Freeman Gets His Chance

Heading into fall camp, no one outside of the coaching staff could have foreseen six true freshmen playing prominent roles on this year's BYU football team. Four games into the season, that once unimaginable scenario is now a reality. Fortunately for the Cougars, each rookie has played beyond his years when called upon by his coaches.

When a team plays a large number of true freshman, it usually means two things: either the team is in a world of hurt due to injuries or lack of talent, or the team hit a home run with its last recruiting class. For the 2006 BYU football team, coaches are playing six true freshmen more for the latter reason than the former.

Romney Fuga, Ian Dulan and Matangi Tonga all earned their spots on the defensive line two-deep because of their superior talent and outstanding play. The same can be said for wide receiver McKay Jacobson, who caught passes against ACC opponent Boston College, and running back/H receiver Mike Hague, who plays a significant role on offense and special teams. During the last two games, a new true freshman has gotten in on the action.

Last year at this time, 6-foot-4, 280-pound offensive lineman Ryan Freeman was playing high school football games for the Tigers of Orem High School. Last Saturday Cougar faithful got a chance to see one part of the future BYU O-line.

When offensive guard Jake Kuresa left the game in the first quarter after re-aggravating a leg injury, the Cougar coaches put their faith in young Ryan Freeman to not only read the defense but make the right O-line calls.

"The week coming into the game, Coach Grimes told me that I had to prepare for it as best I can in case I played," said Freeman. "He said I would probably get some playing time but didn't know when. We were kind of expecting to get up by a lot during the game, and he just told me to prepare as much as I can. Then the day before the Utah State game, Coach Grimes told me that if anyone gets hurt he wanted me in there right away."

When Kuresa was helped off the field by the trainers, Freeman knew his time had come.

"When I saw Jake laying there I was like, ‘Okay, here we go,'" said Freeman. "I started to put my helmet on and was trying to hurry up and do a few quick snaps. When I finally got in I guess I was a little giddy at first, but then I settled in. It was a lot of fun, and I had a blast out there."

During his time at Orem High, Freeman played the guard position. Once he committed to be a Cougar, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes asked Freeman to learn the center position.

"I practiced taking snaps with the quarterbacks from Orem because I was talking with Coach Grimes and he wanted me to learn both guard and center," said Freeman. "I really didn't get a chance to practice much center until I came here and started practicing the weeks prior to Arizona when he put me in for reps at center. I've only been playing center for about a month now.

"You have to know all the calls, and at first, I was having some trouble there. You have to look at the defense and make the right calls, and I was having a bit of trouble adjusting to the new position and stuff. I got it down pretty good now though."

With Sete Aulai back at the starting center position and Kuresa being moved back to guard, Freeman will now be the back up center. During practice this week, Freeman was also getting reps at the guard spot learning both positions as is custom under Coach Grimes.

"Since Eddie [Keele] is out and Jake is moving to guard, I should be the backup guy in the middle, so I have to be prepared as much as possible in case I'm called on to go in," said Freeman. "The situation with me is kind of the same as it was last week. If anybody gets hurt and Jake needs to move back out to tackle, I'll go in at guard."

According to Freeman, BYU coaches have elected for him to not redshirt this year. He played in two games so far and will look to continue contributing to the team if and when he is needed.

"I got in at the end of the Tulsa game and got in on some real playing time," Freeman said. "I'm not redshirting this year and that does make me kind of happy just so I can play. I was kind of hoping that I wouldn't redshirt just so I can get out there and get a chance to possibly play. I'm having a lot of fun, and it's been great."

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