As part of our weekly freshmen watch, and with a weeks more information, here is an update on which freshmen are likely to contribute on a weekly basis on offense or defense, excluding special teams. I’ve moved some players up, and some players down based on reports from camp. I continue to think we are going to see quite a few freshmen have regular rotation roles in 2018.
Houston Griffith, Safety: 95%
Last week: 100%
Griffith suffered from a tight hamstring early last week and it limited his reps throughout the week, opening the door for Nick Coleman to earn reps and receive lavish praise from Brian Kelly. His injury isn’t seen to be serious, he never missed practice entirely, and didn’t take a lot of one on one reps according to reports, but was on the field for team reps later on.
But, hamstring injuries can linger and are easily re-injured. They can turn into issues that linger and linger and next thing you know it’s week four and he’s still dealing with it. I don’t foresee that being the case, but it’s enough of a possibility to drop him from totally certain to mostly certain.
Kevin Austin, Wide Receiver: 100%
Last week: 80%
Austin makes the leap from 80% to 100% following a very strong week of practice, and it’s impossible to not see him play a role similar to Chase Claypool last season, who was essentially behind St. Brown and Stepherson last season. The thing is he has the size to compete right now; he looks like a major college player from a body stand point. And look, he runs fast, he’s strong, he’s a good route runner, and he has great hands. All these things help as a receiver. If he was an early enrollee and had a better grasp of the offense, his playing time would never have been in question. I think he’s shown enough to where the coaches feel compelled to get him onto the field.
Jahmir Smith, Running Back: 60%
Last week: 70%
Smith incurred a bit of an injury over the week, which hurt him some, but I still see him as a favorite to see the field with Jones Jr. and Jafar Armstrong over at least the first four weeks, and then stick around while the Dexter Williams situation gets figured out. This is essentially the Deon McIntosh role from last season, who managed to get himself into the game all the time, despite not real path in the preseason. As noted last week, Smith is good enough in the pass game, and as a pass blocker to see the field early.
Shayne Simon, Rover: 70%
Last week: 70%
I’m holding Simon at 70%, although this is a space to watch with Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah bleeding reps to Simon due to a slight injury. The word is with Rover having a lot of responsibilities, Simon was having some trouble picking everything up. With increased reps that would accelerate his development, this could push Simon ahead of Owusu-Koramoah and into the back up role and the first option against spread teams. Could very easily see Simon moving to the 100% range with another week like last week.
Phil Jurkovec, Quarterback: 50%
Last week: 50%
Ooh boy it was very tempting to bump this up following the Brandon Wimbush practice reports from Saturday, but I’m going to refrain from hammering the panic button right now and hold Jurkovec where he was. Look folks, seeing your starting quarterback struggle to complete passes against air and throwing into the net* is not something anyone wants to see. (*I really don’t care about the freaking net. Why do they throw into the net anyway? Seems dumb to me. But, whatever.)
It was one warm-up session, in the 7th out of 25 practices. So the coaches aren’t going to suddenly give Jurkovec some meaningful reps. And I’ve been harping on watching the reps all off-season. So, for now, the Jurkovec hype train remains in the station.
Bo Baur, Linebacker: 80%
Last week: 30%
I said last week if Bauer earned the back-up linebacker role, his number would go way up. Well, it appears he did, so the number did. He’s been a consistent good performer day after day, and his physicality is on par with an older player. He still has a couple weeks to go, and this week will be big for him, but if he continues at this pace, he will be up near 100% when camp breaks. He’s been really good.
C’Bo Flemister, Running back: 20%
Last week: 30%
Along with his running class mate Smith, Flemister missed some time with an injury, something he couldn’t do to mush for meaningful time this season. He has time to make up for it, so all is not lost, but his up hill climb just got a little more steep.
Lawrence Keys, Wide Receiver: 40%
Last week: 20%
People keep talking about this guy and while it’s still unlikely he cracks the receiver rotation, he’s tiny, there is a chance he outplays those concerns. From reports, Keys is always open and he catches everything. As with Austin, good traits for a receiver to possess. There is something to be said for a player who just knows how to get open, either finding spaces in zones, or slipping man coverage. And apparently his burst off the line is a sight to behold.
The guy he is competing with, Chris Finke, is talking about the same way, so he’s what keeps Keys on the sideline, but if something were to happen to Finke, Keys could be playing his way into that spot.