Sunday, August 27, 2006

Impact of true freshmen

As the 2006 season is set to begin, a new group of freshmen are getting ready to make their first trip down the Michigan Stadium tunnel on a football saturday with 110,000+ Wolverine faithful cheering them on. One of the freshmen the fans are eagerly anticipating watching this season is running back Carlos Brown (#23, pictured at right). Brown was an early enrolee at U of M (he has been on campus since January) and he dazzled the fans with his speed at the Spring Practice. Despite his immense talent and the fact that he got extra practice in by enrolling early, I still do not anticipate Brown to play a major role this season. Michigan is loaded at the running back position (see prior post of 6-13-06) and true freshmen historically have not played a major role unless there is a gap on the roster to fill.

In 2003 the freshmen class consisted of 17 players, six of whom saw the field as true freshmen. Of those, LaMarr Woodley and kicker Garrett Rivas had the biggest impact. In 2004, 8 true freshmen of a class of 22 players saw playing time. This class featured, of course, starting QB Chad Henne and starting RB Mike Hart. Hart was a first team All-Big 10 performer and Henne was an Honorable mention selection. This kind of impact by freshmen was almost unheard of in Michigan football history. Last season, six members saw playing time out of the 21 member first-year class. Kevin Grady (an early enrolee) and Mario Manningham were the stars of this freshmen class.

Many people believe that Carlos Brown should redshirt in 2006 as the Wolverines are deep at running back this season and then Michigan would be able to utilize his immense skills for the full four years. I certainly understand the logic but there is a practical side to consider. Carlos graduated early from high school so that he could enroll early at U of M and be more prepared for this season. He wants to play immediately and he is putting in the work and making the sacrifices to make that happen. Coach Carr never promises a recruit a starting job or even playing time but I think he does tell them he will give them a fair shot to earn their way onto the field if they work hard enough. Although from a selfish perspective fans would like to see Coach Carr just redshirt Brown this season (some say even against Brown's wishes) I think that would have a negative impact on recruiting. Michigan is in the midst of a highly successful recruiting campaign and the last thing the Wolverines want is other coaches telling blue chippers that Coach Carr redshirts freshman without regard to their feelings on the matter. Michigan traditionally is able to redshirt approximately 2/3rds of its freshman class and as for the 1/3rd of the players who will play this season (including Brown) I just hope that Coach Carr gets them as much time on the field as he possibly can so the players can use it as a building block for future seasons. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Carlos Brown taken by John T. Greilick/ The Detroit News at Michigan's Media Day

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