Coaches will often tell you that a good sign of a developing program is being able to depend a little less on true freshmen, allowing them some time to mature before seeing the field.
And that could be exactly what is beginning to happen at Washington.
UW has played an astonishing 36 true freshmen over the last three seasons — 12 in 2008, 10 in 2009 (when UW signed only 13 true freshmen) and 14 last season. The 12 in 2008 was a school record that was then broken last season.
But the Huskies may not match any of those totals this season based on what we have seen so far in training camp.
With the season now just six days away, six true freshmen seem certain to play this year with another couple appearing on the bubble.
Those who seem sure to play are: receiver Kasen Williams, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, defensive lineman Danny Shelton, fullback Nick Holt, linebacker John Timu (who, remember, is a true frosh since he delayed enrollment until January), and safety James Sample. All appear as at least backups at their spots, or on special teams.
Running back Bishop Sankey also seems sure to play now given the injury issues at tailback. And cornerback Marcus Peters appears on the cusp of playing, likely depending on how the injury situation develops at cornerback. Another who could see action is walk-on QB Thomas Vincent, whom UW coach Steve Sarkisian said could see time on some special teams.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, and heard from coaches, all of the rest (there are 21 scholarship true freshmen on the rostere) may be in line to redshirt this season.
Having said that, it’s important to note there are no rules on when a decision has to be made. Redshirts simply happen after the fact once a player does not see action during the season.
Obviously, coaches usually make a decision early in the season and then attempt not to play the players they want to redshirt unless there are injuries or other extenuating circumstances forcing them to use a player. Generally, once three or four games pass, a player who hasn’t played doesn’t play. Once a player does see action, he can no longer redshirt unless he suffers an injury during the first 30 percent of the season that keeps him out for the rest of the year (here’s a good primer on the general redshirt rules and another primer on the medical hardship rules. So you can’t just throw a player in for a series or two to see how he does and then decide to redshirt him.
Again, how the season unfolds could force UW to play more. And maybe in the early weeks a player or two progresses enough that the coaches suddenly decide to play him. But at the moment, based on what we know, it appears the Huskies may not have to rely on true freshmen quite as much this season as the past few years.