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Thursday Buffet: NCAA redshirt, transfer rules changes, multiple Florida players claim medical clearance

The NCAA did a good thing or two! And two Gators may be ready for action.

Vanderbilt vs Florida Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images

It’s been a weird week around here, with leli being ferociously busy and me being under the weather, so I’m going to try to catch up on a bunch of different things in one post. Consider this a buffet of sorts — and a post format we may return to in the future.

Also: If you are interested in contributing to Alligator Army, a reminder that details about that are right here.

NCAA rules changes permit play for redshirts, expand transfer rights

It is rare that the NCAA makes a change that is genuinely in the best interests of everyone involved. But I think the NCAA did that on Wednesday, when its Division I Council decided that players — sorry, “student-athletes” — in Division I football will now be able to play in up to four games in a redshirt season.

I don’t agree with all of Miami athletic director Blake James’s spin...

“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,” James said. “Coaches will appreciate the additional flexibility and ability to give younger players an opportunity to participate in limited competition.”

...because the idea that starters are less likely to feel pressure to play through injuries because coaches have more leeway with redshirts actually seems backwards, as starters will now have to worry about being Wally Pipped by redshirt players that coaches can insert without burning a redshirt.

But the idea of burning a redshirt now goes by the wayside, generally, as any coach worth a damn should be able to play redshirt-eligible players for long enough to decide whether that player should be a full participant in a given season and/or save a redshirting player’s games of participation for the end of the season for development purposes.

In Florida’s case, I think this change means it’s a mortal lock, barring injuries, that we will see freshmen like Emory Jones and Jacob Copeland in games early in the season, and possibly late in the season. Dan Mullen, in his first year with Florida’s roster, won’t know precisely what he has on his roster until those player see the field on Saturdays — and now he has more chances to see those players early on and shorten his bench before the meat of the SEC schedule, and/or more chances to develop them via in-game reps at the end of the year. (That this change comes the same week that three more bowl games are reportedly being approved, meaning that nearly two-thirds of Division I teams will make bowls, is not lost on me.)

And in the greater landscape of Division I football, this change will work much the same way. Nick Saban’s going to play the players who would transfer if they had to sit out a year without playing; Dabo Swinney is going to make sure all of his quarterbacks get reps in the course of a given year. No team is going to have to play the utterly stupid game of sitting a player with a phantom injury for the means of getting him a medical redshirt, or of reaching back four years in a player’s career to come up with a legitimate reason for one, and no team is going to have to redshirt a player entirely for the purpose of keeping him around longer.

There will, probably, still be redshirt players who do not see the field in a given year, players who are simply not physically or mentally ready to play snaps without endangering themselves or other players. But those players will be few — and, to cede a point to James, the fewer of those players there are, the safer the game will be. And, as the pool of eligible players swells, the physical wear and tear of playing football will be more evenly distributed among a greater number of players.

This isn’t a magic bullet that makes football safe, obviously, and it’s far from a fix for the primary problems of college football — ones which the NCAA will never fix, so long as it remains a cartel that is restricting compensation to the laborers who create college football.

But it’s something. And it’s not the only good thing the NCAA did this week, thanks to another revision to the rules that streamlines and makes the transfer process a lot more open and fairer to the player.

The NCAA’s calling it a “new notificiation-of-transfer” model, but that‘s a terrible name, and the idea is this: Players will no longer need to ask their current school’s permission to transfer elsewhere, which also eliminates a school‘s ability to restrict its players‘ transfer destinations by not allowing certain schools to contact a player. Players will start the transfer process by informing their current schools of an intent to transfer, schools will be required to submit those players’ names to a national transfer database, and other schools will now be able to contact those players without restrictions.

For those who are vexed by college athletes being able to enjoy the same privileges afforded to college students when it comes to being displeased with their current status and seeking a greener pasture, this is obviously an annoying development.

Those people are stupid.

This change, too, is a good thing — if, in fairness, a thing that is liable to encourage players to exercise their agency, not just empower them with it — and the only reason to be truly worried about it is a fear that your school’s program, coaches, and so forth cannot provide enough compelling reasons for players to stay to stave off transfers.

And if the bosses can’t create a workplace where people want to work, they run the risk of the workers leaving.

Florida’s Brett Heggie, Malik Davis tweet about clearance

The biggest news for Florida football, specifically, this week, may have been reported by two players in seemingly unconnected tweets.

There was, uh, something else happening on Monday, so Brett Heggie and Malik Davis both saying that they are cleared was not the headline news in Gator Nation.

But it’s significant, even if Mullen likely won’t confirm anything about Heggie and Davis for some time, because both players being full-go in summer workouts makes it far more likely that either or both could be full-go for fall practices and then full participants in the 2018 season.

And, obviously, that’s a bigger deal in regards to Davis, who figures to be Florida’s most explosive running back, than it is in the case of Heggie, who could be in the mix at multiple offensive line positions, but is not a guaranteed starter. If Davis can play at his 2017 level or beyond it for Florida, Mullen should be able to find ways to make him very effective.

Umstead Sanders, brother of Trey, still set to enroll at Florida

One of the A plots on the recruiting trail for Florida in the 2019 cycle has been, is, and will be the Gators’ pursuit of running back Trey Sanders, a five-star prospect and former Alabama commit who has been connected to Florida for months. The Gators also seemingly boosted their chances with Trey Sanders by offering his brother, Umstead Sanders, a JUCO linebacker, a spot in the program.

But rumors had circulated in recent weeks that Umstead might not actually make it to Florida, prompting fear that the Gators’ efforts to make in-roads with Trey would go for naught. That is not, apparently, the case, per Florida recruiting writer Jason Higdon.

If Higdon — who is regarded as the recruiting reporter best connected to Mullen’s staff at the moment, after more than a decade of being well-connected to staffs that Urban Meyer put together at Florida — is getting the full truth from Umstead, it’s a good bet that Florida will have at least one important voice in Trey’s ear until he ultimately makes his college decision. And regardless of what the Gators get on the field from the elder Sanders, who is not considered a premier prospect, that has value.

Florida “debuts” Jordan uniforms in marketing images

Saturday Down South’s Michael Bratton was convinced earlier this week that the Gators had finally debuted their new Jordan Brand football uniforms, saying they had been ”revealed” in an SDS headline.

I am not sure that I see it the same way, because Florida’s only tweet this week hyping the beginning of single-game ticket sales — which began Monday, mind you — is this one, which lacks either a Nike swoosh or the Jordan Jumpman.

Bratton pulled the images with the Jumpman logos from the upcoming events on the program‘s Facebook page — of which just two are advertised with images featuring the Jumpman logo.

If that’s a debut, it’s not much of one.