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Big 12 will use a 53-man roster minimum in 2020

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With the season less than two weeks away, the conference has set its procedures for what would trigger a game’s cancelation.

NCAA Football: Alamo Bowl-Utah vs Texas Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby expects disruptions as the conference attempts to play football in the midst of the continued coronavirus pandemic, so with the season now less than two weeks away, the conference now has protocols in place

“The Big 12 has policies, (and) we’re using the 53-man roster policy,” Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard told reporters on Monday. “So a 53-man roster is built on a set number of positions. So I think it’s one quarterback, six offensive linemen and you come up with 53 [players]. So the antigen test the Big 12 uses on Friday will be the certification test.

“And as long as you have at least 53 players certified to play and you have the minimum number at every one of those positions comprising the 53 [man roster], then you have to play. If you’re less than that 53, then you can have a no contest. And the first step would be to try and reschedule during one of the bye dates. But if not, it doesn’t technically count against the team that ends up with the no contest. But it was a uniform policy that we wanted to adopt to, in essence, take some gamesmanship out of what could happen potentially later in the year.”

Each team has two bye weeks during the season and the conference is also prepared to move the Big 12 Championship game back by a week if necessary.

At Texas, head coach Tom Herman has already said that he plans on using 80 to 90 percent of his scholarship roster this season and adjusted practice as a result, mixing the second team in more often with the first team and the third team in with the second team.

The Longhorns can also reach that 53-man threshold more easily than other programs, as there are currently seven scholarship players who either opted out, are injured, or stepped away from football.

The pandemic is already causing disruptions — in the opening game of the season on Saturday, Austin Peay was forced to use its quarterback as the punter because all three long snappers missed the game.

Asked about that development on during a video conference call with reporters on Sunday, Herman simply covered his face with both hands.

Senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger is prepared to handle that role for Texas, if necessary — it’s something that Texas practices anyway, just in case — but it’s a stark reminder of how players missing games could have a significant impact.

“Got to work on his consistency a little bit, but for the most part he could get you out of the game,” Herman said of Ehlinger.

Texas has also gotten sophomore tight end Jared Wiley some reps at kicker. A first-team All-District punter at Temple, Wiley made all five of his field-goal attempts and 34-of-38 on extra-point attempts. His longest attempt, however, was only 32 yards.

Herman will continue emphasizing the need for players to make good decisions while away from the facility in the hopes of avoiding either Ehlinger or Wiley in those roles, but it’s certainly the season to prepare for anything.