Players can play up to 4 football games a year and still redshirt per new NCAA rule

Dr. Saturday
Tennessee quarterback <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/274866/" data-ylk="slk:Will McBride">Will McBride</a> played in three games in 2017 after the Volunteers pulled his redshirt. If the NCAA’s new rule was in effect last year, McBride could have kept his redshirt. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Tennessee quarterback Will McBride played in three games in 2017 after the Volunteers pulled his redshirt. If the NCAA’s new rule was in effect last year, McBride could have kept his redshirt. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

No longer will you be unable to see a player on your favorite college football team play in a game because he’s redshirting. The NCAA announced Wednesday that players will be allowed to play in up to four games a season while still retaining their redshirt status.

Why did the rule change?

Traditional redshirts have previously been barred from competing at all in their redshirt seasons, so a move from zero to four games per season is quite a drastic switch. According to the NCAA, the rule change is based in player-safety reasons. Because of the new rule, a player will be allowed to potentially play in four games in his redshirt season and complete seasons in four other seasons.

“This change promotes not only fairness for college athletes, but also their health and well-being. Redshirt football student-athletes are more likely to remain engaged with the team, and starters will be less likely to feel pressure to play through injuries,” NCAA Division I Council chairperson and Miam athletic director Blake James said in an NCAA statement. “Coaches will appreciate the additional flexibility and ability to give younger players an opportunity to participate in limited competition.”

Players who play in a fraction of a team’s season before suffering a season-ending injury have been allowed to apply for retroactive injury redshirts. The new NCAA rule does not change the injury redshirt process.

What’s the impact?

We’re not totally sure, though it seems to be a safe bet that many early-season games between Power Five schools and lesser opponents will feel more like exhibition games than they previously have. Since redshirts are now allowed to see the field, coaches may be more inclined to get young players playing time in the second halves of games that aren’t very close. Casual fans may want to have the rosters of their favorite teams handy throughout September.

How the rule would have helped Tennessee in 2017

Had the new rule been in place last season, Tennessee would have been one of the biggest beneficiaries. Quarterbacks Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano suffered injuries in 2017 and Tennessee was forced to take the redshirt off of freshman quarterback Will McBride late in the season. McBride appeared in three games, meaning he was one short of the redshirt threshold. Instead of entering the 2018 season as a true sophomore, he would be a redshirt freshman.

New Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson would have one more season of eligibility as well. Patterson took over as Ole Miss’ quarterback in 2016 and played three games after Chad Kelly’s knee injury. Patterson was redshirting behind Kelly and the Rebels and then-coach Hugh Freeze made the decision to pull his redshirt.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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