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UND football program keeping new redshirt rule in mind

UND quarterback Keaton Studsrud throws downfield during the 2017 spring game. Studsrud would have been a beneficiary of a new rule coach Bubba Schweigert is keeping in mind this fall. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

During Bubba Schweigert's first four seasons as head coach at UND, his staff spent fall camp determining which rookies would have their redshirt pulled and play immediately.

In this fifth season, however, it's a different strategy at Memorial Stadium. The all-or-nothing approach to redshirt status is no more.

The NCAA adopted a new rule this offseason that allows players to play in as many as four games while still being able to use a redshirt season.

UND fans will remember a perfect scenario for this rule. In 2014, true freshman quarterback Keaton Studsrud had his redshirt pulled with four games to play after a string of injuries thrust the rookie into game action.

In the new rule setup, Studsrud could play those four games and still use a redshirt season.

The new rule has college football coaches like Schweigert scheming for ways to implement the change.

"No final decision has been made but we're looking at how we can use that new rule to our advantage," Schweigert said. "There's a couple ways to look at the thought process. If you think a guy is close to help you, you can play him and test him out. It's like trying a guy out in live action because it's hard to simulate that here in practice.

"Also, if you're short at a position (due to injury), you can play a guy. That can help at different times."

The number of true freshman who have a shot to play that first season has grown across the past 20 years at UND.

Once a rarity reserved only for guys like Jim Kleinsasser and Weston Dressler, UND now pulls the redshirt on a handful of players each season.

That pool of candidates is even bigger now, Schweigert said.

"We've always told first-year guys who come in the fall to act like you're preparing to play," Schweigert said. "Now, it has a little more meaning."

Through UND's first three practices, a few true freshman have emerged as possible candidates to play in 2018.

It's typically easier for skill-position players to play early in their careers as opposed to those in the interior. With that in mind, wide receiver Garett Maag and defensive backs C.J. Siegel and Jacob Odom have stood out so far.

The new rule now allows the UND coaching staff some leeway in the decision to pull a redshirt, a decision that could linger deep into the season.

Because that decision doesn't need to happen at the beginning of the season, it could help keep rookies engaged longer during their first season on campus with the potential carrot of game action on the horizon.

"Redshirting isn't easy," Schweigert said. "Once the season starts, you fade away a little bit because you don't have the opportunity to play. Now, you never know when you're going to need one of those guys."

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department since 2004. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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