Decision making within college football will be unique this season. The different rules and regulations that have been put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic will ensure that.
There is one especially large wrinkle for the 2020 season: how programs will handle freshmen players. Eligibility is frozen for the year, so programs don’t have to consider if playing a guy will burn his redshirt or not.
There also won’t be the juggling act we saw last year. Coaches won’t worry about when to let players take part in four games to preserve redshirts. Because of this, we could see young guys benefit by seeing the field early.
One of those players for Nebraska may be in offensive line coach Greg Austin’s room.
“Turner Corcoran has emerged as a young valuable player right now, especially considering this year in the NCAA’s eyes does not count,” Austin said. “So you don’t have to worry about a redshirt versus non-redshirt year for him.”
Corcoran was a massive verbal commitment for the Huskers in April 2019. Gaining his commitment the weekend of the spring game gave the team a big recruiting boost. The former Free State High School standout had the chance to go anywhere in the country to play college football. He ultimately chose Nebraska. The Huskers had been recruiting him since his sophomore year and that early relationship building helped land him. He chose Nebraska over Oklahoma, Kansas State, Ohio State and others.
Scott Frost had lofty praise for Corcoran during his signing day press conference.
“Turner really was the cornerstone for this recruiting class,” Frost said at the time.
Because of his recruiting profile it’s not hard to see how Corcoran could be impressing early. He likely isn’t the only one though.
Who are some other players that could end up benefitting from this eligibility freeze?
The first name many fans will think of is Nash Hutmacher. It is difficult for defensive linemen to get snaps as true freshmen. One of the biggest reasons for that is that they just don’t have enough strength yet to line up in the Big Ten trenches. Hutmacher doesn’t have that problem.
— Zachary Duval (@zduval1) September 27, 2020
Could there be a path to playing time for former Bellevue West star Zavier Betts? He could really be a player that benefits from not losing a year of eligibility this year. It would be reasonable to envision the speedy wideout getting a package of plays. Frost could find a way to get him the ball a couple times per game. That could be valuable to get his feet wet before fully being unleashed in 2021.
Looking for a dark horse name for an intriguing freshmen player for 2020? How about Isaac Gifford? The Huskers got the defender after offering him a blueshirt. That means that Gifford paid his own way for last spring and summer semester but was put on scholarship this fall. It would typically be difficult to burn a redshirt for a freshman to be a special teams ace. Perhaps the team could use Gifford exclusively on special teams to get him used to Big Ten action in 2020 though.
The Huskers are going to have options on what to do with their young players. There is a balance to be struck with trying to win games though. The season will be unique in many ways and this will be another example of that.
Having a solid plan for the best way forward for these players might be a nice way to set them up for long term success.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.