Going into every season for any college football program, a hot topic will be which of the true freshmen see the field, have an impact, or crack the two-deep. It's no different in Iowa City. It's a hot button issue, and possibly even moreso for the Iowa Hawkeyes as they don't normally play true frosh all that much.
Two have received high praise throughout the year, and they both lie on the offensive side of the ball. There's an adage that it's much easier to see meaningful time early on the further away you are from the ball. That rings true as Texas native Jerminic Smith has cracked the two-deep and is listed as the fifth wide receiver for Iowa's opening contest against Illinois State on Saturday.
He's been great in the limited action available to the media, showing promise with his consistent hands, burst of speed, and the sharpness in his route-running. Smith didn't get a lot of balls thrown to him during the scrimmage, and part of it was the overall sloppiness in the team's offensive play, but it remains to be seen what kind of separation he can create early on. Dependability and getting open on a regular basis are often early challenges for young wide receivers, in addition to learning the playbook and developing a chemistry with the quarterback.
The other sure-fire freshmen that will not be redshirted this season will be offensive lineman James Daniels, according to head coach Kirk Ferentz. Video of him confirming the two will play this season can be seen above.
Daniels playing as true freshmen is significant in multiple ways. First off, he could be blocking for his older brother, starting running back LeShun Daniels. Secondly, it's extremely impressive for a true freshman to play on the offensive line for any college football program, let alone Iowa who isn't apt to play first year players and has a strong tradition of producing future NFL offensive linemen. It remains to be seen what kind of impact he will have, if any, but he will see time on the field this season.
After Daniels and Smith, it is still very undecided on which freshmen will have their redshirts burned. Though Kirk Ferentz did allude to it over a week ago that a few others had a shot.
"Defensively, a couple guys (could play as true freshmen)," Ferentz said. "Michael Ojemudia might be in the mix a little bit. We'll see how that goes. Possibly a linebacker, maybe two linebackers (could play as freshmen as well). Part of that is playing defense, and part of that is playing our special teams and really helping fortify that. If they can factor in there, we can really justify them."
If I was to speculate, I think the freshmen that will not be redshirted are James Daniels, Jerminic Smith, Michael Ojemudia, linebackers Angelo Garbutt and Jack Hockaday, and possibly wideout Adrian Falconer.
The only cconfirmed certainties to not be redshirted are James Daniels and Jerminic Smith.