It can be really tough to push for a starting job at a major college program as a true freshman, particularly for the players who just reported to campus right before the start of preseason practice. The freshmen who have been on campus all summer getting an early start have a real advantage that should not be underestimated. Things happen so fast this time of year for new freshmen on the football field, in the classroom and adjusting to their new home away from home. Their lives can become a blur.
The early high school graduates who arrived in January have a tremendous advantage in avoiding a redshirt season and getting into games early. Going through winter workouts, spring practice and more than a semester's worth of classes really helps a freshman get acclimated to the college scene, which is always a major adjustment.
The first couple of years after freshman eligibility was reinstated and freshman-only teams were eliminated in the SEC and other conferences, you didn't see a lot of true freshmen making a huge impact on their teams unless they were special players like a Bo Jackson or a Herschel Walker. In those days many of the true freshmen were being redshirted as coaches preferred to play older, more experienced members of their teams.
That has steadily changed through the years with the reductions in scholarships. With the 85 limit on scholarship players on the roster, and with many freshmen arriving better prepared mentally and physically to compete for playing time, it is not unusual for coaches to put many of their newcomers on the field, even if they aren't special players. For teams that have a lot of experienced returning depth, it can still be tough for a true freshman to get a lot of playing time.
Coach Gene Chizik
In Auburn's case this season, Coach Gene Chizik is hoping that a majority of his highly-regarded freshmen are ready to help right away because the Tigers lost so many starters and key reserves from the national championship team. Auburn has a lot of opportunities for the young guys to play football on opening day vs. Utah State.
It won't be surprising to see Auburn newcomers contribute at almost every position with the possible exception of quarterback. Yes, Kiehl Frazier is an exciting young quarterback, a guy who has a lot of talent and potential. However, he has redshirt junior Barrett Trotter and redshirt sophomore Clint Moseley ahead of him on the depth chart. Those two returning quarterbacks are smart players. They did a lot of good things in the spring and I expect they will be even better this fall, which is going to be a high bar for any freshman quarterback to jump over, even for one as talented as Frazier.
No matter how many freshmen play, this will be an interesting year to watch Auburn football because there are going to plenty of new faces in the starting lineup on both offense and defense.
From the Mailbag:
Your column about Auburn's 1984 victory at FSU brought back good memories. I have seen a lot of football games over the years, but that is still the most exciting one, from start to finish, I have witnessed. I really appreciate your insight about that officiating crew, which explains some of the crazy calls I saw that night.
I enjoy your columns. I hope you do your Dye-Log and Pat's Picks again this football season.
I am sure it was exciting for you, but at the time that FSU game was probably too exciting for me. I agree it was a great game for the fans to watch. I enjoy doing the columns and appreciate your kind words. The Dye-Log and Pat's Picks will be resuming soon when the season starts.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye also writes the Dye-Log and Pat's Picks columns for AUTigers.com.