The Virginia Tech Friday Q&A: The Art Of Redshirting

1) In the portal era, do you still hold to “Always be redshirting”? Seems like a lot of guys who redshirt as freshmen might port to a program that promises them immediate playing time, whether true or not. – Spud

Chris Coleman: Yes, I still hold true to that rule, for a couple of reasons. If you don’t redshirt a player, the risk of a transfer is still there, albeit with different players.

For example, let’s say the backup Sam linebacker is a redshirt sophomore who has developed well, but still isn’t quite ready to start. You are worried that if you don’t play the true freshman, he’ll hit the portal after just one season in the program, so you give him special teams snaps over the redshirt sophomore Sam linebacker. The true freshman is happy and he stays, but the redshirt sophomore is mad that he had his special teams snaps taken away in favor of somebody who hadn’t really earned them, so the older player hits the transfer portal.

In that scenario, you’ve accidentally run off a rising redshirt junior who will probably be ready to start in favor of a true sophomore who may or may not be ready to start. You made your football team younger, and guess what? You didn’t solve anything, because the very next season you are worried about the same thing…taking special teams snaps away from that true sophomore in favor of a true freshman, just to make sure the true freshman doesn’t transfer.

The other factor, of course, is winning football games. That’s the ultimate objective, and you shouldn’t intentionally sacrifice wins just to make sure somebody doesn’t transfer.

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Back in 2003, Frank Beamer decided to start alternating Bryan Randall and Marcus Vick at quarterback. Some in the program at the time speculated that because there was just one year separating the two in terms of eligibility, Beamer was afraid that the younger Vick would transfer. Therefore, he decided to play him. The result was lost momentum when Randall played well early in losses to Pitt and Boston College, only to be replaced by Vick. The offense was rolling early in those games. Enter the redshirt freshman Vick, things bogged down, and Tech lost. The decision to play Marcus, if indeed it was because they were worried about him transferring, arguably cost the Hokies two football games that year.

Here were the stats of the two quarterbacks in 2003…

Randall: 150-of-245 (61.2%), 1,996 yards, 15 TDs, 10 INTs, 141.7 rating
Vick: 30-of-57 (52.6%), 475 yards, 2 TDs, 5 INTs, 116.7 rating

Here’s something you probably didn’t know. Randall had a higher competition percentage and better QB rating as a junior than he had as a senior when he was named ACC Player of the Year. Vick didn’t deserve to play over Randall at that point, yet Tech played him anyway, and they lost.

It’s very important that Virginia Tech recruit players who buy into Brent Pry’s methods of player development. Getting to know the personalities of the recruits is very important. If Pry and his staff feel that someone is going to kick up a fuss and transfer because he redshirts, then that player should not be signed, regardless of his ranking or what state he’s from.