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Most incoming recruits escape notice, spending their first seasons on campus not as irreplaceable contributors but in developmental roles.

The life of a grayshirt: An opportunity or a loophole?

You can separate this group further by the color of their shirts. There are redshirts, greenshirts, grayshirts and blueshirts. Players who redshirt are able to participate in every team function minus the games themselves; a player who plays in a single game will lose his redshirt status. By taking a redshirt, players are given five years to complete their four seasons of on-field eligibility. There are exceptions, as in the case of injury.

Should a player suffer a season-ending injury before certain criteria are met — before the start of the second half of the season and before he competes in three games, for example — he can petition for a medical hardship waiver, which is awarded by the NCAA.

Greenshirt recruits are those who enroll one semester ahead of schedule and join an FBS program for the start of the spring term in January. Typically, greenshirts are the most likely to earn immediate playing time as a true freshman. There are two reasons for this. Grayshirts are recruits who are offered a delayed scholarship. Essentially, grayshirts will postpone their enrollment until after the conclusion of the upcoming season; they will take classes, often as part-time students, but not officially join the program until the ensuing spring semester.

Recruiting’s color wheel: Redshirt, greenshirt, grayshirt, blueshirt

Schools use the grayshirt to add recruits without sacrificing scholarship numbers. That means the program allows more players to commit than it has scholarships to supply. These programs can then use loopholes, like a grayshirt, to essentially keep recruits on layaway.

Jordan Morgan 9 had 35 catches for yards, seven touchdowns and two kickoff returns for touchdowns as a junior. If a player does not enroll until a term following the football season, it means the player will delay his fifth and final year of eligibility by one term. For instance, were Cox to redshirt next season, he could theoretically conclude his college football career in the fall of instead of By contrast, a redshirt cannot play in games but can attend the university, take classes and practice with the team without losing a year of eligibility.

What is a grayshirt scholarship offer and how does it work? - Recruiting

The University of Arizona athletic department declined a request to comment for this story. The Wildcats are far from the only Division I program in the nation that does this. However, there are some Division I teams that are seeing its benefits for the first time. Northwestern University offered the grayshirt to two recruits before the season for the first time in the now nine-year tenure of coach Pat Fitzgerald , according to director of player personnel Chris Bowers. Due to decommitments from other recruits on Signing Day, those prospective grayshirts ended up getting scholarships. But given the initial experience with the process, Bowers foresees Northwestern using grayshirts as an option with recruiting classes down the road.

For college coaches, for whom there are often incredible pressures to win quickly, the benefits of the grayshirt are obvious. Arizona's victory over Oregon three weeks ago helped validate Morgan's choice to accept a grayshirt. It can give a team the chance to hold on to a late-blooming prospect who needs extra time to make an impact on the active roster. It can also spare them embarrassment if that recruit were to go to a different program and become a success there.


There are advantages for recruits as well. For injured players like Cox, it provides a chance to recuperate without burning a year of eligibility. When the move occurs late in the process, Farrell said the message is clear. Before Signing Day in February, Morgan weighed his other options when presented with the grayshirt option.

He thought about schools that had previously shown interest, such as Wisconsin and San Jose State. After the initial irritation at the grayshirt offer subsided, Morgan came around and accepted it. Since Arizona frequently uses grayshirts, he spoke with other Wildcats who had gone through the process at the school. They helped convince him of the benefits that can come with the delayed semester. In that game, nine Wildcats caught passes , another indication there would not have been room on the depth chart for Morgan in Tucson this season.

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During the summer, Morgan briefly worked at Godfather's delivering pizzas. But Morgan said he primarily uses his time to work out, maintaining his fitness for when he arrives on campus in January.

Tyler Cox gently settled into a black leather couch before a workout at Domination Fitness in Beaverton, where he has been training twice a week for three months. Cox had been so excited that he couldn't sleep the night before the drive, eventually getting about 30 minutes of rest before he and his father hit the road. They stopped once on the hour drive, at a Cracker Barrel in Boise, before powering on to get to the game that afternoon, a victory. The campus felt like home, Cox said, and he took pride in showing off his new physique to the coaching staff.

He weighed pounds during the summer, when his injury limited him to a regimen of sit-ups and pushups. He now sits at pounds, 18 pounds off his target weight. After the brief glimpse of what his life will soon look like, Cox is back to his weekly routine as a grayshirt. He works out at 24 Hour Fitness in Beaverton four days a week he updates his personal weightlifting records on a chart in his bedroom and also spends time undergoing physical therapy on his right leg.

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