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Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze in favor of early signing period, redshirt proposal

When it comes to college football’s early signing period and the idea of getting a look at a player in a certain amount of games without having to burn a redshirt, count Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze in.

Freeze said Monday he’s in favor of both, though the latter is still in the proposal stage. Last week, the Collegiate Commissioners Association approved an early signing period effectively immediately that will allow high school seniors to sign with colleges Dec. 20-22.

“I think it will allow you to know exactly where you stand quicker with players and they will know where schools stand with them a bit quicker,” Freeze said. “I think that could be beneficial for us and our situation.”

The only issue Freeze has is with the accelerated recruiting calendar that comes along with it. Prospective players will now be able to take official visits starting April 1 of their junior season until the last week of June of that same year, though the visit can’t coincide with a recruit’s participation in the school’s camp or clinic.

That kind of timetable can be tricky, Freeze said, when trying to evaluate any potential early signees on the field and off. Recruits that don’t ink early will still be able to do so during the traditional signing period starting the first Wednesday in February.

“I’m a big fan of getting to know kids, and that’s difficult,” Freeze said. “Another problem is you’re getting ready to trip a kid, and you really never had conversations with them yet. I want to know if kids fit with us. That’s really important to me. The way it’s been expedited because of this is troubling to me a little bit and could cause you to be a bit reckless.”

What still has to be passed is a rule proposed by the American Football Coaches Association that would allow a player in line for a redshirt to play in up to four games that season without it costing him a year of eligibility. The rule would still allow those players five years to play four full seasons, making medical redshirts less of a necessity.

Freeze said it would also allow true freshmen to provide some needed depth at the end of a taxing season while getting them some experience heading into the next season. Assuming they also played in their conference championship games, playoff teams that advance to the national championship will play 15 games.

“The season’s getting longer, and the more physical play that these kids are in year-round and the toll that’s on their bodies, I just think it’s a great option if you can play a kid that’s going through a redshirt year in four games or less,” Freeze said. “I think it’s a very positive and needed change that we need to make.”

Freeze burned Shea Patterson’s redshirt last season after playing the freshman quarterback the last three games of a 5-7 season after Chad Kelly went down with a season-ending injury. Even if the rule is eventually passed, it may not be until after next season with the proposal having to go through the NCAA’s exhaustive legislative cycle.