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#DearAndy: What's behind Big Ten's freshman ineligibility proposal?

What's behind the Big Ten's push for freshman ineligibility and could it actually happen? Andy Staples answers this and more in #DearAndy.

A radical proposal by the Big Ten and the NFL combine have stirred up some questions.

Here’s what we address in the video:

• What are Jim Delany’s ulterior motives—if any—for the freshman ineligibility proposal?

• Would the hurry-up coaches who want to “just enforce” the current ineligible receiver downfield rule instead of changing it be willing to add a loss of down to the penalty?

• If SEC football were a beauty pageant, who would win?

Read on for more questions and answers…

From @coachyusef*: Do you think the freshman ineligibility proposal has any legs?

The “Year of Readiness,” which sounds more like a military propaganda campaign than a proposal to have college football and men’s basketball players sit out their freshman seasons, is an interesting proposition. We know the Big Ten wants it. Judging by their comments to, it sounds like Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby like the idea, too.

This proposal fascinates me because it actually matches conference and school officials’ rhetoric that they value education first and don’t consider football and men's basketball to be pure revenue streams. College sports' leaders have always said academics matter most, but their actions during the realignment frenzy from 2010-12 put the lie to those statements. They proved they cared far more about media rights deals, cable networks and subscriber fees, often to the detriment of their athletes’ educational experience.

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The push for freshman ineligibility suggests some of these people actually do care about the “college” part of college athletics. After years of making the more lucrative decision, the leaders of college athletics are considering an idea that will cost their schools and conferences money.

While freshman ineligibility probably won’t hurt college football, where the NFL’s age limit (three years after the graduation of the player’s high school class) keeps the labor force fairly constant, it could severely harm the popularity of college basketball. The best players might never attend college because the NBA’s one-year age restriction would coincide with the period of freshman ineligibility.

While it might make college basketball coaches’ lives easier to avoid the stream of one-and-dones, it could chase away the fans who want to see future NBA stars. College basketball, like college baseball now, would still produce its share of future pro stars, but most of the superstars would be gone. That eventually would harm attendance and reduce the amount television networks are willing to pay to broadcast college basketball.

If the conferences agree to the Year of Readiness, it probably would help academically at-risk athletes, but the schools already passed an NCAA rule in 2012 that targets those players. Starting with the high school class of 2016, athletes who don’t hit certain academic benchmarks coming out of high school will be required to redshirt. Bud Elliott of SB Nation asked this week why the conferences seem so determined to create a new rule when the one they already put in place hasn’t had a chance to take effect.

The Big Ten announced this week that it has sent its freshman ineligibility proposal to various “thought leaders” to determine its feasibility. Rest assured, there will be some very deep thinking done on this issue in the next few months.

*Yusef is my favorite rocket scientist/high school football coach. We became acquainted when I called him about missing out on the job at Arkansas that Bobby Petrino gave to his mistress.

From @Uncle_Whit: Post combine, scouts talk of quarterbacks being a product of spread or pro-style systems. How has spread impacted offensive line development?

This is a great question because the evolution of offenses at the college level hasn’t only altered the quarterback position. “Spread” is probably too broad of a term because the spectrum of spread offenses is pretty wide-ranging. But there absolutely are offenses that don’t rely on some of the concepts and techniques linemen will need to master if they hope to play in the NFL.

Offensive linemen on teams that run a lot of packaged plays don’t get a chance to work on traditional pass blocking skills much. These linemen rarely have to pass set—the move in which a lineman rocks back to block an oncoming pass rusher—because the packaged plays require them to block for the quarterback’s first two options (a hand off or keep). Tackles in those offenses don’t have much use for the kick slide, the go-to move for NFL tackles who must stop a nine technique end (one who is lined up outside of the tight end) screaming off the edge. So, like their spread quarterback counterparts, the offensive linemen must play catch-up to learn those skills.

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Receivers face similar issues. Many of the new college offenses don’t use a traditional route tree, which means their receivers are unfamiliar with several of the routes they’ll be required to run in the NFL. Because precise route-running requires repetition, those receivers are behind when they enter the NFL.

This doesn’t mean players should avoid the newer offenses for fear of losing a shot at the NFL, though. Evolution tends to trickle up in football. NFL coaches are already incorporating more of the concepts favored by spread coaches in college. And if NFL teams want to keep running the offenses they have been, assistants will get better at developing their rookies because so many college players will need to be taught these unfamiliar skills.

From @shaneterry88: Where would you steal brisket from? I mean, if you were desperate.

I believe Shane is accusing me of being the Brisket Bandit, the man who keeps robbing San Antonio barbecue joints of their meat. But as the video captured by recent victim Augie’s Barbed Wire Smokehouse attests, I’ve eaten far more brisket in my life than the bandit has.

I would never steal brisket, but I would gladly offer to tend the smoker for a few hours in exchange for a taste of the brisket at Franklin in Austin, Pecan Lodge in Dallas, Snow’s in Lexington, Fargo’s in Bryan or Louie Mueller in Taylor.