Alabama coach Nick Saban wary of new redshirt transfer rule: 'It's a pretty slippery slope'

With Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant electing to transfer from Clemson after losing the starting job to Trevor Lawrence, talk around the new NCAA transfer rule is at a fever pitch. We're essentially in the last week to transfer at this point, and Bryant started 18 games for a top team in the country, so he's the largest name to take advantage of the rule to date. 

As a refresher, the rule dictates that players can play up to four games before losing a season of eligibility. In Bryant's case, that means that he won't lose his last year of eligibility with the transfer, and can play as a redshirt senior wherever he ends up.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney didn't tip his hand on Tuesday when talking Bryant, but Alabama's Nick Saban doesn't seem keen on the new rules.

"It's a pretty slippery slope, not just for seniors but for all players on a team," Saban said on Wednesday's SEC conference call. "We have a responsibility and an obligation as coaches that have programs that we support the players and help them be successful, personally, athletically and academically.

"And then they have an obligation on their side of it to play."

Saban, of course, is no stranger to Clemson football. He and Swinney squared off on New Year's Day in the College Football Playoff this year and in the national title game the previous two seasons. Saban has miraculously managed to keep Jalen Hurts to back up Tua Tagovailoa for the rest of this season, but he still doesn't like the doors that the transfer rules open. Primarily, Saban appears to think that players shouldn't be able to just up and leave.

"It's a little bit of a slippery slope when players start to decide whether they're going to play or not," he said. "I'm not saying there aren't some circumstances out there where it's not beneficial to the player to save a year so that he could play in another circumstance. But those things should probably be mutually agreed upon.

"But it is what it is. I think the intent of the rule was to help the development of young players. This is sort of an unintended consequence probably of the rule which in some cases might help a player."

Saban is right, of course. The rule wasn't just put into place to allow players to get back onto the field after a year, it was put into place to get more true freshman onto the field. The extended transfer window was an unintended effect. In Bryant's case, he won't have to miss a snap as a graduate transfer. Non-graduate transfers require waivers filed on their behalf by their schools (e.g. Shea Patterson at Michigan).

Saban, however, is obligated to look at things from a coaching standpoint, not a player one. When CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd asked Saban if this meant that he'd have to change how he'd coach, he replied:

"I can't speak for others. If we had circumstances in our program where players don't do what they're supposed to do -- whether we have rules about going to class or going to meetings and players decided that 'I'm not doing that' --  what are we supposed to do?

"When is it insubordination when a player doesn't do what he is supposed to do to be part of the team?"

The NCAA's four-game rule has led to a slew of regular season transfers (click here to keep up with our transfer tracker). This week, Bryant, Oklahoma State wide receiver Jalen McCleskey, Oregon running back Taj Griffin and Auburn wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers elected to move on to greener pastures after this season. Of those names, Craig-Myers is the only one who will require an exemption from the NCAA to play next year as an undergrad transfer.

Although the rule hasn't impacted Saban yet, he's clearly preparing for when it does. Coaches invest a lot in these players. Their staff gets to know them well during recruitment, which may be why Saban is wary of the avenues this could open up. Even though coaches tend to have a soft stance on the rule while speaking about it -- a lot of them wanted it passed after all -- it makes sense that they aren't fans of the immediate effects.

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