For Gophers football, return of red shirt rule emphasizes roster management
The four-game red shirt rule, which the NCAA implemented in 2018, is back in effect this season after all eligibility was lifted during last year’s pandemic. The rule change created a surplus of players – a backlog of newcomers from first to third years and retention of veterans from fifth to seventh years. On Minnesota’s 119-player roster, Minnesota has nearly 80 players from the 2019-21 recruiting classes and about 20 from the 2015-17 classes.
The Gophers have been allowed to exceed the 85 purse limit this season. They are currently at 95, but are due to drop to 85 next season. With transfers allowing the freedom to go to other schools once without having to sit down, and with players being eligible to go into the NFL after three seasons, Gophers head coach PJ Fleck said that this had made the roster management situation more complex, and he speculated that some programs could lose up to 60 players in a year.
“We want to play these guys in four games,” Fleck said of the limit on keeping a red shirt season for the players. “But the management part of the roster of that – who goes, who stays and the flow of that – is very different this year than it normally has been. I think it’s harder to do than it’s ever been. But if we have guys who can play, we’ll play them.
The youngest members of the group about to take off their red shirts are freshman cornerback Justin Walley and six sophomores – wide receiver Daniel Jackson, security guard Michael Dixon, cornerback Jalen Glaze, defensive end Danny Striggow, linebacker Lucas Finnessy and punter Mark Crawford.
First-year running back Mar’Keise “Bucko” Irving and wide receiver Brady Boyd have both played in three games. No one else in the 2021 class has played in any of the first four games this season.
Second-year linebacker Cody Lindenberg and cornerback Miles Fleming also played three games apiece, but both suffered lower leg injuries. If those setbacks change the season, the timing could end up helping Lindenberg and Fleming be more eligible in the years to come.
Walley was named Mr. Mississippi for that state’s great schools division (class 6A) last year, and his older brother, Jaden, is a sophomore catcher at Ole Miss who made the student team of All SEC freshman in 2020. Justin took big hits, scrambled plays and broken passes in his early actions.
“There’s a lot of adaptation that needs to be done for a real freshman to play,” Fleck said. “I think Justin Walley hit the nail on the head and did a really good job not only to improve himself, but also to improve the other people around him. You talk about leaders: if people voted for who is one of the best leaders in this class, Justin would be at the top of the list.
Irving has quickly climbed the depth chart this season. It was the combination of losing Big Ten running back Mo Ibrahim and Irving’s impressive performances in the Sunday night Minnesota football scrum for young players.
“Bucko did a run of about 80 yards and missed about seven people and finished it,” Fleck recalled on KFAN last week. “At that point, we were like, ‘Bucko is done with this. “”
Cornerback Coney Durr recalled, “I haven’t seen anything like it in the past five years that we’ve been doing it. … This kid is going to be exciting.
Irving delivered a 41-yard kickoff return in the Week 2 win over Miami, Ohio, then ran the ball 15 times for 89 yards in the Week 3 win over Colorado. He’s the No. 2 running back, behind Trey Potts, and getting rid of his red shirt seems like only a matter of time.
Boyd is a wide receiver who has played high profile football in Texas, and due to injuries sustained by other players and his impressive debut, he was targeted in the season opener against Ohio State. , but dropped the pass. He returned to play in two more games.
But Minnesota needing to use a brand new player like Boyd is part of the reason the passing game struggled, which peaked in last week’s loss to Bowling Green.
Other young Gophers have been introduced in different ways. Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi is well placed on second-year defenseman Michael Dixon. He played one game due to Jordan Howden’s injury and turned into other games to prepare him in case he was asked to contribute sooner. It also means first-year defensive back Darius Green had to wait.
“Darius Green is going to be a very good player here,” said Fleck. “He’s a real first year student; I would love the redshirter, depending on how effective it is and what will happen next year.
The Gophers’ support and recruiting staff have been trying to figure out who will return for next season, who could move through the transfer portal, and how many players they could add above the NCAA threshold of 25 rookies in the next few months. classes. Right now that’s a moving target, and that will include the action of Saturday’s game in West Lafayette, Ind.
“Sometimes you have to react and see how things go during the season,” said Rossi. “I think it’s unique, but everyone goes there.”