Very few freshmen can play right away in college football. The overwhelming majority of new enrollees are forced to sit for one reason or another, usually because they just aren’t ready for the next level of football.
However, with the new redshirt rules approved on Wednesday by the NCAA, players will now be able to play up to four games in any given season and still be able to redshirt for that season.
“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,” said Blake James, council chair and Miami athletics director. “Coaches will appreciate the additional flexibility and ability to give younger players an opportunity to participate in limited competition.”
Indeed, the change benefits coaches as well as players. Coaches can now give true freshmen plenty of game experience while preserving their full eligibility.
Given the new rules, which of Virginia Tech’s true freshmen stand to benefit? It’s conceivable that Virginia Tech, and possibly most teams, will now play most, if not all, of their true freshmen during the season. But which Tech freshmen are most likely to benefit?
Wide receiver Tre Turner (6-foot-2, 177 pounds)
Virginia Tech is deep at wide receiver in terms of numbers, but the Hokies don’t have many proven options. There’s plenty of playing time available at the position, which means everyone at the position is going to get a look.
Despite his slight build, Turner likely would have competed for a starting role this summer. But a shoulder injury that ended his senior season has set him back several months and it’s unclear if Turner will even be 100 percent by the start of the season.
However, later in the year, Turner should be healthy and have had an opportunity to develop physically. Turner could realistically contribute to Virginia Tech later in the season and with the new redshirt rules, Turner’s late-season contribution wouldn’t affect his eligibility moving forward. Turner is a heck of an athlete and even if the Hokies remain relative healthy at wide receiver next season, Turner could contribute later in the year.
Defensive back Nadir Thompson (5-foot-10, 170 pounds)
Thompson is in a similar position to Turner. Thompson’s senior season was cut short due to a debilitating leg injury, as Thompson fractured his tibia and partially tore his MCL.
The injury happened at the beginning of his senior season, so Thompson will have had almost a full year to heal and rehab. Still, it would be understandable if Thompson needed some extra time to get ready for his college debut.
Thompson will have that time if he needs it. Even though Virginia Tech is fatally thin at cornerback heading into the 2018 season, Thompson won’t be needed to contribute immediately. However, in October and November, Thompson could play a role in the secondary. At least, Thompson could play on special teams and help return punts and kicks. Thompson has a bright future at Virginia Tech and playing in a few games as a freshman will help ease him back into things.
Linebacker Alan Tisdale (6-foot-3, 208 pounds)
Virginia Tech is about as green as it gets at linebacker. Tech lacks a junior or senior linebacker on the roster, so it’s expected that young players will get a chance this season.
Of the three linebackers that Virginia Tech signed in the 2018 class — Dax Hollifield and Keshon Artis are the other two — Tisdale seems to be the one who needs the most time for growth. Tisdale has a good frame but needs time to fill out. Tisdale may not be ready by the beginning of the season but November? It’s possible
Tisdale wouldn’t be inserted into the starting lineup by that point, but he could become a fixture on special teams. Players get nicked up all the time on special teams and by November, the ranks may be wearing thin. But Tisdale, who otherwise would have zero chance of seeing the field as a true freshman, could gain valuable special teams experience towards the end of the season.
Quarterback Quincy Patterson (6-foot-4, 229 pounds)
Patterson is the golden boy of Virginia Tech’s 2018 recruiting class. The high-upside signal caller not only has a chance to be a good football player, but has already endeared himself to the fanbase with his demeanor and off-the-field success.
However, Patterson simply isn’t ready to start. Patterson has said as much since committing to the Hokies and it seems like Patterson has no problem redshirting his first season at Virginia Tech.
Now, it’s almost guaranteed that Patterson will play in 2018.
Virginia Tech has three straight games in September that should be blowouts — William and Mary, East Carolina and Old Dominion. The Hokies should win all three of those games going away, meaning the fourth quarter will be almost meaningless. There would be no better time to get Patterson on the field.
Patterson could even play later in the season. Whether it was an injury at quarterback or another blowout (I’m looking at you, Virginia), Patterson could see the field if he has a game left. Either way, Patterson is going to play in 2018 and fans should be excited. Not because Patterson will steal the show, but because the experience he gains will be invaluable.