The Miami Hurricanes have a true freshman starting at quarterback, a true freshman who is second on the team in receiving and a true freshman who ranks second for them in rushing.
Safe to say, Al Golden hasn’t been afraid to play true freshmen this season.
Although there’s no easy-to-find statistical database that tracks which schools have played the most true freshmen in 2014, the Hurricanes (1-1) have to be among the country’s leaders entering Saturday’s game at Sun Life Stadium against Arkansas State (1-1).
Three true freshmen have already earned starts for UM (quarterback Brad Kaaya and receivers Braxton Berrios and Tyre Brady), and 17 of the 24 true freshmen who were part of the last signing class have seen action in the first two games. That’s the most in Golden’s four years at Miami.
“During the week [before last Saturday’s game against Florida A&M], the coaches were telling the freshmen to get ready,” defensive tackle Anthony Moten said. “During halftime, the coaches told all of us to get ready because that was going to be our time to shine and that it was time to flip the switch.”
In 2011, nine of UM’s 14 true freshmen played saw action and three were starters (Anthony Chickillo, Phillip Dorsett, Denzel Perryman).
In 2012, 15 of the 29 true freshmen played and eight started at least one game (Duke Johnson, Deon Bush, Ereck Flowers, Malcolm Lewis, Tracy Howard, Herb Waters, Rayshawn Jenkins, Earl Moore).
Last year, 10 of the 15 true freshmen saw action and three were starters (Alex Figueroa, Artie Burns and Stacy Coley).
Moten, a four-star defensive tackle from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, said he got in on 12 snaps against FAMU. He and linebacker Darrion Owens were among the nine true freshmen that saw their first action of the season against the Rattlers.
Golden said this week quarterback Malik Rosier is the only player among the seven true freshmen who have yet to see the field this season the team is planning to redshirt. The others who haven’t played yet — defensive ends Demetrius Jackson and Mike Smith, receiver Darrell Langham, tight end David Njoku, linebacker Terry McCray and offensive lineman Joe Brown — are likely headed toward redshirts.
Heavy losses to attrition (19 recruits in Golden’s first four signing classes either left the program or were booted off the team) have certainly played a role in helping more true freshmen get on the field faster at Miami.
It remains to be seen how many of the 17 true freshmen to see action in 2014 will receive significant playing time moving forward, but players like Moten, fourth on the depth chart at defensive tackle, are soaking in the experience. He made the trip to Louisville and said he’s learning on the go from the veterans ahead of him.
“Now that I’m at my goal weight, I’m getting playing time,” said Moten, who has trimmed down eight pounds to 295. “I’m just learning right now. At first, I didn't really know the scheme and everything, but now that I got it down, I can make plays.”
It's the same for Owens, who is backing up Thurston Armbrister at strongside linebacker. He said he is pleased with the transition he's made from high school to college.
“It is easier than I expected,” Owens said. “I thought the playbook would have been way harder than high school. It is harder than high school, but it has been easier than I thought. My defense in high school prepared me pretty well for college. A lot of the terminology we used in high school, we use it here.”
Center Shane McDermott, who along with left guard Jonathan Feliciano put the onus on Miami’s offensive line for the loss at Louisville last week, said his unit is on the right track after Saturday’s win against FAMU.
“I think we finished better against FAMU. I also think we executed better,” McDermott said. “We just have to clean up a few more things and there will be more gashes. We just need to keep focused and not let anyone on the outside bother us.”
UM continues to have its most success running behind veteran left tackle Ereck Flowers and left guard Jonathan Feliciano. Golden said right guard Danny Isidora and right tackle Taylor Gadbois were splitting reps this week with Alex Gall and Kc McDermott, respectively.
Isidora (false start, ineligible downfield) and Kc McDermott (false start, holding) have each been flagged twice, most on the team. Shane McDermott said Gadbois gets too riled up at times, which leads to miscues.