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True freshmen and roster management

Virginia has now played 14 true freshmen this season, inciting some fans who are bothered by Coach Al Groh’s propensity to burn redshirt seasons. Groh counters that when a player is ready, he’s ready. That's always been his mantra for true freshmen and insists the only season that matters is the current season.

“Clearly it would be nice to be in a cycle where everybody could sit around for a year and kind of marinate, get ready to play a little bit the next year, kind of a case that Texas or Alabama or those kind of places,” Groh said, “but some of these players have done a nice job for us, especially on special teams.”

Groh, 65, is coaching for his job. A skeptic can say the least of his concerns is how this program looks in four years, and he needs as much talent on the field this season as possible.

But beyond the freshmen missing the year of development, the rate at which Groh has played true freshmen could leave a roster gap in the program five years from now.

One of the most unheralded roles for a college football coach is roster management – that is, having a reasonable amount of players at each position each season, and being able to recruit a healthy allotment of players each season.

From my count, Virginia has 13 redshirt freshmen on scholarship on its roster. They have played 14 true freshmen, although place kicker Drew Jarrett is a walk-on (who could possibly receive a scholarship down the road) and Dominique Wallace will likely receive a medical waiver. That means 12 scholarship freshmen will use their eligibility in four years unless they are redshirted at another point.

Although attrition is always a reality, at least 25 scholarship players will watch their eligibility expire after the 2012 season. Groh said there are no more true freshmen who are on the verge of playing this season, but the program has little roster flexibility with this class during the next three seasons.

It will certainly create an experienced roster in 2012, as opposed to this season, when the Cavaliers have only 14 seniors. But how many is too many for the long-term health of the program?

By Zach Berman  |  November 3, 2009; 9:58 AM ET
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Trading a year of elgibility so an 18 year old freshman can get 30 plays as opposed to letting him start as a 23-year old 5th year is short-sighted and detrimental to the program. A school like Virginia that typically recruits 1- and 2-star kids absolutely MUST make redshirting a priority. Just another way Al plays chess...

Posted by: topshelf_22304 | November 3, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

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