Phil Miller had an interesting nugget in his latest blog entry talking about the possibility of redshirting some of this year's freshman class.
When Jerry Kill took over at Southern Illinois a decade ago, he decided for the long-term health of the program to ignore his instinct to play his best players. Anyone who could redshirt did so, and the result was a 1-10 season -- and a brighter future.
He's chosen a different path at Minnesota, though, mostly because the Gophers don't have enough depth on the roster to compete without help from the freshmen. So Saturday's parade of youngsters was more than an audition for the bench -- it was a preview of what fans will see this season.
I really hope this isn't fully true. If a player is going to be a starter or at least a regular who rotates in getting nearly as many snaps as the starter, then they absolutely should play as a true freshman. But anyone else really needs to be redshirted, even if the MIGHT play this year. Let's go player by player and I'll tell you who should or shouldn't be redshirting this year.
- QB - Max Shortell - there have been a lot of reports out of fall camp that Shortell appears to be the #2 to MarQueis on the depth chart. But I beg coach Kill to redshirt the young man. If his philosophy at NIU was to bite the bullet in year one for the future, then you have no business burning a year of Shortell's eligibility. This isn't about depth and being able to field a team. You have Gray as the starter, even if Jeffrick thinks he's going to be worse than Weber. You have Tom Parish as a backup. Shortell may be better than Parish but bite the bullet! Let Parish struggle this year if Gray goes down. And if Parrish goes down let Moses Alipate struggle through it. But redshirt Shortell using him only if you absolutely have to.
- QB - Dexter Foreman - easy call to redshirt, he is nowhere near the 2-deep. In face I see a position change in Mr. Foreman's future, he should do it now and redshirt.
- RB - David Cobb - the story of the scrimmage with a 62-yard TD run and was one of the players mentioned in Miller's article. He may be the exciting young running back who deserves come carries this year. But unless he is the clear-cut #2 behind Bennett and the staff plans to give him 80+ carries then give him a year to develop both as a running back and from a strength perspective. An extra year to give his body more protection against the blows it will be taking from Big Ten linebackers can only minimize his chance of injuries. We have other running backs in LaMonte Edwards and Donnell Kirkwood and Devon Wright. Let them get carries this year and let Cobb compete next year. There is a difference between deserving some carries and being too good to keep off the field. Unless he is the latter, let him redshirt.
- WR - Devin Carwford-Tufts - this is a tough one but once again I'm leaning towards redshirting. DCT has speed that may get him on the field this year and this position is dangerously thin. But he needs a year to grow and get stronger. Another year to hone his skills will make him better and I really rather have another four years instead of learning on the job this year and having just three remaining. You may have to play him if an injury or two occurs but otherwise he needs to redshirt.
WR - Marcus Jones - Jones will play because he is our best slot receiver and it is worth noting that he has been here since January. Having those extra months of being in a college level strength program and spring practice to get better has put him in a position to not only play this fall but start. He will start and he will have an impact as a true freshman. I'm more than OK with Jones using up year 1 of eligibility this fall.
- TE - Drew Goodger - Redshirt. Depth is a bit of a concern but Eric Lair is very good and I think Sahr Ngekia will get snaps along with Collin McGarry and maybe John Rabe. I have not heard any reports that Goodger is making a play for playing time, he should and will redshirt.
OL - Tommy Olson and Josh Campion - I hope they redshirts but they also fall into the class of if they are too good to keep off the field, then play them. But if at best they are a back up guard this year then let them redshirt. Again, the point is to stock the team for future use. Campion is a year older and may be somewhat more physically ready to play than the rest of the freshmen linemen. Olson may just be that talented and skilled that he could play as a true freshman. Both of them may earn a spot along the 2nd team OL, but give them an extra year if at all possible.
- OL - Joe Bjorklund, Kyle McAvoy, Luke McAvoy and Foster Bush - redshirt all of them.
- LB - Peter Westerhaus, Jephte Matilus and Quinn Bauducco - linebacker is an area of strength and depth. Let them redshirt, let them get bigger/stronger/faster.
- DE - Thieren Cockran and Michael Amaefula - both of these guys are pass rush type ends but they are way too small to play this year. Thieran Cockran looks like Damian Johnson with shoulder pads. Both of these guys need a year (or two) to put on a lot of weight and muscle.
DB - Cedric Thompson, Grayson Levine, Derrick Wells and Steven Montgomery - This position is less about size and more about technique. They all will redshirt to hone their skills of pass coverage. They all could use a year to get stronger but a year of learning the trade will greatly benefit this group of DBacks.
- JUCO WRs - Malcolm Moulton, Ge'Shun Harris - play them. Moulton and Harris are huge areas of need and reports are that both have at times shown they'll be regular contributors.
- JUCO TE - John Rabe - probably should redshirt but he may need to play. Unlike the freshman, if Rabe is worth of being #2 on the depth chart then he should play. I'm not exactly sure how things will shake out behind Lair so if Rabe is the 2nd team TE then use this year of eligibility.
Most of the decisions to redshirt or not seems pretty simple. After looking at all of the players there really shouldn't be too many true freshman who see any playing time. The hard decisions seem to fall around Shortell, Cobb, Jones and maybe a couple of the linemen. I believe the only freshman on the list who should play this fall is Marcus Jones. The rest should be stock piled for the future. Guys like Shortell, Cobb, Campion and Olson may be good enough to earn some snaps but unless they are so good that they potentially are the difference between winning and losing...REDSHIRT THEM.