Over the next three or four days, the Washington Huskies football coaching staff will have some decisions to make about which true freshmen might play this season.
They’ll meet in the coming days to sort their true freshmen players into a few different categories: those who will definitely play this season, those who might play this season, and those who will likely redshirt this season.
Defensive line coach Jeff Choate broached the topic when speaking with reporters after Monday’s practice. He was asked about the possibility of true freshman defensive lineman/buck linebacker Benning Potoa’e playing in UW’s opener against Boise State, and this his how Choate responded:
“It’s a really good question. We’re going to have what we call a ‘roll call’ meeting with all of our guys in about three days. One of the things we’re doing tonight as a staff is getting together and figuring out: who are the guys that potentially have the ability to play?
“There’s going to be a couple of different categories. There’s going to be guys where it’s, ‘no question, he’s ready to go. Where can he fit in and help us right now?’ And then there’s going to be that category of guys where, as the season progresses, injuries occur and we’ve got to keep this guy warm. We’ll have that conversation tonight and move forward with the players in the next couple of days.”
Choate said that “I don’t anticipate any of our true freshmen playing” on the defensive line (though Potoa’e has been working at buck linebacker).
Defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake, who also spoke with reporters on Monday, said freshmen cornerbacks Austin Joyner and Jordan Miller have “definitely made it hard” for coaches to decide whether or not they should redshirt. Neither has spent much time with the No. 1 or 2 defense during the team periods that media has been allowed to watch, but the coaches obviously have to consider more than just day-one depth.
“I think they’ve positioned themselves where they’re making it a hard decision on us (and) what we want to do,” Lake said. “Are we going to redshirt them or are we going to play them? So they’ve done a good job for me, they’ve done a great job for Coach Choate on special teams. ... They’ve risen to the challenge where we feel like they can play right now, but we’ve got to see what’s best for them and also what’s best for the team.”
(For the record, my guesses for the true freshmen most likely to play this season, in no particular order: WR Chico McClatcher, WR Isaiah Renfro, OT Trey Adams, LB Tevis Bartlett, LB Ben Burr-Kirven, RB Myles Gaskin, QB Jake Browning, WR Quinten Pounds. Just guesses, but I’d certainly expect to see at least a handful of those guys on the field come Sept. 4.)
“It really goes back to – what we never want to do to a young man is waste his year,” Lake said. “And so how many reps he’s going to get on defense, how many reps he’s going to get on offense if it’s an offensive player, and how many reps he’s going to get on special teams. If it’s minimal, you redshirt. If it’s going to be quite a bit, then we play them. So that’s been Coach Pete’s philosophy for a long time. We never want a guy to go out there for two plays in a game and then all of a sudden we just wasted his year. It really comes down to playing time in both phases.”
When he was asked last week about the possibility of redshirting Browning, though, coach Chris Petersen made it clear that iron-clad redshirt decisions aren’t necessarily made before the season begins.
“We’ll make no decisions early on guys that might play,” Petersen said. “I don’t care if it’s the quarterback, o-line, whatever. We’ll get into this thing a handful of games before we say – because we’ll still have a lot left. So you can gain valuable experience. So even if we have a true freshman that doesn’t play the first game, that doesn’t mean he’s redshirting. I’m not talking about Jake – we haven’t made any decisions on anybody like that, but we’ve done that in the past.”
The Huskies played eight true freshmen last season: DB Budda Baker, DB Sidney Jones, DB Darren Gardenhire, DB Naijiel Hale, WR Dante Pettis, WR Brayden Lenius, DL Will Dissly and K Tristan Vizcaino. Five of them debuted in the Huskies’ season opener at Hawaii. The remaining three -- Jones, Pettis and Dissly -- made their debuts the next week against Eastern Washington.
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple