Rise of blueshirts
Everybody who follows college football knows what a redshirt is. And grayshirts are becoming a common part of recruiting lexicon. But what the heck is a blueshirt? It's a term starting to be used more and more by coaches, fans and even recruits themselves.
A blueshirt is a player who arrived on campus as a "preferred" or "recruited" walk-on and goes on to earn a football scholarship. The NCAA doesn't allow for schools to produce written promises of scholarships to walk-ons, but that doesn't stop a school from telling a prospect who walks on that an offer is coming after a certain point.
"There are a couple of different ways you can award a blueshirt scholarship," one Big 12 coach said. "We'll have some cases of a player arriving for the start of fall practices, and we'll then immediately put them on scholarship after the end of fall camp, then count the scholarship forward - against the 2015 class, for example - and announce them on the following signing day.
"The other way is if there's a player, and we know we'll have a scholarship coming open at a certain position. We tell them if you come as a freshman, pay your own way, a scholarship will come open at this point in time, and it's yours."
There is one advantage of encouraging a kid to be a blueshirt as opposed to a grayshirt. Unlike grayshirts, who aren't allowed to practice or be around the program for the first semester out of high school, a blueshirt can practice and play immediately, as long as he pays his own way. The only catch is the prospect may not have been recruited, meaning he can't have taken a paid official visit to the school or signed any kind of financial-aid agreement.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Tennessee coach Butch Jones will apply this tactic as part of helping the 34 players he signed on signing day fit within NCAA rules that limit Division I-A football programs to 25 new scholarship players per academic year and 28 signees in each year's signing period. New Mexico State reportedly has been doing it for years.
What's next, greenshirts? Oh wait, that's already used to describe players who enroll early. What's clear, is that as the NCAA evolves recruiting rules, college coaches are getting more creative and finding loopholes to take advantage of them.