In the Future, Urban Meyer Wants Redshirting to Become a Thing of the Past
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Everybody understands the idea behind redshirting. College athletes have five years to play four seasons, which means that many times a player will sit out his first season of action so that he can mature into a more viable option for his coaches down the road.
Sometimes coaches also have to weigh "wasting" a season of eligibility when it comes to playing athletes at a position of depth. If a team doesn't need snaps from that player, the current wisdom is to save that player's four years by sitting him as a freshman.
For instance, Ohio State returns three tailbacks with experience from last season, and is also bringing in two freshmen backs as well. Are three running backs enough for this team considering the number of carries that also go to the quarterback and receivers?
Does one of freshmen, Bri'onte Dunn or Warren Ball, redshirt while the other provides cursory depth? Do they both redshirt, or do neither redshirt?
According to Urban Meyer, it sounds like if a player can play, then he will find a way to get him on the field.
"There's no redshirting," he said in an interview last week on 97.1 The Fan's mid-day show 'Common Man & The Torg' in Columbus.
"We're moving forward. Now, there will be some guys that will redshirt, but that's just because they weren't good enough to play, not because we're holding them back."
The key in Meyer's plan, obviously, is to land the level of talent that can help his team immediately. His thought process is that if they can't help you now, then what's the point of signing them.
"Every freshman in the way we recruit, and the way we develop, the way we work these guys, we're developing them to get ready to play right now," he continued. "Because who knows what's down the road."
A good example is Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby, who will be playing his redshirt sophomore season in 2012. As a third-year player, he will be eligible for the NFL Draft following this season. If he chooses to leave, which as the team's best cornerback would certainly be an option, then the Buckeyes will have only had him on the field for two seasons.
This is an uncommon example, but if a player is talented enough to leave for the NFL after three years, then Meyer sees no reason for that player to waste any of his seasons sitting unavailable on the bench.
"Shoot, a lot of these guys will leave after their third year if you do a good job of recruiting," he said. "We have to get them ready. So we're gonna recruit with the intent to get them on the field right now."
If those players are going to leave after their third year, then Meyer wants those players to spend all three of their years helping his teams win games.
This isn't just a fanciful line from Meyer, because it's something that he implemented back at Florida.
In 2007, when Tim Tebow was Meyer's starting quarterback as a sophomore, true freshman quarterback Cam Newton saw the field as a backup.
With perhaps the most secure quarterback situation in the nation, Meyer saw fit to get Newton on the field in five games that season. Not that he had many quarterback options that year, but he didn't even try to separate Tebow and Newton by a second year.
Tebow himself is also a good example of Meyer's philosophy. Despite having a four-year starter at quarterback in Chris Leak, Meyer got Tebow on the field early and often as a freshman in 2006. While he never started a game, he was an integral part in the Gator offense and certainly one of the reasons they won the BCS National Championship.
It goes back to Meyer's desire to locate all of the playmakers on a team and get them the ball in the best ways possible. If a player can help a team, then they will be put in a position to do so.
It will be interesting to see which players redshirt this year. How many of them that do will come from the group of freshmen who were chosen by the previous staff, and how many will come from those chosen by Meyer himself?
It would seem clear, however, that whatever the number this coming season might be, it will likely be higher than those that follow.
"About two or three years into my tenure at Florida, we changed our whole philosophy, and that was that there are no redshirts," he said. "And we're going to do the same thing here. We're not redshirting players.
"We're not going to recruit a kid where you say, 'Hey, maybe he'll be ready in two years.' There's another one out there somewhere that's ready right now. So we're gonna recruit with the intent to get them on the field right now."
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