Redshirting true freshmen is a common practice among college football
programs, and redshirting freshmen that play the physically demanding spots
along the offensive and defensive fronts is even more common. But two true freshman defensive linemen
John Hughes and Rob Trigg are both
Bearcat defensive coordinator, Joe Tresey, talked about his two BearCubs. "Right now we feel pretty good about our 2 deep up front, but because it's a long season, we want to get them some reps where it's very fast, and they have to play fast. The speed will be greater with the 2's than with the 3's. We also want to see what they can handle mentally. You never know, and they've done such a great job for us that we feel really good about them. We think they have a great future and want to get them ready."
Making the decision to redshirt a player won't come any time soon, according to coach Tresey. "We don't know what we're going to do with kids until we get to that first game, and then we have to make a decision. If injuries occur, sometimes you have to burn a redshirt for a kid, but we evaluate freshmen on a game to game basis. Coach Kelly has a good feel for a kid, and he makes the decision whether a kid redshirts or plays."
If the 6' 3.5"/290 pound Hughes were to play this season at defensive tackle, he would probably need to pass one of the four players ahead of him on the depth chart. Coach Tresey said the starting tackles at this point are Terrill Byrd and Adam Hoppel with Jon Newton and Ricardo Mathews as their back-ups, and he's been pleased with all four. Still , Tresey has to be prepared in case of injuries. "Jon Newton has played very well for us, but he's a fifth year guy who's had some injuries. His knees and back have given him trouble so you have to be ready."
The fact that Hughes is even sniffing playing time at DT is a surprise since some thought the big man would line-up at tight end where he averaged 18 yards a catch last year, but John understood the decision to put him on the defensive front. "I think I kind of outgrew tight end. Once I got past 280, I think they thought it would be a good idea to put me on the D-line."
Despite adding the extra weight, John realizes speed is still important. "I knew I needed to keep my speed up so I'm working hard in practice. I haven't run a forty in some time, but the last time I did it was a 4.8." John also knows it's unusual for a true freshman to earn playing time at his position, and he has mixed feelings on the subject of redshirting. "It would always be good to play. I love playing the game, but if I redshirt, it would give me time to get bigger, faster, and stronger in the offseason." After being one of the biggest players in high school, John says that's certainly not the case now, and he's having to adjust to playing against people as big and strong as he is. "I know I have to be more physical. The guys are bigger and stronger here."
Whereas Hughes made an impression on the staff almost immediately, Rob Trigg has more slowly gotten their attention and only recently started getting time with the #2 unit. The 6' 3"/259 pound defensive end believes the key to his success is simply hard work. "I've been working hard in all of the drills and showing the coaches that I'll give my all on every play. I'm trying to take every opportunity and run with it."
At 259 pounds with plenty of time to more physically mature, Trigg is already the biggest of the defensive ends, but Rob didn't particularly like my suggesting he could morph into a defensive tackle. "Naw, but if the coaches say they want me to move down, and it's the best thing for the team, then that's where I'll go. But I like playing defensive end and getting off the ball and beating tackles."
Like his classmate, Rob sees some major differences in college football. "The speed and intensity are so different every down. Everything is so much faster."
Also like Hughes, Trigg sees the value of his redshirting. "I'm up for anything. If I redshirt, I'll come back stronger and faster, but if I play this year, I'll give it my all whenever I get in."
Both BearCubs said they are getting excited for the opening game on Thursday, August 30 against Southeast Missouri State, but Bearcat football fans will have to wait until then to see if either or both have earned their playing time as true freshmen.