The highly rated 2012 and 2013 (barring mass decommitments) classes have us all aflutter these days, so much so that we have to keep reminding each other most of these guys won't play a down for several years. Mentally placing them all in starring roles by 2016 is the classic recruiting fan's error—some work out, many end up overrated, plenty don't get to the end of their eligibility. Who knows how many will actually redshirt? I thought I'd try to answer that.
Why We Do It or Don't. Well, the obvious: would you rather have an 18-year-old who joined the team just weeks ago, or a 22-year-old who's been with the team for four years? The biggest reasons for the team not to redshirt a guy is when they think he's likely to be NFL-ready in four seasons, or if he's needed right away.
Then the human element comes in: Kids arrive needing to lose fat, needing to become accustomed to the rules that now govern their lives. Meaning no offense to Brackinses or Sarantii, but sometimes you bring in a guy because he's a good teammate (cough cough …of Kelly Baraka) and can help on special teams now but whose ceiling is such you highly doubt you'll renew his 5th. Players who came for the education will plan on moving on after four years. Players who came to play football will grate about being on the bench when they're better than the guy getting playing time (why Urban Meyer is going around pretending like he's the only coach who "plays the best players.") (Upchurch----->)
Coaches with three years to prove themselves will fire every bullet in the chamber to survive the current gunfight, not the one in four years. No coach in the country will hold back Desmond Morgan for just the hope of a 2015 Desmond Morgan, or at least not unless he's got a bunch of 2015 Desmonds on hand already. And there's the rub: the only way to have that luxury later on is to have the luxury already.
Historical Trend. Redshirting is a practice much older than my fan memory can take me. The history of serial redshirting freshmen is hard to track down but it seems to be exactly as old as the five years to play four rule, which was a response to wild old days in the '20s and '30s when teams were stocked with nigh professionals.
WWII screwed everything up as servicemen swapped schools to be at whatever camp their service commanded, then came back from war as 26-year-olds with eligibility. The mess clears out by 1960, which class had four players—quarterback Forest Evashevski, guard John Marcum, center Bill Muir, and tackle John Yanz—make it to a fifth year. None from the class of 1961 were on the '65 roster; five of the '62 freshmen made it to '66. There's your "good old days" baseline. Let's put that against the era I can at least kind of check against memory (big HT to Mike Desimone, whose wheel I have reinvented):
|Class||Total||RS'ed||% of Class||5th Yr||% of Class|
|2001||21||15 (+1)||71.4% (76.2%)||8||38.1%|
|2005||24||13 (+2)||54.2% (62.5%)||7||29.2%|
|2006||21||11 (+1)||52.4% (57.1%)||8||38.1%|
|2007||23||11 (+3)||47.8% (60.9%)||10||43.5%|
|2008||25||14 (+1)||56.0% (60.0%)||8||32.0%|
Those parenthetical +'s are medical hardship redshirts or mid-career transfer years given to players from those classes who weren't redshirted initially, e.g. the three for 2007 are Woolfolk, Hemingway and Threet. In chart form (click embiggens):
The slightly different shade of blue for the 2009-'11 classes are the guys on track to play five years; they won't all. We're still looking at relatively small groups of redshirt seniors for the next few years, as cascades of attrition forced a lot more guys to play early who otherwise wouldn't have.
You can see what I mean about cascades. When Michigan was really humming, only about 30% of the freshmen were playing right away. That became more like 50% in the Late Carr era, and then peaked at 60% during the Year of Whatever Sticks. In the middle of that you can see the '97 and '98 classes were, for their time, anomalies for playing 8 or 9 true freshmen.
Who those freshmen were is instructive:
1997: Demetrius Smith, William Peterson, Pat McCall, Ray Jackson, Mo Williams, James Whitley, Anthony Thomas, and DeWayne Patmon
1998: David Terrell, Drew Henson, Justin Fargas, Marquise Walker, Todd Howard, Larry Foote, Hayden Epstein, Walter Cross, and Evan Coleman
That's three cornerbacks, six running backs, two linebackers, and a lot of guys listed at or near the top for their position coming out of high school.
Positional Redshirting. You don't need me to tell you some positions get more redshirts than others. Positions where weight matters—defensive line, offensive line, tight ends, and linebackers—should be more likely to see redshirts since very few people, even in the early-growth-spurt-athletic-freak category, can safely put on BCS-level muscle by 18. Those that demand a high level of developed knowledge and skills—quarterback, center, safeties, middle linebackers—might be a secondary category. Receivers and cornerbacks have a lot to learn and do need size but those are secondary to physical traits. And then there's running backs, who regress/retire from the NFL before 30, seem to progress little in measureables over the course of their college careers, and therefore usually play early unless blocked. Special teams is another consideration; safety-like objects are desired in abundance while 280-lb. future tackles need not apply. Let's test that against the '93-'11 recruits:
It's twue. Dwamatically so. While I was at it, I thought I'd also use the opportunity to see which positions Michigan favored over this same time period. The "Factor" means how many starting positions you're really recruiting for (TE and WR split one). The question here was whether how often that position is redshirted factors into whether we over-recruit or under-recruit that spot. This may be the most useful table of this article:
Column C being how many recruits per year we managed to get to fill each starting spot. Okay, forget useful. What you're seeing instead is Michigan recruiting lots and lots of running backs. There was pretty high attrition there in the '90s, but this doesn't even count all the RBs who moved to other positions, something they did a lot of 20 years ago, when every HS team's best player was the running back. DT, OT, and kicker—recent problem areas—show up as dramatically under-recruited. Running these numbers over different time periods would say more but sample sizes are getting tiny as it is.
The best of what's left of the 2008 O-Line haul (Upchurch)
Anyway, yes, they're correlated, except safety is sitting in the "need more dudes" region with a less-than-average rate of redshirting. So we didn't have safeties either. On the other hand Michigan had some great tailbacks and quarterbacks come through here.
Going back to the table above, the only one that doesn't exactly fit the paradigm of a mass/experience/athleticism matrix is defensive tackle. For that just see the list of who redshirted versus who didn't:
|Marques Slocum - 6'5/336||Jason Kates - 6'2/339|
|Richard Ash - 6'3/320||Alan Branch - 6'6/331|
|Quinton Washington - 6'4/315||William Campbell - 6'5/331|
|Marques Walton - 6'0/292||Gabriel Watson - 6'4/331|
|Grant Bowman - 6'3 /289||Terrance Taylor - 6'0/319|
|Will Johnson - 6'5/285||Larry Harrison - 6'3/313|
|Norman Heuer - 6'5 /282||Mike Martin - 6'2/299|
|Will Heininger - 6'6/277||Vince Helmuth - 6'1/291|
|Alex Ofili - 6'4 /275||Renaldo Sagesse - 6'4/289|
|Rob Renes - 6'2 /275||James McKinney - 6'2/285|
|Terry Talbott - 6'3/260||William Carr - 6'2 /276|
|Josh Williams - 6'4 /260||Paul Sarantos - 6'3/261|
|Eric Wilson - 6'4 /255||-|
|Shawn Lazarus - 6'3 /245||-|
|Ben Huff - 6'4 /232||-|
Richard Ash, two guards (one of whom would have played but had eligibility issues), and a bunch of guys less than 290. Among those who played as true freshmen, it's planetary objects, a 20-year-old Canadian, a couple of low-expectation position switchers, and Will Carr. Find a freak athlete over 300 pounds who wants to play right away, you put him at the nose. On the left you're looking at a lot of vintage 3-techs. From this I take it players Michigan recruits for nose are probably more likely to play right away, while a 3-tech should be expected to need more time to develop.
Hyped Players Play Early. The nose tackles also seemed to have come with more hype. Recruiting data doesn't go back beyond 2002 but with that small sample plus the anecdotal evidence above from 1997-'98, we can see a little of how stars affect the likelihood of redshirting:
Everyone else is average; the 5-stars are the ones who seem to overwhelmingly get on the field as freshmen, them being the most likely to be college-ready after high school and expected to be NFL-ready in four years.
2012-2013 and Beyond. We haven't done anything here really except confirm what we pretty much already knew about redshirting. That all said, here's my predictions for the upcoming guys:
[UPDATED: Now with more "Why?"]
|Blake Bars||OG||93.5%||4||?||A couple of OL injuries and he's in.|
|Joe Bolden||LB||64.9%||4||No||Early enrollee, already 2nd on depth chart|
|Ben Braden||OT||95.8%||3||Yes||Less ready than Bars/Kalis at this point|
|Jehu Chesson||WR||57.5%||3||No||Need receivers. At least one will play|
|Jeremy Clark||S||53.3%||3||Yes||Kovacs/M-Rob ahead. Plz don't burn on Special Teams|
|Amara Darboh||WR||57.5%||4||No||See Chesson|
|Devin Funchess||TE||80.8%||3||Yes||Not ready. Needs to gain size|
|Allen Gant||S||53.3%||3||Yes||Depth at SS, more ready than Clark|
|Matthew Godin||DT||55.6%||3||Yes||3-tech development track|
|Willie Henry||DT||55.6%||3||Yes||See Godin|
|Sione Houma||FB||56.3%||3||Yes||Hopkins and experience ahead of him|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||LB||64.9%||4||Yes||If MLB, EEs are ahead. SLB 2-deep is set|
|Drake Johnson||RB||36.4%||3||No||RBs play early – want him ready if Toussaint leaves early.|
|Kyle Kalis||OG||93.5%||5||No||Most ready of OL. OL depth is scary thin|
|Erik Magnuson||OT||95.8%||4||Yes||High ceiling but not ready for PT yet|
|Dennis Norfleet||RB||36.4%||4||Yes||Would like to get separation from other returners.|
|Mario Ojemudia||DE||66.7%||3||Yes||Too small to hold edge right now|
|Ondre Pipkins||DT||55.6%||5||No||Weak depth chart plus 5-star nose tackles always play early|
|Terry Richardson||CB||42.9%||4||No||Is 7th CB, but 3 coming next year and Talbott is the guy to beat at field corner|
|Kaleb Ringer||LB||64.9%||3||Yes||Bolden better. Injuries could draw him in|
|James Ross||LB||64.9%||4||Yes||Needs to gain muscle, separate from Des|
|Tom Strobel||DE||66.7%||4||Yes||RVB-like – needs to grow into 5-tech|
|A.J. Williams||TE||80.8%||3||No||Has much to learn but depth here is scary|
|Jarrod Wilson||S||53.3%||4||No||EE. If ahead of Furman won't R.S.|
|Chris Wormley||DE||66.7%||3||No||Competition to back up Roh is Brink and Heitzman|
|Jake Butt||TE||80.8%||4||No||College-ready TE needed immediately|
|Taco Charlton||DE||66.7%||4||Yes||Clark/Beyer are JRs – gain size.|
|Gareon Conley||CB||42.9%||3||Yes||One boundary will play, but not Conley|
|David Dawson||OT||95.8%||5||Yes||Hopefully 2012 OL ready. If not it's true freshman OT hell all over again|
|Jaron Dukes||WR||57.5%||3||Yes||8th/9th receiver|
|Chris Fox||OT||95.8%||4||Yes||Tackles are supposed to redshirt|
|Ben Gedeon||LB||64.9%||4||Yes||Separation from big 2012 LB class|
|Khalid Hill||TE||80.8%||3||Yes||Developing into U-back|
|Maurice Hurst Jr.||DT||55.6%||3||Yes||3-tech track but could draw in for depth|
|Patrick Kugler||OC||100.0%||4||Yes||Centers always redshirt|
|Jourdan Lewis||CB||42.9%||4||No||One boundary will play. Probably Lewis|
|Mike McCray||LB||64.9%||4||Yes||Slotted for SLB: Gordon/Ryan/RJS|
|Shane Morris||QB||63.6%||5||Yes||All depends on if Gardner gets his RS|
|Henry Poggi||DT||55.6%||4||?||Highest-rated DT on roster after Pipkins|
|Wyatt Shallman||RB||36.4%||4||Yes||Are you *sure* you're a ….|
|Deveon Smith||RB||36.4%||4||No||Smith, possibly Toussaint gone. Opportunity knocks.|
|Channing Stribling||CB||42.9%||3||Yes||One boundary will play, but not Stribling|
|Scott Sypniewski||LS||NA||NA||Yes||Glanda will be a senior|
|Dymonte Thomas||S||53.3%||5||No||7 safeties on roster for 2 spots, none more highly rated, 4 just a year older|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||OT||95.8%||4||Yes||Tackles redshirt.|
|Csont'e York||WR||57.5%||3||Yes||See Dukes|
Yeah, 15 and 17 redshirts when we've been averaging 7 to 10—what was that I said about the classic fan mistake again? I'm kidding myself about 2012 and the depth on the team currently, but I could see 2013 actually shirting that many guys, provided they're not needed to fill new holes and whiffs from this year. The tight ends, at least, will see the field, and at least a DT will likely be called upon before he's due. It's quite far out to be thinking about not wasting a year of a York here or a season of Shane there, but 2017 will thank us.