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The Great Redshirt Fire of 2016

The best players are going to play under Harbaugh, regardless of the class they are in.

Dustin Johnston / @DJPhotoVideo

Roughly eight years ago, the Michigan Wolverines embarked on arguably their worst season in program history. The first touchdown pass of that season was an 8-yard pass from Nick Sheridan to Michael Shaw, names you’ve likely forgotten or voluntarily erased from your memory.

Many of those ragtag players from the 2008 Michigan team would later achieve a false sense of redemption when they were seniors in during the 2011 season. That particular Rich Rodriguez led team would finish 3-9 that year with losses to Toledo, Illinois and Purdue (seriously). You’re probably wondering why I would bring up such harsh memories during an era of rebirth and high expectations that surround the 2016 season.

The answer to that question lies with the coaching style of its current head coach in comparison to his predecessors. It’s also telling how important recruiting is to the long term success to the program and the importance of having a full pantry as opposed to the bare cupboard inherited by Rodriguez and company after the Lloyd Carr era ended in 2007.

In 2008, Rodriguez redshirted the following players: Ricky Barnum, Michael Cox, Kenny Demens, J.T. Floyd, Paul Gyarmati, Junior Hemingway, Rocko Khoury, Elliot Mealer, Brandon Moore, George Morales, Patrick Omameh, Dann O’Neill, Terrence Robinson, Roy Roundtree, Brandon Smith and Kurt Wermers.

Rodriguez chose to redshirt 17 players in his first year and in the end it didn’t help him win any games or help him keep his job.

In 2016, Jim Harbaugh played approximately the same number of freshman, setting their redshirts ablaze and contrasting the different philosophies and recruiting styles. The best players will play regardless of their age and standing. If Harbaugh had inherited the 2008 roster, you’d likely still see the exact same number of redshirts. The talent level today is light years ahead of where it was eight years ago.

Michigan dominated Hawaii in every facet of the game Saturday emptying the bench early in the second half en route to a 63-3 victory. During training camp, Harbaugh alluded to the fact that 15 or more freshmen could see time. He was good on his word.

Wilton Speight, a Borges era recruit, took the first snaps for Michigan beating out transfer John O’Korn. O’Korn has been the presumed heir apparent after the departure of Jake Rudock. Speight outworked him in the spring and in fall camp.

The best players will play.

Multiple freshmen saw significant time in the game highlighted by freshman running back Chris Evans’ electric running. Evans, a three-star player, was the first freshman running back to see the field. He earned playing time over 5-star commit Kareem Walker.

The best players will play.

Eddie McDoom took two receiver sweeps usually reserved for Jehu Chesson. He also made two impressive catches. He saw more looks than Moe Ways and Drake Harris.

The best players will play.

Up next for Michigan is the lowly UCF Knights, who recently snapped a 13-game losing streak that spanned 639 days by beating an FCS team. Pray for UCF.