To redshirt or not to redshirt, that is the question for Ohio State

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

The Ohio State coaching staff have important decisions to make. Decisions that can have long-standing consequences for years to come.

No, we are not talking about Election Day. I believe I have heard the phrase, "I approve this message" more than enough to last several lifetimes. (On a separate topic...how well did Nate Silver nail his election predictions? I wonder how that guy would do in Las Vegas.)

The decisions I am talking about, as they relate to Ohio State football, have to deal with redshirting players. While I may be a tad overdramatic with my opening sentences, the final judgment of redshirting a player can impact a team in a subsequent season or seasons.

A good case in point is current Ohio State right tackle Reid Fragel. Fragel was recruited by the previous Ohio State coaching staff as a tight end out of Michigan, and Fragel played as a freshman during the 2009 season.

How many receptions did Fragel make during that freshman season in 2009? Zero. Fragel's primary benefit to Ohio State was as a blocking tight end.

When Coach Urban Meyer was hired in November 2011, one of the first moves made by Meyer's new coaching staff was moving Fragel to the offensive line as a tackle. Actually, Fragel initiated the move to the offensive line, realizing that his long-term football future was best served along the offensive line.

My point, you are asking? My point is how much better served the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes may have been along the offensive line if the 2009 Ohio State coaching staff led by former head coach Jim Tressel had redshirted Reid Fragel.

This is not the first time in recent years that a freshman player has played, with questionable results near the end of the player's career. Another example can be pointed to with former Ohio State wide receiver Brian Robiskie.

Brian Robiskie was a late addition to the 2005 recruiting class, and was able to get on the field as a true freshman, even with other wide receivers such as Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn Jr., and Anthony Gonzalez on the roster.

How many receptions did Brian Robiskie make in 2005? One. Was it truly worthwhile to burn that year of eligibility for Robiskie for one reception? Was it truly worthwhile for Reid Fragel to play with zero receptions in 2009?

Please do not misunderstand the gist of this article. I completely and enthusiastically support Coach Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff's approach of bringing in talented freshmen, telling them that the best players will play, regardless of year. I applaud the idea of encouraging freshmen players to be ready to play.

In my estimation, the best way for any true freshmen to justify burning a year of freshman eligibility is to play extensively on the special teams units. During the 2002 national championship season, former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel would play linebackers, such as A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, or Mike D'Andrea on kickoff coverage. Coach Meyer has used a similar mindset, using freshmen linebackers such as Josh Perry, David Perkins, Camren Williams, and Jamal Marcus. Using these players in this fashion has strengthened the special teams, while also justifying the use of their respective freshmen eligibility.

Are there any true freshmen on this year's Ohio State team who have not yet played? I believe the following players have not played in any games this season - RB Warren Ball, QB Cardale Jones, WR Frank Epitropoulos, TE Blake Thomas, OL Pat Elflein, DE Se'Von Pittman, OL Joey O'Connor, and OL Kyle Dodson.

Will any of the remaining freshmen play at Wisconsin or versus Michigan this season? It is possible, but the Ohio State coaching staff will want to contemplate about the future consequences of any impulsive decisions on 2013 and beyond.

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