What kind of impact will the new four-game red­shirt rule have on col­lege foot­ball? At least one area coach is thrilled.

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY DAVID SCOTT [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

Jeff Gem­mell didn’t know whether to be happy or dis­ap­pointed when he was called into a coach’s of­fice dur­ing his fresh­man sea­son with the Char­lotte 49ers.

Gem­mell, then a true fresh­man line­backer, had been told in the pre­sea­son that he would red­shirt the 2015 sea­son — mean­ing he would sit out the year while main­tain­ing his four full sea­sons of el­i­gi­bil­ity.

In­stead of hav­ing the pres­sure of pre­par­ing for a game each week, Gem­mell was play­ing on the 49ers’ scout teams, learn­ing the pro­gram’s sys­tem and, just as im­por­tantly, get­ting ad­justed to col­lege life. As long as Gem­mell didn’t ap­pear in a game, he would have those four other sea­sons to play — a rule that would be changed ear­lier this year.

But when in­juries be­gan to crop up among the 49ers’ lineback­ers mid­way through the sea­son, coaches told Gem­mell to get ready to play that week against Old Do­min­ion.

The thought of play­ing against the Monar­chs ap­pealed to the com­pet­i­tive side of Gem­mell. He was, af­ter all, fi­nally get­ting a chance to play in a col­lege foot­ball game. But he also heard from his prac­ti­cal side, un­der­stand­ing that if he par­tic­i­pated in so much as one play, NCAA rules man­dated that he would lose his red­shirt sta­tus.

“I was ex­cited about it


Brad Lam­bert, 49ers coach

but also ner­vous,” said Gem­mell, now a ju­nior who has de­vel­oped into one of Con­fer­ence USA’s top lineback­ers. “I was kind of freaked out, be­cause I knew if I touched the field one time, my red­shirt year was burned.”

As it turned out, Gem­mell had noth­ing to be ner­vous about. 49ers coach Brad Lam­bert de­cided to hold Gem­mell out of the ODU game, thus main­tain­ing his red­shirt sta­tus.

“I was over­whelmed and re­lieved at the same time,” Gem­mell said. “Hav­ing to make those kinds of de­ci­sions can kind of mess you up.”

The type of dilemma that Gem­mell faced is gone now. The NCAA passed a rule ear­lier this year al­low­ing a player to par­tic­i­pate in up to four games in a sea­son without los­ing a year of el­i­gi­bil­ity.

Lam­bert, who has re­lied heav­ily on red­shirts over his five sea­sons at Char­lotte, is glad to have four games’ worth of lee­way now in mak­ing those kinds of calls.

“I love it. I think it’s a great rule,” Lam­bert said. “It takes the pres­sure off you.”

Lam­bert said the new rule helps with player safety and dis­ci­pline issues.

“If you have a guy get hurt, you’d have to worry about bring­ing a (red­shirt) player in to take his place, and that might burn his red­shirt year,” Lam­bert said. “It’s the same with (sus­pend­ing) a player. You bring a guy in to take his place, and his year is burned be­cause some­body had to be dis­ci­plined. That wasn’t fair.”

Lam­bert is let­ting the new rule work for him dur­ing pre­sea­son camp. While sopho­more de­fen­sive line­man Dantrell Barkley re­cov­ers from a shoul­der in­jury, true fresh­man Bryan Wal­lace is get­ting a chance to fill in. It’s un­likely that Barkley will be out for four games, so Wal­lace could po­ten­tially play for Barkley early in the sea­son and not lose his red­shirt sta­tus.

“(The rule) keeps ev­ery­body en­gaged,” Lam­bert said. “In the past, you’d make the de­ci­sion to red­shirt a guy, and he goes into an­other mode, like ‘Oh, well, I’m not play­ing this year,’ that kind of mode. Now ev­ery­body needs to stay ready.”

Gem­mell said he’s a bit en­vi­ous of the op­por­tu­ni­ties some of Char­lotte’s true fresh­men have this year. Backup line­backer Dil­lon Over­holt has been play­ing on special teams in train­ing camp and might be able to im­press coaches early in the sea­son.

“I’ve talked to the fresh­men, and it’s so dif­fer­ent,” Gem­mell said. “My buddy Dil­lon is on kick­off teams and he doesn’t re­ally know what the coaches have in mind. But they can see what he can do, give him a shot at it, then ei­ther see him de­velop out there or red­shirt him.”

Jeff Gem­mell

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