FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A lot of talk at the beginning of fall football camp at Arkansas goes toward the “105.” That is, the 105-player roster that makes up a team’s available practice players before either the first day of class on campus or the first game, whichever comes first.
Coach Bret Bielema has his set. Anyone not on the 105 won’t be going through fall camp drills. At least, they won’t be going through them until school starts.
Typically, a roster consists of the team’s 85 scholarship players (85 being the NCAA limit) and an additional 20 others. Often those 20 others are preferred walk-ons. That means they were recruited — in varying degrees — but there was no scholarship available to them, for whatever reason.
Arkansas kept three scholarship players off its 105 when camp opened earlier this week. Freshman linebacker Josh Paul, freshman safety Montaric Brown and redshirt freshman linebacker Alexy Jean-Baptiste were all left off. Paul, Bielema said, needs to improve his grades. Brown is not yet on campus as he continues to fix high school academic issues. Jean-Baptiste is hurt.
Once classes begin, Bielema can add everyone to the fold. They will all be able to participate in practice. But being part of the 105 is important as it signifies whether or not a player will see time quickly.
“It gives kids opportunities,” Bielema said. “I got a chance to come in and be a part of the 105. I came in and there were guys that were 3 stars, 4 stars and 5 stars in front of me and all of the sudden I was in front of them, just because recruiting isn’t always exact.”
Thinking long term, the impact of a 105 is negligible. A player, if he’s good enough, will eventually be a part of the roster. But for, say, a freshman trying to make a quick impact, not being part of it — especially if he wasn’t in for spring drills — can be the difference between redshirting and getting early playing time.
It’s odd the limit exists. Bielema has some theories as to why.
“I think when this went through it was a way back, 10, 15 years ago when it got implemented, it was a way to cut cost for programs,” he said. “There’s just so much money now, especially with the Power 5 (conferences).”
The playing field has been leveled. Somewhat, anyway. That combined with the lessened effect of long-term harm, the 105-man roster is more superfluous than anything now. Doesn’t make it bad. Outdated, perhaps, at top-flight college football. But not bad.
Regardless, Arkansas’ is in good shape.