Redshirt Watch (Wisconsin): Decision Time for Some, Debut Time for Others

By Dan Smith on November 8, 2018 at 8:00 am
Sep 15, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Daniel George (86) makes a catch and would run the ball into the end zone for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Kent State 63-10.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

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With Penn State through nine games played, and without a path to the Big Ten Championship Game, we now know there are only four games left in the season. Home games against Wisconsin and Maryland are split by a road tilt with Rutgers, and then a bowl game will wrap things up.

That number of four is interesting because four is the maximum number of games a player can play in a season while maintaining a redshirt under the new NCAA redshirt rules. This means that some true freshmen who have not seen the field all season could theoretically begin playing this week and for the remainder of the season and still be redshirt freshmen next season.

Will that happen? It is obvious that the reason they were not playing to this point is that they were not yet ready. For that reason, they will not suddenly be leaned on to contribute. But in blowouts (in either direction), this rule grants James Franklin and his staff the flexibility to get players their debuts now and get them some valuable game experience.

Green (7 players)

Pos. Freshman Played Remaining
TE Pat Freiermuth 9 Burned
LB Micah Parsons 9 Burned
K Jake Pinegar 9 Burned
LB Jesse Luketa 9 Burned
DT P.J. Mustipher 8 Burned
RB Ricky Slade 5 Burned
WR Jahan Dotson 4 0

Dotson is the one player joining this list mid-season who was not obvious earlier in the year. He is not officially a green and could save his redshirt by not participating in any other 2018 season games, but he seems solidified in the second unit slot receiver spot now that Mac Hippenhammer has been moved outside. Dotson has played in every game since Indiana, after debuting against Kent State.

Slade has been one of the most bizarre stories of the 2018 season. They played him in the first four games, held him out against Ohio State despite Miles Sanders's struggles, still officially burned his redshirt by playing him against Michigan State, and then benched him for seemingly the remainder of the season. Right now, the second string running back is basically Tommy Stevens and the third string is Journey Brown.

Yellow (7 players)

Pos. Freshman Played Remaining
DE Jayson Oweh 2 2
DE Nick Tarburton 2 2
WR Daniel George 2 2
WR Justin Shorter 1 3
TE Zack Kuntz 1 3
T Rasheed Walker 1 3
CB Trent Gordon 1 3

It would not be surprising to see some of these players enter into games down the stretch if they become out of hand. The Rutgers and Maryland games, in particular, would seem to be the ideal time to get these players on the field against an inferior opponent. That said, they are all intended to be redshirt candidates, and there is little point in burning any of their redshirts at this stage.

Tarburton and Oweh both got two-game tryouts that allowed them to test cracking the rotation and helped aid the defensive line while Shane Simmons recovered from a lower leg injury. Neither showed enough to necessitate burning a redshirt.

The rest of the players on this list saw their only action against Kent State in a blowout victory. The exception is George, who, like Dotson, needed to play against Indiana after injuries to DeAndre Thompkins and Juwan Johnson.

Shorter was likely never intended to be a redshirt, but preseason injuries derailed his true freshman campaign. The result was more playing time for Thompkins and Brandon Polk on the outside, which has been a serious problem for the Nittany Lions.

Red (7 players)

Pos. Freshman Played Remaining
QB Will Levis 0 4
T Bryce Effner 0 4
C Juice Scruggs 0 4
DT Aeneas Hawkins 0 4
DT Judge Culpepper 0 4
LB Charlie Katshir 0 4
S Isaiah Humphries 0 4

These players are now confirmed redshirts for the 2018 season and will enter 2019 as redshirt freshmen.

With a thin rotation at defensive tackle in the wake of injuries to redshirt sophomore Ellison Jordan and redshirt freshman Fred Hansard, late-game situations with Aeneas Hawkins and Judge Culpepper would make some sense.

For Levis, Effner, Scruggs, Katshir, and Humphries, whether or not they play is entirely dependent on whether or not the staff wants them to debut in a blowout in 2018. None of them will be asked to do anything beyond that, as they are all buried on their respective depth charts.

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