The Florida Coaching staff is mulling an important decision this week. Should they reinforce the defensive line or preserve to redshirt eligibility of freshman defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh. To me, it’s a no-brainer. If Marsh can help this team win, play the kid!
The act of trying to redshirt most if not all of your freshmen is a largely outdated practice anyway. The NCAA scholarship limits (25 per year, 85 total) make it difficult to maintain your roster and the size of each year’s recruiting class if you redshirt extensively. Besides that, the NFL taking players anytime after their third season makes it almost impossible to count on a top player staying in college for a fifth season.
Look at the current Florida roster; Florida has eleven fifth-year seniors, but five of them don’t start. Sure, the Gators get a lot of benefit from Dallas Baker, Jemalle Cornelius and DeShawn Wynn on offense as well as Ray McDonald, Reggie Lewis and Brian Crum on defense. Those guys are important to this year’s team, but look at it this way. Would you trade any or all of those guys being on this team for the 2002 SEC Championship?
Of course you would.
Marsh has plenty of Time to Help
It’s not like playing Lawrence Marsh would completely turn the 2006 season into a wasted year. The Gators still have five games to play this season and Marsh could get a great deal of experience. That experience could pay off in 2007 when the defensive line will be without Marcus Thomas, Steven Harris, Joe Cohen and Ray McDonald.
Not only will March has playing experience in general terms, but he would get the added benefits of playing in a big rivalry game (FSU), a championship game (SEC) and a bowl game. That experience in big games is worth double or triple what he gets from playing six snaps against UCF.
Many Freshmen have Already Played
If Marsh does play Saturday, he will become the 15th member of his recruiting class to see action this season. Only one of the other 14, Marcus Gilbert has seemingly “wasted” his redshirt season playing in just the first two games. Of the others, Mon Williams and Maurice Hurt have appeared in four, and all the others have seen action in five or more contests. Only two true freshmen have appeared in all nine games. Can you name them? (Answer later in article)
This freshman class has been crucial to the success of this football team on both sides of the ball and on special teams. Florida is a deeper team because those 14 guys have already played. There is not a single unit on the football team that has not employed a true freshman at some point this season. You’d certainly prefer that not be the case, but it is what it is.
Rules Changes Could Help
Some NCAA members are hoping to get a vote in support of letting student-athletes play throughout their five years on campus instead of the current “five years to play four” system. If that were the rule, this whole discussion would be pointless. I’m not a big supporter of extending more eligibility, except in terms of the hardship medical redshirt. Four years of competitive eligibility has served the game well and shouldn’t be tampered with.
I would like to see them change the medical redshirt rule to make it more honest and obvious. If a player suffers a disabling injury, he/she would have to be declared “out” for the year. Once that is done you can apply for a medical redshirt for that student-athlete. If granted, that student-athlete can resume that year of eligibility one year from the day of application.
That would eliminate the bizarre rule that lets you play three football games and still qualify even if you were able to practice and dress out later in the season. It would instead be replaced with a more straightforward approach.
Of course, none of that has anything to do with the decision as to whether or not to play Lawrence Marsh down the stretch. That decision should come down to one simple question. Will he help this team win a championship?
Trivia Answer: Among Florida’s 2006 recruiting class only Tim Tebow and Dustin Doe have played in all nine games.