We’re past the halfway point of training camp, with the season opener now less than two weeks away.
That also usually means that things start to shift just a bit into more of a mode of preparing for the season, which for the coaches also means figuring out with true freshmen to play this season.
And since the topic of which freshmen will play is a popular one, I figured this might be a fitting time to try to break down how it looks so far.
One thing to keep in mind — there’s no official decision that really has to be made to redshirt a player, no paperwork that has to be filed or anything. Either a freshman plays and uses a year of eligibility, or he doesn’t and redshirts and saves the year. If a player gets hurt early in the season (basically, the first third of the year, but there can be a little bit of wiggle room there at times), he can apply for a medical redshirt and potentially get the year back (as James Sample did last year). But you can’t just play a guy for a few plays early and then decide to redshirt him.
So for the most part, coaches decide heading into the season which freshmen are going to play and then play them. But a true freshmen can play at any point in the season, so if the need arises to put in someone later in the year, that can always happen.
Last year, though, UW played six true freshmen in the opener — Kasen Williams, Bishop Sankey, James Sample, John Timu, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Danny Shelton — and those were the only six to play all season (though as noted, Sample got the year back after being injured in the first game).
That number, by the way, was down markedly from the 14 that played in 2010, which was Steve Sarkisian’s first full recruiting class at Washington.
I’ll review this year’s freshmen by position:
QUARTERBACK — Cyler Miles, Jeff Lindquist: Miles and Lindquist are each battling redshirt frosh Derrick Brown for the backup job. Sarkisian has not said who is where here on the depth chart, but it has appeared that Brown and Miles are ahead of Lindquist. Harder to tell is if there’s much gap between Brown and Miles (or vice versa) as Brown has had some of his best practices the past few days. If there isn’t much difference, then the easy choice may be to play Brown in mop-up time or if a backup is needed in an emergency and try to redshirt the other two. Or maybe Sarkisian will want to play one of the true frosh (which as noted, would seem to be Miles) to create separation in the classes.
TAILBACK — Erich Wilson II: Wilson is battling walk-on Willis Wilson for the No. 3 tailback spot and has been impressive at times. The guess here is he probably plays this season given the depth issues at tailback and because that spot is one at which injuries (even if just the sort that knock a guy out for a few plays) are a little more common. Still, maybe UW will try to redshirt him if it feels like it can depend on Willis Wilson and Dezden Petty for the depth it would need here. UPDATE — To those who asked, I did indeed miss Ryan McDaniel — I’ll blame the fact that he enrolled early and simply wasn’t on the list I used for this. But also, he is rehabbing a knee injury and as such, hasn’t seen action during team settings yet so he will be redshirting this season.
FULLBACK — Psalm Wooching: Appears headed for a redshirt season.
OFFENSIVE LINE — Shane Brostek, Nathan Dean, Jake Eldrenkamp, Cory Fuavai, Taylor Hindy: During UW’s scrimmage Saturday, the only freshman who was in the starting two deeps was Brostek, who worked with the second unit at guard. And throughout camp, Brostek has been the one to get the most time with the regular units, and as such seems the closest to playing — barring massive injuries up front, the rest seem headed to redshirt seasons. As for Brostek, I’m not sure it’s a certainty yet that he plays this year. But if any of the true frosh do, he’ll be the one.
RECEIVERS — Jaydon Mickens, Kendyl Taylor: With the injury issues at this spot — James Johnson now out for a month or so with a dislocated wrist and Kevin Smith still working his way back from an ACL — each seems certain to play this season. Each has seen ample time with the starting unit of late, and Mickens also is in contention for a return spot. UPDATE — And yes, I probably should have made note that Dwayne Washington remains in NCAA Clearinghouse limbo so he has yet to practice, and as such, would seem certain to redshirt this year even if he gets back soon. But at the moment, nothing new on that front.
DEFENSIVE LINE — Pio Vatuvei, Damion Turpin: Vatuvei appears a lock to play this season, working regularly with the second defensive line (that’s where he began during the scrimmage Saturday) and also working regularly on the kickoff return team. Turpin looks headed to a redshirt.
LINEBACKERS — Cory Littleton, Blake Rodgers: Due to the injuries at this spot, both Littleton and Rodgers have gotten significant time lately with the No. 2 defense. Rodgers, though, has also been bothered by a nagging knee issue, and the hunch here is that the coaches will try to redshirt each if they feel comfortable they can manage the depth issues at this spot without using them.
CORNERBACKS — Brandon Beaver, Cleveland Wallace, Darien Washington: Of the three, Beaver appears closer to playing. Beaver has had some good moments and has gotten a fair amount of work with the twos and even some with the ones when injuries hit others. He did not appear to be on any front-line special teams in the scrimmage Saturday, though, which might indicate the coaches are still looking at a redshirt year for him with the Huskies pretty deep and experienced at this spot overall.
SAFETY —- Shaq Thompson: Thompson spent the entire scrimmage Saturday with the No. 1 defense as a fifth defensive back, so he’s playing this year.
PUNTER — Korey Durkee: Durkee has won the punting job, so he’s playing, too.
Also worth mentioning that UW has two JC transfers in PK Travis Coons and DT Josh Banks. Coons will be the starting PK this year so he’s playing. Based on where’s been in the rotation lately, I’m not sure Banks is necessarily playing this season — he has a redshirt year available having arrived with three to play two.
As far as the tally for the freshmen, that would be five players I think are guarantees to play this year — Mickens, Taylor, Vatuvei, Thompson and Durkee. Erich Wilson seems like a heavy lean to play, but as noted, if UW feels good enough about the depth at that spot maybe it decides to redshirt him.
One of the quarterbacks (most likely Miles) could also play, as could Beaver, and maybe Brostek and one of the linebackers depending on their comfort on the depth at those spots.
So that’s probably at least six true frosh that will play this year, and likely another one or two depending on how things shake out with injuries and depth concerns.