College JV Football: A Proposal For Better Player Development

It’s time to give young players like TyJuan Garbutt (left) a better chance to develop earlier in their careers. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

There was a big message board discussion this morning about rotating linebackers and whether or not Virginia Tech had blown the redshirt of Dylan Rivers.  We furthered the discussion on today’s TSL Podcast, which has been released.  There’s also a proposal being floated in college football that would allow true freshmen to play in up to four games and still preserve their redshirt status.  I think I have a solution for all of those issues — junior varsity football at the college level.

The Hokies used to play JV games against Hargrave and Fork Union, but they were unimportant because the roster consisted of walk-ons, plus a few scholarship players who were buried by at least three other guys at their respective position.  My proposal for JV football is much deeper — redshirting players are eligible for JV games, and the games would take place between peer institutions, rather than Virginia Tech’s JV team vs. the Fork Union post graduate team.

Let’s say Virginia Tech was hosting Duke in Lane Stadium on a Saturday afternoon.  In my scenario, the JV teams would meet in Lane Stadium on Friday night, and each team would be coached by their graduate assistants.  While there would be some potential issues with such a setup, I believe it would help player development, provide more entertainment for fans, and generate some revenue.  It would also be good digital programming for the future.  Imagine being able to stream the Virginia Tech vs. Florida State JV matchup the night before the Hokies and the ‘Noles play on ESPN?  You could even sell a sponsorship — “The ACC Developmental League, Presented by Chevrolet.”  

What made me think of that was the situation surrounding Dylan Rivers.  Rivers played in seven games as a true freshman this year, but made only one appearance on defense, against North Carolina.  Bud Foster doesn’t rotate his linebackers, and I don’t blame him.  But there’s no reason that Rivers couldn’t have played the whole second half against UNC, and again on defense for a few series against Old Dominion, East Carolina and perhaps even against Duke.  That’s one of the very few situations in which I would openly disagree with something Bud Foster has done, or not done in this case.  The staff has known that Tremaine Edmunds was probably leaving since last summer, and they didn’t do everything they could to get Rivers ready to replace him.  I didn’t want Rivers in there against Miami or Georgia Tech, but when it was 35-0 at halftime against UNC, he could have played the entire second half, or at least most of it.  Instead, he didn’t come into the game until there were less than seven minutes left.