Hopes were high for the 2018 Oregon football class ranked 13th in the nation with 12 four-star players. Through five games, there have been some pleasant surprises and disappointments. It is the first class that gets to utilize the new NCAA redshirt rule and it’s transformed how Duck freshmen develop.
If you are not familiar with the new rule passed in June, college football players can now play up to four games in a season and still redshirt without burning a year of eligibility. College football players are granted five years to complete four seasons of eligibility. This changes the game plan for Oregon and the rest of the nation.
Which Duck freshmen can no longer redshirt?
There are seven Oregon freshmen that have played all five games this season and can’t redshirt;
Starting left tackle Penei Sewell
Safety Jevon Holland
Running back Travis Dye
Punter Tom Snee
Long snapper Karsten Battles
Cornerback Kahlef Hailassie
Linebacker Adrian Jackson
Which Duck freshmen are making an impact?
Two freshmen have started; Sewell is the first true freshman offensive lineman to start a UO season opener since 1997. The left tackle was a top-5 graded offensive tackle in the Pac-12 each of the first two weeks.
Jackson started at outside linebacker against Portland State, when La’Mar Winston Jr. was out with an injury, and has made two solo tackles.
Dye had the best game of his career at Cal, leading the Ducks’ rushing attack with 18 carries for 115 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown. Dye is Oregon’s 2nd leading rusher, behind CJ Verdell, with 259 yards on 46 attempts.
Holland did a great job shutting down Cal’s passing attack last Saturday, finishing the game with two interceptions. He has three interceptions through five games, tying with senior Ugo Amadi for the second most in the nation.
Snee has been solid at punter, amassing 402 yards through 11 attempts, with the longest punt at 48 yards.
“Jevon has really played some good football for us and Penei has been outstanding for us as a starter,” UO coach Cristobal said. “Travis continues to get better. He has provided some explosive plays.”
Former Oregon wide receiver Jalen Hall, who was rated the ninth-best player at his position for the 2018 class, could face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of charges that he and a friend committed a home invasion robbery on Sept. 10.
Hall enrolled early at Oregon for spring practices, participated in one practice before leaving for what were called "personal reasons". Cristobal expected him to return.
In September, before the arrest, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal officially said that Jalen Hall was no longer on the team.
How has the rule impacted playing time for Duck freshmen?
12 true freshman have seen action through five games. More freshman could be potentially be added to this list as the season rolls on or as injuries occur. An interesting aspect of the new redshirt rule is how Oregon will take advantage of freshman gaining invaluable bowl game experience, plus the extra month of bowl game practice. The following have played in 2-3 games:
Wide receiver Bryan Addison; 3 games
Safety Steve Stephens; 3 games
Quarterback Tyler Shough; 2 games
Cornerback Verone McKinley III; 3 games
How does the redshirt rule impact Oregon’s backup quarterbacks?
The backup quarterback position remains a big question mark for Oregon. Both freshman Shough and sophomore Braxton Burmeister have played in two games.
Burmeister, who underwent a minor knee surgery, is close to done rehabbing and Cristobal expects him to fully return to practice for Washington prep week.
Because Burmeister has not used a redshirt season, it’s possible either him or Shough could be kept at four games or less to preserve a season of eligibility.
“We are going to let it play out and see where we are at once everyone is healthy,” Cristobal said. “It is hard to predict. You want to save a guy a year if you can, but the way football goes nowadays, a lot of guys are gone in three or four years so that fifth year is never used up.”
What does Oregon coach Mario Cristobal think of the rule so far?
The rule was unanimously agreed upon amongst college football coaches, including Oregon coach Mario Cristobal. Cristobal is excited for how it changes the developmental aspect of the sport. Whether it be to injury or a player developing throughout a season, he plans to award playing opportunities to Ducks who he believes can help the team.