Burned?

The recent use of Terrance Dailey and Cody Bruns in the Washington lineup has caused quite a stir in Husky Nation. The football team was 0-4, and with the season's prospects looking grim, some were hoping to save the rest of the freshmen's red shirts. With all the injuries and lack of depth, 12 true freshmen have already played this year for Washington.

Redshirts are a tricky situation for coaches and players. Of course an extra year to get bigger, faster, and stronger would be nice, but sometimes teams don't have time. As with the case with Washington multiple injuries and graduation of players at certain positions have forced young guys into action.

"They got to play, that's the only way these guys get better is play," said offensive coordinator Tim Lappano this week. "We don't have anybody else at receiver, we graduated all the receivers. With that being said we have to play these guys. We had two walk-ons out there Saturday night (Tony Chidiac and Charles Hawkins) playing, so Cody (Bruns) wanted to play."

Players shouldn't put themselves in front of the team, and Bruns and the other Huskies know that. If your team needs you to play, imagine how hard it would be to tell your coach that you would rather watch than play. One player who is a perfect example of this is sophomore safety Victor Aiyewa. Aiyewa spent his freshmen year helping out on special teams and not seeing very much time at his position.

"Coming here as a freshman you feel like, man, I don't want to be a special team player, but as the season gradually got on I knew that I'm a special teamer right now as a freshman, and next year if I'm trying to be the player I want to be next year I have to get my game to a certain level," Aiyewa told Dawgman.com. "I'm looking at these players on special teams, I'm like, okay, I got to find a way to get bigger, better, stronger, smarter from the guy across from me. If I had redshirted I would have never known that and I would have been in the same place as if I redshirted and got on the field, I would have been learning that my sophomore year."

Aiyewa has been slowed by injury this season, but lessons learned as a freshman have proven invaluable and he has no regrets about burning his redshirt year even though he didn't see the field very often. "I mean, they needed me and I was second string safety and I felt like I would get some playing time," he said. "Although it didn't go as expected, the guy in front of me at the time was better and smarter than me, so I had to play my role. But I didn't feel it was a bad choice by me not to redshirt.'

It's hard to pick an exact week when players shouldn't play to save a redshirt, but there most definitely exists a time where it just doesn't make sense. The fact is there is still a lot of football to be played and save forfeiting (which would never happen), players have to be on the field. "I have one rule; play the best players and play them when they are ready to play and ready to contribute and do a great job to help themselves and help the football team," Head coach Tyrone Willingham said on Monday, explaining one of his fundamental coaching tenets. With freshmen being those guys for this team it can be tough to swallow for fans, but imagine what the score would be if the best players didn't play? And imagine the backlash a coach would face if it came to light that he consciously chose not to play his best players?

Sometimes burning redshirts can be a success and other times it can stunt a player's career. Sophomore Mason Foster has been a great example of a guy that didn't redshirt and he has developed into a great linebacker. Foster played in all 13 games last season and had 25 tackles. 25 tackles is good for a freshman, not great. But he progressed through the season and look at him now; he has 42 tackles in the Huskies' first five games. If he had redshirted last year he might have had to go through an adjustment period until he reached his current level.

"I prepared myself to play right away (as a freshman)," Foster told Dawgman.com this week. "It was what I wanted to do. It was pretty much being mentally ready to play. I felt I could play out of high school, things turned out the way I wanted them to."

Nate Williams is also another player that played sparingly as a freshman last year but is making his mark as a true sophomore. He is tied for second on the team with 32 tackles.

Conversely, redshirts don't always lead to instant success. Alvin Logan redshirted last year, and has started off slow in his second campaign with the Huskies, catching only three passes for 22 yards, despite being listed as a starter. The reason could be because he hasn't adjusted yet, and since he sat out an entire year of playing in live games the speed adjustment could be challenging. There are no promises with redshirts. Sometimes they lead to transfers, sometimes they led to great players, and other times they lead to disappointment. There are many different paths for players to take to become successful in college, but refusing to play definitely isn't one of them. Opportunities need to be capitalized on.

What if Dailey and Bruns redshirted in 2008 and never saw the field ever for the Huskies? You can't take time for granted. So before everyone jumps ship and tries to change his name to Cody ‘Burns', let's wait and see how the move affects his whole career.


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