Special report: Whatever happened to redshirting players in college football?

Across the country, college football teams are redshirting players less and less. Why? The reasons are many: Players are more prepared than they used to be, teams need freshmen for added depth and playing time is essential for high-profile recruits.
BY JAKE TROTTER, Staff Writer, jtrotter@opubco.com Modified: August 28, 2010 at 11:28 pm •  Published: August 28, 2010
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Four years ago, Florida coach Urban Meyer played quarterback Tim Tebow as a true freshman, even though the Gators had Chris Leak returning. The result? A national championship.

"We don't redshirt here at Florida," Meyer told reporters recently, when asked about his freshman class. "That's why we recruited them and that's why they're here — to play."

That recruiting pitch resonates with high-profile recruits, who don't want sit out a year on the sidelines.

"It's night and day from when I was in high school," said Howard, who redshirted in 1988 despite being a high school All-American. "That's just the philosophy of a lot of players these days, because players don't want to redshirt their freshman year. They want to get to the fire, they want to compete. That's just a trend going around college football."

But there are other benefits to playing freshmen right away, other than just luring them to campus during recruiting.

Gundy noted overall the freshmen who play right away do better academically in their college careers than the ones who redshirt.

Stoops believes freshmen that have played are "more mature and ready to play the next year when you're really gonna count on them."

"You don't want to waste a year," said OU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. "But a lot of guys who play are better in the offseason and better the next year.

"When you don't play, as hard as you work and the commitment you have to make, it can feel like you're running into a wall. It's no fun."

Plus, as coaches point out, why redshirt players who are going to leave college after three or four years anyway?

Said Gundy: "You might as well play them."

Playing freshmen also has become easier due to the evolution of high school football.

"They're better coached in high school, they're working out in high school more year round," said OU defense coordinator Brent Venables. "They understand football better, going to camps and combines, where they continue to get exposure to technique and schemes. And then they're here all summer. Players have a much better understanding of what you're doing mentally, and they're able to pass that along to the young guys as well during the summer when the coaches aren't around."

Which is why Saturday in Norman or Stillwater, you might need to bring a roster along with you.

As the Sooners open against Utah State, and the Cowboys against Washington State, they'll be relying on several true freshmen.

Like other schools around the country, more now than ever before.

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REDSHIRTS AT OU AND OSU

Here's a look at how many freshmen OSU and OU have redshirted in the last 10 years:

Oklahoma State

Year: Freshmen-Redshirted-Played

2009: 16-12-4

2008: 19-15-4

2007: 16-12-4

2006: 21-10-11

2005: 16-9-7

2004: 21-16-5

2003: 24-14-10

2002: 16-12-4

2001: 20-15-5

2000: 18-15-3

Total: 187-130-57

Oklahoma

Year: Freshmen-redshirt-played

2009: 20-11-9

2008: 16-11-5

2007: 17-16-1

2006: 19-12-7

2005: 23-12-11

2004: 14-10-4

2003: 20-19-1

2002: 21-11-10

2001: 20-14-6

2000: 19-13-6

Totals: 189-129-60

Note: Junior college players and players who did not qualify academically or failed to stay on campus their entire freshman season were not included.

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