The recent return of UCLA running backs Kazmeir Allen and Martell Irby has prompted a reminder of that new November ritual facing college football coaches: decision day.
Should they use players who have sat out significant time but are available toward the end of the season or hold them out after they have appeared in four games to preserve another year of eligibility?
The Bruins took advantage of the rule that can provide an additional college season in 2018 after freshman Elisha Guidry played in three of the season’s first seven games as a special-teams player and a reserve in the secondary. He then sat out three consecutive games, allowing him to play in the season finale against Stanford while not using up a year of eligibility because it was only the fourth game in which he had appeared.
“We didn’t let him play toward the end of the season because we were saving his redshirt,” coach Chip Kelly said during the week, referring to the rule the NCAA instituted in 2018 that allowed players who appear in four games or fewer to preserve their eligibility from that season.
Kelly said he doesn’t assess his options regarding redshirts until after a player appears in his fourth game.
“Then you make a decision of, all right, what are we going to do?” Kelly said. “If we play him one snap in the next game, then you can’t redshirt him.”
Redshirting Irby was no longer a possibility Saturday after he played against Colorado at the Rose Bowl. It was his fifth game of an injury-marred season in which he played in the first three games before suffering a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the next four games. He returned against Arizona State last week and made three catches to go with one carry before returning against the Buffaloes.
“Right now [our mind-set is], who are the best players available to us to beat Colorado, and that’s how we do it,” Kelly said during the week.
Allen played in a second consecutive game after missing the season’s first seven games because of an academic suspension. In theory, Allen could play in two of UCLA’s final three games — against Utah, USC and California — while preserving his eligibility and returning in 2020 as a redshirt sophomore.
Among the other players who have not already used their redshirts and could preserve their eligibility this season are safety Quentin Lake, defensive lineman Martin Andrus Jr. and linebacker John Ward. Lake played in the first three games before suffering a wrist injury that has kept him out ever since. Andrus tore knee ligaments in warmups last month after playing in three games and will sit out the rest of the season. Ward had played in only one game before Saturday.
Kelly said trying to map out the use of redshirts early in the season was pointless because of the possibility of injuries.
“To match this up and say, ‘Hey, he’s going to play in this game and this game and this game’ and then in the first quarter of Game 1, he goes down,” Kelly said, “well, that plan’s out the window, so that’s why we don’t do it that way.”
It’s an honor
UCLA introduced at halftime the seven new members of its Athletics Hall of Fame, including former running back Skip Hicks, who earned first-team All-America honors in 1997 and still holds the school record with 55 touchdowns.
The other inductees were Jill Ellis (women’s soccer), Peter Fleming (men’s tennis), Tairia Mims Flowers (softball), Courtney Mathewson (women’s water polo), Adam Naeve (men’s volleyball) and Kristee Porter (women’s volleyball/basketball/track and field).
UCLA cornerback Jay Shaw was forced to sit out the first half as punishment for committing a targeting penalty the previous week.