ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Freshman defensive back Tyree Kinnel was making so many plays in practice that Michigan coach Jim Harbugh had to find a spot for him on the field.
On Saturday, Harbaugh did find a spot for him, as Kinnel made the travel squad, filling in on special teams for Jehu Chesson, who Harbaugh noted needed a lesser workload on the team.
“He’s been extremely physically,” Harbaugh said of Kinnel. “We have a scrimmage every week for younger players, he’s stood out every week. Felt like we needed to get him out on the field. His development as a football player and being able to help our football team.”
Harbaugh also noted that Kinnel caught his eye by winning a team race last Monday, which kept showing him his work effort to get on the field early.
“He just seemed like a guy who was screaming ‘Get me on the field, coach,’” Harbaugh said of Kinnel. “Not in the vocal way or come into the office, ‘I need more playing time’ way. But in the best way, by what he did on the field and how he was competing in practice and competition. So I listened. We listened.
“He was screaming: ‘Count on me coach! I can help this team!’ But hey, he didn’t say it. He did it. Which was the best way.”
More Freshman Contributing
Now five games into the season, Harbaugh was quick to add that is you’re freshman, now is the time to contribute.
“Now is the time, I truly believe there no more freshman,” Harbaugh said. “We didn’t go through a month of training camp and four games, when you play four games, a third of the season, nobody is a freshman anymore. Now is the time if they are going to show they can contribute as a freshman, then now is time to do it.”
Harbaugh went into his reasoning behind playing freshman early as opposed to redshirting them.
“It’s also my feeling those how can as true freshman ultimately become the best players,” Harbaugh said. “You get better at football by playing football. The ones who are mentally, physically ready to do that as true freshman end up having better college careers, pro careers.
“I have not done a study on that. But it’s just my own personal experience. It would be a good study for somebody to do. How many guys in the NFL did or did not redshirt their freshman year? Not including quarterbacks or offensive lineman. But that would be a interesting study for some crackerjack analytic out there.”
Along with Kinnel, Harbaugh said Grant Perry, Keith Washington, Reuben Jones, Shelton Johnson and Karan Higdon all have chances to see the field soon.
“Those come to mind right away as the closest to contributing,” Harbaugh said. “We leave out the offensive lineman and the quarterback. Those positions are usually better in their fifth year then they are in the their freshman year.”