DeKALB — Thomas Hammock has been vocal since early in his tenure as Huskies head coach about his intent to fully utilize the four games available for a player before they lose the ability to be redshirted.
No spot is that more relevant to than the defense line, a unit that boasts multiple true freshman that have incurred experience against Power 5 opponents Utah, Nebraska and Vanderbilt.
“Demond (Taylor) is really the one guy that has played four games, Hammock said. "James Ester has played two games. It’s just the balancing act of how we’re going to use our defensive linemen.”
Decisions to continue playing particular defensive linemen will be a much easier choice concerning some over others. Taylor, a 6 foot, 2 inch, 290 pound true freshman from East St. Louis, is the primary defensive lineman about whom a decision has to be made as soon as possible.
"We went into the season expecting to maximize the four games with as many people as we can and I think we’re doing that," Hammock said. "I think that’s how you build depth … You’ve got to anticipate injuries are going to happen. You don’t wait (for) an injury to happen to get a guy prepared. You’re constantly in an evaluation mode of okay, can a guy do something for us that’s going to help us along the lines?”
Further depth issues at the linebacker spot with injuries to Lance Deveaux and Kyle Pugh have pressed linebackers like Nick Rattin into action. The likelihood of Rattin, a true freshman walk-on, retaining a redshirt is slim, whether it was formerly in the cards or not.
Rattin has already played in four games and is listed on the depth chart for the game against Ball State.
Other freshmen like cornerback Romel Goston (one game), safety Justin Clark (one) linebacker Walter Riley (two), defensive end Cam Mattox (two) are just examples of players who have seen time that could get tagged with a redshirt. Even Mohamed Toure (three games) who the Huskies have tried to get involved in the offense in several instances, has the potential to be tagged with a redshirt.
Mattox has already shown ways he can contribute, playing big minutes against Vanderbilt and earning the praise of teammates and coaches alike, thrusting his likelihood of being redshirted into the unlikely category.
Coaches are put into that position all the time. LInebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator Robert Wimberly was the driving force behind redshirting Khalil Mack at Buffalo.
"Now, the decision comes to how much are they going to play?" Hammock said. "If a guy is only going to play 10 snaps, is that worth it to lose a year? Those are the decisions that we have to make as a staff. What’s the best thing for the kid and for the program moving forward? We’ve had those discussions starting this morning.”