The season began in August with head coach Chris Klieman fielding a question on how his program is going to use the new NCAA four-game eligibility rule. That’s the stipulation that was passed in the offseason that allows players from Division I football teams who haven’t redshirted to play up to four games without losing a year of eligibility. The reason was a fairness factor for the players involved, some were having their redshirt pulled late in the year for a game or two out of necessity to the program. Plus, there was a health factor of preventing top-line players from trying to play through somewhat serious injuries because there was no depth behind them.
Whatever the case, Klieman was asked that question weekly from the first day of practice in August until recently. In most cases, his response was more in the line we’ll-take-it-as-it-goes. Which true freshmen may play this week? Not sure. Will Seth Wilson be part of the four-game rule? Not sure. What about Trey Lance? Maybe, maybe not.
As we head to the last game of the regular season, we have a pretty good handle how NDSU handled the rule. The Bison coaches nailed it. Yes, you can’t predict which true freshmen will play when because you don’t know how a game will play out. It was a good bet a few would see the field against North Alabama or Cal Poly, but you never know. And injuries play a factor. Wilson, who played as a true freshman, hurt his hamstring in August, an injury that took months, not weeks, to heal. He made his debut last week at Missouri State.
What a performance. Wilson showed his high-level talent with 95 yards on just eight carries, and a couple of those moves left Bear defenders reaching for air. And the beauty of the deal for NDSU this season: the sophomore Wilson be a sophomore next season. It’s highly doubtful he’ll play Saturday against Southern Illinois and it may be somewhat doubtful he’ll play in the first game of the FCS playoffs. The Bison will have to roll the dice on that one and with seniors Bruce Anderson and Lance Dunn in the backfield, it’s not like it’s a huge gamble. NDSU will probably sit Wilson one game in the playoffs in hopes that it will make a run at Frisco.
I believe Klieman that on a week-to-week basis he wasn’t sure who would be affected by the four-game rule. Ten games into the season, however, it appears he knew exactly what he was doing on how to handle the new rule.