Football head coach Dan Enos said at the beginning of the year that the team would not need to play as many freshmen compared to the past two years.
But because of injuries and under-performances, more freshmen are getting playing time midway through the season.
“We have a lot of young guys, and this is a process,” Enos said. “You don’t just wave a magic wand and get real, real good over night. We have a vision; we have a plan, and we’re going to stick to it.”
Redshirt freshman tight end Ben McCord had zero catches entering Saturday’s game and was not listed on the depth chart. But he received the bulk of the playing time at tight end and caught four passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.
“Again, he’s a freshman,” Enos said. “He’s a guy that when he got here, he was 214 pounds; he’s (now) at 240, 245. He’s extremely athletic. Before he’s all done, (he’s got four years to play), he’ll be a very, very productive player in this league.”
Despite being listed third on the depth chart, freshman running back Saylor Lavallii has seen more playing time than sophomore Anthony Garland, who is listed second. Lavallii also leads the team in kick return yards with 465.
At nickelback, freshman Kavon Frazier was elevated into a starting role after sophomore Jarret Chapman was injured earlier in the year. Chapman returned to play Saturday but left the game with a concussion.
Freshman Jabari Dean received his first start at defensive tackle against Northern Illinois on Sept. 29 and has started every game since. Dean has recorded 16 tackles this season.
“We’ve got good young players,” Enos said. “They’ve just got to grow up.”