to sophomore Tua Tagovailoa at the start of this season and has been playing in a backup role since. Hurts has said in the past he’s graduating in December, so if he were to decide to redshirt this season, he would have two years of eligibility left. He’ll have one regardless.
Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette will be telling since it will mark Game 5.
“Jalen has been very, very professional about the way he’s handled the situation he’s in,” Saban said. ”… What he has done is he has worked every day to try to get better. He’s focusing on improving and the value that he can get from this season because we’re going to play him as much as we possibly can. He deserves to play. He’s a good player.
“And, you know, there may be a time in the future where he becomes the guy if something happens. We’re not hoping for that narrative certainly, but I think it speaks volumes of his character to stick with his teammates, be a part of this team (and) finish the season.”
Reach Terrin Waack at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.