Thanks to redshirt rule, more freshmen could see field down the stretch

Ten true freshmen have burned their redshirts this season, appearing in the bulk of Indiana’s games entering the schedule’s final quarter.

Another handful of Hoosiers are set to keep their redshirts, while also getting a chance to gain game experience down the stretch.

Tom Allen’s navigation of the NCAA’s new redshirt rule is continuing late into the season.

With three regular season games remaining, Allen is planning to put a few more newcomers onto the field, all while preserving a fifth year of eligibility. The NCAA’s football redshirt rule allows him to do so, allowing players to participate in up to four games without having to burn their redshirt.

It’s a widely-acclaimed rule update that Allen has toyed with all season, and one that he continues to weigh while deciding which freshmen will have an opportunity to get their feet wet this month.

“It’s kept those (young) guys engaged throughout the season to know that they have an opportunity to get some shots to play and not burn that redshirt just by being on the field for one play,” Allen said. “We’ve gotten a lot more guys involved than we would have in the past, for sure.”

To date, Indiana has had five true freshmen — running back Stevie Scott, athlete Reese Taylor, tight end Matt Bjorson, linebacker Micah McFadden and corner Jaylin Williams — appear in all nine games. Three more, defensive backs Jamar Johnson and Cam Jones and defensive end James Head, have appeared in eight games. Safety Devon Matthews has seen the field in seven contests and running back Ronnie Walker has played in six games.

Preserving redshirts for those 10 guys, at least this season, is off the table.

At the same time, five more true freshmen have seen action in smaller doses and continue to have their redshirts in play. Quarterback Michael Penix, who is now out of the year with an ACL injury, played in three games and will open next season with four more years to play. Meanwhile receiver Miles Marshall, defensive tackle Shamar Jones, running back Krisitian Pechac and linebacker James Miller have each appeared in one contest apiece.

Down the stretch this month, those players — and others — are expected to get additional opportunities either at their chosen positions or on special teams, all while maintaining their redshirt status.

Miller is the latest freshman to see the field, debuting on special teams during IU’s previous game at Minnesota on Oct. 26. Miller, however, was knocked out of the game with an unspecified injury after taking a big hit on the opening kickoff.

The Hoosiers are hoping Miller will be able to continue contributing on various special teams units as this month continues, while also potentially appearing on defense, too.

“Got him a couple reps (Tuesday) at linebacker, so that could present itself, possibly, based on the situation of the game,” Allen said. “It would allow him to be able to have a good knowledge of what he’s doing defensively. It would be a limited role if he played on defense, but definitely expect to see him on special teams.”

The game goes for Pechac, defensive end Madison Norris and corner Noah Pierre. Neither Norris nor Pierre have appeared in any games this season. Pechac, a former Bloomington South standout, has played only briefly on special teams.

Allen also mentioned defensive lineman Jonathan King, who has not seen any action, as a candidate to find his way onto the field this month.

“I think those guys are candidates for getting some shots to play,” Allen said. “(We’ll) see who continues to step up during the week, prove to us they are putting themselves in position. That’s what these guys have been able to do. Those guys I mentioned, I would like to get them involved in the game.”

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