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A new NCAA rule will allow Division I football players to play up to four games in a season without losing their redshirt year. Michael Pronzato/ Staff

Late in the 2016 football season, The Citadel coach Brent Thompson faced a dilemma.

The Bulldogs, 9-0 and on the way to a second straight Southern Conference championship, were preparing for a stretch run that included rival VMI, ACC foe North Carolina and a first-round FCS playoff game.

The problem: Thompson's triple-option offense was running out of slotbacks due to injuries.

"With just 63 scholarships, you can run out of players at a position pretty quickly," Thompson says now. "We were trying to hold off playing true freshmen and burning their redshirts, and that made us dangerously thin.

"The new rule could have saved us."

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Citadel head coach Brent Thompson wasn't happy with some of the "insider information" on the triple option that Towson learned from Navy. Michael Pronzato/ Staff

The rule Thompson speaks of is the new NCAA policy, approved by the Division I council last week, that allows football players to participate in up to four games in a season without losing their redshirt year.

In practical terms, the new redshirt rule means Thompson could have played freshman slotbacks down the stretch of the 2016 season without losing a season of eligibility.

"It's a great rule and a great idea," Thompson said. "In that case, it would have helped us to play some guys without losing their redshirt seasons. It means guys can have more meaningful snaps and plays in their freshman years. On special teams, it means you can give some starters a break.

"And if you are planning to start a redshirt freshman quarterback in the next season, you can get him some reps in up to four games. In all those areas, it helps out when you don't have 85 scholarships but only 63."

Charleston Southern coach Mark Tucker also is in favor of the new redshirt rule.

"I think it's a win for the student-athlete and for the football programs," Tucker said. "It's a rule that makes perfect sense, especially at the FCS level. The opportunity to play a young man in four games without affecting a year of eligibility is a major plus for the athlete. Having the flexibility will be nice for the coach as well. I was very pleased to see this rule changed and I truly believe it's a positive thing for college football."

The new redshirt rule will require another level of planning from coaches, Thompson said.

"We were just talking about that," he said. "We'll want to space (the games) out, chart it with our own participation lists to see where we are at different positions. We'll have to ration them out a little bit. You've got a bigger roster for home games, so maybe that factors in.

"We've got to think about it and plan it out, so it will be an evolving system for us."

Transfer rule

A second new rule announced by the NCAA, allowing student-athletes to transfer without asking for a release from their current school, is not as popular with the coaches.

Under the new rule, student-athletes only need to inform his or her current school of a desire to transfer. The rule requires the school to enter the student’s name into a national transfer database within two business days. Once the student-athlete’s name is in the database, other coaches are free to contact that individual about transferring.

The new rule effectively ends the practice, by some coaches, of "blocking" a player from transferring to certain schools. Division I's "Power Five" leagues voted this week to allow schools to cancel a student's scholarship at the end of the term if the player notifies the school of an impending transfer; FCS conferences such as the Southern Conference and Big South could follow suit.

The Citadel's Thompson said he and his fellow SoCon coaches have a couple of concerns about the new policy.

"At the FCS level, in all our discussions with SoCon coaches, we're asking, 'Will our players be poached?'" Thompson said. "We don't have the large staffs that FBS schools have. Will they have recruiting departments looking at FCS players just like they look for fifth-year players?"

The new rule does add tampering with a current student-athlete at another school to the list of potential Level 2 violations, "considered a significant breach of conduct," according to the NCAA.

"If lower level FBS schools are out there recruiting our guys, that will be a Level 2 violation," Thompson said. "But there are still ways to backdoor those things."

Thompson's other concern is how the transfer rule will impact a team's APR, or Academic Progress Rate. The APR purports to "hold institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term."

Said Thompson, "I don't think the rule will have much benefit to us, but we'll see how it plays out."

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Charleston Southern coach Mark Tucker hopes the Buccaneers can notch their second conference victory of the season Saturday at Monmouth. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

CSU's Tucker also has concerns.

"I am not in favor of the change, and no coach I've talked with is in favor, as the rule is now," he said. "The idea of an open database for kids to shop around is not a good thing. It's going to open up active recruitment of players and I have some reservations about how that will be handled.

"It takes commitment by the athlete out of the equation now. And if a young man decides to leave and he doesn't meet the GPA requirement, that can have an effect on the APR.

"I have a lot of reservations about this whole thing."

David Shelton contributed to this report.

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC

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