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Josh Heupel reveals roster size was biggest talking point at SEC meetings on Wednesday

FaceProfileby:Thomas Goldkamp05/29/24
Tennessee Baseball Tony Vitello Previews Knoxville Regional

The introduction of NIL has created an interesting new wrinkle in college football when it comes to roster size. Essentially, it has provided a loophole for teams to go above the 85-man scholarship cap with quality players.

Several programs have employed the tactic, which essentially is just ensuring that a player has a robust NIL package if he’s not on scholarship.

That’s often enough inducement to get players to agree to join the roster, even if they won’t have all the perks that scholarship players enjoy. But now the question of limiting that practice in some way has come to light as coaches wrestle with potential new caps on roster size.

Even things like a standardized injury report have taken a back seat to roster size discussions.

“Man it was really pretty brief as we were dealing with the roster size question,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said of injury reports. “I don’t think there’s been anything that’s been finalized, but that’s certainly something that the conference is looking at.”

Heupel conceded that the biggest topic of the day on Wednesday was, in fact, roster size.

“This morning, sure,” he said.

Lane Kiffin voices concerns over roster size

One of the primary concerns coaches have raised this spring over roster size limitations is the safety of their players. Walk-ons help cushion the numbers in a way that teams almost always have enough healthy players to practice.

Restricting the roster limits further could put that into jeopardy.

“I think there’s some safety issues there,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said. “I mean, practice how you play and numbers could get low to where you have to overplay players compared to where you haven’t in the past. So, there are some very big safety concerns. And the ability to practice well enough to develop young players also.”

Because walk-ons typically serve as the scout-team players, they’re effectively making up what the NFL would call a practice squad. It’s not officially dubbed as such in college, but that’s the practical application.

Losing that could be a blow to the sport.

“You want to be like the NFL in some ways but not in other ways,” Kiffin said. “You want to make these limits but we don’t have practice squads, we don’t have the ability to have players just spring in, have them try out, and have players after injury.”